Are you thinking about starting a new fitness routine? Or maybe you're already a spin class regular, but you're training for your first big race. Whatever the case, if you're going to take your exercise regimen to the next level, what you're eating outside the gym is just as important as what you're doing at the gym (or the track, the pool, or the park). And, just as important as your running shoes or goggles, are certain kitchen tools and appliances.
I say this from personal experience: In January 2016 — almost two years ago! — I started training for an Ironman. I had done races before, but an Ironman, a swimming, biking, and running event that takes all day, is something altogether different. It takes serious dedication, planning, and lots and lots of food.
In addition to my swim goggles, bike, and running shoes, I'd definitely include these 7 kitchen tools in my list of training essentials.
1. Food Processor
With long training days spanning upwards of 8 to 9 hours, and a race day that would be even longer, I knew I could only stomach so many energy gels, bars, and the like. Inspired by this batch of banana cookies, I created my own version of energy bites — with a little help from my food processor. Its ability to quickly mash bananas, grind oats, and bring big batches of dough together with ease meant I didn't have to make these bites by hand week after week.
Buy: Cuisinart 11-Cup Food Processor, $160
It would have been a very sorry, sorry state of affairs without my Vitamix to whip up post-morning workout (and often pre-evening workout) smoothies and protein shakes. Looking back on those eight months of training, my smoothie consumption went up about ten-fold.
Buy: Vitamix Ascent A2500 Blender, $450
My Favorite Smoothies and Protein Shakes
3. Sheet Pans
Three words: sheet pan dinners! In my opinion, these are the ultimate one pan (or pot) dinner. Chicken thighs, or the occasional sausage, and a array of whatever veggies I had handy were on the menu at least once a week.
Our favorite sheet pans: Vollrath Half-Size Sheet Pans, $20 for two
4. Electric Pressure Cooker
My electric pressure cooker was the miracle appliance that saved dinner (and me from many trips to the crappy pizza shop down the block) when my meal planning efforts got derailed. From brown rice to lentils, to eggs and chicken, the pressure cooker is key for getting food on the table fast.
Buy: 6-Quart Instant Pot DUO, $100
5. Slow Cooker
Training for an Ironman deepened my love for the slow cooker, big time. It was the gift that kept on giving. Often times it was like coming home to find that someone else cooked dinner for me. There was usually some upfront planning, as with any meal, but I largely stuck with dump-and-cook recipes.
Buy: 6-Quart Instant Pot DUO, $100
My Favorite Slow Cooker Dinners
6. Electric Tea Kettle
When your schedule includes 15 to 20 hours of training per week, with some sessions that call for a 4:30 am wake up, coffee is essential. Depending on my mood, I use a pour over or French press. Either way, the first step is always firing up the electric kettle.
Buy: OXO Electric Kettle, $90
In training (and in life) I'm a creature of habit. I find what works and I stick with it. I've eaten the same pre-race breakfast before almost every race I've done, and I also before most of my long rides and long runs. No reason to mess with a good thing, right? My go-to is an English muffin (toasted just right) with nut butter, sliced banana, and honey.
Buy: Hamilton Beach 2-Slice Toaster, $22
The Fit Kitchen
I started training for my first Ironman in January 2016 and quickly learned in addition to all the swimming, biking, and running, nutrition and diet would be just as important to make it across the finish line. This series details the kitchen lessons that fueled my journey. It turns out a 140.6 mile race is one of the best ways to perfect meal planning, figure out what kitchen tools are essential, and decide how to stock a pantry for success.