I could create an exhausting holiday list of all of my favorite sports and fitness related items, from socks and jackets to music and iPhone armbands. But this year I wanted to create a list of my Top 5 alternative gift picks that give the gift of intangibles such as time, support and learning. These options celebrate the individual, recognizing the identity created by often solitary pursuits in exercise, health and running. There is nothing more meaningful than a gift that sends the message that you accept, believe in and encourage someone’s enthusiasm and passion. And since, as the poet Anne Sexton writes, “The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard, dies young,” many of these are gifts meant to be shared and experienced together.
1. A Great Read: Jamie Quatro, I Want To Show You More. Quatro’s first book has garnered rave reviews, and she has been compared to Flannery O’Connor and Alice Munro. Regardless of whose voice you hear in the text, I can guarantee this: it will be fantastic one. From the New York Times review: The memorable thing about the characters in Ms. Quatro’s subtle, sexy and reflective stories… is how open they are to emotional and intellectual experience. These people aren’t wrapped up at all. Ms. Quatro’s narrators… are seekers of a sort. They scan for the transcendence that eludes them, often in church pews or running shoes. “It’s when I’m running that I feel God wants to tell me something,” one woman says. “I feel he wants to tell me the Big Thing he has for me to do.”
2. A Surprise Race Registration: If your special person is a runner/biker/adventure racer/triathlete, then take the opportunity to sign him or her up for an upcoming event. It’s such a thrill to have a present that’s also a plan- something that sets in place an adventure, goal or trip. You can mix it up with registration for a race in an exotic locale (check out the Crater Lake Rim Runs), for a new event or sport (Blue Ridge Mountain Throwdown?), or simply to a local race that you know your person loves. From a cost-effective standpoint, I enthuse about the Colchester 1/2 Marathon in Colchester, CT, because it’s held in February, is ridiculously hilly and challenging, has one of the friendliest race directors I know, costs $14 to enter, and inspires me to stay motivated throughout the winter.
3. Lessons to Learn A New Skill: It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with exercise and fitness, because we all tend to do what we know how to do. But, as the saying goes… “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.” So, inspire and motivate this holiday with lessons to something new and challenging. And better yet, sign up with your friend or loved one! One of the best presents I’ve ever gotten was a 5 pack of individual one-on-one swim lessons at Cornerstone Aquatics in West Hartford, because it opened up a new world of sport and training. And while active lessons (skiing, yoga, skating, paddleboarding) are fun, so are lessons in cooking, healthy eating, winemaking, woodworking, or language acquisition. Learning something new creates a confidence and enthusiasm that is infectious and rejuvenating.
4. A Really Cool Individualized Present: A bike chain bottle opener. An inspirational necklace. A monthly delivery of really good, sustainably grown coffee. These are the gifts that matter, that encourage conversation and make us smile even when we’re apart. The human existence can be a lonely one, and giving a present that enriches the daily experience keeps us connected, healthy and fulfilled.
5. A Date To See Unbroken, which comes out on Christmas Day. Need I say more? Directed by Angelina Jolie, and starring Jack O’Connell, this movie adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s book about U.S. track star and WWII hero Louis Zamperini will inspire all of us.