By Ron Kaspriske
With Christmas less than a week away, you might be scrambling for gift ideas. With all-due respect to jewelers, electronic stores and florists, nothing says "I love you and want you to live a long, healthy life" more than a fitness-related present. Here are five ideas that might not garner the same initial reaction as when that special someone opens a case with diamond earrings or a Bluetooth speaker, but if the recipient is smart, they'll thank you in the long run.
1. Foam rollers/soft-tissue massagers: These items are so handy for warming up muscles and also getting the kinks out when you get sore. There are dozens on the market, but two of my favorites are "The Grid" ($40, mytpi.com) sold by the Titleist Performance Institute and the "Travel Stick" ($30, store.coreperformance.com) sold by Core Performance.
2. BOSU ball: This inflated half-ball ($109, bosu.com) is useful for so many exercises where balance and stability are important. I wouldn't advocate standing on one while performing heavy lifting (too unstable, too unsafe), but it's great for body-weight exercises while standing, or just about any load-bearing exercise while sitting or kneeling. One of my favorite exercises is to flip it over, grab the sides, and do push-ups.
3. SuperFlex Fitness products: Dave Herman has taken stretch bands/tubes to a whole new level with the various products he sells including a golf-fitness kit ($80, superflexfitness.com). The company is about to unveil a new golf-instruction kit that trains a better swing, but it won't be out in time for Christmas. If you have a smaller budget, you can buy individual bands for as low as $6. The best part about the bands is their portability. You can stuff them into your golf bag and use them for a pre-round warm-up.
4. Heart-rate/workout monitors: These items can be a bit pricey, but when you consider the top ones record data about your workouts, provide you with instant heart-rate information, and track your whereabouts through GPS, they are a great gift. I like that they motivate you to do more, because you have real data about what you just accomplished. Garmin's Forerunner 110 watch is one of the best ($230, buy.garmin.com).
5. Soft medicine balls: I love traditional med balls for golf-related workouts. You can do so much with them. But there's one problem: You need a solid wall--or a crazy friend who doesn't mind fractured fingers--in order to throw them around. That's why soft medicine balls are the way to go if you're going to give one as a gift. The cushioned cover gives you a lot more options of where you can toss them without breaking something. Perform Better! has a good selection ($55-$105 based on the ball's weight, performbetter.com).
BONUS TIP: If none of these ideas work, go to shop.sklz.com for a host of worthwhile athletic-equipment options including stuff specifically developed for golfers.
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.
Photo by Erik Isakson