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Keeping Fitness Gear Fit

Fitness gear periodically wears out and needs to be replaced.

However, many people tend to hang on to shoes, yoga mats and other items much longer than they should. That can mean they're not getting the desired results from workouts, and may even be risking injury.

Fitness expert Petra Kolber, a contributing editor to Health Magazine, visited The Saturday Early Show with advice on how to spot gear that needs to be replaced or upgraded, and how often.

Here are some tips:

SHOES

Athletic shoes are potentially the most important piece of gear you own. Over time, the cushioning and support features of the shoe compress and stop doing their job. Inadequate or uneven support and cushioning can easily lead to injury.

So how do you know that this has happened to your shoe? For starters, obviously, if you notice that any part of the shoe looks broken, it's time for a new pair. While shoes do have some cosmetic touches, most components have a true function.

Look at your soles to see if they are worn down, or try testing them on a sandy patch; if you feel they've lost traction, it may be time to replace them.

Shoes also have recommended use/mileage limits:

  • Running/walking shoes: 500 miles or every 6 months
  • Aerobic shoes: 100-110 hours
  • Basketball: 100-110 hours
  • Cross-trainers: 100 hours
  • Hiking: 500 miles
  • Tennis: 100 hours

    SPORTS BRAS

    According to the American Council on Exercise, sports bras should be replaced ever 6 to 12 months, particularly if you wear your bras 3 to 4 times a week. The elasticity breaks down over time. If your bra has a noticeably looser fit, the fabric is pilling, or it allows you increased motion during exercise, it's time to buy a new one.

    A sports bra that is hand-washed will typically last longer than one that is machine-washed and tumbled dry.

    EXERCISE BALL

    Clearly, if your ball is slowly leaking air, it's time for a new one. However, it's important to check any rubber piece of equipment for small tears or nicks that might weaken the gear and, in the case of the ball, cause it to burst. Be sure and take a close look at the material around the valve, because this is where you will most likely spot a problem.

    You can extend the life of your rubber ball or other rubber equipment by keeping it away from extreme heat and direct sunlight.

    YOGA MATS

    "Many people look at their mats as a symbol of their hard practice and often there is a lot of history and emotion tied to the mat, and so people will never throw it out," Petra said.

    However, over time, the cushioning in yoga mats wears down. This cushioning is there for a reason; it helps eliminate pressure on your wrists, ankles, hands and feet.

    If you're hesitant to replace your mat, you can buy a new mat and put it under the old one when practicing yoga.

    You should also clean your yoga mats regularly - a lot of sweating happens there! Simply wipe them down with soap and water. If you do buy a new mat, you may find that it has a slight film on it; rubbing the mat with a mixture of water and vinegar should remove it.

    BOXING GLOVES

    Boxing gloves take a lot of abuse and they don't last forever. If you work out with them three times a week or so, you should probably replace the gloves after two years.

    Ripped seams, torn leather and brittle areas are obvious signs that the gloves need to be replaced. The most important feature to check, however, is the foam padding in the fist part of the glove. The foam should have the same firmness all around the glove. If the firmness is not uniform, if it is softer in some parts, replace the gloves as soon as possible.

    Also, be sure to take a look at the hook and loop laces on your gloves to ensure they are secure and will not rip or loosen during use.

    HAND WEIGHTS

    The focus on the next couple of items is less about replacing and more about upgrading.

    Many people buy sets of small weights to use at home. That's great, but you can't use the same pair or two pair forever. The only way to get stronger is to continue to increase your workload, which means you will eventually need to buy heavier weights.

    Here's a good rule of thumb: If you have been using the same weight for six months, it's time to upgrade to a heavier set.

    EXERCISE VIDEOS

    Exercise videos and DVDs remain a popular for use during workouts at home. But no matter how good the video, if you do the same exercises for six or eight weeks, your body will begin to plateau and you will stop seeing results. Time for an upgrade!

    Supplement your favorite cardio video with a strength-training video. Or, look for a DVD that has a whole menu of different workouts. These are like "trainers in a box," and you can choose a workout that focuses on specific parts of the body.