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Fit is a Financial Issue Too (Guest Post)


I’ve been trying to be mindful of my evolving privilege this year as my beloved and I enjoy a second year of both of us having full time employment. One thing that struck me over the past year is the privilege of pursuing my fitness goals is directly tied to how much money we make.

One example is registering in the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon. Great event, registration opens January 1 at 10am EST. You need a credit card to register and I think I remember it being $140 or so. Not a bad price but also smack dab in the middle of holiday spending. There’s the gas and access to a car to get to Kincardine and hotel stay not to mention wetsuit rentals and perhaps some gear purchases. I think my trip this past year cost me $600. That was registration, hotel & gas split with a friend, dinner the night before and lunch after plus I got a XXL trisuit for $90 and XXL cycling shorts for $40. STEAL of a deal in my size but WOW. That was all from 1 event within driving distance.

I look at my bicycle that I now know I must replace, the frame is bent. I got it on kijiji for $150 and it took grip tape, tires, tubes, a pump, spare tube, a wrench, a tire wrench, water-bottle and holder to be able to go on a 20km ride. That’s $150 just to be road worthy. As the temperature dropped I bought a pair of $20 light tights to go over my shorts, $120 for a fitted fleece jacket, $10 for gloves, $140 for a rain coat. Then there’s the rollers.We got them last year for Christmas for about $250. This fall we got a trainer, same price point. And I am doing lots of this on the cheap, especially the clothes for my top half, they aren’t cycling gear, they are multipurpose and I wear them even to work.

I got to thinking about the logistical tail of a gym membership to swim $40 a month. Goggles, a training suit every 6 months or so, running shoes, a really good bra. I can hear the old school till cha-chinging away. I’m not resentful, I’m thankful I can do this but there come a point when you realize that no one living in poverty could swing this. So no one on minimum wage could invest like this in their fitness and lots of women support themselves and their kids on minimum wage.

From “Poverty is making us sick:a comprehensive survey of health and income in Canada”

Prof. Lightman and his research colleagues Andrew Mitchell and Beth Wilson,
found that the poorest one fifth of Canadians, when compared to the richest twenty
percent, have:
•more than double the rate of diabetes and heart disease;
•a sixty percent greater rate of two or
more chronic health conditions;
•more than three times the rate of bronchitis;
•nearly double the rate of arthritis or rheumatism
The poorest fifth of our population face a staggering 358% higher rate of disability
compared to the richest fifth. The poor experience major health inequality in many
other areas, including 128% more mental and behavioural disorders; 95% more
ulcers; 63% more chronic conditions; and 33% more circulatory conditions
It’s not just the gear, it’s having the time to exercise and the network of support I get because I work a 35 hour work week. I know lots of women working 2 or more jobs, no time for working out.
It’s the food too though. I get local, organic, in season produce for $45/week. That same poverty report said that a healthy diet costs 20% more than the cheapest diet. The cheapest diet is 2 L of pop for $0.99 instead of $1/L for dairy or soy milk. It’s instant noodles with powdered flavour 3 for $0.99 because it goes further than the other options. So I can afford low sodium, high fibre, low fat options. I have time to pre-soak and batch cook beans because I don’t spend all my time in paid work.
The feminisation of poverty means that when we think about fit as a feminist issue we have to look at the financial bit too. I’m lucky I can make my health and fitness goals, it’s so much more than body image, motivation, and time.

11 thoughts on “Fit is a Financial Issue Too (Guest Post)

  1. This is such a good post and something that I’ve really been thinking about lately in the context of my own privilege. I’m thinking about next race season and it’s going to be expensive for me to do the races I want to do — not just to register, though there’s that too, but for gear, hotels, transportation. Also, I was at a talk last night about dressing for winter running and, you guessed it, the best gear costs lots of money.

    When you write about food availability and cost it just compounds the issues. It is so difficult to do the recommended things re. diet and physical activity unless you have the funds. And economically depressed areas are also likely to be food deserts, where fresh fruit and veggies just aren’t readily available even if people could afford them. These are pressing social-political-structural issues. Thank you for writing about this.

  2. Thanks Nat. Great post. I’ve been thinking about this lately in the context of injury and recovery. I have benefits that cover massage therapy and physio. Not to mention a work schedule that lets me attend both.

  3. This is always on my mind with physical activity for disabled folks….especially sports. I really want to be able to accomplish my goal of doing a marathon, but post-spine fracture I can barely walk unaided so I would need a racing wheelchair or handbike….but the prices of those start around $3k, making it prohibitively expensive and leaving people to trying to crowdfund or beg for charity grants (that usually require current documentation from a doctor that is a specialist in your condition, so the assumption of health insurance plus proper health care). I still compare that price to how much I bought my Specialized Dolce Vita tri bike (less than $1k)…it’s huge and depressing.

    1. That is prohibitive! Accessing financial aid can feel so belittling. I wish we just all agreed to jointly subsidize all assistive devices because we recognize that’s important.

  4. I should do a blog post on this one day. I actually think growing poor for me, kept me healthier for longer!!! Several things here of my personal experience raised by Chinese immigrant parents in Canada in a poor family of 6 children. I am the eldest :

    *We grew up in a 1 bedroom in Ontario during lst 11 yrs. of my life. Yes, we probably broke the fire code. What could my parents do? My father was a restaurant cook his whole life. My mother a full-time housewife.

    *We grew up in walkable, cycleable neighbourhoods, We lived 10 min. walk from downtown Waterloo and close to transit. My father bought first family car when I was 14 yrs. old.

    So playing outside, walking a lot (for shopping to help mother carry groceries) and taking transit with her…. There were 2 bikes for 6 children that we shared.

    In terms of physical fitness, I have been unemployed 3 times in my working life so far. Last time for 18 months in my late 40’s. So everyday I cycled for 2 hrs. as exercise. A bike does cost money but big cities usually have a co-op bike organization that refurbishes used bikes and sell for a super low price.

    I have never entered any fitness competition. I have been in about 4 major mega-large group bike rides for entrance fees no more than $50.00 each time or a lot less. This is in ….past 24 yrs.

    Otherwise, I just cycle as part of my lifestyle with no car at all. I adequately fit for my age but know a lot of women readers here would be better than I.

    For adults, I truly believe it still IS possible to become fit without spending much money at all: it’s choices of walking, running, hiking, transit or if you have a bike already, cycling. Then going to the library to check out yoga, tai chi dvds, books, etc. It does help to take 1-2 exercise classes to learn some movement/positions safely.

    And then practice it on your own. It helps to have occasional running or cycling friend for motivation.

    I cannot even begin to express how possible it is also with diet when one is poor. My mother who didn’t finish high school has given us a long lasting gift: her healthy Asian cooking. Because we were poor, my parents didn’t want to waste their money on unhealthy junk: pop, chips….etc. They saw it as opposite: junk food was for the richer, privileged! It begins with parent(s) making conscious choices of foods they buy for their family and consistency of how to prepare it. I know it’s tough on parents to get children to eat healthy ….but it is the best, long-lasting gift a parent could give to a child: healthy diet leads to healthier adult.

    The 2 areas that complicate this: cost of organized sport for children. This is why families should choose to live in walkable, cycleable neighbourhoods with a park. How else will the children will get exercise for free? Also not live in a food desert area of city….that is far from grocery stores.

    Again, we really need to choose more intelligently where we live, so we can keep healthy and safe lifestyle –even when we are poor.

    It is possible…because I have lived such a life. Yes, I do now live a privileged life now as a university educated, middle class professional.

    By the way, does this blog ever feature a lot more women guest writers of colour? Hope this changes..

    1. Jean you bring up great points about fitness & nutrition.
      Sam & Tracy are always on the lookout for guest bloggers, have you been one?

  5. Hi Natalieh:

    Yes, I’ve been a guest blogger here:

    You also live in southwestern Ontario? Western Ontario was my alma mater….several decades ago. My life is Canadian and hence, relatable to this English-speaking forum. However there are times compared to the backgrounds of many guest writers here, I feel as if I come from another planet…

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