Holiday Gift Guide for Athletes — 2017 Edition

Holiday Gift Guide for Athletes — 2017 Edition
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Every year, I put together a list of my favorite holiday gift ideas for runners and triathletes. To be honest, it’s terribly time-consuming and around the holidays, time is precious. But, I tell myself, if it helps at least one person come up with the perfect gift for the runner in their life, my time was worth it.

(Also, maybe my husband will see it, too. Hint hint wink wink.)

I also make it a point to highlight products from small businesses that I can personally vouch for and use or have used myself. You will see just a few Amazon links here as a result. You also will not see any Garmin watches or GoPro cameras. While both those are fabulous, generous gifts, my goal is to bring you ideas that you may not have thought of yourself. So let’s get to it.

High-quality gear from good folks:

1. Skirt Sports

Skirt Sports founder Nicole DeBoom has made it her life’s mission to empower women. But that is not the only reason why I will always remain true to the company’s products. I have been running in Skirt for more than 10 years and every piece I have used is high quality, fun, functional, and lasts for years. Your runner will appreciate you introducing them to the brand.

This season’s fave is the Reflective Safety Running Bolero. You can throw it on top of any shirt or tank, and if you find yourself running in the dark, you’ll shine bright like a diamond; like so:

A post shared by Aleks (@aleksruns) on

Bonus: through December 31, 2017, use code Fall20win for 20% off. (Code may not work when there is a Flash sale, or any large-scale site wide sale.)
 

2. Stomp the Pedal

This is a brand new company out of London (yes, the UK), founded after many years of research and with heaps of passion. Stomp the Pedal focuses on cycling kits and accessories (check out these cute KeepCups!), but founder Natarsha Tremayne has shared her plan to launch a Stomp the Trails line soon. Can’t wait!

Bonus: have you seen the exchange rate for the British Pound lately? Those cycling kits are a steal!

Check out a teaser for the fabulous Great Gatsby collection (coming in 2018), and make sure to follow the brand on Instagram for more updates.

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3.California Running Lab and BOCO Gear

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Shameless plug: I designed these hats with BOCO Gear and have a few left in my store. Grab yours before they’re gone, and you’ll get some GOOD vibes direct-shipped from California, by yours truly.

BOCO Gear makes the best trucker hats out there, and this one is a technical trucker, which means it’s lightweight, quick-dry and the back is all mesh (also, it looks totally as fun as the front… and just wait till you see the visor bottom, it’s the best part!).

Bonus: Use code EPIC2018 and you’ll get a high-quality print of CRL’s exclusive 2018 Race Planning sheet (read more about planning your best 2018 year yet here).

 
For planners and creative runners:

4. Passion Planner

I am such a sucker for the success stories from young female entrepreneurs that I couldn’t resist ordering a Passion Planner — just so I could support the company’s founder. Read her story here, and you’ll want to own one, too!

And let me tell you, the product did not disappoint. This is not your typical daily planner or journal. It gently guides you through thinking about your goals, going after them, and not least, reflecting about whether you’ve achieved them, how, and why. Take a peek at their Instagram account and you’ll be tempted order a few copies. (If you are my friend or family member… you might want to wait until after the holidays, in case there’s one for you under my tree!)

Our Staff Sunday this week is Bianca! Check out her top tips for practicing gratitude: – “I have been practicing a few gratitude habits that I would like to continue beyond the holiday season and into the new year. Here are some that I try to practice daily! – 1️⃣ Take 5 minutes each morning to mind map in your Passion Planner everything you appreciated about the day before. It can be something as simple as waking up before your alarm clock or savoring your favorite candy bar. Starting your day this way helps you to be receptive and grateful for everything your day will bring. – 2️⃣ Make a conscious effort to appreciate at least 3 people every day. By letting people know how much you appreciate them, you increase their own sense of self-appreciation and self-worth, and encourage them to pay this positive energy forward to other people. – 3️⃣ Express your gratitude. Be sure to let others know how grateful you are to have them in your life by remembering the big and small things they have done for you. Your gratitude can be small in your eyes, but it can have a huge impact on someone's day or week. – 3️⃣ Appreciate YOURSELF! ❤️ It may not feel natural at first to practice gratitude with yourself but don’t forget to appreciate your OWN positive qualities and accomplishments. – ‘Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want.’ -Jim Rohn – I’d love to hear what you think about these tips and share your favorite gratitude habits with me! Let’s keep the inspiration flowing! ” – #staffsunday #gratitude #motivation

A post shared by Passion Planner (@passionplanner) on


 

5. Freestyle Journaling with Scribbles That Matter

Bullet journaling is all the rage these days and, thanks to a few Runner’s World articles, runners can get ideas and inspiration on adding a personal touch – or a full-blown creative streak – to their training, too.

The Scribbles that Matter journals are made by a company that doesn’t have a website. I found them on Instagram and with that, discovered they only sell on Amazon. Their journals have a much funner selection of cover colors than the now-mainstream Bullet Journal grid notebook, which for some reason never “spoke” to me. Weird, I know. But let nerds be nerds and take a peek at how I like to start planning my months:

A post shared by Aleks (@aleksruns) on


 

6. You Can’t Go Wrong with the COMPETE Training Journal

It’s a classic. I included it in last year’s Holiday Gift Guide too, and I feel I can’t not include it now. (Next year I’ll be using my fourth one!)

Shalane Flanagan uses one, too. Enough said!


 

7. A “Strong Is the New Pretty” 2018 Wall Calendar

This is the most inspiring wall calendar you will ever own. I promise.

There is also a book. You will not regret buying and gifting that, either!

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Gifts that will keep on giving:

8. Coaching

Imagine giving your favorite runner the gift of a marathon PR, or simply the joy of becoming a stronger runner. Hiring a running coach for someone would be quite the investment, but that is what you would be giving them.

As a running coach, I’ll admit I’m biased — but then again, because I have actually gotten to work with runners who received my coaching as a holiday gift, I can honestly tell you, it is has been a gift to me, as well.
 

9. A bike fit

If your athlete rides a bike and you know they have not been professionally fitted, go ahead and with some research, pay for them to get fitted by a reputable bike fitter in your area. A fit will cost anywhere between $150 and $450, but believe me, it will pay dividends for as long as your athlete rides their bike.
 

10. Fab Fit Fun box subscription

I went back and forth a lot on including this — or any kind of subscription box, really. In the end, I decided to give it a shout-out, because:

a) Last year, I included Stitch Fix (which is still my life saver, wardrobe-wise…), and I want to continue the tradition of throwing in here something that seemingly has no connection to running or endurance sports.

b) The subscription box model is quite popular now, and if you’re a non-runner shopping for a runner friend or spouse, you may find yourself considering one of the now many subscription boxes targeting runners. And frankly, I’m not at all a fan of those, as they seem to all primarily include product samples and/ or single-count little items like gels, bars, or snacks. Honestly, if I’m going to go and try a bunch of different new gels, I’d rather pick out the ones I like at my local running store, after carefully inspecting flavors and nutrition labels.

c) The Fab Fit Fun box actually includes full-size products that an active person, or runner, is likely to use. Or, at least, I am. In the Winter 2017 box, for example, is an exercise ball. I’ve been meaning to get one for years! And not least,

d) Members get access to a library of videos, including yoga, cardio, meditation, hula hooping (!?), dance, and many more. If you need something fun to do in the offseason, those might come in handy?

To become a member, you subscribe to receive one box every three months, or four boxes a year. The cost is $49.99 per box, but don’t order your first one before they’ve emailed you a coupon for at least $10 off. The items are chosen for you based on a detailed profile of your likes and preferences in several categories, including fitness, beauty, and general questions about your lifestyle. You can personally pick at least two of the items in each box, too (you’re given a choice of two items each).

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So I’ll leave it at that for this year. An informal poll among my friends showed that the majority of runners and triathletes want things you can get easily: a new Garmin watch, wireless earbuds (those things are pricey, eh?), a trainer for their bike, a wetsuit. T-shirts with funny or ironic sayings are all the rage, and race registration fees are on everyone’s list (just make sure you ask which race first, or just hand over the cash for it so they can fill all the paperwork themselves). But in case you wanted to surprise them with something a bit off the beaten path, I hope my suggestions help.

Enjoy the Holiday Season!

Holiday Gift Guide for Runners and Triathletes

Holiday Gift Guide for Runners and Triathletes
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Greetings, Shoppers!

Welcome to December: the month of Mall Madness, Parking Lot Rinse-and-Spin, and Shopping with the Zombies.

Wouldn’t you rather be out on the trails?

Lucky for all of us, these days we can buy most anything we want online. The problem is, there’s so much stuff — how do you find just the right gift for your the runner or triathlete, fitness lover or adventure seeker in your life?

Here, as has become my tradition over the past few years, I share with you a few of my favorite things that not only have reasonable price tags, but are made by small businesses that are helping communities and making a difference in the world of endurance sports.

Read on, and you might just find the perfect stocking stuffers, white elephant or Secret Santa gifts for this year. (Check out my suggestions from last year, too.)

So, Dear Santa. This holiday season I’d like you please to bring to my fellow athletes:

1. This “Do Epic Shit!” tank from Betty Designs

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When it comes to dressing the female athlete, Betty Designs can do no wrong. Founder and owner Kristin Meyer has truly revolutionized women’s cycling, swimming and triathlon gear with her bold, edgy kits (check out the Fly collection!) — and has plenty of casual wear items, like this tank (and trucker), to enable you to make a badass statement off the race course, too! I have a few friends who’ve done some truly Epic Shit this year and you can bet they’re getting these for the holidays!

2. This “I just PR’d a little” tank from Skirt Sports

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Skirt Sports revolutionized women’s running in a way no other gear company – even Nike! – has done over the years. More than a decade ago, founder and CEO Nicole DeBoom created the first ever running skirt. She has since made it her mission to empower women in sports and inspire them to be active, no matter what size they wear, and feel good all the while. There are too many skirt models that are as cute as they are functional (hello, thigh pockets, back pockets and mini key-pockets!) and I do have my favorites, but if you’re looking for a fun tee that makes you smile, you can’t go wrong with the “I Just PR’ed a Little” tank.

3. This Gone For a Run Wine Glass

They have pint glasses for runners and triathletes, too!

Cheers!

4. This 2017 Runner’s Streak Calendar

Well, technically it’s a Daily Desk Calendar and yes, I know no one actually needs a big ol’ paper block to remind them what day it is any more. Wouldn’t it the perfect source of daily inspiration for those crazies you know who “streak”, a.k.a. run every day, though? Or anyone, really, who loves running. Right?

5.This Location Coordinates Necklace

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Are you shopping for someone who just completed an epic race or achieved a long sought-after goal? Help them commit that special place to memory – and a piece of beautiful jewelry – with this hand-made destination necklace from PlaidLab Studio. (Check out her Etsy shop more unique, handmade pieces.)

6. The new COMPETE Training Journal by Lauren Fleshman and Róisín McGettigan

This will be my third year of tracking my workouts in these journals. I started with the Believe Training Journal when it first came out and am now on the final weeks of the second edition. Lauren Fleshman and Roisin Dumas update the content each year, so the journals are a daily source of inspiration, in addition of helping me keep track and periodically look back on my training and goals. The perfect gift for an athlete who seeks consistency and adding structure and purpose to their training!

7. This Hyperspace lava-colored tee

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Know a dude who loves bikes and Star Wars? Score! Can’t go wrong with this t-shirt. I got that for HusbandRuns earlier this year and can attest to the high-quality material. (Indeed, it is very soft.) You’ll be supporting Endurance Conspiracy, an athlete-owned and managed company in Boulder, Colorado. Plenty more fun tees, tanks and truckers available on their website.

8. This Tank, T-shirt or Trucker designed for bike lovers

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

Shameless plug for a tank I made for myself with CafePress and decided to make available to others to buy – because why not? CafePress lets you order all sorts of t-shirt, tank and hat models – I like the racer-back tanks for their versatility. I can wear them on short runs, post-run, or to hang around the house whenever I’m in a summery mood! Check out the other stuff in my Race With Heart shop, too.

9. The gift of (non-athletic!) style

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Last, but not least: If your athlete friends and loved ones are like me, they spend more time in (and money on) athletic gear than they do in “real-life” clothes. And shopping for clothes? It’s a nightmare. It’s ironic, really, that I have such a fun time buying matchy running clothes or cycling kits, but cannot for the life of me put together a decent outfit for a work meeting, casual day out and about, or a night out on the town.

Enter Stitch Fix. I’ll admit I resisted it for a very, very long time. I thought it was one of those “monthly box” blogger fads. But a few months ago I caved in and gave it a try — and I swear, no exaggeration, it has changed my life. Well, my wardrobe! I now have outfits that look good — and different from my usual “jeans and free race t-shirt” getup.

The quick-n-dirty on how Stitch Fix works:

1. You create an account and fill out a super detailed questionnaire about your style and preference. The more details you give, the more information your stylist will have when picking clothes for you! Visual help from Pinterest boards or your Instagram account are super helpful.

2. You schedule your fix and a stylist (human being) will select five pieces for you based on your preferences. Once you receive your fix, you’ll try them on and decide which ones to keep and which ones to send back in the prepaid envelope they’ve included in your box. Also included in the box is a style card with recommendations on how to pair the clothes with other stuff from your closet. Personally, I just paired them with each other, because my closet was so outdated!

3. The $20 stylist fee will be applied towards the items you decide to keep. If you keep all five, you’ll get a 20% discount.

4. You can schedule to receive new “fixes” as often as weekly, or spread as far as every three months. You can reschedule a fix at any time.

5. That’s it!

Phew! I didn’t mean to make this so long, but I’ve actually been so excited to finally get some decent items in my wardrobe without having to go to the store and try things on (and end up buying jeans, which I’ll later match with race shirts, anyway).

If all that sounds appealing, grab a Stitch Fix gift card — your friends will be thanking you for a long time!

Happy shopping, happy gifting – and many, many happy miles on the trails!
 

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are referral/ affiliate links.

These are a few of my favorite things: Gifts for Runners and Triathletes

These are a few of my favorite things: Gifts for Runners and Triathletes
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So, Black Friday. I never quite got into it. I mean, why fight in a Walmart parking lot at 10 pm on Thanksgiving (I can’t even stay up that late), when every single merchant out there is offering crazy deals online already?

If you hate going to the mall at this time of year — or any time, really — chances are that, like me, you’ll be doing most of your holiday shopping online or at your favorite small businesses. So I decided to put together a list of my favorite things, many of which happen to be on sale through Cyber Monday, or the end of November.

If you’re looking for gifts for your runner or triathlete friends, I hope these suggestions will spark some ideas:
 

The price we pay for good runner legs: bad runner feet

Marathon runners take 40,000 to 45,000 steps, and that doesn’t include walking around after the finish. How many more in training, I don’t even want to know. It’s no surprise that a runner’s feet are beat-up, callused things that rarely have all 10 toenails present, plagued by the dreaded plantar fasciitis or some other -itis… They deserve to be pampered.

I was recently in a running shoe store trying out new shoes, when this foot massage roller caught my eye. I was in my socks anyway, so I decided to give it a try and… ohemgee so good! (And I never say ohemgee!). And for $10? Yes please! I’ve been rolling out my feet regularly while I sit at my computer working, and – no other way to put it – they’re in heaven!


 

Flip flops that won’t flop

Earlier this year, meanwhile, I was feeling the marathon training miles build up in my feet like never before. My coach insisted that I stop wearing flip flops… but it was summer! And hot! What was I supposed to do?

A friend told me about this brand of flip flops called Oofos and after asking around, all I got from runners was incredibly positive feedback. So I ordered a pair and oh yeah: I am never going back to regular flip flops, ever again! Oofos have a thicker sole that feels super soft on the bottom of your feet, and the thong reaches further back around your foot, so the flip doesn’t flop. You’re wearing flip-flops, yet you feel as if you were in your cushiest sneakers. Not to mention, they come in all sorts of fun colors and have extra-wide sizes. Perfect to switch into after a race, go to the pool, or for walking miles and miles during those hot summer days!


 

Loosen up the legs

And butt. Let’s not forget the nemesis of almost every runner I’ve ever met: tight muscles. If you (or your runner) doesn’t own a foam roller yet, that is obviously something you need to remedy ASAP. Physical therapists usually recommend starting with the basic kind, which is usually white in color and least dense. Once you get used to that (and it becomes all bendy, which might not take that long with regular use), you can progress to a blue, medium density roller. And finally, the black, high density roller.

I’ve been using the blue kind for years and have been meaning to upgrade for a while now. Finally pulled the trigger a few weeks ago with this deep tissue massage foam roller and oh boy, talk about taking things up a notch. It’s been a painful experience so far, but I’m already feeling my quads get better (using it daily has had a lot to do with that, too).


 

Must look good while running

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Skirt Sports. Founded by triathlete Nicole DeBoom, Skirt Sports is a small, women-run company in Colorado that seeks to empower women – of any size! – through sport and, well, with incredibly cute and high-quality running skirts (and capris, tights, tops, tanks… you get the idea). I bought my first Skirt back in 2006 and have been a loyal fan ever since. Since 2014, I am proud to be a Skirt Sports Ambassador!

Skirt Sports is running a Black Friday sale through Cyber Monday:

Discount codes cannot be used during the sale, but any time after that, you can use code SSCCM20 for 20% off any item (regular-priced or sale).

My current Skirt obsession: anything in the Tantrum print:

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on


 

Badass is Beautiful

Speaking of sales and beautiful clothing, another ultra-favorite brand of mine, Betty Designs, is currently offering 10% off everything (including sales items), through November 29. Betty Designs is owned by Kristin Mayer, who has an incredible talent for designing the most beautiful swimming, cycling and triathlon gear I’ve ever owned. Read more about Kristin’s story here.

Impressed? To support yet another women-owned small business this shopping season, use code THANKS2BETTY.

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I recently found out that I was accepted to Team Betty 2016 and could not be more thrilled to join a group of #BadAss women on the triathlon scene next year! My current Betty obsession, the Garden Party trucker, $29.99:

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on


 

Books for the soul

First up, a runner’s classic, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I dare you to begin reading that book and not want to lace up and go running not even 10 pages into it. Truly, one of the most wonderful books about running ever written. You won’t find any training advice in it, but you will definitely find inspiration and understanding.

For those looking for a solid training book: even though I’m not a fan of using cookie-cutter plans to train for a race, I found a lot of useful information in Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster, especially on setting realistic goals in training and racing. (Unrealistic time goals are what lead to the majority of injuries in training and disappointing results, especially among marathon runners… but don’t listen to me, read the book.)

Finally, another classic that I’ve been reading for the past few weeks. (Not that it isn’t an interesting read, on the contrary — it’s just quite long and I’ve been busy!) For history lovers: Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Cofounder.
 

Believe, Train, Adapt, Compete

I’ve had a training journal since I started training for my first marathon back in 2003. I find it incredibly helpful, not just to keep a tally of those miles (I do that online now, anyway), but for motivation. Last year, I got the first edition of the Believe Training Journal — the one in classic red – and instantly fell in love. There’s much more than motivation on those pages. You will find a wealth of information and inspiration! I just ordered a new one and can’t wait to start using it, just as soon as the last two weeks on my original one are filled up! (And yeah…. I had trouble deciding between the black and lavender… so I got both. I guess I’m all set until 2017!)


 

So that’s it from me this shopping season. There are, of course, lots of other stuff you could buy for your runner or triathlete – medal hangers, jewelry, safety items, a Garmin 920XT, a bike (one could never have too many bikes!). But I will leave the rest for you to research and tell me: What are your favorite running or triathlon things?


Disclosure: This posts contains affiliate links. That doesn’t affect the item price when you shop, but any time you do buy using one of those links, a tiny percentage of your purchase goes to this blog. Thank you for your support.