Commander's Fit Tip: Give the gift of fitness!

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Panarisi
Having trouble finding just the right gift for that special someone? How about the "gift of fitness!"

Fitness gear and gadgets are always a welcome sight under the tree, and with the explosion of pro-level items in the consumer market, the possibilities are nearly endless.

This might just be the perfect time to spice up someone's gym bag, and maybe pick up a few goodies for yourself along the way. Here are some of my favorites.

"Wicking" apparel - Nobody has to suffer with cold, clingy, determination-robbing clothing, thanks to the proliferation of new fibers that literally pull perspiration off your skin and "wick" the moisture to the surface where it can do a better job of cooling and eliminating that clammy discomfort you've had to live with on the treadmill.

Most of these new garments use 100 percent synthetic materials, and the fabrics tend to have a "waffle pattern" that forms little air pockets to improve "breathability."

Now, I like a good old fashioned cotton T-shirt for a walk or a light workout, but if I'm getting sweaty, I pull out the "good stuff."

Until you've tried it, you just can't believe how much more comfortable these garments are. That extra bit of comfort, and the extra cooling action, can help you get through the "hard days" and prevent that overheated feeling that sometimes gets between you and the last five minutes on the spin bike.

The secret is out on how this stuff works, so you can snag a decent shirt for under $20, and I've seen some for under $10.

The military uniform makers have already taken the plunge, so if you can stand the abuse from your colleagues at the gym, there is a "dry" version of the ABU undershirt that works very well. Not the most exciting color choice, but if you just want to "try before you buy" they're a real bargain at about $7.

Trust me, they work.

Padded Cycle Shorts - If you don't ride a road bike or spin bike frequently, those seats can be a real drag. The solution? "Gel" shorts.

Those seats are hardly a "one size fits all" answer to pain management, and particularly on a spin bike, the workouts can add to the abuse of your backside. The padded shorts (some use a gel substance, others a compressed foam) distribute the loads nicely and can keep the grimace off your face late in the workout, or worse, the next day.

Most are Lycra-based for a snug fit around your thighs, and aren't exactly the most modest outerwear on the market, so you may prefer a longer than average shirt for walking around, but the comfort the gems provide are well worth it.

They are a little hard to find, so you'll probably have to get these online or at a bike/outdoor shop, and they can get a little pricey. But they last a very long time, so for under $50, you'll find yourself actually looking forward to that scrawny little seat on "bike day."

Cycle Shoes - Most fitness aficionados don't race, so the thought of "clipping in" to a bike pedal is a little scary. But for spin bikes and stationary bikes, there's no better way to load your legs.

Problem is, your running shoes don't work well on a bike...too flexible and no place to screw in the "cleats" the special pedals need to secure your feet. A pair of cycle-specific shoes fills this gap.

Prices range from $30 to $300, so here's the sweet spot: go for "Mountain Bike" shoes.

These are much less expensive than the racy, lightweight road shoes, and best of all, you can walk around in them safely. You can even wear them for your weight training events, if you don't want to carry two pairs of shoes in your bag.

There's only one catch: you need to find out what style of cleat your spin bike or stationary bike uses. The vast majority use a style called "SPD," and these cleats sell for under $20 a pair, but there are others out there and no two are interchangeable. I know it sounds a little complicated, but trust me, it's a totally different workout, and MUCH more effective when you "clip in." Those flimsy toe straps just don't cut it.

A decent pair of mountain bike shoes is only about $50, and will last for years. Take the plunge, you won't regret it.