2013 Fitness Enthusiast Gift Guide



Are you wondering what to get your favorite fitness enthusiast this holiday season? Well, here are a few of my favorite things!

1. Personal Training – Chances are you and your loved one have set weight loss goals for 2014. Sure, a gym membership is a great gift, but did you know that gym business models set you up to fail? Studies have shown that people who work with personal trainers lose more weight more effectively and healthier than those who try to do it themselves. Most people who walk into a gym have no clue what to do in a gym (and most think they know). I have seen it firsthand when I worked in a gym. A person walks in, looks around with doe eyes, walks tentatively over to a treadmill, runs on it for 20 minutes, heads over to the weight section, pumps out some biomechanically incorrect biceps curls, and then heads over to the stretching area to give themself whiplash while attempting to do “proper” crunches. A large majority of people have no clue what to do in a gym to “get the biggest bang for their buck.” Why not buy them some sessions with a personal trainer, so your loved one can start 2014 on the right foot (with proper form!).

2. Valslides – These little sliders are the perfect stocking stuffers for any fitness enthusiast! Valislides are a great way to add challenge to any workout routine. You can use these in pushups, lunges, squats, etc. to add an element of imbalance to increase core muscle recruitment! Plus, you can tuck them into your gym bag without taking up a ton of space. You can purchase valslides through PerformBetter. Right now they are on sale for $24.00!

3. Jump Rope – Can’t afford a treadmill or elliptical machine for your home? Have no fear! For about $10 you can get the perfect cardio machine for your home. Not only is jump roping fun and a killer cardio workout, but it will increase your coordination, agility, quickness, footwork, and endurance. Can your treadmill do that? You can buy a jump rope pretty cheap at most department stores or you can purchase a higher quality one through any sporting store or PerformBetter.

4. Mini-bands – Ask any of my clients and they will tell you they have a love/hate relationship with me and my bands! I use mini-bands as a way to activate the gluteus muscles that are often very weak in the general population and athletes. Try 10 lateral steps with a mini-band around your ankles in each direction and you’ll be sure to feel your gluteus medius the next day! I use these as a pre-hab tool for all my athletes. You can buy them at Target or Dicks, but I find the PerformBetter mini-bands are a much better quality and last longer. They are the ultimate stocking stuffer at under $5.00 a piece!

5. Yoga Class Pass – Regular yoga practice is great for mind, body, and soul! I have really fallen in love with yoga this fall and it has helped with my hip issues. Plus, I love unwinding after a tough day at the office! I’m sure your fitness enthusiast would love a class pass to your local yoga studio! If you’re from the Greater Portland (Maine) area, then I highly recommend Greener Postures, Lila East End Yoga, and Portland Power Yoga.

6. Vitamix (or any quality blender) – Smoothies are a nutritious and quick way to get it one’s vegetables and fruits for the day! The Vitamix is the gold standard for a blender, but it is a costly investment. I personally have a Vitamix on my Santa Wish List this year! I’ve been using a Nutribullet for a few months and it works very well; however, it doesn’t quite get that perfect consistency I’m looking for in my smoothies. A Vitamix can also make almond butter and soup among other great recipes! It’s an investment worth a lifetime! Go to Vinnie Tortorich’s webpage to click-through his banner to get free shipping! Trust me, these things are heavier than a small pony!

7. Gift Cards – Gift cards are a great alternative, especially for clothing places. Just make sure you get a gift card to a place your loved one will use it! If all else fails, Amazon has just about anything you can buy! Except, for that magic weight loss pill you have been waiting for. Speaking on an Amazon gift card… your loved one can use it to buy the next item!

8. Fitness Confidential – I read a lot of health and fitness books each year and this one is by far one of my favorites. Vinnie Tortorich is the “Hollywood go to guy in fitness.” He works with all the big names, but you don’t know his name because he doesn’t sell his soul to the devil like Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper! Not only does Vinnie tell you like it is in his no bullshit attitude, he gives you some commonsense, easy-to-follow fitness and weight-loss advice. He also tells you a bit about his personal life and he is a remarkable guy. The book comes on multiple platforms… paperback, Kindle, or audiobook! I’ve read the Kindle version and I just started the audio version. You can buy the book at Amazon through THIS link.

9. TRX – Hands down, the TRX is my Favorite tool! My fitness philosophy very much falls in the functional training category and I utilize the TRX, kettlebells, bands, and medicine balls for all my personal and most of my clients workouts. The TRX can be used just about anywhere (the perfect gift for your traveling fitness enthusiast!) and provides the tools to do 100s of different bodyweight exercises to give your entire body a killer workout! The TRX is perfect for the beginner to the most advanced fitness enthusiasts! You can purchase the TRX through the TRX website or through PerformBetter.

10. Foam Rollers – Foam rolling is something that every fitness enthusiast and athlete dreads. Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release that works to inhibit overactive muscles. Foam rolling can be painful when you first begin, but overtime it does get better (I swear!). A foam roller is a great tool to help relieve tension and pain in certain body parts (however, you should always see a sports medicine doctor if you are having persistent pain!) and there are other tools you can use, such as “The Stick” and lacrosse balls. I highly recommend everyone have a foam roller at home. You can easily use it while watching tv! You can purchase one at any sporting store location, but I find that PerformBetter has better quality ones and they are generally cheaper than the ones at Dicks.

So here are my top 10 fitness gifts for 2013. What are you getting your favorite fitness enthusiast this year?

~ Happy Training!

Disclaimer: The above list contains items that I personally love and use. No one paid me to say the above comments and/or put an item on the list. The PerformBetter link is an affiliate link so if you would like to help me buy my poor dog a new bone for Christmas than please click through that link and go on a shopping spree! 🙂 

Weight Lost, Race Weight, and Body Image

So… I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time, but I’ve kind of been living in denial.

I was fat.

Since November-ish I have lost 20 pounds. I’m 5’4″. I have weighed 145-ish pretty steadily since middle of college and have always kind of considered it to be my “happy weight” since I could never really lose any pounds. According to my height’s BMI, I should weigh between 108-145 pounds. Anything over 145 pounds was getting into the overweight zone. I did not want to be there. Of course, BMI isn’t the best tool to measure one’s body weight and health especially if your an athlete. I’ve always been pretty muscular. My junior year of high school I weighed 130 pounds and had 17% body fat. I skied, played lacrosse almost year around and rode horses competitively. My horses were boarded a half mile down the street from us so most nights I would walk down there to take care of them. I was lucky that my mom did all the morning chores, but I still did my fair share of mucking stalls, throwing hale bales, carrying 50 pound grain bags up a hill to the barn. It was work. I had muscles from all that work and sports. However, I’ve always had issues with body image. I have two younger sisters that are both tall, long legged, and naturally thin. I’m built more like my mother. Short with very short legs and a long torso. Because I am not tall and skinny like mys sisters, my father use to tell me I was fat and I shouldn’t eat something almost on a daily basis. It sucked! I mostly ignored his comments, but secretly they hurt. No one wants to be told they are fat, especially from one of their parents. In retrospect, I realized that it was bullying. A couple years ago I completely blew up at him about it and told him in not so many nice words that it wasn’t cool. No parents (or anyone for that matter) should tell their child that they are fat on a daily basis, especially if they really weren’t at the time. If your child does have some weight issues then it’s best to address them in more appropriate way.

Fast forward to my college years. I actually lost some weight my first year of college because I wasn’t eating as much as I should have been. Then sophomore year was when I started making some good friends and we did some partying. I always ate fairly healthy (or what I thought was healthy at the time) at the cafe, mostly sandwiches, salads and soups. And, of course, cookies. I have yet to meet a cookie I didn’t like (well, that’s not completely true since I don’t like caramel or butterscotch). I would go to the gym, but my workouts would consist of the stationary bike and the elliptical. I always read too during my workouts since I had a ton of homework as a science major. I hardly ever did any strength work and sometimes I would go to a yoga class once a week. I gained a few pounds in college, but I was pretty consistent around 135-ish. Then I graduated in December 2008 and my mother my diagnosed with a very rare and fatal neurological disease that killed her within 10 weeks of diagnosis. Obviously, when your body is under an immense amount of stress, you gain weight. Stress coupled with the constant flow of delicious food friends and family kept dropping off for us, I gained a few pounds. Later that fall I did a 4 week long bootcamp class that had 3 sessions a week at 5:30am. It was a ton of fun and I got into good shape, but I never really lost any weight. Then I started competing in triathlons in 2010 and trained (and won my AG) in my first half-ironman last year. Again, with all the training I was doing I never really lost any weight.

I never considered myself overweight, but I could tell that my body wanted to lose weight. Last fall I ordered a scale with body fat percentage. I honestly could care less what my actual weight in pounds is, but I do care about my body fat percentage since that is a better indicator of a healthy weight. My body fat percentage was around 25%. Not overweight, but leaning towards that. Last year I got a taste of podium finishes and I decided that I wanted to become more of a competitive athlete vs. a recreational one. I also decided that I prefer long course triathlons and I knew that an Ironman would be in my near future very soon. I decided to hire a triathlon coach and also a personal trainer to help me reach my goals. Both were the best decisions I have made in a very long time and I have both of them to thank for helping me get where I am today! So, thanks Mary and Kelsey! You ladies rock!

Anyway, last week I weighed myself and my scale read 125 lbs and 19.9% body fat! That is about 20 pounds since December-ish. I’m still not at my goal, but I’m very happy. Many people have been noticing lately too, probably because none of my clothes fit and I look a bit like a hot mess since I hate buying new clothes. The two new pairs of jeans I purchased at the end of April are now getting too big again too. Grr… I know I shouldn’t complain since most women would kill to have this problem.

But all this weight loss has got me to really thinking about the issue of weight and health. I have three prospectives on the issue:

  1. As a Woman – I think we’re all aware of the constant bombardment society, especially young girls, get from the media about being stick thin. It’s rather sad that our society focuses so much time and money to look like models and celebrities. The British Association of Model Agents looks for female models to be at least 5’8″ tall with the measurements of 34-24-24(1). The average BMI for top fashion models is 16.3. The healthy range is between 18 and 25. Fifty years ago the average woman was 5’3-4″ with a waist of 24-25″, and weighed about 120 lbs and wore a size 8(2). Today, the typical American woman is 5’4″, has a waist of 34-35″, weighs between 140-150 pounds and wears a size 12-14(2). Back when Marilyn Monroe was hott stuff, she wore a size 8. Today’s models generally wear a size 0. For most modelling agencies around the world, size 6 is now considered plus-size(3). Interestingly enough too, in order to cater women’s vanity, fashion designers have manipulated clothing sizes so truly larger sizes are marked small. A size 8 in the 1950s is now marketed as a size 4, although clothing sizes and fit vary according to designer(2). Then we have the issue of magazines and tv advertisements that air brush models to make them look more “beautiful.” We currently live in a society that strives for perfection. But what is perfection? In the United States, more than 10 million women and 1 million men are fighting a battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia(4). In the recent years I believe we have witnessed a push towards accepting and educating ourselves and young girls (and boys) that it’s okay (and healthy) to not look like Kim Kardashian or Jennifer Aniston. Our bodies do amazing things on a daily basis and we should love our bodies no matter what size, shape or color. 
  2. As a Public Health Student/Professional – There is no question that our country is on the verge of a major epidemic of obesity. Obesity is a common, serious, and expensive condition. More than one-third of American adults are currently obese in the United States(5). Between 2009-2010, almost 17% of US children ages 2-19 years old were obese(6). Obesity can lead to the development of other serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer(5). In 2008 the associated medical costs of obesity were estimated to be over $147 billion dollars(5). Current predictions for obesity trends, predict that more than 42% of American will be obese by 2030 if nothing is done to prevent it(7). It is also estimated that another third of Americans are overweight(8). Overweight is defined as having a BMI of 25-29.9 and obese is defined as having a BMI greater than 30. As most of us can decipher, the United States is in a serious health and economic crisis with the ever rising number of overweight and obese population. As individuals, we need to focus of keeping ourselves and our families (especially our children) active and healthy. As individuals, we can work towards creating a healthy community environment that will hopefully encourage more people to strive to live a healthy lifestyle. We must act now to change our future.
  3. As an Endurance Athlete – As an endurance athlete we are taught that being lean leads to better sports performance. We all work hard to reduce our body fat percentage, increase our lean body mass, and strive to achieve our optimal race weight. This past week I watched a USAT webinar on Body Composition Management presented by QT2 Systems founder and head coach, Jesse Kropelnicki. Kropelnicki is a very well respected coach in the sport and coaches some of the most elite athletes in the sport. I found this seminar interesting. Some things I agreed with him about and a few things I did not. On thing that I completely agreed with him about was the fact that athletes should eat to support their training and racing and not the other way around. The one thing that I didn’t really agree on was the body fat percentage of athletes for optimal performance. He believes that the optimal body fat should be between 5-18% depending on length of goal race, age, gender, race level and a few other factors. Now, various coaches, sports nutritionists and registered dietitians will give you different body fat measurements. Every person needs a certain percentage of essential body fat to our bodies can survive on a daily basis. According to Nancy Clark, men need about 3-5% essential fat whereas women need 11-14%(9). Very low fat range for men is between 7-10% and for women is between 14-17%. Anything below 15% for women become dangerous due to hormonal changes and lost of menstruation among other possible health risks. Personally, I believe that as athletes we should not necessarily chase the optimal number on the scale or percentage of body fat, but strive to achieve a healthy and “happy” weight for our bodies and remain injury free. 
I think that as we all travel through our own weight loss and/or fitness goals, that we remember that it isn’t necessarily the number on the scale that we should strive for, but a healthy and fit body that allows us to do the things we love. 
So, what do you think about the issue of weight, race weight, body fat, and body image?

1. http://www.associationofmodelagents.org/become-a-model/getting-started-as-a-model.html
2. http://blogs.webmd.com/pamela-peeke-md/2010/01/just-what-is-an-average-womans-size-anymore.html
3. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/01/most-models-meet-criteria-for-anorexia-size-6-is-plus-size-magazine/
4. http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-resources/general-information.php
5. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
6. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db82.pdf
7. http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-05-07/obesity-projections-adults/54791430/1
8. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm
9. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 4th Ed. 
~ Happy Training!