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.


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 Back-Up Plan: A Fitness Must Have!


Most of us understand that to get where we want to go, we need transportation to get there. A vehicle of sorts, whether that be car, bus, bike, subway etc. The same concept holds true for our health and fitness program. Some of us have a gym membership, while others prefer to walk, run, bike outdoors. However, as we all know there are late nights, running late mornings, bad weather issues, and hot weather at this time of year, that can sometimes prevent us from using our preferred mode to get our workouts in. I’m constantly telling my clients that regardless if you prefer to workout outside or if you belong to a gym, there are going to be times where we just can’t get a workout in.

One of the most important Fitness Must Haves is to invest in a few key pieces for your home to create a Back-Up Plan! Despite budget or space issues, there are a wide range of options to meet your needs! The bottom line is, having a solid back-up-plan will help keep you moving and on track for your fitness goals! Here are few ways to create for yourself a back-up plan to ensure you always have a way to get a workout in!

Basic Cardio:

There are TONS of options for the home user to create a cardio workout. For the budget conscious there are numerous workout DVD’s you can purchase for minimal cost. P90x is great example of a full body, 90 day workout that can keep you going that requires minimal equipment and can be done anywhere! Most satellite and cable providers have a fitness channel in their basic line-up of programs. Do some checking to see if yours’ does and then check out the options.

If watching the TV doesn’t get it done for you, invest in an indoor, "spinning" type bike or rowing machine. Both tend to take up minimal space and can provide you with an awesome way to get some cardio in! Be prepared to spend between $700-$1300 for these.

If you prefer to spend a little more dough, there are tons of treadmill and elliptical options out there! Quality that will last starts at about the $1200 range, and there are tons of options to suit your needs. Visit a speciality fitness store, where you will get quality advice and support.

BEWARE: Don’t buy cheap! It is better to buy a different type of piece, than to buy a cheap version of an expensive product! For example, don’t buy a $800 treadmill when you can spend that $800 on a quality indoor bike or rowing machine that will last. You want your Back-up plan to be RELIABLE …that is the whole point!

Resistance Training:

Again you can do this with or without budget constraints. For about $10 you can get resistance bands at various tensions. Even for the hard core lifters, resistance bands can be effective if done correctly as part of an overall program. Add a door anchor for about $5, and you can essentially turn any door into a resistance training work station!

Another option for between $100-200, is a suspension training system, such as TRX or Jungle Gym. Suspension trainers use a nylon strapping system to turn your body into a functional training station! You can get an amazing workout using your own body weight and need about 8ft. of space and a door, ceiling or other sturdy place to attach the anchor.

If you want the feel of weights in your hands, for about $400 you can get a pair of Power Blocks! This unique concept offers 24 pairs of dumbbells in a one piece set! They are durable, easy to use and give you a ton of options! For an even cooler route, try the Kettleblock. With the same concept as the Power Blocks, instead of having all those kettlebells lying around, you have just a one handled block with the ability to select the weight you want with the push of a pin!

If a home gym or functional trainer with a weight stack where you can continually increase the resistance is what you need, quality home gyms and functional trainers begin at just above $1000 and go up from there depending on the variety of exercises you would like to be able to do with the gym. Again, purchasing an inexpensive functional trainer or gym is a bad idea. It will "feel" lightweight and the cables won’t have the smooth feel that you may have experienced in the gym.

Training while Traveling:

Training on the road can be a big challenge. Make sure to plan ahead, so you have a game plan in place.

Check the hotel to see if they have a workout out room, ask what types of equipment they have, how many pieces they have and the hours of the facility. If this will work with your schedule, you’re set. Even if they have a room, ask if they have a pool, and depending on the time of year, if it is indoor, outdoor and heated. I always travel with my swim bag as a back-up, back-up plan for hotel stays. There is nothing worse than counting on the hotel workout room, only to find out the bike or treadmill is broken or so unstable it isn’t worth the risk!

If all else fails, bring along your resistance bands and door anchor or a suspension system, (TRX). They take up little space in your suit case and are an awesome way to get a workout in. Mix in some body weight squats, lunges and push-ups, create a circuit and you are good to go! Don’t let travel and a lack of planning prevent you from staying healthy while on the road!

Let’s face it …Life happens. Having a Back-up Plan in place is a sure fire way to help you stay on track for your fitness goals and keeps you moving and feeling good! Everyone should have a few key pieces in their home, as well as a take-along plan for travel!

A little planning can go a long way!

Tonja Hadley, MA, CSCS
Personal Trainer
HealthStyles Exercise Equipment

Review – PowerBlock Urethane Dumbbells


Adjustable dumbbells have been around for many years but have gained a sort of re-birth as of late. When it comes to working-out at home, there are a few things that most people take into consideration when making purchasing decisions; convenience, cost, and space consumption. Adjustable dumbbells have always hit two out of the three parameters. Now, with the cost of steal steadily rising over the last few years, adjustable dumbbells have begun to be more cost efficient as well.

If you have never used adjustable dumbbells before then here’s a quick educational:

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