Unless you're rolling in dough, spare seating is not something to spend a fortune on. The everyday gear should be your investment. So, it's a treat that the Gaiam Hourglass Ottoman ($60, reduced from $129) is on sale. Its sturdy metal frame makes it ideal seating for guests around your coffee table. The rest of the time, you can use it as a side table or a place to stack books. Better yet, lift up its removable lid and use it as storage year-round. Made from bacbac leaf, "a fast-growing, bark-like fiber used in thatched roofs," you can be reassured that your home is as organic as your grocery list.
If you prefer working out at home because it's cheap, private, and open 24-7 then you're going to love The Wave ($90). Created by The Firm, this workout accessory is similar to a Step, but it can be turned over and used like a BOSU to challenge your balance, so you get more bang for your buck.
The dual-action Wave comes with three DVDs — the first one illustrating basic maneuvers. The other two DVDs take you through fast-paced cardio workouts utilizing The Wave alone and with dumbbells. Since you're balancing on this rocking step, almost every exercise targets your lower and upper body, abs, and back simultaneously. You also get a fourth DVD called Express Abs, that focuses on using The Wave to tone your core muscles. To make this program even more effective, there's a Success Guide included that outlines diet tips and an exercise calender that maps out a month-long workout plan.
Watch a video clip of The Wave in action, when you read more
If you've been curious to try a kettlebell workout but your gym doesn't offer one, then work it at home with The Firm Kettlebell Kit ($25). It comes with a five-pound kettlebell and a 45-minute DVD to show you how to use it.
I'm new to the kettlebell scene, but now I am a convert. Instead of just using dumbbells or resistance bands, I've been adding kettlebell exercises to my routine and have noticed a huge difference in my strength. That's because the exercises involve using momentum, acceleration, and deceleration instead of static movements. For details on the DVD, read more
Gaiam is currently holding its Sixth Annual Sale, offering discounts between 20 and 75 percent on many home and garden items, including items for your bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor space, as well as furniture, accessories, and household items. In case you didn't know, Gaiam sells a range of stylish, eco-friendly products for in and outside of the home. Here are a few things I wouldn't mind taking home from the sale:
Everybody wants a slender and toned middle, not only because it makes you feel good in a bathing suit, but also because it prevents back pain. Plain crunches are not the most effective exercise on their own, and to increase the level of intensity, you can add some weight to your ab work. That's where the Gaiam Abs Ball ($40) comes in.
It's similar to using a medicine ball, but the handy handles make it much easier to hold, so you can concentrate more on the exercise, rather than it slipping out of your palms. The ball weighs six pounds and it comes with a 35-minute instructional DVD to show you how to use it. Triathlete Jonathan Roche demonstrates how to define your obliques and abs with both beginner and advanced workouts. Adding a little weight to your upper body really helps to target and strengthen your core. If the 6-lb ball is too easy, you can buy the 8-lb Abs Ball instead.
One of my favorite online stores, Gaiam, is having a sale — yay!
Shop Gaiam's 6th Annual Outlet Sale and save up to 75% off on hundreds of great products for your health. I've got my eyes on this Anti-burst BalanceBall Set with DVD for only $15. Quantities are limited so I wouldn't wait too long to pull the trigger if you see something you like.
I spend a lot of time strength training my upper body, but I'm so used to using dumbbells and doing push-ups, that I'm always looking for new ways to target my arms. Not only does it make my workouts more exciting, but it strengthens the muscles in my arms in a different way, which is great for preventing injury.
I'm not sure if you've ever tried these BodyCircles (on sale for $10), but you may want to pick some up if you're looking to isolate and tone the muscles in your upper body. These circles are padded and even though they don't look like much, they really do a beautiful job of targeting your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and upper back. Essentially they are like hula hoops for your arms. Spinning those circles forwards as well as backwards requires some coordination, but will build some strength and bring on the burn. There's a 14-minute instructional DVD included so you can learn how to strengthen your arms in just eight minutes. For under $10, it's quite a deal.
The classic Shaker style of the Gaiam Step Basket ($29, from $60) may not appeal to the modernists out there, but I think we can all appreciate its functionality. Maybe it's just me, but I think the mother of every friend I had growing up used to leave her family's things (sneakers, magazines, laundry, etc.) at the base of the stairs to be picked up. There's nothing neat about leaving things laying on the stairs, but a step basket will keep things looking tidy, and you can carry it with you on your way up. Oh, and did I mention that it's made from sustainably-grown rattan? What do you think? Would you use one of these in your own home?
I always have gym bag issues. It's just so hard to find a perfect size bag that will hold everything you need without breaking your back.
Gaiam's Everything Fits Gym Bag ($50) may be the answer. This cute bag features a roomy interior with a zippered pocket, an elastic pocket, and a key tether. The vented outside compartment can hold shoes, sweaty clothes or a wet towel. Also includes an easy-reach outside pocket for water bottle, inside and outside holsters for cell phone and MP3 player, and bottom adjustable straps for your yoga mat. What's more? It's made from 100% recycled polyester. It totally reminds me of the adorable Puddle Jumper Bag I fell in love with last year but is about $20 cheaper. Buy the Everything Fits Gym Bag here.
When my girls get antsy and we can't play outside because either the weather is not cooperating or it is too dang early to disturb our neighbors, I like to pop in a yoga DVD. I pull out the yoga mats and we do the poses together.
We all enjoy YogaKids 2: ABC by Gaiam. There are 26 kid-style yoga poses and games inspired by nature and other familiar icons kids love. Imitating butterflies and alligators is certainly a good time for the entire family, and the DVD provides a nice introduction to yoga philosophy. It is a wonderful and physical way to hang out with your kids. Plus it provides a nice pre-run warm up. It is challenging for the little ones, but they are usually game for anything. It is also cool to see their yoga practice evolve as they get more coordinated.
Suggested age for children watching this DVD is ages 3-6. My 2 year old does manage to follow along for the first 8 letters of the alphabet, but then she sits and watches calmly as her older sister and I work our bodies all the way to the letter "Z."
Buy it for $10.99 from Amazon.