Here's When You Should Really Replace Your Workout Clothes

After shelling out a pretty penny for that perfect pair of running tights or finally pulling the trigger on the sports bra of your dreams, it can be tempting to hang on to your beloved workout clothes for eons. But nothing good lasts forever — and, yes, that includes that seriously stunning racerback tank that gets you so many compliments at the gym. 

Despite being made of materials that can withstand the wear and tear that comes with intense workouts, fitness apparel does eventually reach a point when it needs to be benched, according to Women's Health. Different items have different shelf lives — or closet lives, if you catch our drift. If you're starting to wonder if your favorite pieces are ready for retirement or are at least nearing retirement age, here's exactly how to tell. Plus, some tips on how to keep your athleisure looking (and smelling!) better for longer. 

Sports bras

Even higher-end sports bras only last for about six months to a year, according to Shape. Exactly how long your sports bras will last depends on a few factors, including how often you wear them and how intensely you work out in them. If you find yourself coming back to the same favorite bra multiple times a week, you're probably going to want to replace that bad boy in about six months' time. When you find yourself experiencing more bounce in the chest than you're used to, the bra is likely worn out (via Women's Health). 

If you want to get a bit more wear out of your beloved bras, follow these guidelines that Cassandra Sze, innovation designer for Lululemon apparel, shared with Shape: "For bras that come with hooks, it is best to put the hooks on the loosest setting when you first wear it, as this will allow you to tighten it as the bra begins to stretch out." She further recommended "[choosing] a detergent that does not contain fabric softener, as this will prevent the fabric from wicking away sweat properly."

Exercise tops

As for tops that you wear while running or hitting the gym, they can last practically forever, Cosmopolitan reported. They don't serve the same supportive purpose as other items in your active wardrobe, so they don't tend to wear out as quickly. They are more geared towards comfort and temperature control, so there isn't usually that element of elastic that impacts how long they last. Of course, once you notice smells that won't wash out or staining, you will likely want to swap your shirts out for newer ones. 

If you're looking to buy activewear tops that will last well beyond when you set your New Year's resolution to get fit, consider purchasing shirts in darker colors that are made with sturdy fabrics, Cosmo advised. The same goes for layering options, such as athleisure sweatshirts and sweatpants that you take off once you make it to the gym.

Running tights, leggings, and shorts

Athletic pants and shorts made of spandex tend to wear out rather quickly due to their elasticity. Like sports bras, they usually wear out around the six-month to one-year mark (via Cosmopolitan). Also like sports bras, the frequency and intensity of wear will determine if they make it through the full marathon. If you own and use a larger number of athletic bottoms, you will probably be able to keep your favorite pieces in the rotation longer. But if you pull out that one pair of Fabletics joggers every time you hit the trail, they will probably begin to feel a bit baggy before too long. 

However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't wear spandex. To get the most out of your leggings and shorts, experts recommend pieces that are made of spandex and nylon rather than cotton (via Cosmopolitan). The cotton will stretch out without bouncing back, whereas a simple washing should bring your spandex new life, at least for a time. 

In general, it's a good rule of thumb to replace any and all of your gym clothes as they lose their shape and support or accumulate more than their fair share of stains and smells. You want your athletic attire to make you feel confident and strong, not baggy and smelly. Get the most out of your clothes, of course, but don't hesitate to replace them when the time inevitably comes.