When it comes to exercise-related gear, gadgets, apparel, and equipment, fitness professionals have seen (and tested) it all. They know quality and innovation when they see it, and can spot fads a mile away.
So, with all this knowledge and experience, when they decide to splurge, what do they spend their money on?
We asked a panel of experts — including seasoned trainers, educators, and the LIVESTRONG.com team — about their big-ticket purchases this year. Their answers range from expensive but functional bike shorts to custom boxing rings.
So if you’re looking for a “big” gift idea for a loved one, or seeking permission to treat yourself beyond your usual price point, get ready to be inspired.
We surveyed our employees and talked to trainers, coaches, and an exercise science professor about the qualities that make the best gym equipment splurge. We made these choices based on these features and other criteria, including:
- type of activity
As an editor, Danielle Zickl spends most of her time at her desk. She wanted a fitness watch that would keep her standing and moving regularly, and the Apple Watch was the perfect fit because it was compatible with her iPhone.
Not only has her purchase increased her daily step count, it has also changed the way she thinks about exercising. “Seeing the fitness, standing and activity rings helps to really understand how much I need to move each day,” she says.
The Apple Watch offers all the other standard features you’d expect — GPS, heart rate monitor, sleep tracking — as well as some advanced features like temperature sensing, women’s health insights, and advanced workout metrics.
“If you’re someone who can benefit from a little motivation when you’re active throughout the day, this watch will be worth the money. Seeing my activity end at the end of the day is really rewarding, and it makes the I’m more aware of how much I’m moving throughout the day,” says Zickl.
2. Dedicated Stumpjumper EVO Pro Mountain Bike
Is Pete McCall’s Stumpjumper Evo Pro mountain bike more expensive than his first car? Yes. Is it worth the shocking price in the end? Plus, yes, he said.
“I raced BMX as a teenager in the 80s and have been mountain biking since the 90s. I love mountain biking and live in San Diego and there are trails everywhere. I got this bike because I moved on purpose the local trail system,” McCall said. “Flying down the hills makes me feel like I’m 16 and competing in BMX—I’m a dopamine junkie.”
McCall rides 1 to 3 times a week, thinking his splurge is a sound investment in his health and well-being.
“With a bike, you get what you pay for. I wanted a full suspension system with the latest engineering. My last bike was about eight years old for $3,000. If cared for properly, this bike could at least 10 years of use,” he said. “With so many rides, each ride costs less than a cup of coffee.”
3. Hyperice Normatec 3 Compression Legs
expert: Ciara Lucas, LIVESTRONG.com Health Writer
Ciara Lucas began researching compression therapy shortly after she started training for half marathons and marathons. She was having trouble recovering from high-mileage runs and was looking for a way to increase circulation and reduce soreness and swelling.
“The Normatec system has been a great product and I’ve seen many professional athletes use it. I’m not elite, but I decided to treat myself and invest in my health and recovery, and I think it’s invaluable!” She Say.
Lucas described the purchase as a “game changer”.
“I use them as part of my cooling down routine after every long run. No matter how hard I train, I can feel the immediate relief from soreness and recovery in my legs. And they feel like they’re right on my couch Get an instant massage,” she says. “For someone who is into fitness or sports, this is a piece of gear that won’t collect dust. And since recovery is just as important as training, it’s a high-value item that will pay off in the long run. “
4. Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2
Todd Buckingham describes the science behind the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2 running shoe as “second to none,” but he also has plenty of his own research to back his purchase. “I dropped 22 seconds off my 5K time, 1 minute off my 10K time, and 2 minutes off my half marathon time,” he says.
The magic, Buckingham says, is the shoe’s extra foam cushioning. “You feel like you’re floating. You have more spring in your step and less muscle damage, so you’re not as sore after a run.”
However, there is a catch. These shoes only last 100 to 200 miles, whereas most running shoes typically last more than 300 miles. Because of this, most runners who identify themselves as a pair reserve them for races. (“Maybe do a workout beforehand to make sure they fit!” says Buckingham.)
Even with that caveat, Buckingham is very happy with his purchases and recommends them to avid road racers. “They’ll make you run faster over any distance, from a mile to a marathon!”
buy it: Nike website; price:$275
5. Therabody Theragun Elite Massage Gun
expert: Jessica Campbell-Sally, LIVESTRONG Senior Fitness Editor
Before investing in her own Theragun Elite, Jessica Campbell-Salley took a family member’s device for a test drive. Her sore muscles were relieved almost instantly. So, she patiently waited for it to go on sale, bought it, and never looked back.
“This little device is powerful, and once I got over the initial pain — and it really hurts when the hamstring is really sore — I could feel the muscle tension go away,” Campbell-Salley says. . “It doubles as a warm-up tool, and as someone who tends to skip warm-ups and cool-downs, having this handy makes it easier to get my muscles ready for work. And it’s portable! I can take it to the trail Using it on my face will make sure I don’t catch a cold before a run or a hike.”
Yes, the Theragun is more expensive than other percussion massagers, but Campbell-Salley thinks its long battery life, portability, and power make it worth the money.
“This thing delivers on the promise of making you and your muscles feel better,” she says.
6. Prolast Professional Boxing Ring
“Some people buy Pelotons. I buy boxing rings,” said Jeff Watters, a strength and conditioning coach who specializes in boxers and hockey players.
Before splurging on her own studio ring, Waters used other trainers’ rings, sometimes taking 30 minutes at a session. “I think the savings on gas alone will be worth it,” he said.
Watters worked with Prolast to customize the boxing floor and ring for his facility. Getting a pro ring is a perk for clients, but Waters and his family also use the space for their own workouts.
7. Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
expert: Sarah Klein, Editorial Director, LIVESTRONG.com
Sarah Klein, a home gym enthusiast long before the COVID-19 pandemic, was starting to get a little tired of standard living room HIIT classes.
“It was time to take my home gym — aka my coffee table storage drawer — to the next level, and I wanted to be as close to a one-stop shop as possible without buying big-ticket equipment,” she says Say.
Bowflex adjustable dumbbells, ranging in weight from 2.5 lbs to 50 lbs each, are just what she needs to upgrade her sweaty workouts.
“I can do a ton of different workouts and workouts with one piece of equipment,” she says.
And the high price is easily justified.
“In many cases, it’s less expensive than a year’s gym membership, and it offers endless versatility. I can do (or scale back) my workouts without having to buy extra equipment,” Klein Say.
8. Balanced Body Allegro Pilates Reformer
As a seasoned Pilates instructor, Lauren George knew exactly what kind of reformer she wanted. She needed a high-quality professional model that would stand up to regular use and last for years, but it also had to be space-efficient and look like something that belonged in a home, not a Pilates studio.
Attracted by its sturdy construction and sleek design, George settled on Balanced Body’s Allegro Reformer, a well-respected brand in the Pilates community.
The remodeler lives in her children’s playroom, where it stands up against the wall when not in use.
“I don’t have to sacrifice quality just because I can move it out of the way,” George said.
Another feature that sets Allegro apart from other reformers is its height. Because it’s not placed directly on the ground, George can perform a wider range of exercises, including lunges. George said there was “no doubt” the reformer was worth investing in.
“I use it at least five times a week,” she says. But if the Allegro is out of your budget, George also recommends the slightly more affordable Metro IQ Reformer.
9. Balance Meditation App Lifetime Subscription
expert: Rachel Grice, LIVESTRONG.com Contributing Fitness Editor
Balance is the app that finally got Rachel Grice to meditate.
“After years of starting and stopping, I found that I loved the classes that Balance had to offer,” she says.
The app includes programs for everyone, from meditation novices to advanced practitioners, as well as activity-specific meditations.
“I like to do a stretching meditation on my daily walk or when I wake up,” says Grice.
Grice first discovered the app in 2021, when the company was offering a free subscription to help relieve pandemic-related stress.
“I love it so much I don’t want to end it, and the lifetime subscription is well worth the access,” she says. “Great variety! Lifetime access rather than a monthly or yearly subscription makes more sense because I want to make meditation a lifelong habit.”
10. Beyond Yoga Spacedye Slim Racerback Cropped Tank Top and High Waisted Biker Shorts
expert: Tiffany Ayuda, LIVESTRONG.com Contributing Fitness Editor
While Spacedye’s cropped tank top and biker shorts are designed for yoga, Tiffany Ayuda finds they can hold up to more rigorous workouts, including strength training and HIIT.
The tank’s built-in bra offers plenty of support (“I hate taking my sports bra off after a sweaty workout,” says Ayuda), and the shorts have 7-inch seams and no external seams so they won’t slip, sag, or Roll – even when squatting.
But that durability doesn’t come at the expense of comfort or style.
“The fabric is super soft and comfortable, unlike any other performance fabric I’ve tried,” says Ayuda. “These pieces are very versatile; you can wear them as a set or with other pieces you already have in your workout wardrobe. But I like to wear them together because they look and feel great.”