Fitness equipment is even more in demand this year than most. Kettlebells and barbells are sporadically back in stock after a long drought, and if you can snag a Peloton at all, you’re one of the lucky ones. An indoor bike or a set of dumbbells could be a fantastic gift this year, if your loved one is a dedicated worker-outer. But there are pitfalls to this line of gifting.
For example, you might remember that Peloton ad from last year where a woman is gifted one of the company’s very fancy bikes. Some people found the ad cringe-inducing and bizarre; others would freaking kill for a Peloton under the tree.
Exercise equipment is a lot like a puppy: the person has to be 100% ready for it, and it should never be given as a surprise or on a whim. So, to spare you holiday troubles, here are the rules for giving a fitness gift:
The person has to specifically want it
First, you must avoid looking like you’re telling the person to change themselves. If there is even the slightest bit of subtext in the direction of “hmm, maybe you need to lose weight” to your gift, you absolutely should not give it.
A gym membership — or, worse, a Weight Watchers membership — is a classic arsehole gift. Like the Peloton, it implies that the recipient is starting a journey of transformation. And such a journey must be undertaken voluntarily.
The only time you may give this kind of gift, especially to a partner, is if they specifically asked for it and are prepared to explain to their friends that it was their idea and they practically begged you for it. Never ever surprise somebody with anything that carries personal transformation implications.
It should reflect their interests
There are many different ways to work out, and that’s because we all have different ideas about what motivates us and what we enjoy. Even if you think you know what your giftee loves, you aren’t necessarily going to guess correctly about what they will actually enjoy when it comes to exercise.
So, let’s say you want to give somebody a chance to try a certain activity. Frame it as an experience they could try once: a week’s pass to a climbing gym, let’s say, instead of a pair of climbing shoes and a harness.
Or perhaps they’re already into a certain activity, and you want to give them a gift to help them enjoy it more. Don’t just wander into a store and say “hmm, what do you get for someone who likes cycling?” They’ll already have their own bike, accessories, and so on. If you buy a pair of shoes, they might not be compatible with your friend’s type of pedals.
If you want to buy a fitness-related accessory, one of these must apply:
- Ask them (or a gym buddy who knows them well) specifically what they want
- Be that gym buddy, and use your own judgment. You get a special exception if you really know your person and their sport.
- Get them a gift card, or something that is easily returnable for the thing they actually want.
They have to be ready for the commitment
This is the way in which fitness gifts, especially big ones, are the most like a pet: most of them come with the assumption the person will keep up with their activity. These are gifts that are secretly chores, requiring the person to give up an hour of their day, on multiple occasions, just to use your present.
Once again, communication is key. Does your person actually want to devote the next year of their life to becoming a Peloton devotee? Maybe they do! But you’ll never know until you ask. Communication is important when it comes to gifts that are personal, could be insulting, and require a serious commitment. Once you are sure that’s what they want, though, it should be easy to pick out the perfect gift.
This post was originally published in December 2019 and was updated on Monday, December 14, 2020 to add context and align with current Lifehacker style.