What most athletes are wishing for this holiday season isn’t something that can be gift-wrapped. Getting stronger, faster and more flexible is really a matter of hard work and dedication. But even with all the persistence in the world, it’s nice to get presents (RGIII’s hoping for a vibrating foam roller). We asked an assortment of active Washingtonians what fitness gear is tops on their lists this year.
Katie Ledecky, 16
At an age when many other teens are getting their driver’s licenses, the Olympic swimmer from Bethesda has been collecting world records. She currently holds two: the 800- and 1500-meter freestyle. At this summer’s World Championships, she scored four golds as well as the trophy for best female competitor. With that much going on, it’s easy to imagine why Ledecky often forgets the lunch bag and ice pack she uses to store her post-workout chocolate milk. A gift that would remedy that problem, she says, would be “a refrigerator built into our car’s glove compartment.” (This is a feature that’s standard in several cars, including the VW Golf, and is an option in others.) Another idea that might work: a thermoelectric cooler that can plug into a car’s cigarette lighter. Coleman’s 16-quart PowerChill model ($80) has room for two two-liter bottles.
John Wall, 23
The Washington Wizards point guard is outfitting his Potomac home for the off-season. This year he wants a Woodway treadmill, based on his trainer’s recommendation. “When I take off in the summer, I don’t want to take a full day off of not doing nothing, so I’ll have a treadmill at the house.”
But the most important thing on his list is not a thing. “Now I have my own house, and my family can come up and enjoy it. That’s really all I care about now for the holidays.”
Michael Wardian, 39
The word “runner” doesn’t adequately describe Wardian, whose race schedule is essentially a series of dares. The Arlington father of two made headlines this month when he won a marathon in San Antonio and then flew to Las Vegas to run a second marathon in the afternoon. (He got 10th place in that one.) So, of course, he can dream big when it comes to gifts. What he wants is an altitude room conversion. For $10,000 (and way up), it’s possible to make part of your house simulate the oxygen conditions of living in the mountains. He’d love to redo his bedroom — “subject to Jennifer, my wife, being cool with it.” Even better would be his basement, “so I could run on the treadmill at 15,000 feet,” he explains. Wardian would settle, however, for a snorkel instead. Swimming with reduced airflow also mimics altitude training, and it would give his joints a break from all of his high-impact exercise.
Septime Webre, 51
The celebrated dancer, who has served as artistic director of the Washington Ballet since 1999, is interested only in an experiential gift: ashtanga yoga classes. “You don’t need anything but a mat to do it,” says Webre, who started practicing five years ago in pursuit of a low-impact but vigorous physical workout. “It’s hard as hell, and forces you to be your best self.” And though there are similarities between several poses and ballet moves — Warrior 3 is an arabesque, he points out — it feels different from his day job. “I was doing ballet at such a high level that I didn’t want to do it at a lower level,” he adds. And yoga, Webre says, is a gift that keeps on giving. It’s brought him a sense of euphoria and focus. (For local ashtanga studios, check out yoga teacher Michael Joel Hall’s Web site, which has a good list: michaeljoelhall.com/places-practice-ashtanga. Most studios have class packages that can be given as gifts.)
Karl Alzner, 25, and Joel Ward, 32
Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, one of the team’s top two backliners, said he asked for a new Armour39 watch-heart rate monitor combination, by Under Armour. “I use it back home during the summer. I wear it wherever I go.” His old one is on the fritz, Alzner said.
Winger Joel Ward said he wants “a day away from Nemo” – the nickname for Caps strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.
Christy Phillips, 28
Santa would have to be as strong as Phillips to deliver her dream gift: a giant tire. “I could flip it up and down my street,” says the CrossFit athlete and nurse from Reston, who won the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Regional and went on to compete in her fifth CrossFit Games this summer. The problem with getting her that tire? It probably won’t fit in her two-bedroom apartment. A slightly more practical option is a trip to San Francisco CrossFit to get coached by the dream team of trainers there, including physical therapist Kelly Staret. But Phillips would even settle for Staret’s book, “Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance” ($30, Victory Belt Publishing).
Ivan Nolia, 9
He might still be in the fourth grade, but Nolia is the District’s youngest certified yoga instructor; he recently completed Yoga District’s 200-hour teacher training program. And the Petworth resident has lots of stuff he’d like to give other kids to help them discover yoga, too. “I’d want yoga mats. It doesn’t matter which color,” he says. And he’d like copies of the book “Asanas: 608 Yoga Poses,” ($22, New World Library) by Dharma Mittra. “It has pictures of the different poses. My teacher gave me one,” adds Nolia, who’s been using the guide for homework. But is there anything he wants for himself? After thinking about it, he finally settles on a resistance band. That would boost his upper-body strength, Nolia says, and help him do a better handstand.
Staff writers Michael Lee and Katie Carrera contributed.