Avoid pitfalls of fitness-related gifts
WEARABLE tech that tracks steps has achieved mainstream popularity and is all the rage this year. Athletic apparel now doubles as loungewear. Even classes at a boutique gym can come off as a trendy indulgence.
But experts are warning that you should not give anything diet- or fitness-related unless you've done your homework.
It could be the perfect thing, says Sarah West, director of training at Results Gym on Capitol Hill, or it could be a waste of money that has the potential to send a loved one's ego into a tailspin.
That's an important lesson to remember even as the category drops some of its stigma-packed baggage, that is, you think the recipient is overweight.
Nancy Mitchell, founder of protocol firm The Etiquette Advocate, notes that it is important to bestow these kinds of presents the right way.
Ideally, your intended recipient will have mentioned a specific interest in the product or service in the past. When you deliver the gift, she says, you can remind them of your conversation. "So that's the point of reference, not that you think they're fat," she explains.
Think they might like something along these lines, but they haven't brought it up?
Try floating the idea in a casual way, Ms Mitchell suggests. "Say, 'I think I'm going to get myself a Fitbit.' Then see what they say."
When it comes to clothes, sizing is always a thorny area. Too big or too small might send an unintended message, especially with fitness wear. If you decide to go that route, Ms Mitchell recommends opting for gift cards from favourite brands. There's nothing impolite about letting your friends and family pick out cuts and styles that work for them.
Lauren Blanda, general merchandising manager for City Sports, expects this season's top sellers to be technology-related, including activity trackers, touchscreen-compatible gloves, Bluetooth headphones and GoPro cameras.
Sports psychologist Keith Kaufman says such innovations have made fitness-related gift-giving much more comfortable.
"A lot of us just like gadgets," he says, and as long as the focus of the gift exchange is technology, there's no reason to think there's a judgmental subtext.
But be careful about who's getting these gifts, Dr Kaufman cautions. He's gung-ho about the emergence of trackers, which allow his patients to self-monitor their physical activity more accurately. But they're not the best fit for everyone.
"To lose weight effectively, you have to be a little obsessive," he says. "Sometimes that can cross the line. If a gadget is making you more mindful, that's beneficial. If it's creating a sense of anxiety, you need to get distance from it."
And if it's not doing anything at all? Don't push the issue, says Ms West, who notes that some people just don't want fitness gifts, no matter how awesome they might seem to the giver.
"You can't force someone to get in shape until they're ready. Getting healthy and fit is all about internal motivation," she says.
That's why when clients want to buy training sessions for a spouse, child or friend, she insists that the would-be exerciser call to confirm that he or she is actually interested in it.
Here are some tips for buying fitness gifts:
When giving someone an activity tracker, don't dwell on the fact that it is designed to help wearers lose weight.
Instead, geek out over the gee-whiz technology. The new Fitbit Charge (US$130 or S$170), for instance, doesn't just count steps, stairs climbed and active minutes, but also monitors sleep, works as a watch and displays caller ID when your phone is nearby.
Want to motivate someone to exercise?
Instead of a shove, try a nudge - maybe with a product that will make getting outside more appealing. For example, a waterproof music player.
Fitness apparel now has a life outside the gym, so there's a lot of stuff available that looks good whether you're on the run or on the couch.
But if you don't know the recipient's size, do everyone a favour and just buy a gift card.
Try to think of past conversations you've had with friends about their specific fitness needs
Has your buddy complained that she doesn't have a good way of transporting her yoga mat to class? That's an invitation to buy her something like the prettily patterned Orla Kiely by Gaiam Flower Spot Apple Yoga Mat Bag (US$27, Target).