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When to Replace Your Exercise Essentials

To get the best results from your workout -- and stay safe, too -- you can't keep ignoring the necessary upkeep and replacement of your most important items. "It's worth it, especially since most gear is fairly inexpensive and other gear may have useful upgrades," says Corey Twedt, NordicTrack Research and Development Manager. "You should always check your items for tears, cracks, or yellowing, and replace them so you can prevent injuries." Here's how to know when it's time to pony up the dough for a better performance.

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Bert Meadows
best workout sneakers
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Tanks, Pants, and Other Apparel

When to replace them: Varies

Must-know info: The lifespan of your apparel depends on each garment's type of material and the manufacturer's specific instructions (which can be found on the tag, the information/price tag, or inside a pocket). Fabric softener diminishes the breathability, water repellency, and wicking ability of performance fabrics -- so those items will lose their power within months if you don't care for them properly. You should line-dry these items as well, when possible.

Stride into a new season with these workout clothes

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Sneakers

When to replace them: After 300-500 miles of use

Must-know info: Worn-down sneakers can result in a lack of support and injuries. If you're doing group exercise classes at least three times a week, figure that you'll probably need to replace your shoes every 9-12 months; if you're running five miles three times a week, every 5-8 months is recommended.

Find the best shoes for your workout

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Sports Bras

When to replace it: Every 3-12 months

Must-know info: The more you wash and wear your bra, the more you'll weaken its elasticity. Consider doubling-up if it's been over a year and you can't bear to part with it just yet. Line-dry your sports bra to preserve the elastic.

Try these sports bras for every size to give you support while you sweat

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Stability Balls

When to replace it: 1-2 years

Must-know info: How awful would it be if you were in the middle of some core exercises on a stability ball and it popped? It can happen, due to weakened seams (not your butt!). Some stability ball life spans are just 12 months, and even shorter if you deflate-and-inflate your ball repeatedly. Others may be able to last a couple of years, so consult the manufacturer's information.

Tone your tummy with these stability ball exercises

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Yoga Mat

When to replace it: As needed

Must-know info: Little holes, slippery areas, or an odor that refuses to be washed out are the biggest signs that a mat should be trashed. (Idea: Recycle it as a rug pad to help keep your carpet in place.) Not having a good grip or proper cushion support is dangerous and puts added stress on your body -- the exact opposite of what you're trying to accomplish.

Swap out your yoga mat with the latest pads

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Resistance Band

When to replace it: As needed

Must-know info: Cracked areas or discoloration are red flags; the rubber is wearing down before your eyes and could snap while you're using it. Look carefully for signs of wear and rubbing where the band meets the handle.

Get at-home burn with these resistance band exercises

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Kettlebells and Other Weights

When to replace them: As needed

Must-know info: Free weights have an indefinite lifespan, so long as you don't notice any odd, deep cracks (which are unlikely), you're safe. Even the handle of a kettlebell is extremely difficult to break, unless dropped or thrown with crazy-brute force.

Try the 15-minute fat-burning kettlebell routine

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Cardio Machines

When to replace them: Varies

Must-know info: Maintenance matters with these machines, particularly keeping them clean and dust-free. (But most have intricate electric circuitry, so baby them like you would your laptop; don't spray cleaner directly on them.) If you follow the owner's manual on how to care for your at-home equipment, the life expectancy should be several years, if it's just you and your family using it. Most steppers, elliptical, precors, and treadmills have 5+ year warranties. Some boast up warranties for up to 25 years, which can mislead people into thinking the machine can work properly for that long -- when really, regular maintenance and even refurbishing may be needed. So, about that Stairmaster you've had since '86...

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, March 2012.

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