Out With the Old: What to Do With Used Fitness Gear


Yes, there are a bunch of perks to living in an apartment in the city (i.e. being walking distance to Portland’s delicacies). But there’s one major drawback that makes me dread the change of seasons: the closet turnover.

We have all of three (no, that’s not a typo) small closets in our apartment, so now that the weather’s turning I know I’ll be making the trek down to our storage unit to swap sundresses and shorts for sweaters and boots. It’s also a time when I re-evaluate the massive amounts of fitness gear I’ve accumulated over the previous months.

I make it a rule to try to get rid of any items that are worn out, ill-fitting or simply not bringing me joy. But rather than just toss ’em in the trash, there are some great alternatives that allow me to do some good while lightening my load.

Here are some of my favorite ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and put some of that neglected stuff to good use once and for all.

Running Shoes

Reduce: There are a number of organizations that will take used running shoes and distribute them to deserving groups throughout the world. Runner’s World has compiled a fantastic list here, so you can choose who you’d like to support when you donate your shoes to the less fortunate.

Reuse: Just because you’ve retired your kicks from running doesn’t mean they’re destined for the landfill. I cycle old sneakers from running to walking, which doesn’t require as much support, and when they’ve hit their limit on the roads I’ll keep them on hand for yard work.

Recycle: Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program grinds your old running shoes into material that makes athletics and playground surfaces (existing surfaces made with Nike Grind cover about 632,000,000 square feet!). Check the site for store locations that accept donations.

Workout Clothing

Reduce: Meet up with friends and do a clothing swap instead of buying a new fitness wardrobe every season. Any remaining new or gently used items can be donated to your local Goodwill or Clothes 4 Souls to provide functional clothing to people in need and create jobs in disadvantaged communities.

Reuse: A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of ways to upcycle old workout clothing. All you need is a little time, creativity and direction (check Pinterest or articles like this for inspiration), and you’ll be able to breathe new life into pieces that aren’t worthy of the donation bin.

Recycle: Some major retailers, such as Patagonia (Nike and H&M, as well), offer recycling programs for their entire product line when items finally reach the end of their useful lives and can no longer be repaired. There are also helpful websites that will help point you to your nearest recycling center.

Fitness Equipment

Reduce: Do some good through Sports Gift, a nonprofit that redistributes gear to more than 40,000 underprivileged children worldwide each year. Or go local by donating equipment to a recreation center or community program, such as the YMCA or Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Wanna score some cash instead? Try selling your gear to a secondhand fitness equipment company, such as Play it Again Sports or via Craigslist.

Reuse: If you have a long-forgotten treadmill or elliptical taking up space in your home, contact Fitness 4 Charity, which will connect you with groups who will make good use of it but can’t afford to buy it. You may also want to check in with friends and neighbors to if anyone’s building a home gym and is on the lookout for a particular piece.

Recycle: Past the point of no return? A professional salvager will be take apart your machine, retrieve all the useful metals and sell it to a metal recycler. Google “metal salvage” for a local spot or call 1-800-Got-Junk, a national junk hauling chain which does charge a fee for pickup but also promises to recycle as much as possible

What do you do with your old workout gear? 

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