Gifts fit for an athlete

Gifts fit for an athlete

Black Friday has come and gone, and I have yet to purchase a single Christmas gift. This is nothing new, and I'm not panicking. Yet.

If you also have a lot of shopping to do and an athlete to buy for, you're in luck. I talked with several endurance athletes about what they hope to find under the tree and gift ideas for other athletes in their sports.

Here are their suggestions:

Chris Ooms, a triathlete from Tolono who recently completed Ironman Arizona:

Ooms' wish list includes a few items with a hefty price tag: a Garmin Forerunner 920XT Multisport GPS watch ($450) and a new set of Campagnolo wheels ($2,000).

As Ooms said, "Triathlon is not a cheap sport."

Other items he suggested for triathletes include a bike trainer or a treadmill for winter biking and running, running shoes, a swimsuit and new bike tires (he's looking at Continental tires that cost $70 each).Blog Photo

Ooms also listed some less expensive items a triathlete might like to find in his or her stocking. Consider socks, a running hat, water bottles, body glide, gift certificates for massages, a ball for foot massages (Ooms suggested a lacrosse ball, but there are balls specifically made for foot massages), bike tubes, bike shoe cleats, compression socks, lock laces (to keep shoelaces secured and make it quicker and easier to tighten them during a race) and a gift certificate for swim lessons.

Carol Hartman, a swimmer from Savoy who plans to swim in the 2015 Masters 5K Nationals at the Big Shoulders 5K swim in Chicago:

Hartman is interested in a technical racing swimsuit, made from high-tech fabric and designed to minimize drag so swimmers can move faster through the water.

"I've never owned one, so this would be a big treat!" she said.

Equipment such as a kickboard, pull buoy, fins or paddles (Hartman suggested Finis Agility Paddles or Finis Instinct Sculling Paddles) are good gifts for swimmers, she said. She also suggested goggles or a swimsuit — "Swimmers can't have enough training suits," Hartman said — but these two items require the gift giver to know the brand, style and size the swimmer prefers. And a mesh bag to carry all the equipment is a good addition.

There are plenty of gadgets for swimmers. Hartman's favorite is the Finis Tempo Trainer.

"You slip it under your swim cap and it beeps like a metronome at a preset rate. It helps you keep a steady stroke rate throughout a swim," she said.

Other gadgets include the Garmin Swim or Finis SwimSense, which help track your laps, pace and stroke count, and waterproof music players and earphones.Blog Photo

Hartman suggested skin and hair-care products to deal with the drying effect of chlorinated water. She said shampoos, conditioners, soaps and lotions by Triswim, Ultra Swim and Malibu C have received good reviews.

And she said a new product, called Swim Spray, is designed to remove the chlorine smell from skin and hair.

If you are looking to splurge on a gift for a swimmer, there are swim camps for both children and adults, and there are companies offering swimming adventure vacations in locations all over the world, Hartman said.

Brenda Mehnert, runner from Champaign who ran the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis in November:

Mehnert's list includes a pair of leggings or pants and a long-sleeved top for cold weather running. She's hoping to find salted caramel and caramel macchiato GU energy gels and apple cinnamon Skratch hydration mix in her stocking. And if her daughter lived nearby, Mehnert would borrow her NormaTec compression boots after long runs.

For family members or friends who run, Mehnert suggested the Brooks Adapt Running Glove II for keeping fingers warm, Smartwool socks, any clothing that is reflective, a hat and a head lamp. Gift certificates for massage or acupuncture can help with recovery. And Mehnert also suggested a pumice stone and eucalyptus oil to use with a relaxing bath.

Chuck Schroeder, a canoer/kayaker from Savoy who kayaked the Black Canyon of the Colorado River below Lake Mead last June:

Schroeder recommended Sawyer Voyager Canoe Paddles, which he described as "beautiful, light, durable at a good price point." He suggested Seal's canoe paddle sleeve or two-piece kayak paddle bag for storing and transporting paddles and SealLine Dry Bags for keeping gear dry.

To keep a paddler comfortable, Schroeder suggested the NRS Kicker Wetshoe for traction on wet, slippery surfaces and the Chota Quicklace Mukluk for warmth. He also recommended Cooke Custom Sewing Kneeling Pads.

For stocking stuffers, Schroeder suggested McNett UV Tech Sunscreen to protect your canoe or kayak from deteriorating, bailing sponges or the book "Canoeing & Camping Beyond the Basics" by Cliff Jacobson.

As a treat for a paddling enthusiast, Schroeder suggested sending that person to the Canoecopia weekend in Madison, Wis., in March. He said it's the largest paddle sports consumer event in the world, with "many excellent speakers and presentations." See for more information.

The gift of support

Finally, there are the gifts that don't cost anything. Ooms said family members or friends can offer support to an athlete by riding a bike alongside that person as he or she runs or by joining them at the pool. He suggested leaving notes of support. And they can also offer support during races, Ooms said, by cheering and carrying gear, as his wife, Amber, and a brother- and sister-in-law did during his recent Ironman.

"They were all over the course, cheering me on. They were fantastic," he said. "Without their support (of his wife and children), I couldn't do it."

Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at or follow her at Her blog is at

Photos: Top, Triathlete Chris Ooms of Tolono displays some Christmas gift ideas at Champaign Cycle last week. Bottom, more gift ideas, including bike shoes, sunglasses, helmet, arm warmers, Garmin, socks and pedals. Photos by Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette


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