Trading on Fitness : If exercise is part of your new year's resolution, you can find used equipment in good condition at a chain of local stores.

The television commercials make exercising on stair climbers, cross-country ski simulators and exercise bikes look easy, but a serious workout is still hard work. If you're going to buy the equipment, you'll find it easier on your wallet to purchase it used.

The trick is finding it. The classifieds usually have some good buys, but if something goes wrong, you're up a creek. Stores that specialize in used sports and exercise equipment often offer excellent deals.

Play It Again Sports is a chain with 19 franchised stores in Southern California, including Agoura Hills, La Crescenta and Santa Clarita. Each location has different inventory, furnished mostly by customers who place their equipment--whether sports or exercise--on consignment, sell it outright or trade it in on another purchase.

If the equipment needs minor repair, the store will tend to it, but if it needs major service, it won't be accepted.

The parent company, Growbiz, based in Minneapolis, also buys new close-out merchandise to sell through its franchises.

Exercise equipment is hot at the start of the new year, said Dave Marks, manager of the Agoura Hills store.

Exercise bikes always look like an easy way to start, and Marks had a DP Airgometer, which employs wind resistance, that was traded in and offered at $149, compared to about $400 new.

For beginners, a used entry-level Nordic Track Challenger in good condition was $199. Ordered from the catalogue, it would be $299 plus $50 to $60 for shipping.

A professional-quality dip stand for knee raises and push-ups was $99 instead of $250 new.

The La Crescenta location, run by Dick and Pat Jover, had a used Pro-Form stair-stepper, fully computerized and in excellent condition, for $399.95 compared to $800 new. The popular cross-country simulator, the Nordic Track Pro, about $750 new, was $499.95 for an almost-new model. A used recumbent exercise bike, the Marcy 900, was $148.95, about half the new price.

In Santa Clarita, new Weslo weight benches with a lateral bar were $189.99, compared to the original $275. A used Body By Jake Firmflex workout bench, complete with video, was $54.99 instead of $179 (including shipping) if ordered new.

If a StepMaster is what you're looking for, a dual-action SM-5 model, about 5 years old but in good shape, was $89.95, compared to the original $200.

Jim Paskwietz, manager of the Santa Clarita store, says if there is a problem with any of the equipment, his store will repair it or give a 100% refund.

Judging from the used equipment at these various locations, many people lose their fitness motivation after a while.

It could happen to you, so why risk paying full price when you can try it out at bargain rates?

* Geri Cook's Bargains column runs every Friday in Valley Life! Questions about shopping may be sent to her, in care of Valley Life!, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Letters will not be answered individually, but topics of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Geri Cook can be heard from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on KIEV 870-AM.

WHERE TO SHOP

What: Play It Again Sports.

Location: 30317 Canwood St., Agoura Hills.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Cards: Discover, MasterCard, Visa.

Call: (818) 879-5083.

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Location: 3157 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa.

Call: (818) 249-4222.

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Location: 26837 Bouquet Canyon Road, Santa Clarita.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Cards: MasterCard, Visa.

Call: (805) 297-3579.

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Also: Some other locations: Culver City, Monrovia, Newbury Park, Santa Barbara, Sierra Madre, Ventura.

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