Jesse James' Holiday Fitness Gift Guide


Another Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone and what was once a beautifully roasted turkey has become the base for this week’s sandwiches. And yes, Christmas shopping season has officially begun.

If you’re anything like me, the availability of ridiculous amounts of sugary treats has been the reason to let your belt out a couple more notches and you feel the need to burn off more than a few extra calories and redouble your focus on your physical health and well-being. With that in mind I would like to take this opportunity to offer my top health and fitness related gifts. These are the items that I consistently recommend to my clients year round and that I personally cannot do without. So to help you avoid the risk of pepper spray to the face over a $2 waffle iron, here are my top gift picks for health and fitness products for that special someone, or maybe even yourself.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an affiliate for most of these products. This means that if you purchase one after clicking one of these links, I will get a small commission. That said, the only reason I am an affiliate for these products is because I believe in them 100%.

1. Foam Roller

I was introduced to foam roller therapy in 2003 and was an instant convert. Over the past eight years, the foam roller has helped me and my clients treat and prevent chronic pain, injury, and surgery. Including foam roller therapy into your daily or weekly health and wellness lifestyle will reduce the amount of chronic pain and injury in your life.  This will have enormous effects on your long term well-being and health care costs. A good foam roller is the best investment you can make for your long term fitness, health, and wellness.

The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy
The Grid is currently my favorite foam roller. It is much more firm than other foam rollers.  It is great for travel as it fits inside most carry-on suit cases. The center is hollow and you can pack clothing or other items inside of it, making it a great space saver.

The Grid 2.0 is a new, longer version of the grid. The extra length is nice if you have the floor space to maneuver and it is useful for doing the corrective exercises I describe in the article, The Scapula: The Mast and Sails.

To learn more about foam roller therapy, benefits and use, check out Foam Roller Therapy For Beginners and How to Treat and Prevent Injury.


2. TRX Straps

I love my TRX straps. There is no other piece of equipment that has as much versatility. With a pair of straps you can work on full body flexibility and full body functional strength training.

They weigh about a pound and fit in a small bag – they are great for travel. They mount easily to a door, wall, ceiling, tree, or outdoor jungle gym. I have a few clients with very busy travel schedules. They struggle to get to a gym while on the road. With a set of straps they can workout in their hotel room and are less likely to miss important workout sessions.

Regardless of your current conditioning or ability, you can use the TRX. The workout is suspension training, which means your own body weight provides the resistance.  The beauty about the TRX is that adjusting the level of resistance is simple: all you have to do is move your feet back or forward. You can make exercises super easy, super hard, or somewhere in between. Every exercise engages your core from your fingers to your toes in ways that are unmatched by traditional strength training equipment. The TRX is the number one piece of workout equipment that I recommend and I suggest it to every one of my clients.

(2.5) Rip Trainer
The Rip Trainer is a new piece of workout equipment from the TRX company. It has quickly become one of my favorites as well. The Rip Trainer is great for adding multi-plane rotation and anti-rotation training into your workout. If you are creating the perfect home workout studio, I would suggest taking a look at the Rip Trainer, right after you buy the TRX straps.

3. Barefoot/Minimalist Shoes

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know by now that I am a huge advocate of a barefoot/minimalist lifestyle. As a deep tissue massage therapist, I specialize in the treatment and prevention of chronic pain and injury. I find that most injuries stem, in large part, from postural dysfunction. The majority of postural dysfunction that I treat is rooted in the feet, and it began with the very first shoes you put on.

I made my transition into barefoot/minimalist footwear about four years ago when I came across the Vibram Five Finger shoes at Whole Earth Provision Company, a local outdoor living store in Austin, Texas. At the time there were only a handful of barefoot/minimalist shoes on the market. Today there are over 64 and growing. Here are my favorites:

Merrell Trail Glove

In the times that I actually wear shoes, these are currently my favorites. They are stylish, light, fit snugly, have a ton of toe room and a nice protective plate underneath the forefoot that protects my feet from the sharp Texas trail rocks.


Vibram Five Fingers

They may look a little funny, but they are great shoes. What I love most about these shoes is they are a great conversation starter. Over the years, I have helped convert dozens of people into a barefoot/minimalist lifestyle just by having these on my feet.

Soft Star Shoes makes some simple yet super comfortable shoes. I have a pair of the Ramblers, basically a moccasin. They are warm and dry in the winter, and cool and dry in the summer.

To read more about the benefits of a barefoot/minimalist lifestyle you can read Free Your Feet, Not Just Any Movement, You Need Functional Movement and Heel Strike Compared to Forefoot Strike Gait Pattern and How it Relates to Pain.

Jesse James Retherford is a licensed massage therapist, certified personal trainer and barefoot movement coach. He specializes in the treatment and prevention of chronic pain and injury.

Jesse writes a weekly blog with insights on the treatment and prevention of chronic pain and injury.  lt is also a great way to stay up to date with his availability and the best way to have access to occasional specials, offers, and announcements. You can sign up here.

11 Replies to “Jesse James' Holiday Fitness Gift Guide”

  1. I have the merrell shoes, but in all honesty, I go barefoot so much I rarely wear them…or WANT to wear them.

    You know how I LOVE MY TRX!!!! Can’t leave home without it!

  2. These are all great products. I love the Five Finger Shoes. I noticed you mentioned you were a “barefoot movement coach”. Is there a specialty certification you can get? Just curious. We offer a Barefoot Training Clinic at our studio In Corpus. We did have a pretty good group that attended. We only have one store South of San Antonio that sells these shoes. Any ideas on promoting our clinics in this area? Thanks.

    1. Hi Tetty,

      As far as I know there are no national barefoot running or movement coach certifications. Although I know that there are a few groups attempting to create one. I consider myself more of a barefoot movement coach than a running coach. My goal is to get my clients out of the structural and cushion confines of shoes for all movements, not just running.

      What exactly are you promoting? The barefoot clinic, shoes or the stores? I don’t have much experience with mass promotion. For my business, I am working on building referral networks with fitness and health professionals, readership of my blog, high rankings for my website, and a strong word of mouth practice. I offer presentations or workshops (although I haven’t pushed this much), guest articles, interviews (I’m doing an online interview next week), and shouting from the rooftops (not super effective). Let me know if you have any specifics in mind.

      Jesse James Retherford

  3. Hi Jesse! What a great idea to suggest these items as gifts! I have been reading your blogs for a couple of months now and have gotten so much out of them!!! I have had so many injuries that have prevented me from doing all of the things I love to do. After ten years of doing massage (mainly deep tissue)…I had to have surgery on my elbow which really got my attention! I’m back in business now and growing a great clientele. Most of my clients are athletes with knee, IT band, feet and ankle issues. My hopes are to do some workshops/classes on foam rolling. So….could you give me some advice on what to do? I am a licensed massage therapist and I have been certified in cardio kickboxing. The personal trainer for the group that I work out with has mentioned that I could do a class at his gym. Do you think that I would need to have some sort of a certification to do this. I’m currently working on an on-line core and functional fitness certification. Who knows when I will complete that task??? So many of my clients/workout friends, would greatly benefit from the foam roller exercises! I’m constantly telling and showing my clients things to do on the foam roller to help them out. There is just not enough time to do this on an individual basis along with their massage session:) I’m spending A LOT of extra time with my clients because I care, however, I am a busy Mom of 3! I’m also planning to adjust my fees in January. I would appreciate any advice at your convenience! Thank you so much Jesse! Happy Holidays!!! Amy Buckles

    1. Hi Amy,

      Thank you for the feedback. I’m happy to hear you are enjoying my blog.

      I think doing a foam roller workshop is a great idea. I’ve done them in the past, and still would if I had a the space available. I teach private session at my home studio, but can only manage two people at a time. As far as I know, you don’t need a certification to teach it. This may vary depending on where you live. In Texas, you don’t need a certification to be a personal trainer. And I would imagine being a licensed massage therapist should count for something.

      I suggest you spend a lot of time on the foam roller, practicing technique, and figuring out how you would structure a class. I have been using the foam roller for over eight years. It has helped me recover from serious injuries and surgeries. Through lots of hours on the roller and a ball, I have figured out how to hit every spot on my body. Which has helped me develop a class. I offer different classes depending on the level of the client, beginner, intermediate and advanced. The group classes I have done in the past have received great response.

      I am happy to provide any advice I can. Feel free to ask. Enjoy the Holidays as well.

      Jesse James Retherford

      1. Great Great! I believe so much in the foam roller and the use of different balls for trp release. I use my kids sky balls a lot! They work great! I am probably at the point where I have figured out how to get to all of those trigger points using various methods. I have also been recycling wine bottles and my husbands bike tubes to use as a tool. The bigger wine bottles with a bike tube wrapped around it in a zig zag pattern….is great for working the hamstrings and calves!!! It isn’t always pretty:)
        Do you mind me asking how much you charged for a class/session? How long were your sessions? I can probably do a small class (maybe two or three) in my home.
        I’ve done a ton of research on different exercises, stretches, etc. with the foam roller and I think there is so much that I could do! I get so excited thinking about the possibilities!!!
        Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions and for all of the time you put in to educating others! It is clear that you are passionate about your work and care deeply for others and their well being! You are greatly appreciated by many Jesse!!!
        Thanks again!

        1. Hi Amy,

          I love the ingenuity. Wine bottles sound pretty interesting. If I drank wine, I would try it.

          I charge $65 for a single or double session. This is my personal training rate. In the past, when I have done larger classes, it was $10 suggested donation based class. If I can find a good location, I would be willing to do them for free or donation based. If I were to set it up as an income generating class, I would look at $10-15 per class, with classes lasting an hour.

          Thanks Amy
          Jesse James Retherford

          1. Thanks again Jesse! I’ve been meaning to reply for quite some time to tell you again how much I appreciate all of the info. you post. I refer to you as my “mentor” (adding that you don’t even know that you are my mentor) :)… to my clients! BTW…have you checked out Eric Dalton’s “Dynamic Body” book? WOW! It is fabulous!! Now I need info on overuse issues for the forearm, wrist, and hands. I’ve been dealing with this since I’ve been back to work doing massages. I’m trying a variety of things and making changes in how I work. It seems that when I support myself with my hands while doing foam roller exercises, I end up aggravating the forearm, wrists, etc. Now this isn’t good! I try to do most exercises on the forearms. Uugghh….

          2. Hi Amy,

            Thank you for the kind and thoughtful words. I have not checked out “Dynamic Body”. I will add it to my list.

            I do have a suggestion that I feel will be helpful. But it is difficult to explain and it will be quite painful at first. You can self massage your entire arm using the foam roller.

            Place your arm between your body and the roller. Make sure to work the brachioradialis, this is a chronic area of the arm and will provide relief down to the thumb. You can roll on bicep to forearm, palm side up and palm side down. Don’t rush through it. Don’t roll back and forth. Be slow and gentle. Find were it is most painful and slowly allow your body to melt into it until the pain reduces significantly. Then move to the next spot. Next time I am filming, I will try to make a quick video of it to post for you. Whenever my hands start to hurt, I do this on the roller and it makes a huge difference.

            Jesse James Retherford

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