My Top 10 Fitness Buys

#1 – A diary – 99p
You know those tiny tiny diaries that give you about two square inches per day? Entries like “high carb day, run a.m., volmue p.m.”, “Back Squat 10r x 8/65kg – 29:30”, “trx routine”, “fast” and “cheat lunch” are dynamite. A quick flick through will tell you when you last cranked the carbs, jacked the insulin or hit a personal best. That knowledge will flag up what you haven’t done for a while, guide your nutrition strategy for the today, give motivation, show what you’ve been doing too much of . . . putting this as a #1 was a no-brainer, if I’m honest, and when you see the value (and you will) you’ll upgrade to some A5 journals in no time.

#2 – Stopwatch – £1.99
I saw some going for tu’pound in a pound shop, they’re £4.21 off amazon for a cheapie model (I got a few of this model from JJB nearly two years ago; only 1/3 is still working but you get what you pay for). How do you know if you’re taking 45 seconds rest between sets? How do you know if you whipped through your calisthenic routine in your “average” time? Are you actually holding that calf stretch for a full minute, or just guessing? What tempo are you lifting at? If you can’t answer these questions, asking about creatine loading etc is the wrong question. This handy little something will keep you on track, and it’s so simple to use even I can use it. Mostly.

#3 – Pill Box – £1
Supplements cost big bucks, and if you’re going to use them then you’d better use them properly (even if it’s just fish oil, the only supplement I’ll blanket recommend). They’re pretty cheap to get hold of, and as many supplements work on a cumulative basis missing your intake a few times can effectively waste all the time and money you’ve put in. Hence this one being on the list.

#4 – Pedometer – £4.99
I’ve said it enough times – walking is good for you. Combine a pedometer and a training diary and you’ve basically got a whole workout routine/lifestyle change right there. Here’s another link, with the caveat that I’ve met the first one on the list and it broke in minutes.

#5 – Gymboss Interval Timer – £14 – £26
Ok NOW we’re talking; though they can be fiddly to set up, and mine keeps turning itself on while in my back pack (solution: wrap it in a sock so nothing presses the buttons while the bag is jiggling about). These will either set you back £14 for the basic model or you can get the one I use (and an old sock) which is the Gymboss Max. It costs £26 but has a huge heap of extra functions. Can’t find it available anywhere at the moment, but to read about it go here or maybe check ebay. Why interval train? Well, it’s only the best way to burn fat, build fitness and tone muscles at the same time. That’s all.

#6 – Lifting Straps – 99p (well, more like a fiver really)
Here. You can use them to add intensity/volume to your lifting, support the grip on heavy lifts, focus on the tricky external Latissimus Dorsi compartment during pull ups, build your Clean Grip while doing front squats, protect tired and damaged forearms and hands without interrupting your training cycle, use them for pinch grip training,use them like yoga straps for certain stretches, and on some occasions to wedge the door shut so it doesn’t tap-tap-tap against the door frame when there’s a breeze. All that for a quid, but they’ll get you on postage. They can be used too much, I’ll grant you, but Controversial Statement Time: No, You Will Not Lose All Your Grip Strength If You Own A Pair Of Straps!

#7 – Backpack – £10
My favourite was this one. Although it was blue. And I made the mistake of lending it out. It never came back. Add this to your walking, running, pull ups, push ups, scrambling and climbing and watch yourself hit another level. Nowadays, I use a small boy in a backpack frame to build my pull ups (I’m serious).

#8 – Shaker – £3.99
I use these ones because they have a more secure cap (I don’t like highly nutritious gunk all over the inside of my gym bag/car). Straight after a workout you have a metabolic window (about quarter of an hour) to double the gains of what you’ve just done. For weight loss, that’s something sugary like a piece of fruit. For pretty much everything else, it’ll be some form of small meal, and for faster digestion, liquidized. Funny thing: when I’ve finished a class or a good session at a gym there is a distinct lack of fridges, blenders and chopping boards nearby to whip something up. Wouldn’t it be great to have something you could put a pre-prepared, liquid nutrient intake into? Something portable and fits in your gym bag? That way you know that a) there some replenishment ready and waiting and b) you’ve made it now, you’re commited to actually doing some exercise.

#9 – Weighted Skipping Rope – £8
As long as you’re not doing it on concrete, skipping a rope is pretty good workout, and as soon as you’ve added some tricks n twists (or tried to) it can become quite addictive, making it an activity you’ll do frequently. It doesn’t take up too much space in your luggage either. Hat goes off to my buddy Kai Smith (he’s the one about 3/4 the way down with the cheesey, cheesey grin) for the weighted rope tip: he’s right, it IS a lot easier for beginners to use a heavier rope (as opposed to the lighter “speed” rope). Here’s the inevitable Amazon link (go to a sports shops and save yourself the hefty p&p) and here’s what I mean by tricks n twists (video).

#10 – Beer Towels – £9.50 (or FatGripz – £30)
Grip strength et al, increase the size or “awkwardness” of a dumbell handle by wrapping a couple of beer towels around it. I once wrote a piece on grip strength and the role it plays, and you can read that here. I’d rate beer towels over Fatgripz because beer towels can ALSO be used for pinch grip training (loop it through a kettlebell/dumbell, or put a cricket ball in the towel, feed the towel through a plate; the ball jams the towel and you have a grip lifter). Also, you can flip the towels over a chinning bar and hey presto, pull ups with a rope grip (and slide them wide and . . . yeoowzer, that’s a tough pull up!). As for FatGripz, at thirty nicker they do cost but personally I say they’re worth it (they’re quicker on/off the bar), and I’ll be doing a piece on how best to phase them in to your training later but for now, get them here.