Splurge or save?

Seeing as it’s Thursday and all, I thought I’d take a break from ranting about lululemon and spend a bit of time on something that has popped up more than a couple times in the comments on my past two posts.  And what, you ask, might that be?  Why, the cost of workout apparel, of course!

Now, I confess that I am a total bargain hunter when it comes to my workout clothes.  I’ll splurge on some key items, but for the most part I try to spend as little as I can without sacrificing quality.  One reason for this is the fact that I just don’t have that much money to spend.  Another is the fact that even though Zoe wrote this, I could easily have said it about myself:

somehow, part of me just can’t justify spending fifty dollars on a shirt i’m going to run in or seventy five on a pair of stretchy yoga pants…i’m pretty happy with my target running shorts and old t-shirts.

Yeah, same here.  So happy, in fact, that some of my workout gear dates back to my high school days.  I’m 29 now.  I’ll let you do the math.  I have one sports bra that I’m pretty sure I got when I was fifteen.  My bra size hasn’t really changed since then, so I just never stopped wearing it.  And it shows.

Observe the frayed edges and holes.  Admittedly, my other sports bras are in better shape (even the ones that are over ten years old, and there are more than a couple of those).  I even have three that are only about two or three years old.  They’re from Target, they cost $17, and they’re great.  The thing is, though, that it doesn’t take much to keep my breasts from going anywhere when I’m running.  They’re pretty small.  Are these bras great for women who are more endowed than I am?  Unfortunately, I can’t say.

When I buy shirts to run in, I’m also pretty likely to go to Target.  Sometimes the material isn’t the softest, but I sweat so much that everything eventually ends up feeling the same (that is to say: wet) to me anyway.  Long sleeved pull-overs I buy on sale through Running Warehouse (which I LOVE).  I’ll spend time drooling over the stuff that’s high tech and pricey (and probably worth it in a lot of cases) but I always end up buying whatever’s cheapest.  Brooks is one of my favorite brands because their stuff is high quality but not quite a high-priced as comparable items from other labels.  The running tights I own are the cheapest ones I could find with key pockets in them, and I work pretty hard to find shorts on sale.  The exception to this is the time I bought a pair of CW-X tights, and a pair of capris.  I still have the tights (and I like them a lot), but I had to part with the capris (which I liked even more) when they started splitting in the inner thigh.  As much as I loved those capris, I regretted paying so much for them as I handed them off to my younger sister (whose thighs are decidedly slimmer than mine).

Returning to our sheep, which is to say getting back to lululemon, one pretty consistent comment about their apparel was that it was expensive (some commenters were as put off and intimidated by this as I am, others just accept it as fact).  For those who own lululemon apparel, though, the price tag is worth it.  As Kimski noted,

I’ve been wearing lululemon products for many years (they originated here in Canada). I now own probably 5 lulu products, (2 of which has lasted me about 8 years of dancing and now running) and I wore one of their hoodies and reversible yoga pants for the majority of 4 months of traveling overseas, so I can’t argue with their quality. The price is hefty, but worth the investment in my mind.

And Sonia shared a similar sentiment: “I own several lulu pieces of clothing and I consider every single one of them either a great investment or an awesome present.”  I have to say, 2 pieces of clothing lasting through 8 years of wear and tear in the form of dancing and running is pretty impressive, especially in today’s market where most clothing companies make things that seem like they should be disposable.  Let’s say that tomorrow you could pay $88 for a pair of groove pants, and still be wearing them 8 years from now.  They’ve only cost you $11 a year, which is pretty negligible in the long run.  Will you buy them?

Maybe it seems like a no-brainer to some people, but I can’t help but think of my 14-year-old sports bra.  And hesitate.  Sure, it looks like crap, but it still does what it’s supposed to.  So technically, it’s been one hell of an investment.  Splurge or save?  My jury’s still out.

When it comes to your fitness apparel, do you splurge or save?  Are there items you save on, and others you splurge on?  What’s the cheapest item you have?  The most expensive?




  1. I’m the middle ground. I’m well endowed and so I have the Lululemon Tata Tamer for the last 2 years. It has been a God send and I want another since I wash it at least twice a week.

    Other things I get at TJ Maxx or Marshalls when they are last season’s model but just as functional or the outlets.

    The one thing I won’t compromise on is shoes. My back surgery means I need the best shoes for my gait and will pay a pretty penny for them and my love of running.

  2. Well, first of all, I have to say that your 14-year old apparel isn’t in such bad shape. It is still holding together despite a few frayed edges and that isn’t so bad. I have been buying my latest fitness and running apparel at Target and for the most part I have been quite pleased with what I have purchased. In fact, I think I bought some of these items on a trip with you a couple of years ago. They are all Champion brand items. They have held up well enough, and a couple of items I have had to replenish only because I needed pants with longer legs or shirts with longer sleeves, etc., due to change in weather conditions or whatever. Running shoes, however, I actually do a bit of research on and purchase somewhere else. Hope this helps somewhat!

  3. Sports bras definitely not a save item for me, being quite a larger bra size. Shoes are also important, but I generally keep them for a fairly long time. Everything else can be cheap! Although I’ve got some great yoga pants from Athleta that I love.

  4. Ooo, economics!

    I think you may be using the wrong metric here. You focus on cost/year, but you’re buying apparel for a specific activity. You should probably actually end up looking at cost/session rather than cost/time. You’ve got to factor in the rate of use.

    When you take that into consideration, you might view the “weight” of some things differently. If you’re wearing your groove pants (when did you get into disco, anyway?) twice a week, they’re not $11/year, they’re about 11 cents per workout. If you run 3 times a week and buy new shoes once a year, they’re not $120, they’re about $.77 per run.

    Hope that helps with perspective!

  5. Ooh quoted, that gave me a warm fuzzie =) I’d like to add to my lulu comment a little bit. I am also a mix when it comes to my overall workout clothes. I love my lulu items because they are core in my workout wardrobe eg. pants, sports bras etc. and I wear at least one item every time I workout (they stand up to the washings too!). I also have a mass of cheap/ hand-me-down tee shirts that I wear on rotation.

    I have 3 sets of bottoms (5 if you count shorts, but hey, it’s winter) and probably 12 shirts. So I feel like I can justify the quality vs. quantity.

    I totally agree with ‘It All Changes’ though, shoes are not a compromise. A messed up spine is not worth a bargain or style points.

  6. I’m like you — it’s CRAZY how old my sports bras are. And I’m a size that can get away with it. And, I use old (very, very old) t-shirts to run in and work out in. It’s not something I put money into.

    I agree with Cynthia, though — no bargain shoes for me. My knees are too cranky. I buy good shoes, and I replace them often!

  7. It’s like your in my head! (Hi, I’m new, love the blog!)

    I definitely drool over Lululemon products (the pants, they look so comfy and do nice things to my bum!), but I just can’t justify spending that kind of money on something I hope to sweat profusely in.

    However, I will say that I notice a huge difference in my workout when I wear the few nice pieces of workout gear I own. I feel better about how I look, and actually notice that I’ll run farther, push more for weights, stay on the bike that extra mile. Maybe I’m just vain 🙂

  8. It’s funny that you used sports bras as your example because I feel like bras and shoes are my real splurge areas. I have, uh, high containment needs up top, and my feet take the most wear. I do adore a good tech tee, but know I can work out just as well in one of my leftover college shirts.

  9. I’m totally cheap when it comes to … well, anything! And that includes workout clothes. I HATE how much sportsbras cost! It seems ridiculous to me! But since my weight has fluctuated so much in the past, I seem to constantly need a different size/level of support.

    Now I’ll admit that I am a little curious to see if I bought an insanely expensive sportsbra – would I be able to use it for longer? Would the quality be worth it? Not sure. But at this point, my budget just can’t take a splurge.

    (I love your blog, btw!! I’m terrible at commenting though, so this is my first.)

  10. umm i wear things until they are completely unwearable. i have sports bras from high school too (i’m 26) as well as some running tights that my mom’s dog ate part of (but i just wear shorts over them to keep the hole covered, lol)

    i could buy new things, but my hangup is on getting rid of “perfectly good” clothes… so i just end up not buying new ones.

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