Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner and triathlete. Her email is, and you can follow her on twitter (@jodiheckel).


Runners take off from South Fourth Street during the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon on Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Champaign.

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If you are struggling to buy gifts for a runner, cyclist or other athlete in your life who seems to already have everything, or if you want to give something that is not “stuff,” here are some suggestions. These gifts will help an athlete stay fit, improve his or her skills, recover better and have fun. And they won’t add clutter to anyone’s closet or garage.

Classes or lessons

The Champaign and Urbana park districts and the Savoy Recreation Center offer fitness classes such as boot camp, yoga, line dancing, core work, strength training, piyo, tai chi and Zumba. The Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center offers water aerobics.

If your loved one belongs to a gym, check out whether it offers personal training sessions.

The Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center offers adult learn-to-swim classes, private and semi-private lessons for more individualized instruction and private coaching for swimmers who want to improve their skills. Local swim coach Howie Schein is leading a swim clinic at the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center from Jan. 25-April 4. The swim clinic provides instruction to help swimmers — including competitive racers, triathletes and long-distance swimmers — perfect their strokes and swimming technique.

Facility passes

Several local recreation centers and gyms offer punch cards or short-term memberships. Your athlete can use them to try out a new facility or provide flexibility in when to attend.

Memberships to the Savoy Recreation Center are available on a monthly, six-month or annual basis, and they provide free fitness classes, use of the weight room, cardio room, aerobics room, gym and walking track. The rec center also sells passes for the walking track separately.

The University of Illinois Armory sells three-month, six-month and 12-month memberships to use the track. Those age 55 and older can get a lifetime membership for $25. Best. Deal. Ever.

Around the holidays, the Stephens Family YMCA offers 30-day guest passes for $30. They are available through Jan. 15, for use through Feb. 15.

The Refinery in Champaign sells a group fitness punch card for 10 class visits for $70. Other private gyms in town may have similar deals.

The Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center offers five-visit punch cards for $25 and 10-visit punch cards for $50.

The Urbana Park District sells Flexible Fitness Punch Cards for various classes. The next time the punch cards are on sale is Dec. 30-31.

Bike fit

Having a bike that fits properly is key to being able to ride it for long distances without discomfort. If you are looking for a gift for someone who is getting into cycling, increasing their cycling mileage or has pain in their knees, back or hands while riding, consider giving them a bike fitting. They are available at local bike shops.


Anyone can appreciate a good massage, but especially an athlete with sore muscles.

Race entry

A race entry will provide motivation to train and a fun and challenging experience. The 2020 Illinois Marathon is April 23-25, and includes race distances from the 5K to the marathon.

Happy exercising, and happy holidays!

Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner and triathlete. Her email is, and you can follow her on  twitter (@jodiheckel).

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