Whether you're a student working to secure a scholarship or an amateur athlete preparing for competition, you require quality supplies and support for peak athletic performance. Often, the life of an athlete is one of sacrifice: You devote the time and resources necessary for training while your earning potential takes a backseat. So how do you afford the equipment, apparel and training you need without sinking into debt? If you are one of many aspiring athletes attempting to make ends meet, these tips can help get you what you need to reach your peak potential.
1. Shop Smarter
The most obvious tip is still the one too many athletes fail to follow. Don't fall into the trap of buying the most expensive, heavily marketed sports apparel and equipment when you can find equally effective products for half the price. Instead of waiting in line at Footlocker for the latest release, shop closeouts, clearance and deals both online and in stores. Sellers on Amazon often list under-the-radar styles that make a big impression with a smaller price tag, while sources like Sierra Trading Post and Overstock.com typically offer last season's sneakers at over 50 percent off.
2. Explore the Secondhand Market
There is something undeniably appealing about that just-out-of-the-box new shoe smell, but the reality is the used market for athletic apparel and equipment is literally flooded with fresh options to fill out your workout wardrobe or equip your home gym. From hitting neighborhood yard sales and local secondhand store to checking out Freecycle, a nonprofit movement devoted to connecting people interested in giving and getting free stuff in their local communities, a little thrift can go a long way. You can frequently find incredible deals on high-end products that people optimistically invested in but never got around to using.
3. Work at What You Love
If you can find a few hours a week to take on a part-time job with benefits, you can not only earn extra spending money, but, by landing the right job, you may also be able to access deep discounts on products and services where you work. Look for opportunities that match your specific needs, such as working in a local gym where you can use the facilities and benefit from expert instruction. This is not only a great strategy for saving, but a solid way to make new connections in the athletic community.
4. Be a Product Tester
Brands like Nike, Brooks and New Balance all have product-testing programs, which allow athletes to continually use free merchandise. If you are a long-distance runner or tennis player, you are always wearing out shoes, so filling out an application and getting registered can put you in top-quality gear to test year-round. Student-athletes are commonly accepted to participate in such programs, but they're responsible for complying with the rules of applicable governing bodies, such as the NCAA, in addition to following program guidelines requiring the return of products used in testing.
5. Train Other Athletes
Athletes can gain tremendous insight and inspiration by training other individuals. Not only can you potentially get paid, depending on your level of expertise, but you can also use your trainer status to qualify for a discounted gym membership. The NCAA and other amateur sports organizations permit student-athletes to provide private lessons for pay under specific conditions. All amateurs maintaining eligibility should consult their school athletic department and governing institutions to ensure they are in compliance.
6. Attend Camps
Most areas schedule free and low-cost sports camps throughout the year, offering opportunities to receive top-quality instruction and apparel. Besides testing your skills against other elite local athletes, you can use camps to capture the attention of scouts and college recruiters. In most cases, student-athletes are also permitted to work in camps and clinics to make extra money to support their sporting endeavors, but are instructed to check with coaches or a compliance office before accepting a position.
7. Start a Training Support Group
One way to combat the challenges you face as an amateur athlete is by seeking strength in numbers. By tapping into your network of friends and fellow local athletes and organizing via a social media group or online forum, you can create a collaborative community and pool resources in the hopes of creating an optimal training environment. Users can offer quality secondhand apparel, post information about free clinics, plan group training sessions, or request to borrow or share each other's equipment.
8. Use Public Facilities
If you think you need an expensive fitness club membership to get a complete workout, think again. Almost every community across the country has public exercise facilities, from outdoor cross-training paths to pools and gym equipment, and they're often easier to access than signing up for a library card. You might find thinner crowds, inspiring training partners, and better instruction and camaraderie than you would at fancy gyms.
In the struggle to meet your fitness goals, you need a mindset that lets nothing stand in your way. By cultivating a strong work ethic, accessing the resources available to you and exercising your creativity, you can discover that it's possible to have the best gear and training without busting your budget.
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