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FITNESS | GEAR

Style points

October 23, 2006|Roy M. Wallack

It's probably not necessary to say this in image-obsessed L.A., but looks count -- and that extends to fitness equipment. Therese Iknoian, co-publisher of GearTrends, a fitness trade magazine, says that women purchase or influence the purchase of 80% of fitness equipment -- and they demand products that look good. Accordingly, manufacturers and retailers of strength and aerobic machines are discovering that style sells, often at a premium. After all, with home gyms out of the garage and into the bonus rooms, the machines best be easy on the eyes. Here's four high-end beauties that deliver a world-class workout, taking the art of exercise to new levels.

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Tread lightly, like the pros

Woodway Desmo S: Ultra-durable treadmill with one-of-a-kind design.

Likes: Smooth, durable, technologically advanced, stunning looks. Patented design (used by pro football teams) resembles tank treads, with a chain of rubberized slats circling around an oval rail track (not a fabric belt rolling over a wooden deck, like a standard treadmill). The motor is tucked inside the tread belt, so your foot cannot hit it. It's faster and steeper than anything else: 12.5 mph (upgradeable to 18 mph), and 15% incline (upgradeable to 22% and a negative incline of 3%).

Dislikes: The five-figure price. (Just as solid, but not as attractive, is the entry-level Path at $7,000.) Requires an AC cord (not self-generating).

Price: $10,330. 800-WOODWAY; www.woodway.com.

A real space-saver

Torque Fitness F5: Functional-fitness weight machine that hides behind closed doors.

Likes: Wires and bars and metal plates are hidden from view. After you're finished with the machine, which blasts muscles in natural groups rather than in isolation (as with traditional "fixed-path" gyms), you fold the bench up like a hide-a-bed and close the two wings like a closet door. The F5's functional exercises deliver an unusually challenging, time-saving workout that can easily be customized for sport-specific movements, such as a golf or tennis swing. It takes up only a 4-foot-by 4-foot square of floor space.

Dislikes: Some people may not enjoy the relatively difficult nature of a functional workout.

Price: $3,495. (763) 754-7533; www.torquefitness.com (in development).

Profiles, programs and perks

LeMond G-Force RT: Recumbent with advanced performance features.

Likes: Unique mesh-back seat keeps you cool and dry, and has a five-way tilt to help you work different muscles. The big, easy-to-use control panel offers 11 programs and profiles, includes heart-rate control (both chest strap and handlebar contact) and allows the storage of three custom-user profiles. Luxurious touches abound: an angled cup holder, a towel holder and the ability to take up to a two-minute break without shutting down. Cordless (self-generating).

Dislikes: None.

Price: $2,495. (425) 482-6773; www.lemondfitness.com.

Just like being at the club

Octane 37ce: Club-quality elliptical.

Likes: Solid, health-club feel and heft with unique comfort and performance. It has a smooth, long-stride (20.5 inches) pedal motion and the industry's first multi-position handlebar with a converging arm path, which mimics natural motion. It has numerous programs, including heart-rate control (both a wireless chest strap and hand contact pads), and an "arm-blaster" mode that emphasizes the upper body. The low (4-inch) pedal height allows for easy step-on, a plus for older users and those with low ceilings.

Dislikes: Requires an AC cord.

Price: $2,899. 888-OCTANE4; www.octanefitness.com.

-- Roy M. Wallack

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