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Upgrade your fitness gear: Apparel, gadgets, and games to help keep you motivated

We’re still in the first month of 2012, and that means a lot of fitness-related New Year’s resolutions. There’s nothing wrong with them, but this year how about just resolving to exercise consistently all year instead of promising yourself that you can and will work out two hours a day after work? Enough coaching on our side, we aren’t certified personal trainers, after all. What we can help you with is the right gear to make exercising more fun and keeping track of your goals and progress a little bit easier. It’s time to upgrade from that grey t-shirt and stop watch. We’ll show you how. 

Basic gear

While we don’t have an infographic to back us up here, we are firm believers that what you wear makes a difference when you’re working out, whether it’s outdoors, in a gym, or at home. Nobody feels invincible in an old grungy t-shirt. If you feel good and look good, you’ll probably exercise with more confidence, which is always a good thing. So even if you have “gym clothes” already, considering upgrading to something that you’ll really love. 

We’ve only heard raves about Lululemon’s Groove pants for women ($98), which will  make you look good, come in fun colors and prints, and are made of the highest quality fabrics. For men we recommend something cooling and moisture-wicking, like this Nike Pro Combat Hypercool Shirt ($40), which is made from Dri-Fit material and has special cooling ventilation. 

The same rule applies to shoes. Don’t just throw on a pair of old Chuck Taylor’s and think that you’re set. If you do lots of different types of exercise, get some kind of cross training shoe. If you’re a runner or want to become one, go to a specialty store that will watch you run and prescribe the best shoes for your feet and body type. Everybody will be different, but we like the line of Nike Free shoes (Women’s TR Twist $95, Men’s Run+ 2 Shield $100) for their natural and lightweight feel. Warning: If you need ample ankle support, these won’t fit the bill. 

We like to have a gym bag on hand because you can keep all of your gear in one place and ready to go at all times. Feeling the urge to head to the gym? If all your necessary items are packed neatly in a lightweight bag, it’s that much easier to get up and go. For simplicity and packability we like the basic American Apparel Nylon Pack Cloth Gym Bag ($18). 

Home fitness

Whether it’s because a gym membership is just too expensive or for the major convenience factor, some of us just prefer working out in the comfort of our own homes. Luckily, there are plenty of new ways to get a quality workout (more than just crunches and pushups) in your very own living room. 

If you’re looking for a home-gym solution that doesn’t involve insanely expensive treadmills or elliptical machines and a giant pile of workout equipment, we suggest that you take a look at the Journey Gym system ($245), which focuses on cross training and comes in a portable, briefcase-style package. The case unfolds into a useful aerobic step that has resistance bands with handles built right in. Along with the system’s quick workout videos (from five minutes to 20), Journey Gym focuses on continuous tradeoff between cardio and strength training. 

Whether you have a gaming console already or are just thinking about getting one, they’re not just for sitting around on the couch anymore. Whichever console you have, there’s a way to turn it into a powerful workout buddy. The Nintendo Wii ($150) is the easiest and most affordable option, but you can also go with an Xbox 360 with Microsoft Kinect or a PS3 with Playstation Move. Each of these options uses some kind of motion sensor to detect just how well you are doing with a fitness or dance game, helping you burn off calories and have fun at the same time. 

If you have the Wii and want to make it a more helpful fitness tool, the Wii Fit Plus bundle ($99, game + balance board) includes plenty of exercises and fitness routines specially tailored to your goals. Users can mix and match exercises and see calories burned for each workout. 

If you have the Wii or any other console with movement sensor, there are plenty of games out there aimed to help you get fit, stay fit, and have some fun while you’re at it. Whether you like a more traditional workout or want to mix it up with something dance-related, the options are wide and varied. For good variety, we’d recommend trying Fit in Six ($12), Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum ($13), or Zumba Fitness 2 ($35). 

Tracking

One of the biggest new markets in the lifestyle tech world is fitness tracking, which can be important to serious athletes for stats but can also be imperative for people trying to lose weight. These devices aim to give you important info about the stats of your exercise each day, but will also give you an accurate reading on how many calories you’ve burned, which is something that has always been difficult to monitor correctly. 

The first, and oldest, of these tracking devices is Nike+ SportWatch GPS ($199). The device uses Tom Tom GPS technology to track runs and can be used alone or with a Nike+ sensor in your running shoes. Users can track time, speed, distance, heart rate, and calories burned. 

For those trying to shed a few pounds, the BodyMedia Core Armband ($179) is a good option to check out. This slim arm band is meant to be worn all day and it continuously monitors the calories burned through daily activities and exercise, as well as your sleep time and quality. This information combines with additional features on an accompanying online service (nutrition tracking, coaching) to create a worthwhile fitness tool. 

While it initially encountered some problems, we’re still intrigued by the simplicity and tracking abilities of the Jawbone Up ($100). This slim wrist band is meant to be worn continuously and aims to accurately track steps, calories burned, heart rate, sleep patterns, and more. It works in conjunction with an iPhone app and can even be programmed to vibrate when you’ve been inactive for too long, inspiring you to get up and move. 

Nike’s natural response to the hype that surrounded the Jawbone UP was the Nike+ FuelBand ($150), which has the same basic idea behind it. Meant to be worn throughout the day, the wristband tracks calories, steps, distances, etc. to give you a full picture of your acitivity levels throughout the day, and uses an accompanying app to help you set and track goals. It’s currently unavailable for pre-order,  but should be for sale soon.