It might lack the romance of hunting for vintage treasures but the fitness section of your local thrift store is not to be missed. Whether it’s because we underestimate our actual dedication to a new sport or the physical changes that often come with a new workout regime, secondhand fitness clothing tends to be in excellent condition because people discard them with high frequency. With “athleisure” now firmly part of a modern closet, sports companies are also designing more and more lines for everyday wear and fitness alike, which means you have a better chance of finding high-end fitness gear now than even just 5 years ago.
But there’s more to thrifting active wear than merely finding fancy workout clothes. No matter which way we turn, the message is resolutely that exercise is a necessary component of a healthy life. Whether it’s running, tennis, weight-lifting or the fitness crazes behind the latest Instagram stars, fitness has become a bonafide cultural phenomenon. It’s easy to forget that getting outfitted for a new sport or exercise program can be prohibitively expensive. Even though runners often proudly proclaim that their sport only needs “a pair of shoes,” running gear can easily start adding up. Factor in the four seasons of Minnesota and suddenly you need tops, bottoms and jackets for every possible kind of weather. Even a basic resistance and cardio program at the YMCA needs at least a few different shirts and bottoms to get through a week of exercise. In short, the imperative to exercise often ignores income disparities that prevent many people from being able to change their health through fitness.
Indeed, part of the reason I thrift my fitness clothing is because I simply can’t afford to buy them full price. Considering that I play tennis, weight-lift and run, my fitness needs quickly eats away at my bank account. But because I always make a point of checking the active wear section every time I visit Arc’s Value Village, my fitness closet is full of Adidas, Puma, New Balance and Nike—all in excellent condition and all bought for under $10. At a recent trip to Arc’s in Bloomington, for example, I walked away with a bright New Balance tank top and a cozy Adidas sweater for the coming winter.
There’s still yet one more reason to thrift your fitness gear. After weathering a number of controversial scandals over their labor practices, Nike remains marred by the reputation of sweat-shop labor. While advances have been made in sustainable labor practices among the largest fitness corporations, many shoppers still feel hesitant to purchase products from companies that lack transparency in their production processes. Purchasing secondhand fitness clothing is one way to speak up for fair labor practices with your dollar. Clothing also amounts for over 11 million tons of waste every year (82 pounds person), a good chunk of which no doubt comes from the high volume of “fast” fitness clothing.
But regardless of your reasons, the active wear section should always be on your thrift list. While some people might eschew secondhand fitness clothing for the association of sweat and dirt, rest assured that everything I’ve ever thrifted from Arc’s Value Village has been in near-new condition. Most reputable second-stores never put bad clothing out on the floor so you can also be sure that Arc’s has already chosen the best for the rack. But with all second-hand clothing, be sure to look for rips, holes, stains or fading. While shirts, jackets and pants are relatively easy to find, specialty bras and specialty shoes are best purchased brand-new (improper footwear can lead to injury). But once you know the style and size that you wear, however, do keep an eye out for new footwear. I’ve seen many near-new high-end running shoes hiding in the Arc’s shoe department. And by purchasing the majority of your fitness clothing secondhand, it makes it less cost prohibitive to spend the bulk of your dollars on proper footwear or specialty sports bras. There’s also plenty of yoga mats, weights and other fitness equipment hiding in the sports section so there’s no time like the present to start outfitting your home gym with finds from Arc’s Value Village.
Starting Fridays, I’ll be posting my fitness finds on my Instagram feed @this_is_six so be sure to follow along for more inspiration. Happy Thrifting!
Andrea from This is Six is a guest blogger and a regular thrifter on Instagram. Contact MollyKing@arcgreatertwincities.org if you are inspired to share your thrifting story through our blog!