Finding the perfect gift for a fitness fanatic can be a difficult proposition. Whether it’s running, cycling, yoga or tennis, athletes take their craft seriously — and often have seriously specific preferences for everything from gear to accessories.
So we saved you the anguish of blindly wandering around a sporting goods store by rounding up a slew of incredible, covetable and (most importantly!) highly-rated fitness gifts. From smart water bottles to the best fitness watch, these are our 14 favorite items, guaranteed to get your gym-goer into high-gear (or get a newbie started on the right foot).
An impressive new fitness offering from the popular wearables company, the Fitbit Ionic Smart Watch offers a slew of activity-tracking goodies — including step-, heart rate-, sleep-, calorie-, and distance-tracking — as well as music playlist storage and sync, Fitbit Wallet for payments, Starbucks and Pandora apps, fitness coaching, GPS and email and text message notifications. The watch is also water resistant up to 50 meters, and its built-in sensors automatically start and pause activity tracking, so the fitness enthusiast on your list can get right to their workout.
For running aficionados, it can be difficult to find a run-belt that’s both practical and comfortable: big enough for the essentials but not so bulky it will interfere with workouts. Available in a variety of colors, the Flipbelt fits the bill, featuring a lightweight zipper pocket that goes all the way around the waist, and a slim, snug fit. With four belt openings, the pocket is large enough to hold even the biggest iPhones and Android phones without moving or jiggling, and is also useful for those requiring something to hold non-workout essentials like insulin pumps, lip balm or an ID.
Headphones can make or break a workout (who hasn't had the frustration of having them fall out, get tangled or die in the middle of a workout?). Specifically designed for strenuous activity, these popular Bluetooth wireless headphones are both sweat and water resistant, have a six hour battery-charge life, stay securely in place during even the most aggressive workouts and respond to voice prompts. Tech writers consider these the most comfortable wireless headphones on the market.
A wireless FDA-approved device, Powerdot is a wearable neuromuscular electrical stimulator, assisting muscle recovery and performance with the touch of an app. Users can target various muscle groups, and programs gently contract muscles for options including warm up, post-training, muscle endurance, massage, and injury rehabilitation, with nine workout choices in total. "When used properly, electrical muscle stimulators work by sending a signal to the targeted muscle, causing it to contract just like it would during exercise," says Nikki Griggs, NASM-certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist. "Since the signals are the same, the benefits are the same as exercise and overtime can improve strength, performance, endurance and recovery.”
These cropped leggings from the beloved workout brand feature a zip-free waistband pocket large enough to store a cell phone, keys or small accessories. Great for a variety of workouts, the high-rise fit features zoned compression — meaning everything stays comfortably and flatteringly tucked in throughout abs, hips, butt, and thighs — as well as moisture-wicking, four-way fabric that stays cool and won’t shrink. "While compression leggings don't necessarily help you perform better during a workout, there is some evidence they can assist in recovery and may reduce the amount of soreness felt after a workout,” says Griggs. "However, compression leggings can also give you that extra necessary boost of confidence you need, by hugging your curves just right.”
Save space — and create an efficient, compact at-home gym — with this versatile dumbbell that serves as an entire weight-rack in one, adjusting from 10 pounds all the way up to a whopping 90 pounds. With seventeen different weight settings to choose from, you won’t have a slew of weights cluttering up your space, but will be able to effectively work at building muscle and increasing strength. Weight training is an important part of an effective fitness routine, and having these easily adjustable weights front and center will help ensure you make strength training a priority.
Beloved by celebs like Busy Phillips, Emmy Rossum and Michelle Williams, dance-inspired workout LEKFit promises to help lengthen, strengthen and tone muscles through low-impact, high-intensity cardio and muscle sculpting. Creator Lauren Kleban runs classes through her Los Angeles garage studio, and offers live 50- minute at-home streaming for at-home clients, including videos of shorter “anytime” workouts and add-ons. Come for the regular virtual celeb sightings (and the ability to workout with a Hollywood favorite in the comfort of your living room), stay for the stronger, dancer-like body.
A tennis swing analyzer and tracker that can attach to any racquet, the sensor captures over 1,000 data points per second, wirelessly sending info on metrics such as serve, slice, topspin, sweet spot and drive to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. The new device also allows users to easily record video of each rally and players can apply effects to their clips to create a highlight reel. For the competitive — and what tennis player isn’t? — users can compare their metrics to other Zepp users to see how they stack up.
For the golfers on your list: This is one of the best golf swing analyzers according to experts like Golf Digest. Blast attaches to your grip and focuses on the timing of your stroke through analysis, coaching, communication and management tools. A Smart Video Capture records videos of the swing, allowing golfers to target metrics such as stroke timing and tempo, and the tracker pairs with your phone, charging wirelessly.
Research show that what we wear has an influence on our behavior and attitude — one study coined the "enclothed cognition" to describe the symbolic meaning that clothing can have, and experts say this definitely carries over to the fitness space. Meaning that dressing like Beyonce (instead of throwing on that ratty free t-shirt) may just up your gym swagger. Queen Bey is co-founder of the new activewear line Ivy Park, which merges fashion and function for the coolest workout gear we’ve ever seen. (Would you expect anything less?) For the teen or super-trendy active adult on your list, the items in her line are stylish and versatile, including funky pieces like the seamless Net Bodysuit, which also transitions seamlessly from spin (with sneaks and gym shorts) to brunch (with a pair of jeans and boots).
According to Runner’s World, one of the best running new running shoes is the Reebok FloatRide Run, a cushy, lightweight new sneaker mixing Reebok’s Floatride Foam (50 percent lighter than standard foam) with EVA foam for a flexible yet supportive run. It also offers maximum responsiveness and breathability, plus a 3D heel cradle featuring multiple layers of foam to reduce irritation. The ambitious goal-setter with a marathon on their resolutions list this year will thank you.
A suspension trainer system that uses your bodyweight, TRX’s straps allows for efficient, effective total body workouts anytime, any place — no bulky gym machines required. In addition to an upgrade suspension anchor, door anchor and a workout guide, it offers a one-year subscription to the TRX app, which features in-ear audio coaching, personalized biometric data reading, and more than 80 workouts, including suspension training, HIIT, yoga and running. A study published in the journal Human Movement Science found that doing a suspended pushup using TRX bands activated the abdominals 184 percent more than doing a standard pushup. Hello, New Year's body.
Price: $180 (or £ 135)
This stylish backpack — made from vegan leather and featuring Flexzorb technology to remove odors — offers three breathable compartments, including a flexible, zippered space on the bottom for dirty gear like sneakers and wet clothes. It also boasts a spillproof holder for water bottles, water-resistant linings, and several internal and external zipper pockets—including a smaller one for keys and cell phone, and a larger one for work items like a laptop or papers. It’s beloved in the UK, and ships to the US. Plus it's chic enough to carry to work or bring to post-gym drinks without having to hide it under your coat.
Price: Any amount
Give the gift of soul to friends and family who adore SoulCycle’s high-energy, addictive cardio and strength training spin classes (but are less enthusiastic about shelling out the chunk of change for a class). With 80 studios across the US in more than 10 states, there’s bound to be a Soul emporium nearby, and with gift cards available in physical and electronic form, and you can choose whatever amount you’d like to give.