Giving exercise gifts that fit the recipient It's not just deciding what kind of thing to buy, but also figuring out how to get the one most suited to the individual

Focus on fitness.

November 22, 1998|By Nancy Menefee Jackson | Nancy Menefee Jackson,Special to The Sun

Choosing a Christmas gift for a fitness buff seems daunting, especially if you're a couch potato whose idea of exercise is to send someone else to the Krispy Kreme doughnut store. After all, bikers already have a bike and weight-lifters have weights, right?

Even if you do make your way to the alien world of a sporting goods store, what do you look for?

We asked some of the people who have been profiled in The Sun's Health and Fitness section this year what they would like to find under their trees on Christmas morning. Santa doesn't have to be lugging barbells down the chimney; many of their wishes can be granted with a gift certificate.

Ron Herbst, coordinator of Helix Health's Back to Golf program in Lutherville: Gift certificate for a personal-trainer session.

Mary Lou DiNardo, Baltimore public relations executive, named one of the 10 fittest women by Living Fit magazine: Gift certificate for a personal-trainer session. Or ultra-light carbon-fiber snowshoes, which runners use for training. Or skates.

Kim Smith, Towson medical social worker, who biked 350 miles over four days for charity: Personal-trainer session. And since it's Christmas, she asks, can the trainer be a really good-looking one?

What to look for

If you are going to get a gift certificate for a session with a trainer, how do you make sure it is someone qualified?

Lew Lyon, director of the Good Health Center at Good Samaritan Hospital, says the first question to ask is whether the trainer is certified. National organizations that certify trainers include the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the International Dance and Exercise Association (IDEA) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). An academic degree is not necessary, but a master's degree in exercise physiology certainly indicates the person is qualified.

Also, ask whether the trainer ever has worked with someone of the gender and age range of the person you have in mind. "If you ask them, 'Do you work with anyone over 55?' and they say, 'No,' then that raises some issues," says Lyon.

And about that good-looking trainer? Well, the trainer's own fit bod is no guarantee. "Just because they walk the walk doesn't mean they know how to teach it," says Lyon.

A reputable fitness center usually can provide the name of a knowledgeable trainer, and rates vary from $20 to $40 an hour. It might cost more for Herbst, though, who said he would really love for someone to give him that workout program but on a beach in Hawaii.

Lori Berdeguez, Annapolis school production specialist and ballet student: "A day at a health spa, complete with a massage."

Kelly Gonteski, Towson occupational therapist who completed a 350-mile, four-day bike ride for charity: A weekend at a spa, with aerobics, biking, a massage and a healthy eating atmosphere.

Demetria Harvin, Frederick cancer-research technician and champion weight-lifter: A trip to a fitness beach, perhaps Muscle Beach in Venice, Calif. Or, she says: a 310-pound barbell set and a good weight bench with wide uprights.

What to look for

A weight set - although not necessarily 300 pounds - makes a great gift. Jan Dellinger of York Barbell Co. in Pennsylvania says he sells a 40-pound adjustable dumbbell set that includes 5-pound and 2-pound plates for $25.95.

Weights come in two varieties: cast-iron dumbbells, such as the hand weights preferred by runners, or bars that can have plates attached to change the weight. When buying the latter, look for a speed lock, the mechanism that keeps the weight from sliding off the bar. A wrenchless collar is an acceptable locking mechanism, too, but, unlike the speed lock, you can't readily tell if it's tightened.

For a weight bench, suggests Dellinger, "you kind of have to decide, am I going to be serious or am I going to be dabbling?" For dabblers, check out yard sales. The serious weightlifter will want a bench with at least 2 inches of padding, and the board inside the padding should be 5/8 of an inch thick. Look for adjustable uprights, extra-tightened welds, and ask what kind of guarantee comes on the welded parts. Avoid buying a bench that doesn't offer a guarantee.

Martha Copeland, Frederick synchronized swimmer: gift membership to a gym. "All the equipment that I need is in the gym, and it's all Nautilus equipment, so it's not practical to have it in the home."

Richard Tamberrino, a Lutherville soccer and lacrosse official: A $2,000 Universal gym - uh, reality check, please - OK, he'll settle for a pair of polypropylene gloves for winter biking and high-end Gore-Tex biking suit with reflective stripes. (Guess those referees just can't resist stripes.)

Dr. Bill Howard, director of Union Memorial Hospital Sports Medicine Center, Baltimore: Concept II rowing machine, which costs around $800 and exercises the heart, lungs, legs and arms. "It's beyond the Cadillac of rowing machines; it's the Rolls-Royce of rowing machines." There are even Concept II contests, where participants row the machine against a clock.

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