Now, before I get started, I need to say that the best thing you can do is to ask your athlete what they want. They'll probably already have a few good ideas. Plus, asking saves you from having to worry on Christmas morning whether those new Speedo briefs you got them were really a good idea. But, for those of you who thrive off of surprising their loved ones...well, I'm here for you.
What NOT to buy your athlete
Let's start with things that should be avoided.
Cycling Shorts and Running Shoes - These can be very personal choices for an athlete. Unless you know ahead of time that they prefer a certain brand of shorts, or certain model of running shoe, it's probably best to steer clear. Sure, they might say 'thank you' and smile awkwardly. But, you don't want them to find out on mile 2 of a 10-mile run that their shiny new running shoes give them blisters. Poorly fitting cycling shorts will soon find their way to the bottom of a drawer and be given the role of 'Emergency Backup'. What's worse is that you could pick the wrong color shorts and your loved one could end up like these, um, 'upstanding' young gentlemen.
|Uh, excuse me. EXCUSE ME! My eyes are up HERE!|
Nutrition - Now, I'm not saying that a couple of Clif Bars in a stocking is a bad thing. They make a good post-workout snack. Just try to avoid the 24-Packs of energy bars and giant tubs of drink mixes. I, for one, still can't eat a Shot Blok since finishing the Ironman almost 3 months ago.
What will REALLY make your athlete's day
Race Photos - Most racers hesitate when buying these for themselves. That makes it a perfect opportunity for you. Many races have contracts with photographers that will store photos for months or years. A quick Google search for, say, something like 'Liberty Triathlon Photos' should put you on the photographer's website where you can buy that really rad photo of your athlete hammering it on the bike. Toss that sucker into a frame and you're in like Flynn.
Race Entries - Lots of races have their best deals for entry fees at the end of the year. If you know that your athlete does the same race every year, offer to cover their entry costs. Maybe they'll even put your name on their jersey as a 'sponsor'.
Massages - A gift certificate for a 1-hour sports massage is a GREAT way to tell your athlete you love 'em. Better yet, schedule it for the afternoon after a shorter race, or the next day after a longer race. It'll be just the reward they're looking for.
Garmin Gear - If you've got a little extra money to spend, think about a GPS/Heart Rate Monitor. I LOVE my Garmin Forerunner 305.
|The Garmin Forerunner 305|
It tracks all of my runs and rides so that I never have to slave over Google Maps to find out where I went. It also tracks my heart rate, pace, distance and just about every other stat that you can think of. There's also the Forerunner 310xt (in orange below) if you're looking for a waterproof model and the Forerunner 405 if you want something with a smaller screen that looks more watch-y and less like a windshield on your wrist.
Something Safe - Every cyclist should have a Road ID. These handy little bracelets and anklets provide vital information in the event that something serious were to happen to you out there on the road.
reflective vest can come in handy.
Something Funky - Wanna make your athlete's day? Try something unique that every other athlete may not already own. Get them a swim cap with a funky design like this guy:
Jersey's are great for this too. I'm partial to these offerings from Share the Damn Road.
Books and Magazine Subscriptions - One of the perks for signing up for the Ironman was getting a year's subscription to LAVA Magazine. I've received 3 issues so far and read each of them from cover to cover. They've officially replaced Uncle John's Bathroom Reader as my favorite, ahem, 'alone time' entertainment. If your athlete is just getting into the sport, I also recommend Triathlete Magazine. It's less intimidating than LAVA and a bit more accessible, but the articles aren't quite as in-depth.
For books, I highly recommend The Triathlete's Training Bible by Joe Friel. I received my copy from a friend and it's been handy for everything from nutrition, to goal setting, to creating a training schedule. It's good stuff.
Gift Certificates - I know, I know. Lots of you don't like the idea of gift cards, because they aren't as personal, or they don't come in a nice big box. But, when all else fails, a few extra bucks at a local bike shop, Gear West or REI can go a long way.
Odds 'n' Ends - For quick, easy and cheap gifts, you can't really go wrong with Body Glideor Chamois Butt'r to keep the blisters away. My sister gave me a CamelBak Podium Bottle last year. I liked it so much I bought a second so I could have a couple on hand for longer rides. A cyclist can never have too many spare tubes, Yankz! laces are great for runners, and reflective tape can be added to any clothing to temporarily brighten things up.
Well, that should get you started. Don't stress out too much if you can't pick out the perfect item to give your athlete this year. Hopefully they have lives outside of training and racing. A nice sweater or a warm pair of socks never hurt anybody.
Oh, and Santa, if you're reading this, what I really, really REALLY want is an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. But if that's not cool, I suppose I could settle for a Leopard TT.
Oh, yeah, and don't forget to 'Like' me on Facebook to keep notified of my future posts. Just use the button on the right side of the page, or click here. (You too Santa!)