Remember when those lined running shorts first came out and they were all the rage? Too many of us, myself included, gladly shelled out $30 a pair just to sport the trendy athleisure of the moment. Never mind the fact that I didn’t need them as I ran nowhere ever.

The five pair I’ve since collected now rest comfortably on my closet top shelf, installed at a most impractical height and reserved for the clothing choices I wish I could take back.

Pivoting away from pointless “exercise” clothes, what I buy now must meet these criteria:

  1. Practical
  2. Breathable
  3. Affordable

Practical. Ever done a pulse squat in stiff shorts? Breathable. Mesh and ventilation over “wicking” all day long. Affordable. My body composition is still changing, and this month’s perfect fit becomes next month’s thredUP pile.

Unlike the tops and crops I bought before – gym clothes that in reality functioned as grocery/errand wear – what I buy now must actually perform.

Multiple training sessions and washes per week. And I should get my money’s worth when what once fit becomes roomy (thank you, lean muscle!)

Old Navy is a favorite, thanks to their sales (if you’re paying more than $8 for one of their mesh tanks, we should talk). But my figure was changing faster than they turned their inventory, and who wants seven of the same style shirt?

Enter Ross Dress for Less.

My first haul included watercolor print Jessica Simpson crops (a break from boring black!), Tommy Hilfiger compression crops in a grown up star print, and sports bras that do their job. (A word of caution: if you happen to accidentally throw in a discount quality, let’s say hot pink, sports bra with your one and only high quality sheet set, just tell your husband it’s the latest decorating trend and y’all are way ahead of the curve.)

I’ve since sized down, and after hiking up my pants the better part of last class, figured another trip to Ross was in order.

So I bought this:

Velocity Sports Bra – $7.99 ($39.99 retail)

EVCR Tank -$8.99

Under Armour crops – $19.99 ($59.99 retail)

Whatever my right size turns out to be, I’m a no go on the investment pieces for now. In the meantime, cover to cover admiring the Athleta catalog costs me nothing.

And I’ll get there soon enough.