Aside from the obvious articles of equipment such as new helmets, gloves, skates, etc I've come up with a list of gift ideas to assist a skater's development away from the ice. By no means is the list exhaustive. Skaters and coaches share your own wish list in the comments section below.
$0 - $25
- Spiral Note Book - Sounds simple but is maybe one of the most effective tools an athlete can have when used as a training log. Use the log to journal goals and objectives and track progress during practices and competitions through the season.
- Hot Hands - To help extend those training sessions on those cold days out on the Oval.
- In Pursuit of Excellence - By renowned Canadian Sport Psychologist Terry Orlick, In Pursuit of Excellence is a must have for an aspiring athlete.
- Hacky Sack - Yep, the good old foot bag. Using a foot bag makes for a fun warm-up that develops agility and coordination and is a great tool to meet and engage friends at competitions.
- Skipping Rope - There are several benefits to using this old playground staple for warm-up or training. There are several ropes on the market that advertise as competition or professional ropes but the best ropes that I have had have just been a length of climbing rope. I find about 2m of 8mm or 11mm climbing rope from MEC or another outdoors store works great.
- Cables - This is not something that you will be able to pick up at sports store but rather will be something homemade. About 4m of either seat-belt or nylon strapping, camp webbing, or climbing rope can be sewn or tied into a loop to form the cable. The cable can then used to perform several technical drills.
- iTunes Gift Card - Us the card to build a motivational soundtrack for training or competition, or use the card to purchase some of the great sport apps available.
$25 - $50
- Foam Roller - Think an over-sized pool noodle that assists with recovery after a workout. I am not sure why the roller exercises work, I just know they work. I am sore the next day if I have not rolled after a workout, but I am fine the next day if I have.
- Massage Stick - Another great tool for recovery after a workout. Again I am not an expert to know how or why the exercises work but it is a staple piece of equipment for many athletes.
- Sport Watch - A sport watch can come with several bells and whistles but it should really do one thing: tell you how long your workout was from start to finish. My first sport watch was a Timex Triathlon, which had a stopwatch, and an interval timer. The stopwatch was great for timing runs, bikes, or swims. The interval timer was great to setup for sprint or skipping programs because it would beep at the beginning and end of each interval.
- Bike Shoes and Clipless Pedals - Andrew Feenstra, a Cycling coach and proprietor of Cyclesmith in Halifax, advises that "shoes and pedals are important no matter what bike you have". The advantages of cycling shoes is that there is no flex so that all of the pressure in the forefoot transfers to the pedal.
- Cycling Computer - A must have for training on a bike. The computer should tell you three things: how far, how long, and how fast the ride is/was. Valuable information to be tracked in a journal.
$100 - $500
- Heart Rate Monitor - At a certain level of athletic development tracking heart rate will be a valuable measure when training. Monitoring heart rate is a very useful indicator of the intensity of the training. Many Heart Rate monitors come as a feature of a sports watch, or vice versa.
- Road Bike - Biking in the off-season is a great cross-training tool and becomes bigger part of training as a skater's development progresses. Thanks to Andrew Feenstra at Cyclesmith in Halifax here are some things you should consider when looking for and purchasing a bike; as previously tweeted at Atlantic_LT.
- Girls' bikes are no longer just boys bikes painted pink. Bikes for women are made with shorter top tube, narrower handlebars, & wider seats.
- A bike is an investment. First find one that fits you properly & then keep up with its maintenance so that it will last many years.
- The size, in cm, of the bike is measured from the center of the crank to the top of the seat tube.
- Fit? With seat at proper height & pedal down there should be some knee bend. Too much seat post = too small, Too little post = too big.
- Fit? Comfortable reach from seat to handle bars. The handle bar width should match the shoulders.
- Pedals & Shoes? Important no matter what bike you get. Stiff bike shoes allow all of the pressure in the forefoot to transfer to the pedal.
- Store vs Online purchase? A store can swap parts to fit you properly. Online may require additional expenses to repair & fit for riding.
- Maintenance? Just like a car a bike should recieve a regular tune-up. Eg. the chain will stretch needing replacing after about 3000km.
- Bike Shop vs Department Store purchase? Bike Shop prices begin at $900 which reflects quality of the components & thus long-term enjoyment.
- Components? Brakes, shifters, derailers, etc. Shimano's line of compenents range from low to high = 2300, Sora, Tiagra, Ultegra.
Just to finish off this a personal anecdote of receiving a new pair of Viking Long Track skates for Christmas during my fourth season of speed skating. My parents purchased a pair of Viking 1 Long Track skates, which were to be my first ever brand new pair of skates, to present to me on Christmas. That November an opportunity arose for me to train on the Quebec City Oval while other club mates participated in a Short Track event nearby. My parents gave me the skates explaining that they were an early Christmas gift so that I could use in Quebec. Then on Christmas Eve they snuck into my room, removed the skates, rewrapped them, and placed them under the tree. I was certainly surprised to find them under the tree the next morning. A very happy memory if only the story ended there. Our family cat made the story a bit more interesting by using my gift wrapped box of skates as his litter box for the night. Never in the cat's 16 years with us had ever he done anything like that before or after except for that Christmas. So a happy memory became a very memorable one thanks to Mom, Dad, and Smokey.