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How Spending Less on Activewear Changed the Way I Exercise

I Changed the Way I Buy Activewear — and Sometimes I’m Happier Without the New Outfit


My quest for the perfect black workout leggings is never-ending — simply because I don't want it to end. Shopping for activewear is my weakness, much to the dismay of my wallet. If I step into a Target, it takes an element of willpower not to walk out with a new sweatshirt: "But this one is so much different than my others," I inevitably say.

My justification for buying so many strappy sports bras, lightweight racerback tanks, and bike shorts? Since I love working out so much — from going to the gym for a lift to attending studio cycling and hot yoga classes — I would definitely wear every single item I purchased, even if I didn't do the proper shopping research before clicking buy. The truth? A good 50 percent of my stock never made it into regular rotation.

When gyms and workout studios closed in March, my habit didn't quit — since I never really changed out of lounge clothes for the first few weeks, I figured I had a "valid" excuse for why I needed to own another pair of joggers. But our new normal brought along a lot of introspective thinking on my part, especially when it came to my relationship with fitness — and fitness shopping.

Over time, exclusively exercising in my living room helped me to realise that I wasn't listening to my body when I was in a studio workout class — my fear of failing at a move, in front of others, often pushed me to the brink of injuries.

But this unnecessary and unhelpful act of comparison also probably had something to do with my desire for new gear. Sure, sometimes I just absolutely loved someone's workout outfit at the gym and was inspired to put together a similar look — and I'm totally cool with that! But other times, I think — deep down — I felt the need to keep up with the Joneses or appear a certain way, and that's what really influenced some random purchases.

I do believe that cute workout gear can bring motivational power to get moving, but I didn't like how much I was living off of and relying on the temporary delight that shopping brings to soothe stress and anxiety; the short-lasting excitement and happiness that a new, shiny object brings. The result felt wasteful — a drawer filled with twice-worn items that didn't bring me any joy.

When I came to this conclusion, I stopped shopping for gear unless I truly needed it — for example, when I hit that 400-mile mark on my running shoes, and jogs came along with a side of knee pain, picking up new sneakers got a pass. I decided I was OK with treating myself now and then, but what I added to my cart had to be a much more thoughtful, well-researched process.

Working out in the comfort of my own home and spending time evaluating my actions, insecurities, and feelings helped me move past caring about how my outfit looked to others — which seems so silly now — and it also got me on track to living a less materialistic lifestyle.

What's funny is that I've never felt better working out, or more connected to my body. I throw on my favourite pair of basketball shorts I've had since high school, my favourite comfy sports bra, and a pair of sneakers, and put my full focus on the physical task at hand and on listening to my body's every signal.

I've learned that endorphins could care less if you own that trending top — and happiness doesn't always live inside a shopping bag.

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