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WRITTEN BY PACIFIC NORTHWEST STAFF Special Arts Issue

Holiday Help
Like us, exercise gifts come in many shapes
 
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Fusion Rotational Grip Plates have color-coded handles for easy, safe pick-up.
It's hard to find a lot of new exercise equipment in stores these days. Maybe it's the economy. Or perhaps new ideas are just harder to come by after the profusion of gadgets in the past decade.

However, old standbys are plentiful (and perhaps preferable) as holiday gift ideas, from treadmills and stationary bikes to stretchy bands and weight machines.

New equipment still can be found, though, via catalogs and the Internet. Here are some we've come across recently. You can check out others in our earlier column on new products unveiled at The Super Show.

Ultra-Bell free weights feature polished-chrome dumbbells with rubber rims to protect floors and an ergonomic handle designed to increase usability and reduce hand fatigue. They appear to float on their curved racking system, which is just 32 inches wide by 24 inches deep (a rack and six pair of weights from 2½ to 15 pounds is $750). Fusion Rotational Grip Plates (about $2.15 a pound for individual plates, or a 765-pound set with rack for $2,500) are weight plates from 2½ to 45 pounds with color-coded rubber handles for safe and easy pick-up. (Both from www.hamptonfit.com; 877-339-9733.)
 
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Sportsaqs feature custom ball compartments and insulated pockets for water bottles.
The Wince Bar is a compact set of weights in a 17-by-10-by-5-inch case that fit together to make seven weight combinations each for dumbbells and barbells, from 2½- to 13-pound dumbbells to a 14- to 33-pound barbell. ($99.95; www.wincebar.com; 800-290-3932.)

For collectors of gadgets for developing abdominal muscles, 6 Second Abs uses an audible click to pace the up-and-down movement, removes the influence of the hip flexors, can be used while you're sitting down, and is adjustable for beginning or advanced users. (Around $60 with video or DVD; www.6secondabs.com; 800-779-6611.)

The Everlast PowerPumper Home Gym is a Bullworker-like device that offers isometric and isotonic exercise via its telescoping plastic core and two flexible fiber rods that run down each side. ($39.95; www.4LF.com; 800-669-0987.)
 
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6 Second Abs allows users to do crunches sitting down.
The Skymate Windmeter ($89.95) is a portable wind, temperature and wind-chill gauge that floats and is water resistant to 3 feet. For people who are beginning an exercise or rehab program and might have trouble keeping one of those mini-pedaling devices going, the Motorized Exercise Cycle ($149.95) for hands or feet lets you choose speed and resistance via remote control; as your fitness level increases, you can decrease the motor-assist or turn it off altogether. (Both from www.technoscout.com; 800-704-1210.)

Spokane-based Sportsaq offers sport-specific bags with custom ball compartment, insulated drink holder, "stealth" shoe section and personal-accessory pocket in addition to a large main chamber. For baseball/softball, basketball, football, gym/fitness, running/cross training, soccer, volleyball and even skateboard/scooter. ($38-$65; to find a local dealer, go to www.sportsaq.com or 800-514-2247.) The Gearmax backpack unzips to become a hanging locker with many compartments ($38-$79, www.gearmax.com or 804-798-5583).

The Tanita Corp. (www.tanita.com) has released six of its latest body-fat-monitoring scales. The scales, which range from $39.99 to $99.99, allow users to not only determine weight, but also how much of that weight is fat.

Maternity-Smart and Osteo-Smart are the first two in a new line of targeted fitness kits. Each handy case contains two 2-pound vinyl-covered dumbbells, three resistance tubes, a door anchor, 26-inch stability ball with foot pump, and a book with the specific workout program. ($29.99 at Target stores; or www.yorkbarbell.com or 800-358-9675.)
 
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The electronic salt monitor is pocket-size for easy carrying.
Superfeet insoles offer motion control and support in the arches and heels. ($26.99; www.roadrunnersports.com or 800-551-5558.)

SoundFlips by Shoreline company Polar Fusion are fleece ear warmers in an aerodynamic, hard-shell frame that opens to allow the user to hear sounds, such as upcoming cars and bicycles. One model has stereo headphones for use with portable radios or tape/CD players. ($29.95-$39.95; www.polarfusion.com or 888-854-0739.)

The Massage Pen is a functional executive pen with a vibrating contoured tip designed to relieve muscle soreness via acupressure and reflexology. ($14.95; www.excaliburelectronics.com/massagepen.html or 800-592-4377.)

The Electronic Salt Measurer detects sodium-concentration levels in seconds in liquid foods, indicating from 0.3 percent to 2.0 percent via seven LED lights. ($19.95, www.giftsandgadgetsonline.com/elsame.html or 800-244-4387.)

In "Running in Literature" ($22, Breakaway Books) New Zealand elite runner and scholar Roger Robinson draws from nearly 3,000 years of literary references to running, from Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" to the poems of Ovid, Walt Whitman and Rudyard Kipling and the novels of Thomas Hardy and James Joyce.

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