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GADGETS MAKE EXERCISE ROUTINES ANYTHING BUT ROUTINE

If the flesh is willing but the spirit is bored stiff after five minutes on an exercise machine, try engaging in a bit of cardio-fun while you stomp stairs or pump pedals.

Here's a sampling of what's available:- Computer Athlete, an adapter kit that comes with five interactive games, lets you hook your home exercise equipment to a PC and compete against skiers, rowers or bikers on one of five virtual landscapes.

You enter your age, weight, physical condition and sex to calculate how many calories you'll burn, then choose your competitors - rowers on the Nile or perhaps a moon-walking robot.

After you've worked out for five to 30 minutes, a graph shows how many calories you've burned and gives a score.

List price for the adapter kit is about $150. For $350, you can buy a recumbent bike already equipped to hook up to a PC. Both require an IBM-compatible PC with at least 640K RAM and are available from CSA (800-272-0136).

- NordicQuest weds cross-country skiers to video games. You attach special grips to your NordicTrack or NordicSport skier and use them to control video action while you set the pace through your level of exercise.

All Super Nintendo or 16-bit Sega Genesis games work with the system.

The system costs about $100 at NordicTrack retail outlets (or call 800-445-2606).

- Cardio Theater, for those who prefer their "exertainment" away from home, is available in about 300 athletic clubs.

The system wires workouts to televisions, compact disc players, videocassette recorders and tape decks. Multiple TV screens mounted overhead let you graze among "Oprah," MTV and the Beav, or step to an instructional videotape. A control box attached to each exercise machine delivers audio via headphones.

For information on clubs that offer Cardio Theater, call (800) 227-3461.