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Getting Into Gear

Solutions for the Excuse-Prone


Excuses for skipping exercise can be legitimate ("I can't see the diving board without my glasses") or lame ("I absolutely cannot run a step without keeping track of my distance").

The right gear, of course, can help you conquer both kinds of cop-outs.

Optical Menace might sound like a nearsighted swimmer headed toward the deep end without eyeglasses or contact lenses, but it's actually the name of Speedo's swimming goggles with built-in correction. They're available in diopter strengths of minus 1.5 to minus 8, in increments of .5.

Our dry-land test: If you select the diopter strength correctly, the goggles really do correct your vision just like your contact lenses or eyeglasses.

At Authentic Fitness stores for about $29 a pair or call (800) 5-SPEEDO for store locations.


You love to hike, but your knees don't? Walking with poles, also called walking staffs, can be especially helpful for walkers with degenerative joint disease or those who have knee pain, according to researchers at the Steadman Hawkins Sports Medicine Foundation in Vail, Colo., an international research and education center. The poles help reduce stress to the knees and, by transferring forces away from the lower body, make the walk or hike more of an upper- and lower-body exercise. Some experts advise walking with two poles.

One option: Tracks Compact Travel Staff, a full-sized walking pole with three sections, made by Cascade Designs. It folds down to 17 inches and can be packed easily into a backpack or suitcase. There's a wrist strap and a walnut knob on top.

Our test walk: The staff is easy to grip; it telescopes up and down easily. The reduced stress to the lower body is noticeable immediately.

A single staff is about $60. Available at specialty sporting goods stores and hiking and walking stores. Or, for mail order information call Cascade Designs, (800) 531-9531.


If you've got skin that bugs love and the sun loves to blister, there's no need to slather on both insect repellent and sunscreen, if you have Coppertone's Bug & Sun. The adult formula has a 15 SPF sunscreen; the kiddie formula, an SPF of 30. Both contain 9.5% DEET (N1-N-diethyl-m-toluamide), the repelling agent. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents used on children contain no more than 10% DEET concentrations.

Our smear test: The lotion glides on slick and easy. But there's an unmistakable repellent smell to this stuff. And, as the label cautions, it should be washed off as soon as you're back indoors to minimize DEET exposure.

Widely available at drugstores, Bug & Sun is about $9.50 for 8 ounces.


Too hot to even think about putting on socks and athletic shoes? You can walk feeling practically barefoot with the Circuit, billed as "the world's first performance walking sandal" by Teva, a veteran sports sandal maker.

Circuit, new this summer and just for women, comes in three nylon models as well as in Chocolate Leather. The sole is as intricately constructed as a walking or running shoe, with extra arch support and a pad to cushion heel strike. The upper is lushly padded.

Our walk test of the Circuit in Diagonal Blue, one of the three nylon models: These sandals feel like tiny pillows. Toes are unencumbered but supported by the thick sole. One downside (or rather two) are the side straps. Even after adjusting, they dig in. Pack some moleskin for your maiden walk.

About $70 for nylon styles, $75 for leather, at sporting goods and athletic shoe stores; or call (800) FOR-TEVA.


So much for the geeky running-watch stereotype. Nike's Triax, in silver, sage and lunar blue, is sleek.

But it's not just good-looking, it's also functional. Read the instruction book and you'll learn how to time and record laps within your runs, store and retrieve that data, use the seven alarms and program in the time and day for two time zones, among other possibilities.

Our wear test of the Triax 42, which has a 42-lap memory count: The display is easy to read, and the buttons are easy to maneuver on the run.

The series also includes models with lap memory counts of 26, 120 and 250. About $85 to $135 at sporting goods stores; for store information, call Nike at (800) 344-6453.

Kathleen Doheny can be reached at

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