The Connection Runners + workout

How to Snag Fitness Gear On The Cheap

Back in college, when I first starting running, my typical workout ensemble consisted of a pair of Soffee-brand cheerleading shorts, a ramshackle sports bra, a cotton A-line style tank top, and whatever "running" shoes I owned at the moment.

It was the College Girl's way of looking somewhat cute (because, of course, that is the most important aspect of getting your sweat on), but on a very limited budget.

Despite cotton's tendency to soak up rather than wick away that hard-earned fashionable sweat, I got by running in gear like that because I had to and I loved to. In fact, I still own pieces of one of those very outfits:

However, once I got somewhat serious about running, and after I experienced running my first half-marathon in a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt (ugh!), it was time to buck up (pun!) and plunk down some cash for quality gear.

Yet College Girl still lives in within me: I can't stand to pay ridiculous amounts of money for clothes that I'll inevitably (and much less fashionably) sweat my brains out in. Here's how I managed to amass a large array of great gear and rarely spending full-price on any given item.

1. Covet the name brands and styles you love, but hold off on purchasing them. This is probably my number one rule in shopping, whether I'm hunting for running threads, furniture, shoes. It's hard to hold off buying those $58 lululemon tanks (I know, I nearly had a momentary lapse of judgment last week over one) and brand new $110 Asics Kayanos. But when faced with a decision like that, I think of two things: 1) I'm just going to sweat in it, and 2) It just might go on sale at some point.

2. Wait patiently. Sales do happen, as do clearance racks and new models. Now's the time to scoop up the goods. Kevin and I considered buying Garmin watches for years, but never wanted to spend several hundred dollars for each of us to own one. So we waited. Eventually, Garmin released new models, thereby allowing the price on the much-coveted 305 to drop to $130, and we picked up two of them then.

3. Shop discount/overstock stores and outlets. Probably half of my running wardrobe has come from a combination of Marshall's/TJ Maxx and the Nike outlet store. The quality of items is just as good as it would be from any other place, and you can save a ton of cash. For instance, I purchased a pair of full-length tights from the Nike outlet last year; full-length tights can cost anywhere from $60 - $100+ a pair. My outlet tights were $40 plus 20% off. $32 total.

Marshall's and TJ Maxx, for me, have been great places to pick up sports bras (for $10-15) and technical shirts ($12-20). I found a New Balance long-sleeved tech shirt there for $12.99.

4. Buy items you need in the offseason/end of the season. Two years ago, Kevin and I pined over a few road bikes at our local bike shop for a few months, debating whether or not to make the leap from mountain to road. Finally, in October, as the cycling season wound down, the shop held a 25%-off sale for all 2009 models. My $1,000 Trek 1.5 suddenly dropped to $750, and Kevin scored a Giant Defy 1 for around $1,100.

Since then, I've picked up clip-in cycling shoes and pedals at REI for cheap, too. REI members get 20% off coupons a few times a year, so those came in handy when I needed that gear.

5. Become an online-shopping Coupon and Sales Rack Queen. Before checking out of any online site, I always do a quick Google search for coupons (ex: "Nike store coupon codes" or "Running Warehouse free shipping code"). Usually, I get lucky and find something that will save me a few bucks.

Additionally, I always search the online sale and clearance items first, especially if I'm looking to buy a few off-season or end-of-season items (like in #4).

Some favorite online fitness gear retailers:

  • REI Outlet
  • Online Nike Store Clearance
  • Running Warehouse
6. Once in a while, treat yourself. I don't know how I'd get by in life without a good treat every single day every so often. Remember those goods you were coveting in Tip #1? Save up your bucks, and when the time's right (after a great PR, a new distance, or a long, sweaty running season), head out and buy an item you've been hankering for.

One of my favorite pieces of gear is my 2009 Detroit Marathon jacket. I shelled out $100 for the thing, but it was my reward for completing my first-ever marathon. I ran too many miles and sweated away too many hours of my life that summer to not buy something completely awesome after I was done.

Plus, it went great with my finisher's medal:

How do you save money when it comes to buying fitness gear?

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How to Snag Fitness Gear On The Cheap + workout