Give the Gift of Strength

charles_atlas1You don’t have to look like Charles Atlas to be fit.

You do need strong muscles. Toned muscles help you complete household chores without injury, survive your workday, walk without falling, and right yourself when you are thrown off balance. Increased muscle leads to increased metabolism, which is great for weight loss (you burn more calories while sitting!). And who doesn’t secretly want arms like Michelle Obama?

You probably know someone in your family or circle of friends who has taken positive steps toward a healthier lifestyle. They may be doing cardio workouts but have misconceptions about getting bulky muscles. They may also be Baby Boomers who do not realize that they are experiencing muscle loss as they age. Here’s what Chris Crowley, author of Younger Next Year has to say about that last point:  “Regular strength training for life sounds stupid, nasty and scary. And we wouldn’t even mention it if it were not one of the best pieces of advice in the whole damn book.” 

So here are a few gift ideas that can help your loved ones embrace strength training in 2015.


Gone are the days of boring black. Sets of 3-, 5-, and 8-pound dumbbells (perfect for beginners) are now available in fashion colors.

There are plenty of guidelines for proper lifting online (e.g., breathe, align, don’t rush). Why not print out an article and include it in the package?


To avoid boredom or my tendency to quit before fatigue, I rely on DVD workouts that feature weights. p90x is my go-to, which may be a bit extreme for your Aunt Anna, who’s in her 60s (and still needs to do strength training!). More manageable programs include p90 and 21-Day Fix. They’re great options.

Tony Horton…Today’s Charles Atlas?

P90_COO_728x90-2Resistance BandsBands

Does Cousin Sam travel a lot? Resistance bands would allow Sam to work out anywhere. They don’t take up much space in a suitcase, and don’t add much weight.  No need for a hotel gym (which, in my experience, often lacks a decent selection of weights anyway).

And.. resistance bands with door attachments are useful for back exercises if you don’t have interest or room for a pull-up bar.

Workouts that Leverage Body Weight

It is possible to do strength training without equipment. Push-ups and squats are examples of exercises that you can do anywhere. Again, I rely on DVD programs to provide variety and rigor. Insanity is a favorite of mine (although when I first started, I popped 4 post-workout ibuprofens).

PiYo takes a calmer approach that is inspired by yoga and pilates — but your muscles will know they’re working! In the video below Chalene Johnson demonstrates some PiYo moves.

If you want additional guidance on workout programs might work for you — or your Cousin Joe or Aunt Elsa — fill in the fields below!


Give the Gift of Water

This is the first of a series of short posts to encourage holiday shopping with health in mind.

Water makes up about 60% of your body weight. It’s an essential component of a fit lifestyle.  Yet most people don’t drink enough. Do you? Probably not. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’re not peeing colorless or light yellow urine, you’re not getting enough fluids. So before you head out to buy a gift for Cousin Alice, check out Tony Horton’s sometimes silly tips for drinking more water.

And why not get Cousin Alice a gift that can help her stay hydrated and healthy? Chances she isn’t drinking enough, either.

Brita Water Filter Pitcher

Who wants to drink water straight from the tap? Cousin Alice will be more likely to consume at least 8 glasses of water each day if she has a 10-cup pitcher of icy cold, filtered water in the fridge.


For the longest time, I resisted this gadget with protests of “it’s called counter space for a reason!” I relented last year, and can’t imagine what we did without one in our kitchen. This is a great gift if Cousin Alice is trying to kick her soda habit. Why not help her say no to the extra 8+ teaspoons of sugar she’d consume with just one can of cola-flavored beverage? Seltzer with a squeeze of lemon or lime is a much better alternative. Cheaper, too.

BPA-Free Water Bottle

Cousin Alice can save a lot of  money — and the planet — if she totes her own water bottle instead of buying water when traveling. There are a lot of stylish models available (stocking stuffer perhaps?). Just remind her to pour out the contents before she goes through security for her flight home.