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Holiday Gift Guide: Gadgets for Fitness Freaks

Discover the best gifts for active people -- or those who want to be more active in the new year -- with this Re/code guide to top health-and-fitness gadgets.

Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

This is one segment of Re/code’s four-part 2014 Holiday Gift Guide, consisting of products and services hand-picked by our reviews team. Each segment is aimed at a different type of gift recipient you may have on your list.


We all know that person: The one who runs the Turkey Trot — twice — before Thanksgiving dinner; who uses Daylight Saving Time as an excuse to actually work out rather than gain an hour of sleep; and whose favorite mantra is something mildly irritating, like, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” (And if you don’t know that person yet … just wait until Jan. 1.)

It can be tough to buy gifts for a fitness fanatic or for the person who aspires to be one, so this section of our Re/code Holiday Gift Guide is geared toward them.

Walk, don’t run, to buy an activity tracker

The Garmin Vivofit, which has a battery that lasts for up to a year, can now be found online for $80.
The Garmin Vivofit, which has a battery that lasts for up to a year, can now be found online for $80.

The first idea that pops into your head may very well be, “I know! I’ll buy so-and-so one of those step-tracking wristbands!” You can’t be blamed for that: They’re everywhere this holiday season. But before you swipe your credit card, know that newer models are still on the way. Jawbone is shipping a new wristband, the $180 UP3, before the end of the year, while Fitbit will offer two new wristbands in the new year — all of which will have heart-rate sensors.

If I had to recommend one that’s been tried and tested already, it’s the Garmin Vivofit (not to be confused with the newer Vivosmart). The Vivofit now costs $80, down from $130. It has an always-on display, works with an optional heart-rate strap and, better yet, has a coin-cell battery that lasts about a year. It pairs with both iOS and Android devices; those without compatible smartphones can set it up on the computer. The Vivofit isn’t the prettiest of the bunch, but it’s the most utilitarian.

Block out the untz-untz music at the gym

Headphones are a highly personal item. A set that might feel or sound great on you might not work for the person you’re buying for. Me? I dislike over-the-ear headphones, and use a pair of Skullcandy in-ears (audiophiles might cringe) for workouts.

The Monster iSport Intensity in-ears can be found online for $95.
The Monster iSport Intensity in-ears can be found online for $95.

If you’re looking for sport-specific headphones, consider the Monster iSport Intensity in-ear headphones, which retail for around $100. Unlike fully noise-isolating headphones, these phones are designed to let in some noise — which outdoor runners might prefer. They’re sweatproof, durable, and have an inline mic/remote that works with iOS devices.

For sound snobs who like an in-ear option, consider the new Shure SE112m+ sound-isolating earphones, which just came to market this fall. These offer Shure-quality sound at a more affordable price — $59 — and have durable cables that can either be worn straight or go over the ear. Again, the three-button mic/remote only controls iOS devices.

For non-iPhone users, consider the Klipsch R6m headphones, one of two new models in Klipsch’s Reference series. The new $99 R6 in-ear headphones have tangle-free flat wires and a single-button mic/remote that works with all mobile devices, as well as some gaming consoles. (Klipsch also offers the References series R6i headphones, and the A5i Sport noise isolating in-ears, but those pairs are optimized for iOS devices.)

Who are you calling a “weekend warrior”?

If you’re buying for a serious athlete in need of a new, very expensive, multi-sport watch, this section is for you.

The Polar V800 is the company’s most advanced multi-sport, GPS watch — and a worthy runner-up to the Garmin FR920XT.
The Polar V800 is the company’s most advanced multi-sport, GPS watch — and a worthy runner-up to the Garmin FR920XT.

The new Garmin FR920XT ($450 for the watch or $500 with a Garmin heart rate strap) is everything a fitness fanatic could want in a high-powered GPS sport watch. The Bluetooth-and-WiFi-connected FR920XT records and analyzes running, cycling and swimming, as well as indoor cycling and treadmill sessions. It also provides data on oxygen uptake, running dynamics and recovery time. Finally, it works as a 24/7 activity-tracker and “smart” watch, showing incoming calls and texts when in range of a smartphone.

Unfortunately, the Garmin FR920XT won’t ship for several weeks. But this is one where I’d say pre-order and stick a picture of it in a holiday card if you think you want to buy this for someone.

A solid runner-up is this year’s Polar V800, the company’s most advanced multi-sport, GPS watch. It’s sleeker-looking than the plastic Garmin FR920XT, but also notably heavier. The V800 watch-and-heart-strap bundle can be found online for $500.

An iPod for lap swimming. Yes, it’s as great as it sounds.

If you know someone who gets bored while swimming laps, this is the gift for her.
If you know someone who gets bored while swimming laps, this is the gift for her.

“Is that … an iPod on your swimsuit?”

Yup, it is. Thanks to a little-known company called Underwater Audio, which buys Apple’s iPod Shuffles in bulk and waterproofs them, you can listen to iTunes while you’re swimming laps or out in the open water. I first wrote about this product last year, and it’s still one of my favorite workout gadgets.

It’s not cheap: The waterproofed iPod alone will run you $140, and the all-sport megabundle (with waterproof earbuds) costs $175. But the swimmer in your life may possibly love you forever and also name a child after you if you buy this for her.

A heart-rate strap that makes you say “Wahoo!” (literally)

The Wahoo Tickr X heart-rate strap offers onboard storage for when you don’t feel like carrying your phone with you to record workout data. A cheaper option is the $60 Wahoo Tickr.
The Wahoo Tickr X heart-rate strap offers onboard storage for when you don’t feel like carrying your phone with you to record workout data. A cheaper option is the $60 Wahoo Tickr.

The latest wave of wrist thingamajigs might include heart-rate sensors, but there’s still something to be said for a heart-rate chest strap — especially one that pairs directly with your iPhone, eliminating the need for a fancy watch. Enter the Wahoo Tickr X.

This $100 heart-rate strap pairs wirelessly with the Wahoo app for iOS or Android to give real-time heart rate and calorie information during indoor and outdoor workouts. And since the Wahoo app integrates with other apps — like RunKeeper, Strava and MapMyFitness — you can share the info from Wahoo directly to those apps.

For a less expensive option, consider the $60 Wahoo Tickr strap, which doesn’t have the onboard storage the Tickr X boasts.

Think outside the (cable) box

For fitness-ambitious parents, heading out to the gym or fitting in a five-mile run around the neighborhood isn’t always an option. (My sister-in-law, who has two kids under the age of 10, tells me she’s limited to workout DVDs or the treadmill in the basement.) So why not get someone a gift that offers both workout options and entertainment options at home?

The Roku box — or Streaming Stick — and Apple TV are good options for people who like to follow workout videos at home.
The Roku box — or Streaming Stick — and Apple TV are good options for people who like to follow workout videos at home.

Roku, which is available as either an $85, Internet-connected box or a $50 “stick” that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV set, offers more than 70 free outdoors-and-fitness-related channels, including YogaSessions.tv, DailyBurn, HealthiNation and FitFusion. The channels are all free to access on Roku, although some of the content within them might require a subscription.

The good news is, if your loved one falls off the fitness wagon at some point, they’ll still thank you when they’re sitting around watching YouTube videos on Roku.

If you know someone who uses their iPad for workout videos, why not give the gift of a bigger-screen option with the $99 Apple TV box? Using AirPlay, she’ll be able to “mirror” videos from the iPad on the TV screen. And, once again, Apple TV also comes with plenty of content options for when someone is feeling … non-active.

Healthy dinner deliveries (chopping still required)

Being healthy isn’t just about being active, of course. What we eat also has a large impact on health.

Blue Apron, which ships dinner kits ranging from 500 to 700 calories per meal, has a gift certificate option. For $10 per meal per person, you can send three different, pre-portioned dinners per week — a one-week gift certificate for a family of two costs $60. The ingredients come in a refrigerated box, and still require chopping, seasoning and cooking, but it’s a fun way to channel your inner Batali.

Check this map to make sure your family and friends are in an area where Blue Apron delivers.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.