Silver spoons and the advantage of wealth, round 2: Training, time, and performance

Laser Master Championships 2013
Laser Master Championships 2013

When my partner Jeff was young he raced small sailboats, lasers, pretty competitively. But he never had a chance against some of his friends who made it all the way. Not for lack of talent. Instead, the dividing line was money. The wealthy kids had all the equipment, of course, but more than that they had time to train. There was no pressure to work and they could sail all summer.

Now that’s just part of the story but it was striking to watch those who never had to work make their way through university, keeping up in their sport along the way. And it’s true for lots of sports. I once complimented my son for making the provincial rugby team. He quickly pointed out that he wasn’t the best, just the best of those kids whose parents could afford the registration fees  and commit to all that driving. Smart kid.

What’s interesting though now is watching the same phenomena play out in mid-life!

We thought that once parents stopped supporting their kids that the playing field would level out a bit. Not so much. I wrote earlier this week about working part-time and early retirement. I approached the question from the perspective of health and overall well-being but you could also ask it from the point of view of sports performance. Each spring I struggle to balance end of term grading with the start of the cycling season. It’s tough. I’ve got a friend who is a tax accountant and she struggles too. Tax time is peak early season training time.

While we struggle, I’ve also got friends who post their “Retired Guys Rides” on Strava and Facebook. They’re time flexible. They can wait for the sunshine and warm weather. They can ride everyday if they want. Sometimes I’m jealous.

Some of these same people also go south in the winter and ride. Why not?

And the same is true for sailing. Some of the fastest masters class racers retire at 50 or 55 and spend their winters in warm places training. Competition is their full-time job. 55 and working full-time is pretty different than 55 and training full-time,

Is it fair? I don’t know. I do know that come spring I’m jealous other peoples’ weekday rides and their afternoon naps!

5 thoughts on “Silver spoons and the advantage of wealth, round 2: Training, time, and performance

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head. This issue absolutely stretches into mid life. Maybe more so because of the added responsibilities that most of us carry. I am the sole owner and operator of a small business. Taking on the task of losing over 130 lbs naturally could seem like such an impossible goal given my free time shortage to get workouts in or even stay consistent with my meals. And I am am far from rich! But I did it. I stayed focused on my goal, did my best each day and wasn’t hard on myself when the day got away from me or things didn’t go as planned. I would often remind myself that if I have time to flip through FaceBook or Instagram, I can damn well be working out 😉

  2. We have to find our own paths to health and fitness. Honest, I’m not convinced that poverty or near poverty is always the best reason not to look after oneself.

    Interesting about cycling..because if people forget about cycling and spandex/expensive bikes, and simply bike (any old bike) to shop, errands and get around several times a wk., they will find it easier to become fit because mobility isn’t about fitness…it’s surviving and just daily life.

    Neither my partner or I have gotten into Strava. He does track his mileage for past few decades on a spreadsheet. I gave up my cateye cyclometer over a decade go. No, I guess it’s 15 yrs. ago. I’ve stopped beating myself up and just ride, ride, ride.

    Just ride, walk to do stuff, take transit ..get smart about where you choose to live long term to enable you to do all this non-car stuff more easily/ more frequently.

  3. I am curious about the idea of fairness in this issue. Where is fairness in sport at all?

    1. Well, people strive for it at some level. Otherwise, why have one design boat racing at all? Why have age groups? Why men’s and women’s categories?

    2. Well, there are bans against PEDs, bans against certain kinds of equipment (see the swimsuits from the 2008 Olympics), deflate-gate, and all kinds of disapproval for things that seem like cheating. We like to think sports are a total meritocracy and it is the person with the greatest physical ability and best training wins. I would say that is true, but having the best training does depend on access to a fair number of advantages not everyone can get, no matter how hard they may train and no matter their natural physical ability.

Comments are closed.