The Fab Fitness Gear I Can't Live Without

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As a long-time exerciser and fitness instructor, I've tried my fair share of fitness gear over the years. But only a few items have withstood the sweat test! My workouts consist of a combination of running, walking, Pilates, Spinning, and general fitness training (weights, aerobics, etc.), and today I'm sharing some of my top picks for apparel, gadgets and gear in all of those categories!

Aeromat 36" Foam Roller ($49.99)
I love a good foam roller, but a good foam roller will cost you. You can find smaller and less expensive versions, but they will not last. Cheaper models become lumpy, bumpy and worn down after just a few uses, but a high-quality foam roller like this one is worth the extra cost because it really lasts. I use the foam roller to roll out my sore muscles, especially my back, hamstrings and calves. It's super easy to do but makes a major difference in how you feel and your ability to recover after a tough workout. To learn how to use a foam roller, check out this video I made. You can also perform core and strengthening exercises on a foam roller: Here are some to try!

GoFit 20-Pound Kettlebell ($49.99)
After I tried kettlebell training with the help of a certified kettlebell instructor, I was hooked! Unless you've tried it, it's hard to explain just how different kettlebells are from traditional hand weights, and how they challenge your body in completely new ways. I invested in my own kettlebell from GoFit a couple years ago so I could do more training at home. I keep it in my living room and incorporate it into my strength workouts every now and then to keep things fresh—and it does not disappoint. I'm happy with the quality of this kettlebell by GoFit, and it also comes with its own DVD that teaches you some of the basics. You can find these kettlebells at Target, Walmart, Dick's Sporting Goods and more.

Garmin Forerunner 405 ($349.99)
The Garmin Forerunner has forever changed the way I run, and really made me a better, more dedicated runner. It was a pricey investment, but I feel that it was worth every penny. It tracks my distance, elevation changes, heart rate, time, pace, and even provides me with a virtual partner to keep pace with as I run. I can upload my runs to Garmin's website and see detailed maps, videos, and so much more. Really, this short shout out can't do it justice. I plan to do a more thorough review of this little gadget soon. But if you walk or run, this may be just the ticket you need to stay motivated and improve over time!

SmartWool PhD Running Ultra Light Micro Socks ($12.95) and SmartWool Athletic Light Crew Socks ($14.95)
I first bought SmartWool socks for my weeklong Grand Canyon hiking trip. Wool is insulating, yet breathable, doesn't hold onto moisture (and can therefore help prevent blisters), and also resistant to stinky smells. I pretty much live in my SmartWool socks all the time now, which means that I also walk, hike, and run in them. Cotton socks will no longer have a place in my wardrobe—wool is where it's at! They may be expensive, but they last a lot longer and can be worn multiple times between washes without ill effects (seriously, no smell!). Learn more about working out in wool.

Franklin Air Ball ($9.70)
I call this a "mini ball," and it is by far my most favorite fitness prop. I use it all the time in Pilates class. I incorporate it into regular strength training too. This tiny ball is so versatile, and it's inexpensive to boot! You may remember me raving about the mini ball when I reviewed both the Bender Ball and the Quick Sculpt Pilates set. If I had to choose just one piece of exercise equipment to last me the rest of my life, this would be it. So unassuming, yet so challenging! You can hold it, squeeze it, lie on it, use it in almost any way that you would a larger stability ball, and more. I am excited to report that I'll be shooting some new workout videos with the mini ball for the SparkPeople website soon, too!

C9 by Champion Seamless Cami Sports Bras ($16.99)
These sports bras from Target are my favorites by far. I love the variety of colors. I think the support level is just perfect, and you can't beat the price either. I am always recommending them to my friends. No matter what kind of workout I'm doing, these sports bras do the job and keep me comfortable.

Sigg 1-Liter Water Bottle ($24.99) with Sport Top ($6.99)
All that exercise requires a lot of water. Since I try to do my part to cut down on waste, I never ever use single-use plastic bottles of water. I invested in a good, sturdy, reusable Sigg bottle a few years ago, and it's still the one I use today. This is my companion to every Spinning class! It's easy to clean, too, and helps me meet my daily quota without adding to the landfills.

Gaiam Premium Sticky Yoga Mat ($23.98)
For Pilates, I use a "premium" yoga mat, which is twice as thick as a standard yoga mat. This gives me extra cushioning on my spine and my hips during certain exercises, making my whole workout a lot more comfortable. I like having my own mat because it seems more sanitary than using a mat from the gym—it's all mine! My premium mat is from Gaiam, but it's actually an "eco" (PVC-free) mat that they seem to no longer sell. It's lasted me for several years and still works great! Oh and since we're on the topic, here's my best tip for keeping germs off of your yoga mat.

iPod Nano ($139)
I currently use a fifth generation iPod nano, but the newest model (pictured here) is smaller. I am always downloading new songs for my iPod to keep my workouts fresh and exciting. I can't imagine exercising—or teaching classes—without it.

ALO headbands ($3.81/each) and Goody Secure Fit Headbands
If you've seen any of my videos, then you know that I love my headbands! I've tried so many different styles and brands, but these two are my top picks. I like the Goody headbands (find them at almost about big box store or drug store) because they're small, but they stay put thanks to a no-slip grip on the inside. The ALO headbands are harder to find (try Dick's Sporting Goods). They're the perfect width for me, plus they are sweat-wicking and tend to really stay in place while keeping my hair out of my face. No one wants stray hairs in their face or eyes when working out (that's just gross and distracting), so a good headband is a must!

Nike Pro Thermal Women's Running Tights ($50)
I can't tell you how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE these tights. I bought my first pair last year and practically lived in them all winter long. Just scored another pair with a little holiday cash a few weeks ago. Yes, these are expensive, but if exercising outdoors in the winter is a reality for you, this is money well spent. These tights fit perfectly, but do you really want to know the best part? They are fleece lined. That means seriously cozy and instantly warm the second you step into them. On warmer winter days, I'll wear just these tights. On colder days (30s and below), I layer another pair of pants on top. And I won't lie. Sometimes I just like to wear them to bed or underneath my jeans in the winter, even if I'm not working out. TIP: Look for these on sale now! My most recent pair was $20 off the SRP at Dick's Sporting Goods.

SparkPeople Bamboo Tank Tops ($21.99)
This is by far my new favorite top! I love that it's made of 57% Bamboo, which is eco-friendly, super soft, and naturally wicks moisture away. It's a little stretchy, too, thanks to a bit of spandex, and it comes in 3 pretty colors: green, aqua and blue (I have all three!), with a SparkPeople logo on one side of the chest. This top has a great fit. It's flattering, form-fitting (but not skintight) and—my favorite—long! It comes down past my hips, which is stylish and comfortable. I tested this little baby on a Saturday morning run a couple weeks ago and was dry and cool when it was over. The racerback style is great for working out—gives you freedom to move but doesn't make you feel too exposed.

Those are just a few of my favorite fitness things. What are some of yours?