She Says the Perfect Gift Can Be One That Always Stays With You

A snowshoeing trip could be a delightful surprise that delivers memories for a lifetime.
A snowshoeing trip could be a delightful surprise that delivers memories for a lifetime. (© Roger Bischoff)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008; Page HE03

On Christmas morning 2006, Roger Bischoff didn't find his biggest present waiting under the tree. Instead, his wife, Susan, teased him with packages of related goodies. There were socks, rain gear, a water bottle . . . and finally, travel documents saying he was headed on an REI Adventure to the Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks in Utah. The next day.

"He's always been very creative with gifts, so I wanted to up the ante," says Susan, who knew her outdoorsy hubby would thrill at the chance to go hiking and snowshoeing. "It's a gift that lasts longer than the moment you open it. It lasts longer than the trip. You carry it with you."

Indeed, Roger, who's 38, calls it "the best gift ever" -- not just because his experience was so fantastic, but because it got him hooked on pursuing other adventures, both near the couple's home in Bellevue, Wash., and far from it. (He climbed Denali this summer.)

So as holiday shopping season begins, don't forget that you can give memories, and maybe even some muscle, to the fitness fans on your list.

REI touts Bischoff's very merry Christmas as an example, but the gift doesn't have to be that grand. The national chain also offers local adventures, including kayaking around Washington and Annapolis. Plus, through the company's Outdoor School program, there are one-day outings that involve mountain biking or basics of land navigation. (Which just happen to pair well with a new set of wheels or a high-tech GPS, if you like wrapping things, too.)

Know a certain someone who can't stand a gym filled with weights and ellipticals? Send him or her to one with rock-climbing walls. Earth Treks (with locations in Rockville, Timonium and Columbia) has options for all skill levels, but the best deal is geared toward beginners. For $75, they get two classes -- intro to climbing and intro to movement -- plus a 15-day membership. And there's a buy-one-get-one-free offer, so it's even better as a couple's gift.

Gift cards were once just for retail therapy, but fitness outlets have them as well. It's a good way to release baggage instead of coming home with some. And as Kimberly Wilson, founder of Tranquil Space Yoga (in Dupont Circle, Bethesda and Arlington), says, "In this economy, people may trim in self-care." At her studio, newbies could use a gift card for a novice workshop or take the plunge and sign up for Yoga 1, while veterans might sample higher-level classes and seminars.

Certain people have a passion for tap dance that they could never have for the treadmill. Allow them to get footloose at a studio such as Joy of Motion (with locations in Friendship Heights, Dupont Circle, H Street and Bethesda). "The gift of dance is the gift that keeps giving. It exercises the mind, body and also spirit," promises executive director Douglas Yeuell, who says JOM gift cards are particularly popular for moms. Since almost every adult class is structured to be drop-in, they don't need to worry about setting aside a certain hour each week or missing too many sessions.

A traditional gym membership is a very generous gesture, too, but unless you're sure your BFF has been aching to join a certain club, it's the sort of present that has the potential to go to waste. So consider a place like SomaFit, the entirely a la carte gym/spa in Glover Park. Give 'em gift cards and they can choose among gym visits, personal training, private Pilates, group fitness classes or an array of spa services. Hard to believe someone wouldn't dig one of those options.

Even a handful of personal training sessions can make a difference, says Tanya Colucci, head of training at Mint Fitness in Adams Morgan. A three-pack of sessions ($306) buys someone an initial assessment and workout plan, with follow-ups every four to six weeks, which is when slumps are most common. Colucci says parents often get them for their grown kids who can't afford full-time training.

She says Mint's packages also can work as thank-yous for people who handle events such as the company holiday party. Certainly, the "Wellness" offering, which includes a training session, a nutrition consultation, acupuncture and a spa treatment of choice ($510) sounds pretty pampering. There's also a dude-friendly deal ($270) that includes a training session, a sports massage and an antibacterial black-tea foot soak and reflexology treatment.

The cyclist version of indulgence apparently involves lasers. They're part of the $325 pro road fit at CycleLife USA, a new facility in Georgetown catering to serious riders. The three-hour session involves an extensive interview, an examination on a massage table and, yes, lasers that help the experts determine knee movement.

Other options: VO2 max testing, which determines aerobic capacity and can help a rider work out a training regimen ($250), or body composition data ($100) courtesy of the Bod Pod, a contraption that looks like a spaceship. For $125 an hour, a coach will give pointers on a ride -- or, for triathletes, a swim or run. "There are a million things to consider," says performance director Josh Frick. "Ride with me, and I'll give you a list to work on."

For anyone involved in competitive racing, one of the biggest expenses is just entering events. So an IOU for registration fees (for a couple of 5Ks, for example) would be much appreciated. To show you really care, say you'll even pay for the upgraded shirt.

That kind of motivation is priceless. Just ask Roger Bischoff, who now does something active every day. "You never know when you're getting a surprise gift," he says. Susan still hasn't revealed what she has planned for this year.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company