Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gifts for the Fitness Geek

It's not too late to think about giving a fitness geek in your life something that will make them *really happy.* If it's too late for the package to make it under the tree, why not print out an image of the thing so they know it's on the way?

The following has suggestions for Stocking Stuffers, Readable References, Kettlebell Training of many Varieties, Lifting, Training Support and of course FOOD. Hope y'all enjoy - and maybe treat yourself.

Stocking Stuffers:
If you need something small to pack into that stocking, here's a couple suggestions

Bands: Iron Woodies are great bands, excellent quality. Especially for someone working on their pullups, these can be a powerful assist.

I like 'em cuz they're
  • a tad less expensive than some of the others, but still very well made.
  • they come in three lengths, depending on application
  • they have a specific "pull up package"
  • Great value for money.
  • they have a specific EU rate, BUT,
  • if you're in the UK, you can get them from London Kettlebells directly

Timers: I've been writing alot about the value of timed sets, being a big Escalating Density Training fan. There are many devices you can use - an egg timer, a good old fashioned clock. The gymboss is designed for workouts, though, with various modes of single time zones; dual time zones (for work/rest intervals), repeats. It's just convenient. And it works.

Hydration. Nothing like a great water bottle to take to the gym, or use at home mid sets. Though i would love to say my passion is for stainless steel, the valves on such bottles usually suck. The best compromise right now seems to be the Camelbak Bottle with bite valve - now without toxic bpa's!

Sunshine. Given the fact that unless you live in sunny climes such that you can bask your body, most of us are apparently super vitamin D deficient. This is the nutrient generated by the sun in our skin. If we don't get a great big sun hit, it makes sense we're tacking to the low side, and this is SO IMPORTANT for calcium in our bones and a whole raft of other good things to work. Daily doses are now recommended to be anywhere from 2000IU (10 times the current RDI) to 15,000IU, pending who you read - anyway it's more than most of us get. This may not seem like a big deal, but as a loving stocking stuffer, a can or two of high potency Vit. D (at least 1000IU a shot) wouldn't go amis - print out one of these articles as wrapping paper. Now Foods and Carlsons make these biggie IU sizes, and seem to have good reviews for quality as well. Vegetairians, take note that D2 is an alternative to the sheep lanolin/fish base for Vit D, and a recent study suggests D2 is equivalent to D3 in efficacy.

Shirts & stuff. Nothing stuffs into a stocking like a highly compressed T. Designed in the UK (Scotland is part of the UK); made and sold in the US of A, Rannoch's Way of the Kettlebell T.s

Other lovely small things that could be in the stocking or under the tree? I know it's not much of kb, but whether as a paper weight or a double kb one-handed press, i still get a kick out of these itty bitty 5lb'ers at GNC. They're just fun.

Recovery Stocking Stuffers (or under the tree if you're feeling generous). If your fitness geek is just starting to workout at home or at the gym, they may not be used to getting that recovery nutrition thing happening with a workout drink, so here's a few to think of:
  • Surge - if resistance is their bag. It's a 2 to 1 carb to protein ratio, just right and nice for workouts
  • Endurox - if cardio is their bag - intense rowing, cylcing or that VO2max kb cycle. That's a 4 to 1 Carb/protein ration, shown to be optimal for endurance efforts and recovery.
  • ICE - this is a BCAA and flavouring drink for someone working out, trying to get lean with the focus on that fat burn - the BCAA's make sure the muscles get the amino acids they need for repair without adding caloric load - BCAA's aren't digested as regular whey protein is.
  • Roll Your Own - if you have an adventurous fitness geek at home, you can provide the ingredients for each of the above by ordering them from TrueProtein.Com or BulkNutrition.Com - or by providing gift certificates to the same. Hydrolyzed whey protein, bcaa's, and maltodextrin/dextrose in the appropriate ratios, and you're rocking.
  • TO SHAKE IT ALL UP: my fave shaker cup by far - cuz it really works - the turbo shaker.

Readable References:

Strength Training Anatomy, Frederic Delavier, Amazon US ||Amazon UK
This is a fabulous illustrated manual that shows what muscles are hit by all the main weight lifting moves. It's organized by muscle group: arms, shoulders, chest, back , legs, butt, abs.
It shows the muscles in the context of the actual move, so you can see why those are the muscles affected. This book is recommended for the interested fitness geek.

Manual of Structural Kinesiology, Thompson, Floyd, Amazon US || Amazon UK
Now while the Anatomy book is grand for seeing muscles used in context, it doesn't explain how that muscle operates in a move. This text on kinesiology does just that in a well illustrated and highly accessible fashion. It's one of the books i've used in putting together why the pull up is a Lat based move, and how firing the lats works in the kettlebell swing. This book is recommended for the more serious fitness geek.

SuperTraining Mel Siff (US, via Amazon || UK, UKSCA)
For a book easily acknowledged as one of the best in the field, if not the Bible of training, it is not easy to find. So if you have a serious fitness geek on your hands who does not have this tome, scoring if for them will trigger some truly warm seasonal glow. This ain't a book for the faint of heart, but for those keen, the rewards are a plenty. Serious Fitness Geek recommended

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Beachle and Earl Amazon US ||in the UK
This is the NSCA's main text for their CSCS certification. As an overview of all aspects informing athletic performance, from muscle physiology to hormones to lifting practice to program development, it's a fabulous reference. This is the BRAND NEW 3rd edition. It's a FAB reference for any coach or someone you can see becoming a serious fitness geek.

Science and Practice of Strength Training. Zatsiorosky and Kraemer Amazon UK || Amazon US
This book is a great complement to both Supertraining and Essentials. It focuses on plan development, the rational and approaches. Again, this is serious fitness geek territory.


Now if you've heard someone you care about saying they want to get back into shape, and you've discussed kettlebells, of course the best way to get them started is that bundle of tough love for the beginner and experienced swinger alike that is Enter the Kettlebell, book and DVD (review here). If they are brand new to the experience, you may want to add the appropriate kettlebell to that package, too. Dragon Door makes the best US made bells in North America. London Kettlebells is the best value in the UK, and Kenneth Jay's are indisputably the best in the rest of the EU.

Muscle Mass & KB's If you're also want to be-gift someone who is keen to add some mass while getting strong, and are keen to support a kettlebell addiction, the original source of the KB+Heavy=Mass is of course Mike Mahler. Kettlebell Solutions for Size and Strength is a great one, but my fave is actually the Kettlebell Solution for Fat Loss and Mental Toughness - and not because i've used it to burn fat; because the videos of the big moves are better than the previous edition. I'd combine the ebook "The Agressive Strength Solution for Size and Strength" and its workouts with the Mental Toughness DVD. DVD's Available in the US from MM's site; available in the UK from London Kettlebells.

Cadio and KB's If you're interested in helping out someone who wants to get a little more cardio into their lives, there's any of the Art of Strength vids, the Newport in particular (review) being a challenger. These are available from AOS in the US, and from yup, London Kettlebells in the UK.

Cardio Overdrive: VO2 Max. Advanced Strength Strategies, Kenneth Jay. This is it: the original VO2max KB program, illustrated, discussed, demonstrated as formally taught at the RKC Level II cert.

Deadlift Nirvana. If the fitness geek in your life has discovered the deadlift (perhaps you've helped foster that discovery), of course the best program for getting into that move is Pavel's Power to the People. If you're concerned about that person's well being, though, and want to ensure they're getting that all-critical form just right, there's a super DVD that can help: Brett Jones and Gray Cook's Secrets of the Backside. The DVD details potential issues with the lift, how to correct them, and of course, shows (from dual angles) proper deadlift form(s). Excellent.

Pull Ups. Lifting oneself is a great alternative or complement to lifting heavy objects. An affordable, non-invasive pull up bar is one that can work in a door way. In the UK, there's Golds Gym Telescopic Chrome Chinning Bar. I've been using this at the office for over a year. i can quickly attach and detach iron woody bands to them for high rep days via a carabiner (big mouth type from REI). In the states, a version of this kinda bar is available, too, by Go Fit for about 18 USD.

There's more than one way to swing a pull up. If you have a space that allows it, the TRX is a mechanism that puts many bodyweight assisted exercises, from pull ups to dips, all in a single unit. By space, i mean a beam somewhere you can put a hook into, or a tree or a bar. I've seen these slung of chain link fences. There are other similar gym-in-a-bag products, for sure. This just happens to be the best built - really. The design of the sliders for instance is really top rate, using very good hardware.

And for yet one more spin on the pull up or the dip, especially for crossfit junkies, one of the sweetest versions of the classic rings are these super-light and portable rings by Elite Fiteness. Great articles on the site as well as companion DVD's.

Training Support
Dynamic Joint Mobility.
Perhaps one of the most crucial and often overlooked aspects of a fitness program is joint mobility. The reasons for taking ten minutes to move *each joint* through its full range of motion are myriad.

While there are a variety of joint mobility DVDs, the one i recommend is Z health. You can see why in a series of three posts (1, 2, 3), but the fast answer is that there is a well-founded scientific, neurologically centered reason for *each* move in the program.

The program starts with R-Phase, and is complemented by an abbreviated routine called the Nueral Warm Up. It is followed by I-Phase. R-Phase is what it's founder Eric Cobb refers to as the vocabulary of the program; i phase is the grammar. If you want to start with only one DVD, the R-phase DVD is great, but i'd recommend getting the R-Phase and Neural Warm Up 1 package. R-Phase provides detailed moves and instruction that are critical; the neural warm up would potentially move too fast without those building blocks, and precision is the name of the game here. The advanatage of the Neural Warm Up is that, based on what you learn in R-phase, it takes you through a total joint range of motion session in 10 mins. Z Health DVDs are a great family gift, too: we *all* move.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Give the Gift of One on One Assessment
If your athlete is just starting out or is an experienced fitness geek, there's one thing that will always provide a super return on that gift: give them a check up session with a certified trainer/movement specialist.

For hardstyle Kettlebells, there are RKC's all over the world (listing) that can give a keen eye to movement and tweak it to add to that athlete's movement efficiency. Speaking of efficiency, most of us could move better. The Functional Movement Screen is one assessment an FMS specialist can offer to evaluate movement patterns. If your beloved geek has been complaining of pain or weakness in certain moves, the Z Health assessment by a Z certified trainer is another great tool. As currency crumbles, you will find that there are an increasing number of RKC's who are also FMS and Z certified, so you can get even more bang for that gift-giving buck (or euro or pound).

Food that says health and love:
And finally, since eating is such a critical part of any fitness geek's repertoire - indeed without which nothing - help in the hungry heart cannot go amiss.

Raw Cacao Nibs. What says love better than chocolate? This legendary aphrodisiac has also more recently been listed as a "super food." Lots of protein, good fiber, polyphenols. Good stuff (here's more info).

A really great way to put max love into another's hands is by going straight to the source with organic cacao nibs. The great thing about the nibs is you can eat 'em for one heck of a cocoa hit straight out of the bag. You can also pour them in a bowl with raisins and nuts, and have an incredible taste sensation - the raisins bring out an almost red wine-y flavour to the nibs. Awesome. They're also great in a blender to make a protein shake. Add in some coffee beans, and it's lethal.

Organic Raw Chocolate Cacao Nibs by Sunfood Nutrition are probably the best quality in the US. In the UK, intriguingly, a wee company called "detox your world" has made the best effort to get the best sources onto the island.

Cooking? Who said Cooking?
Making a healthy but decadent meal for someone is also an act of love, of course, but what to cook that meets both these requirements? The Gourmet Nutrtion Vol. 2 cookbook to the rescue. The pictures alone get taste buds salivating. Check out the site: there's a sampler you can download for a range of recipes from the book.

One of the big plusses of GN2 is that it has all the nutrition info of the complete recipe AND it gives that info based on large and small portion sizes. One more benefit: it has meal templates as well to help make selections based on your fitness goals.

If you're giving this to a cooking neophyte, no worries there, either: there are sections on what to shop for, basic tools to have in the kitchen and some basic techniques for making sure these recipes work.

Ok, and as an aside, in case the one you love doesn't quite know how to think about their eating you could also bundle in the Precision Nutrition System which includes 7 books/guides for creating and supporting 10 habits for lifetime successful eating (review here). This ain't a *diet* plan, where one is restricted in what they want from eating for a period of time. This is an approach to eating - all the time. Paradigm shifting habits, we're talking.

You can also give them this pdf for free on the Strageties for Success that is Precision Nutrition. It's a 40 page condensed version of the whole system, as a preview.

And to All a Good Night
All the best of the Season to you, and here's to a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year.

UPDATE: additional book ideas from pain management to motivation now listed


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