Five Essential Items Every Runner Should Have


When you ask most runners what they do to stay in shape, they generally reply, “I run.” And although running is certainly a great cardio workout, those runners who rely exclusively on running to stay fit do so to the detriment of their running game. As surprising as it may sound, to improve your running form, endurance, and economy you need to be doing more than just running. Specifically, runners need to incorporate stability exercises and strength training in their routine if they want to truly improve their time on the track and decrease risk of injury.

Towards that end, here are five essential items every runner should have:

1. Stability Ball

Exercise Stability BallThere is absolutely no excuse for you not having a stability ball. When it comes to training your core, it’s hard to beat the big rubber sphere. But, you may say, “I’m a runner. I should focus on my legs, not my core, right?” Wrong.

As great as running is, relying on it exclusively for your fitness can lead to serious muscle imbalances and reduced flexibility. A stability ball can help address these problems by adding some instability to your training. As your body attempts to balance on the ball, it’s forced to call upon groups of core muscles working in unison. Trying to keep your balance requires far more muscle groups than sit-ups and crunches, working the front and side abdominals in combination to provide exactly the kind of core strengthening that will improve your running. A strong core is vital to stabilizing your upper body, which will allow you to maintain proper running form even when you’re fatigued.

Check out our selection of stability balls.

For some ideas of exercises to do with your stability ball, here’s a great article from Active.

2. Foam Roller

Foam RollersYou may have seen these in your local gym and wondered just what the heck they’re used for. When used correctly, foam rollers can release tension and tightness between your muscles and the fascia (the thin sheath of fibrous tissue surrounding the muscles) that result from the repetitive motions you use when running. A combination of foam rolling and dynamic stretching will help ease tension, improve flexibility and range of motion, and seriously decrease risk of injury. Indeed, using a foam roller correctly can provide benefits similar to those you’d enjoy from a deep-tissue massage. If you’re serious about running, then it’s time to invest in a couple foam rollers.

Check out our selection of foam rollers.

And here’s a great eight-part video series from Runner’s World on how to efficiently use your foam roller.

3. Kettlebells

KettlebellsAs we mentioned earlier, runners who fail to incorporate strength training into their workout regimen are not only missing out on improving their running time, endurance, and form, they’re also missing out on a prime method of decreasing risk of injury. Most runners avoid the weight room out of a fear of getting too big and bulky. However, maintaining a strength program is absolutely essential to improving your running efficiency. For example, getting rid of rounded shoulders can help increase the amount of air your lungs take in and out, while strengthening your glutes will provide more power for when you push off the ground.

Thanks to their distinct shape, kettlebells are an especially helpful tool for runners working on their strength training. Ballistic movements like swings and snatches will help improve your power and explosiveness. The shape and size of kettlebells compel you to use a lot of force, core strength, and coordinated movement, all of which increases overall body strength.

Check out our selection of kettlebells.

Here’s a nice article from about four key kettlebell exercises for runners to get you started.

4. Powerblock Dumbbells

Powerblock Sport Adjustable DumbbellsAnother key tool for a runner’s strength training regimen are dumbells. Most any dumbbells will do, but we like the Powerblock dumbbells best thanks to their convenient storage and easy-to-increase weight increments.

Again, most runners are hesitant about anything that even smells like weight-lifting out of fear of getting too big. But as mentioned before, strength training for runners is not about getting big but about targeting those muscle groups that running, alone, doesn’t hit, but which are essential to improving your running ability. You want to increase your strength to the point at which your body can handle running without injury. With Powerblock dumbbells, you can focus on increasing your strength and stamina without cluttering up the room.

Check out our selection of Powerblock dumbbells.

Here’s a quick video that shows a great dumbbell core circuit workout for runners.

5. TRX Home Suspension Training Kit

TRX Home Suspension Training KitWhen it comes to an all-in-one system that allows you to work on your balance, strength-training, flexibility, and endurance, the TRX Home Suspension Training Kit is simply the best. Originally invented by a US Navy SEAL to help him exercise without gym equipment, the TRX uses your own bodyweight to deliver a powerful workout that can strengthen key areas needed to increase running acceleration, top speed, and overall running control. It’s simple to set up, easy to increase or decrease difficulty, and works equally well indoors or out.

What makes the TRX kit especially great is that it constitutes a full-body workout using only your body weight and gravity, a fact that will assuage most runners’ fears of getting too bulky from pumping iron. From basic squats and pushups to jumps, twists, one-legged lifts, and more, the TRX system is extremely versatile and, no matter what exercise you do, will engage your core stabilizers so you can build strength, balance, agility, and power all at once.

Order your own TRX Home Suspension Training Kit today.

Here’s a great video to get started improving knee drive and posture with the TRX kit.


Crunches Alone Do Not Make a Six Pack


Somewhere far, far away, there is a magical gym where there’s never a wait for a cardio machine at 6:30pm, the boot camp instructor never raises his voice above a whisper, and jiggling upper arms instantly tighten up after just one biceps curl. This mythical place is called Imaginary Fitness Land, and it, like spot-training to burn fat, does not exist.

Welcome to the real world, where workout results take time, energy, and variety, and where our body’s ability to eliminate fat, and which specific areas it will eliminate fat from, are influenced by age, genetics, hormones, and some other factors beyond our control.

Luckily, we can control the fat-melting effectiveness of a cardio workout, so keep this real-world advice from Life Fitness in mind to maximize your results.

Two’s company. Combine fat-reducing cardio exercise with a consistent strength training program to tone and sculpt your muscles. Although spot-training won’t work for burning fat, spot-sculpting will tighten and tone the areas where you want to show off your results. Focus on a specific group of muscles during your strength training routines.

Add instability. Use the BOSU ball, balance disk, or wobble board to throw off your balance and force your core muscles to work overtime. With a strong core, you’ll be able to take on more challenging workouts, and achieve success faster.

Pilates, please. Heralded as the secret behind tons of toned tummies, a Pilates mat workout provides an effective ab routine when you want to add some necessary variety to your exercise program. Pilates utilizes very focused and specific movements, so find an instructor to get you started.

Intensify. Interval training is a great way to incorporate high-intensity exercise into your workouts. Start with 30 seconds of jogging followed by 2-3 minute of walking, then repeat for 30 minutes. Once you can complete the program with ease, lengthen the jogging intervals. Your increased intensity and elevated heart rate will result in more calories burned and a smaller waist line.

The trick to getting the fit, sculpted body you want is to be realistic. If you have overall body fat to lose, you aren’t going to see washboard abs without eliminating that excess insulation first.

Fit Tips are provided by Life Fitness, the leader in designing and manufacturing high-quality exercise equipment for fitness facilities and homes worldwide. For more information on Fit Tips and other fitness advice and expertise visit or follow us on Twitter at or join our Facebook fan page at

Give the Gift of Fitness!


Are you looking for ideas for unique Christmas gifts?

HealthStyles Exercise Equipment has some great gifts for fitness enthusiasts in all price ranges!

Whether your gift is for an avid runner, a Cross-Fit or P90X junkie, or a friend or loved on who is trying to firm up or lose weight, here are just a few of the many possible gifts you can put under the tree for those important people in your life.

The Secret to a Flat Stomach


With spring just around the corner, everyone wants to have a flat stomach and even, better six-pack abs! The question is, how do I go about getting them? There is a lot of misinformation out there about this topic that can cause a lot of frustration. Many people think that they can get flat abs if they do enough abdominal exercises. This is based on the inaccurate premise that you can do an exercise for a certain area of the body, and get rid of fat there. A review of the headlines of any popular fitness magazine will help you understand what feeds that belief. Headlines like “Flat Abs in 2 Weeks” and “10 Quick Tips to Flatten Your Tummy” lead one to believe that spot reduction is not only possible, but easy! The real truth is that the only way to get flat abs is to lose body fat, and the only way to lose body fat is to:

  1. Do regular cardiovascular exercise to burn calories
  2. Have a healthy, low calorie diet
  3. Strength train your entire body, abdominal muscles included

There is also a certain amount of genetics involved in getting those “six pack abs” that we see in the movies or on TV, and for some people, no amount of commitment and diet can get them to that goal of abdominal perfection. That doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve the goal of strong abdominal muscles or a flatter stomach. Once you accept the above realities, and work toward the goal of lowering your overall body fat, there is a purpose to abdominal exercises as a part of your overall strength workout. We all know that strong abdominal muscles support your spine and play a large role in protecting your back. That alone should make the inclusion of specific abdominal exercises a part of your regular workout routine. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of articles written on the best abdominal workout. Here are several links to videos showing basic abdominal exercises:
Ab Exercises on a FitBall
Core Workout from ACE
2 Minute Ab Workout
Ab V-Ups with a BOSU Ball

Many abdominal exercises can be performed using an exercise mat lying on the floor. Some exercises are more effective and challenging utilizing some of the following basic fitness accessories:

  1. Exercise Balls – Fitballs are effective in stabilizing the back and encouraging proper posture during your workout. They add challenge to basic abdominal crunches. Note: There are 5 ball sizes based on your height.
  2. BOSU Ball – It’s like an exercise ball that’s been cut in half with a stable side and an unstable side. This makes it a more versatile piece of equipment than a fitball, and the exercises can be made more challenging as your balance and ability to perform more difficult exercises improves.
  3. Balance Disc – It is smaller than a Bosu or Fitball, but can be used in a similar fashion to add challenge to traditional abdominal exercises.
  4. Vertical Knee Raise – A VKR is a very effective piece of strength equipment used to do knee raises while your back is in a safe, supported position.
  5. Abdominal Bench or Board – Depending on whether the board is adjustable or not, you can add varying difficulty levels to abdominal exercises by increasing the angle at which you do traditional abdominal crunches.
  6. Ab Coaster – The Ab Coaster can help you get a lower abdominal workout, and help you simulate leg raises, which is a great stomach exercise. It allows you the same range of motion as traditional abdominal exercises, so that you’re working the same muscles, but you’re not having to support your own weight. Therefore, you are able to do many more reps correctly. Plate weight can be added to increase difficulty and the seat can be angled to each side to work the oblique abdominal muscles.

Fitness Accessories Expand Your Workout Routine


The use of fitness accessories to expand and enhance your cardiovascular and strength routines have never been more popular than they are today as is obvious by the number of equipment manufacturers that are getting into the fitness accessory game. Life Fitness, one of the major cardiovascular equipment manufacturers, is set to roll out Body Shape Kits this fall, which combine many of the most popular accessories sold by HealthStyles Exercise Equipment, into one all inclusive kit. Octane Fitness will combine an elliptical workout with stretch bands in the programming and design of their new ellipticals to be introduced later this Fall, to create circuit training workouts that add strength training to the traditional cardio workout. Continue reading

Current Fitness Trends and Exercise Equipment Update – Staying on the Cutting Edge


The HealthStyles Exercise Equipment Team recently had the opportunity to attend and participate in the National Health and Fitness Business Industry Expo in Denver, Colorado. The annual event featured all of the latest fitness trends and showcased the current and future exercise equipment products that have, or will soon be available to the consumer market.

The fitness industry trends that surfaced within the Expo centered on the following: Continue reading