How deep will you reach into your pockets this gift giving season? Not as deep as last year I will suggest. Will your list of holiday recipients be shortened in this difficult economy? Likely. For those whom you do buy for, is it safe to suggest you will choose your gifts more wisely than in years past? Hopefully.
At best, the economy is sputtering. Still, the American requirement to give at holiday time is a habit deeply etched deep into our national psyche; forged in the red, white, and blue traditions of consumption, guilt, and one-ups-manship. We give from deep pockets, even if those pockets are now empty. It’s a habit not easily stopped.
The time to give is here once again. Expectations with giving and recieving are always high. Pockets though, have never been more shallow for most. Decisions are difficult. Guilt grows. Stress increases. What to do?
In recent years, fitness related gifts have been big during the holidays. Retail exercise devices such as strength training machines, cardio equipment, exercise balls and mats, DVDs, and even personal training sessions have been placed under the tree, stuffed into stockings, and set beside the menorah with the best of intentions.
Take a quick inventory of your house. Check your guest room, your garage, your basement, or your patio. Those are the areas where home workout gear is usually stowed – lost really. Go ahead, measure the dust on the BowFlex. Count the boxes of tax returns on the treadmill. Has that exercise ball even been inflated yet? That yoga mat has certainly made a great dog bed.
With that glimpse of history, I suggest that giving fitness related items this holiday season would not be a wise investment of your weakening dollar. Still, fitness should be at the very top of your giving priorities – most everyone needs improved fitness and health. Though your past intentions have been good, you may have been placing the wrong fitness gifts under the tree. You have been giving things, rather than opportunities.
This year, the economic conditions are just right for you to change directions and give creatively, economically, and from the heart. This season, give your loved ones energy, time, and commitment, that you aid them in their quest for improved health and fitness. These gifts are not only free, they will offer much more meaning and utility.
Below are just a few examples of possible giving that will cost you nothing, and will likely help your loved ones more than any BowFlex, elliptical trainer, or any exercise ball ever would. These are just examples of gifts that give, but do not cost. Consider that; gifts that give, but do not cost.
Give the gift of encouragement. A treadmill is nothing without a reason to use it. Skip the $500 – $4,000 price tag, and give your loved one a $1.25 greeting card; one with a hand-written list inside of the many reasons to take a long walk, to go for a jog, or to do push-ups, squats, and crunches during TV commercials. Remind them, in your own handwriting, of why it is important to move. Let them read your words, from the outside looking in, of who benefits from, and what the dividends will be paid from exercise. Encourage them to just do it, and on behalf of their loved ones as well as themselves – and don’t be afraid to name names. Encouragement might be a beautiful gift.
Give the gift of time. Don’t have $400 dollars to buy your loved one a gym membership this year? Be their baby sitter for 1 or 2 evenings per week so they can hit the fitness trail at the local park, or go for a jog or walk. Buy them a card, and in that card place an IOU for an amount of time that they would not otherwise have. Cover for them at work if you can. Pick up the kids from them and take them out to dinner. Or, take over their car pool one day per week if you can. Offer to do their grocery shopping, do their laundry, or clean their house for them, freeing them up for some exercise.
Give the gift of partnership. Even if your fitness is more advanced than that of your friend or loved one, give of yourself and workout with them. Don’t have them do your workout, do theirs with them and encourage them along the way. You will both benefit from the investment of your time and partnership. Give of yourself and show them the way. If you don’t know the way yourself, give them the gift of your commitment – your partnership, participation, and assure them that you will learn fitness together.
In troubling economic times, when we really need to check how we spend and why we spend, could there be any better holiday gift than a gift that gives but does not cost? Sounds downright old fashioned to me, and profoundly appropriate in the current economic climate. Make this holiday season an old fashioned one; give of yourself and make a real difference. Be well. rc
Oh, and there is this from Genius writer and poet, Chris Whitley. Enjoy…