Here in the snowy (yes, even in April...don't even get me started) northeast a trainer is a triathlete's best friend during the winter. But it is my number one piece of training equipment that I use YEAR-ROUND. A lot of times people will say to me, "I have some money saved up. Do you think I should get a heart rate monitor?" If they are parents I will say, "Do you have a trainer? If not, that is what you should spend your money on."
If I had the money I would probably get a Computrainer, but I bought this CycleOps fluid trainer used on Craigslist for $100 six years ago and it is still going strong. Even during the beautiful days of summer I don't always have the freedom to just hop on my bike and go. Many days you will see me on the trainer in my driveway or garage while my kids ride bikes in the cul-de-sac or play basketball in the driveway or cool off in the sprinkler. (Funny story: last year while I was on the trainer, Noah asked me why I wasn't wearing my helmet.) Quite frankly, I don't know how parents train without a trainer at home. Even though I don't always love being on the trainer, it is essential equipment for me.
My next most-used piece of equipment is my treadmill. I was fortunate enough to be able to buy this used gym-quality treadmill from a place I used to work for only $200. Kel and I both have gotten so much use out of it. Obviously in the winter it gets the most use, but again, like the trainer, it is just so easy to get a quick run in while I am at home by myself with the boys. Kel and I both feel pretty strongly that night-time running and running in bad weather is just not very safe, so this really keeps our options open. I will always choose an outdoor run option if that works, but if it doesn't I'm never stuck. I can always run in place at home!
Okay, I realize this is not a piece of training equipment, but I swear I'm just not sure what I would do without my crockpot!! I make one or two crockpot meals a week, which usually give us leftovers for another meal or two, and believe it or not, they are healthy and tasty! I don't know about your house, but that time right before dinner is always the craziest at my house, and I find if I am trying to cook the boys start bouncing off the walls and we all end up mad. I would much rather get homework done then go for a walk or play some basketball right before dinner. It works the best on nights the kids have activities between school and dinner. I just pop the meal in the crockpot in the morning and don't have to give it a second thought until 5 minutes before we sit down. The hardest thing for me about using the crockpot is just remembering that I need to get things going in the morning. Sometimes I will prep it in the removable crock part and keep that in the fridge over night so all I have to do in the morning is just put it in and turn it on. If I don't have time for that the night before, I will at least take the crockpot out and put it on my counter so I have a strong reminder in the morning about what I need to do.
So that's it! Obviously these aren't only for parents, but they are definitely essential for parents! I would love to hear what your most essential piece of equipment is!