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March 23, 2016 3 min read

Finding time to work out is tough enough. Add in the minutes and motivation it takes to actually get to the gym, not to mention all that can throw you off course (ahem, DVR that needs watching) and it's no surprise people throw away thousands in underutilized gym membership fees.

Why not let the workout come to you? Check out these essential tips for buying a treadmill, elliptical or other cardio equipment you'll not only use, but love.

Make room and measure
Here's what to avoid: You choose the perfect machine, it arrives and you realize the only place it fits is a dark corner in the basement. So before anything, think about where it should go, says Lori Verta, a personal trainer in Chicago and co-owner of The Green Gourmet. Pick a place you'll be inspired by -- a sunny spare room, a rec room equipped with a sound system or TV -- then take measurements and work with a salesperson so you find a machine that fits.

Explore your budget and get creative
Yes, high-quality fitness machines carry hefty price tags, but the old "you get what you pay for" adage holds true — and this isn't a time to skimp. "People often make the mistake of thinking only of expenditure. However, it's important to think long-term," says Ashley Pettit, a personal trainer in Chicago. What's more, "investing in a (pricier) commercial version has major benefits when it comes to maintenance and longevity if you plan to put in a lot of mileage."

In other words, wouldn't you rather pay more for a machine you're excited to use (and keep using) than less for one that quickly turns into a clothes rack? Luckily, cost doesn't have to deter you. Look for discounted floor models or ask about refurbished machines. Many stores also offer financing.

Think like a goal-getter
"Pick three of the most important things that get you motivated and to your goals -- that's what to look for first," Pettit says. For example, if music drives you, prioritize a machine with a console that provides full audio control. Tech-obsessed? Look for those that sync with heart rate monitors or one with a color touch screen that provides workout feedback, such as the Precor Series 40 Console.

If you get bored easily or need coaching, many machines feature pre-programmed workouts and the capability to create your own. "It's always fantastic to have an outlet that provides new ways to challenge yourself, vary your workouts and move toward different goals in the form of pre-planned workouts," Pettit says. Some models even suggest workouts based on your goals and progress, while responsive and intuitive lever-style controls make it easy to mix up speed and resistance on the fly.

Goals matter when choosing the type of machine, too. For examples, if you're time-crunched, a rowing machine provides a total-body workout. (And how cool -- and sweaty -- does Frank Underwood on "House of Cards" look using the sleek WaterRower wooden rowing machine?)

Prioritize comfort and safety
"A machine that keeps injury risk low is key," Pettit says. Because no matter how many bells and whistles a device has, if you get hurt, it's clothes rack time for your toy. So, with a treadmill, you want good cushioning for less impact. Or, if you have knee problems, you might consider something other than a treadmill altogether. (WaterRower, anyone?)

Take a test drive (or several)
You wouldn't buy a car without experiencing how it handles on the road, right? Reputable fitness stores set up floor models you can take for a (stationary) spin. No one will think it odd if you show up in workout clothes with your iPod. (Just remember, it's BYO water bottle.) You can also try out different machines at a gym. In many cases, you can buy the same or nearly identical versions.

Keep an open mind
Even if you've decided on one type of machine, try out other types at the dealer. You might fall in love with something new and exciting. Case in point: The Helix Lateral Trainer, an entirely new and fun category of cardio machine. Picture a mix between an elliptical and bike, with a twist -- you "pedal" side to side rather than forward/back.

Ask about return policies and warranties
Dealers and manufacturers want you to be happy, so get details about a machine's return policy and warranty. Find out its expected lifespan, what maintenance and repairs are covered and whom to call if something goes wrong. That way, you'll stay up and running ... or cycling, rowing and, best of all, reaching your goals.

Amy Lynch for Precor Home Fitness


This sponsored content was produced by Tribune Content Solutions on behalf of Precor Home Fitness. The newsroom or editorial department of Tribune Publishing was not involved in its production.

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