GOODS: The Top Fitness Gear for 2011

by Joshua Goldman, MD MBA | goldman@myhousecallmd.com

It happens, invariably, every year.  Come January 1st, invigorated by our New Year’s resolutions, we begin our commitment to fitness for the year.  This commitment often includes new gym memberships, work out clothes, and fitness equipment.  The problem is that the market is so saturated with fitness gear, it’s hard to weed out the good from the bad and the ugly…which is where our expertise comes in.  We’ve reached out to the best and brightest sports medicine physicians and personal trainers in the business to put together our list of the top 10 items you should consider for your fitness regimen in 2011.  We don’t believe in fads.  We don’t believe in useless gadgets.  We don’t believe in wasting money.  We believe in proven products that make health a reality for you.

Fitness Tip: Find a workout routine you love.  It’s the only way you’re going to stick with a regular workout regimen when life gets busy.  If you hate running, don’t try to convince yourself to love it.  Try a variety of different types of exercise and then stick with the ones you enjoy.  If you look forward to exercising, it’s more likely to happen.

1. Exercise Bands: They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors…oh, and they are extremely affordable.  These little guys fit well in almost any space from a desk drawer to a suitcase making them easy to take with you anywhere you go.  You can use a single band to get a total body strength training workout with a little creativity.  An exercise band should be a staple for anyone making the commitment to fitness in 2011.

Our Pick: Ripcords Exercise Bands ($16) – Stellar quality at a great price complete with exercise instructions and workout tips.

2. Ab Wheel: There are a million ab-defining contraptions littering the market.  Most of them are total crap.  Except for this guy.  This simple invention, dating back to the Neolithic era, packs a mean punch when it comes to building ab strength.  It works both the rectus abdominus and oblique muscles.  Like the exercise band, it’s cheap, compact and effective.

Our Pick: Everlast Duo Ab Wheel ($15)

3. Pull Up Bar: We, as a species, love to quantify our athletic prowess in a scientific unit of work known as the pull up.   Pull ups strengthen often-neglected back muscles and improve core strength and posture.  Keeping a pull up bar handy around the house significantly improves your chances of getting your reps in on a daily basis.


Our Pick: Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar, Extreme Edition ($35) – This single piece of equipment can be used for all variations of a pull up, dips, sit ups, and decline push ups.

Fitness Tip: Find ways to make exercise convenient.  If it’s a huge hassle to get to the gym, you will eventually stop going.  Keep strategic pieces of fitness equipment at home (think fitness ball and exercise bands) so you can continue to stay fit when life gets busy and the weather gets ugly.

4. Exercise Ball: Legend has it that the Swiss ball can cure almost any ail you may experience.  Unfortunately our research has shown otherwise.  That being said, it is one of the best products available to build core strength.  From low back to ab strength, the exercise ball is your go to.  It’s dynamic, affordable, and an integral part of your workout routine.

Our Pick: Astone Anti-Burst Exercise Ball ($22) – Comes with exercise manual and 25 year replacement warranty…sounds pretty good to us!

5. Foam Roller: Strength and conditioning are important but we often forget the third integral aspect of the fitness triad: flexibility.  The foam roller (and a little yoga) is your ticket to increased flexibility.  It is also an excellent personal masseuse, helping to loosen sore muscles and release built-up tension after a long workout or day at the office.

Our Pick: The Grid by Trigger Point ($40)

6. Motivating Tunes: Tunes are a big deal.  They make or break a workout.  Having a killer playlist to pump you up throughout your training session is a must.  Find upbeat music that will motivate you like Rocky Balboa on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and keep you coming back for more.

Our Pick: iPod Nano ($149-179) – The sleek new iPod Nano has built-in Nike + technology to help track your workouts, a pedometer to measure the distance you travel, and a color touch screen for easy use all in a tiny clip-on package.

Fitness Tip: Who said you had to be in gym clothes on a StairMaster to get exercise? Find ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.  Make a “No Elevator” rule and take the stairs to get in a quick bit of cardio (trust us, you’ll be feeling it by the 4th floor).  Park farther away from the store to get some quality walking in (and protect your car from stray shopping carts!).

7. Running Shoes 2.0: 2010 marked our society’s return to barefoot running.  With the trend came a spike stress fractures and awkward looks.  We are big fans of barefoot running for a number of reasons (which has notably been used by collegiate and professional runners for years).  Running “barefoot” is a great way to add variety to your workout thus challenging your body in new ways, strengthen your legs and feet, and increase your speed and explosiveness.  There’s one catch: you have to do it the right way.  Running barefoot changes your running style from a heel-strike to a forefoot landing requiring greater calf and mid-foot strength.  Get all the details on how to transition to barefoot running here.  The key is to make a gradual transition.

Our Picks: Nike Free running shoe ($85) is the perfect transition shoe as you move from traditional running shoes to barefoot running.  The shoes are categorized by a numbering system that indicates the cushioning of the shoe and follows a scale ranging from 1 (barefoot) to 12 (normal running shoe).  They have developed three shoes currently, Free 3.0 being the least supportive, Free 5.0 splitting the difference, and Free 7.0 being the most cushioned model so far.

After developing the needed calf and foot strength for the  flexibility of the Nike Free, we recommend making the switch to the Vibram FiveFingers barefoot running shoes ($75-125).  They provide much needed protection from rugged urban terrain with minimal impairment of your natural mechanics.

8. Compression Clothing: The invention of compression wicking fabrics has changed the face of athletics across the board. Replacing your heavy, bulky cotton t-shirts  and gym shorts with new fabric technology is a must in 2011.  The shirts will keep you dry (preventing skin irritation) and allow for better ventilation while you train.  That’s a win-win in our book.

Our Pick: Gents: Under Armour Combine Bolt Compression Shirt ($40) will take you from the slopes to the goal line.  Ladies: Lululemon Groove Pant ($98) are perfect for yoga class, the treadmill, Sunday brunch, and boot camp.

9. Bosu Ball: One in three adults over the age of 65 falls each year (1).  While you may not be over the age of 65, stability should be a key aspect of your fitness regimen.  When it comes to stability training, you can beat the Bosu Ball.  This dynamic piece of equipment challenges small, supporting muscles in a way that traditional weight lifting can’t.  From push-ups to squats, the Bosu Ball fine-tunes your strength training routine, increasing overall stability and preparing you for the uneven and unpredictable great outdoors.

Our Pick: The Bosu Sport Balance Trainer ($80)

10. Fitness Watch: The fitness watch falls in the luxury category in our books, but for those who love to quantify their training progress, it’s essential.  Advancements in technology have made it possible to strap a PC worth of computing power to your wrist to help you calculate your speed, calories burned, heart rate, etc.  The newest set of watches on the market even come complete with built in coaches who help you create weekly training plans and monitor your performance (and push you) during those workouts.  Fancy stuff.

Our Pick: The Suunto t4d ($219) comes complete with a heart rate monitor, a built-in coach, and is capable of calculating your calorie consumption, speed, distance, and cadence.  On top of all that, it’s a pretty sexy for a fitness watch.  If you want something a little more affordable, the IRONMAN Road Trainer Heart Rate Monitor ($110) has plenty of features (heart rate monitor, calorie calculator, etc.) at half the price.

Fitness Tip: Create accountability in your regimen in a way that works for you.  Find a work out buddy, join a fitness group, or create an exercise calendar tracking the days you work out.  There are a million ways to do it but the key is to do it.  Creating that accountability helps you stick to your commitment.

References:

1. Hausdorff JM, Rios DA, Edelber HK. Gait variability and fall risk in community–living older adults: a 1–year prospective study. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2001;82(8):1050–6.

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02 2011

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