These are the ones that elevate training and recovery.
Everywhere you look, people are trying to sell you health products that you really don’t need to get fit. Many of them don’t even work, are harmful for your body, or simply aren’t worth the cost.
With the wide variety of products available today, it can be hard to figure out which products and tools are worth investing in to actually help you reach your goals. Luckily, I have a lifetime of experience in athletics, so I’ve tried my fair share of fitness products.
When I ran cross-country and track in college, I didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend on all the latest and greatest technology, but I still wanted to elevate my training and recovery to become the fittest, strongest athlete I could be and avoid injury.
Whether you’re an avid exerciser or you’re just starting to develop a fitness routine, the following are five essential tools that are inexpensive and provide meaningful benefits in terms of boosting overall fitness and recovery. They are the ones I consider to be worth the cost because I use them on an everyday basis, and you can as well.
1. A Foam Roller
This recovery tool only costs about $10, and it’s great to use all over your body after any form of exercise.
When I was in college, my cross-country coach made my teammates and I bring our foam rollers to every single practice. Once we finished our team run, we all had to sit down together for 5–10 minutes and foam roll. Sometimes, when I had a super busy day ahead of me, I found it annoying.
However, my coach knew how important foam rolling was. In fact, Harvard Health states that:
“Foam rolling helps release tension in the muscles, relieve muscle soreness, and improve flexibility and range of motion.”
Therefore, a foam roller is an incredible tool that can help reduce muscle soreness, which will make you feel better after a grueling workout, and prepare you for a hard effort in the coming days.
2. This Type of Water Bottle
I’ve used a reusable water bottle for well over five years in order to reduce my plastic waste. However, I never thought the actual design of the water bottle mattered…until I went to college.
About five years ago, when I was in my freshman year of college, I learned about the benefits of using a water bottle with a straw. Shockingly, if you use a water bottle with a straw, you will actually drink more water.
According to Runner’s World:
“When you drink out of a straw you are more likely to take down more ounces than you would if you were just sipping. Stick a straw into your next glass or buy a water bottle with a straw attachment to help it go down faster.”
Now, I carry my Camelbak water bottle around with me throughout the day as a reminder to hydrate. The simple straw design helps me drink more water every time I reach for a sip, and it can do the same for you.
3. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands were a necessity for me in college, and they are something I continue to utilize today. They are just a few dollars each, but they can help you strengthen muscle weaknesses, become more efficient, and ultimately, avoid injury.
I used them extensively as a collegiate runner to strengthen the weaker muscles in my hips, hamstrings, etc. You can do the same.
Dane Miklaus, C.S.C.S., CEO and owner of Work training studio in Irvine, California, states that you can use a variety of resistance bands to work on different muscle groups. The following details how to use various resistances:
“The half-inch band is light and stretches super easily — I use this for small muscle groups, like triceps, biceps, and rear delts…The 3/4-inch band is my moderate-weight band. I use it for bigger upper-body muscles like my back…The 1–3/4-inch band is heavy for me, and is great for large, lower-body muscles.”
Resistance bands are a great tool that can help you strengthen a wide variety of muscle groups without access to a gym or a bunch of expensive equipment, so they are certainly worth checking out.
4. This Specific Watch
If you are an avid runner like me, I highly recommend getting a GPS watch to boost your training. It allows you to track mileage, pace, splits, etc. Otherwise, it really isn’t a necessity.
Still, everyone can benefit from a simple watch with a timer feature. When I was in high school, I purchased one for $5, and it was perfect for keeping track of simpler stats like the total time I ran, biked, swam, etc.
Even if you primarily lift weights, it will be nice to have access to a timer to track how long you spend in the gym, or to time exercises like planks and sit-ups.
5. A Yoga Mat
This is the final essential that you can benefit from immensely. I use one almost every day to stretch on after a workout.
In addition to that, there are many exercises you can perform with just your body weight, and having a mat to do them on is key for comfort. In fact, According to Georgia State University’s Walt Thompson Ph.D., FACSM,
“Bodyweight exercises are a proven way to get and stay fit. In a time when many people are affected by cutting expenses, body weight exercises are a great way to feel great and look toned without a big financial investment.”
In order to reap the benefits of bodyweight exercises, you really only need two things — yourself and a soft surface to perform them on. For most people, that surface is a yoga mat. Even when I’m doing a simple ab workout, I pull my yoga mat out. After all, it would be incredibly painful to plank directly on a wood floor.
If you have a yoga mat, you’ll be able to easily perform bodyweight exercises on it, wipe it clean, roll it up, and store it for the next day. Therefore, it is a key fitness tool that you can benefit immensely from.
Getting fit doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. If you utilize what you have available and supplement your routine with a few key fitness tools, you’ll reap big benefits while keeping costs low.
I purchased only a few fitness products in college, including the ones I mentioned. These simple tools ultimately helped me reach my goals, like running under 5 minutes in the mile, without breaking the bank.
Focus primarily on the time and effort you put into your workouts, and you’ll slowly but surely get healthier and fitter, regardless of how much money you have to spend on equipment.