clothing · fitness · media · research

Sports Bra Drama

I usually pay little attention to sports bras, as I don’t seem to need much support and the one I wear is based on whether or not it is clean. Any love I have for sports bras comes wearing them exclusively since giving up underwire padded bras during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sam put it best here: “I’m still in love with lots of my formal work clothes but never again will I wear a bra that pokes in my ribs.”

I am a no-sports bra drama kind of person.

Bras Win Euros?

When I read the headline of the The Guardian article, “Secret support: did prescription bras help Lionesses to Euro 2022 glory?” I rolled my eyes at the sensational lead. Way to diminish the accomplishments of female soccer athletes. Would a male soccer player’s win be attributed to his underwear if he ran around in them after a winning game?

I have already written about how media commentary athletes’ bodies can reinforce gender stereotypes, undermine women’s athletic performance, or both. Our FIFI bloggers have also explored the topic of sports bras and athletic wear, highlighting the challenge of fit, double standards, and other gendered nonsense.

The Guardian’s headline led to more than sensational bra talk. The article described the findings of what little sports bra research is currently available: poorly fit bras can shorten women’s strides up to 4 cm. A seemingly small measurement, but “marginal gains” can add up to a big impact when it comes to athletic performance.

My Bra-Nundrum

When I am in a sports store, I walk right by the sports bras section, eyeing its wares with equal parts suspicion and derision. I am stubbornly uninformed about sports bras because I believe the industry is exploitative: the more women need these products the higher the price they seem to be charged for them. Brand logos inflate prices further. It’s all a bra racket to me.

But as I read article, my mind wandered to my own sad collection of stretched-out or over-tight sports bras I have acquired over the years. If I am honest, most of my off-off-the rack sports bras don’t fit or support me the way they probably should.

four sports bras on a table
Left to right: A black sports bra that is literally spandex; a grey sports bra from Goodwill (lost padding); a teal sports bra I have had since my 20s, a newer yellow sports bra that does not fit because it was an online impulse buy. Not shown: the one well-fitting sports bra own, worn wearing while taking this photo.

The article made me wonder: By not buying quality sports bras, am I forfeiting some comfort and performance out of principle? Did the purported bra drama lead me to realize that maybe I should invest in research-designed sports bras…because gender equality in sports research is a principle I believe in too?

The Need for (Some) Bra Drama?

It’s not new news (to me) that the Lionesses’ custom sports bras would fit better and be more supportive than those found in the bargain bin. And it’s also not newsworthy that the “prescription” outer- and under-wear articles for which elite athletes pay top dollar remove some impediments to their performance.

The real newsworthy story is the paucity of research on the fit, comfort, and support of women’s athletic gear, which includes sports bras. Women’s sports continue to be seen as second-class, right down to the lack of substantial research on an clothing item so clearly necessary for so many women athletes.

It’s a little sad that this disparity needs a woman athlete celebrating in a sports bra to draw attention to it. Perhaps The Guardian article is a fine piece of feminist sports journalism precisely because the sports bra drama is leveraged to spotlight the (lack of) research of athletic clothing design for women.

Let’s hope that an increase in research sports bra design eventually leads to better sports bra products for everyone—so that more than just top female athletes can perhaps get their 4 cm back when they play.

What’s your take? Does media sports bra drama usefully draw attention to the need for more research on women’s athletic clothing? What factors do you consider when you buy sports bras?

camping · charity · cycling · fitness

Bike Rally Day Four: It was the best of roads, it was the worst of roads

On Day Four we set out from Kingston, led by the rally’s top fundraisers. I joked that since the route out the city involves hills the top fundraisers ought to get a bus.

It was a quick 30 km to Ganonoque for break and then another 20 or so along the Thousand Islands Parkway to lunch. The parkway is one of my favorite sections of this ride. It’s all newly surfaced and completely separate from car traffic.

You know, I think of myself as someone who is pretty comfortable riding near cars, in traffic. I do it most days. And yet, on the parkway, my spirits lift, I smile more and I’m really relaxed. It makes me realize how much of my bike riding brain is occupied with safety on city streets. Sarah and I had a lovely ride talking with Stephanie Pearl McPhee, aka The Yarn Harlot. I’m in absolute awe of how much money she raises for the rally. She’s always one of the top fundraisers for this event.

But once we get off the Parkway, into Brockville and beyond, we’re on terrible shoulder of badly bumpy roads for the last 30 km or so. So bumpy. I wasn’t tired at the end of the day. I feltt more banged up from all the bumps and gravel and disappearing shoulder. There were also some grumpy drivers.

The campground here is beautiful though and we all got in pretty early. Even the sweeps were in by 4 pm giving everyone time for a dip in the lake before dinner.

Check out my activity on Strava:

Our fundraising is going well. We’re almost at our goal. Your donations help in important ways, even small donations.

Here’s Stephanie’s description of what they do, “The funds raised by this ride go to making a direct and fundamental changes in the lives of people with AIDS. It is help for mothers, food for children, rides to the doctor, someone who cares if they are lonely, support, love, care, haircuts, pet food, hospital visits, childcare… Every dollar you donate makes a real, tangible and important change in the life of another human…”

You can donate to the bike rally here

I’m very sleepy now. It’s after 10 at night and we’ve been taking part in the rally’s candlelight vigil where we hear from some of the rally’s participants about the their experiences with HIV/AIDS and the bike rally.

Also, my team, Rally’s Angels, is serving breakfast in the morning. That means we need to be dressed and ready to help at 530 am. Night night!

Moon over the lake

COVID Grumpiness

It happened. After almost 2 1/2 years, four vaccines, masking, avoiding indoor spaces and constant vigilance

Mad-Eye Moody from Harry Potter reminds us about the importance of constant vigilance.

I caught COVID. It could have been much worse. Mostly it has felt like a cold. I haven’t even been taking decongestants for the last couple of days.

I haven’t even missed my on-line ballet classes, but I haven’t been going out, so there has been no walking or swimming. As a result, I am feeling logy and flabby, and I really miss being able to tick off an update in the 222 workouts in 2022 Facebook group, or put my workout times into the Participaction app.

I hadn’t realized until this week just how important activity has become in my life. I usually think of myself as a recent convert to fitness, something I started back when my son was nine so I could be a role model. In fact, my son will turn 29 on his next birthday, and I have been some sort of heart-pumping movement regularly for almost 20 years. For the last few years, it has been 5-6 times a week.

I’m still feeling grumpy about my COVID, but I am celebrating I was a good role model to two very active kids, and looking forward to getting moving again, very soon.

Me in better times, wearing a yellow cap and red goggles, in the water at a sunny beach.

camping · challenge · charity · cycling · fitness

The bike rally day 3 is a slow roll into Kingston, also red dress day!

It’s the shortest day on the rally, just 60 km into Kingston. Now that’s not nothing but it’s less than half of what we did yesterday. It’s also Red Dress day or Dress in Red day, your choice.

Here’s Sarah and me at the start. Or as Sarah and I like to call it, the hurry up and wait, part of the morning. You rush to have breakfast, get dressed, take down tents, pack bins and load bins on the truck, but then you can you can’t leave until all of the trucks and loaded and have left.

But the weather was good this morning and so we sat in the grass pretty happily. It is overcast and in the low 20s. No bright sun, no rain, just perfect riding weather.

We also took the time to take team photos in all of our red dress finery.

Rally’s Angels

Here’s our ride on Strava.

Ride on Strava

Why the slow roll approach? Well we’re staying in the residences at Queen’s tonight. Thanks Queens! And while there are hot showers, laundry, real beds, and air conditioning, we don’t have access to our rooms until 1. So if we leave camp at 9 that’s 4 hours to do 60 km.

Our team decided it was a good morning to stop for coffee en route. Sarah and I were also slowed down by our first flat of the rally.

Here are all the bins in the courtyard of the residence at Queen’s

Here’s some video from the day

And our team at the Kingston sign.

Rally’s Angels

Tonight it’s team dinner plus a drag show in the park after. If you’re around, stop by.

“DRAG IN THE PARK: Trellis HIV & Community Care, Tourism Kingston, and the greater Kingston community invites The Friends For Life Bike Rally to DRAG IN THE PARK, a showcase of fantastic (and slightly naughty) entertainment under the open sky in Confederation Park (that’s the big park between Kingston City Hall and Lake Ontario). The show will start at 7:30pm on the veranda of the Kingston Visitor Information Centre.”

Tomorrow we ride Kingston to Johnstown, about 110 km.

We’re now halfway to Montreal and I think about $30,000 away from our 1.5 million dollar fundraising goal. If you’ve been thinking about donating, every bit helps, and here’s the link.

fitness · swimming

Swimsuits: we’ve had some things to say

Yes, it’s August. School will be starting soon in lots of places in the Northern Hemisphere. But that doesn’t mean we’ve already hung up the swimsuits and stowed the beach towels. Oh, no– far from it. Especially with the extreme heat many of us have been experiencing in the US and Canada, we want to be in water as much as possible. But what to wear?

Well, we at Fit is a Feminist Issue have got you covered, so to speak. Here are some blog posts that address a variety of your swimwear concerns. Here are just a few of our posts, in case you are desiring some consultation. Read, enjoy, and make sure not to get your phone or computer wet…

Bettina: Swimsuit options, the ethical edition

Catherine: Beyond the one-piece/two-piece dilemma: swimsuit options we’re loving

Diane: Why is it so hard to find athletic swimsuits for larger swimmers?

Sam: Take your batwings and fly far far away

Tracy: What’s going on when even the Europeans are starting to cover up? Poor body image crosses the pond

Elan: Bodiless Swimsuit Ads Reinforce Body Norms Too

Tracy: Inclusive objectification, anyone?

camping · cycling · fitness

Bike Rally Day 2: Port Hope to Adolphustown, #f4lbr2022

Rally’s Angels Team photo

Today is the rally’s longest day, 126 km from our campground in Port Hope to Adolphustown. We’re traveling through Prince Edward County and the last leg of the trip involves a ferry.

Ferry selfie

The weather changed. We were expecting overnight rain and possible thundershowers after which the weather was supposed to turn into something more reasonable. Instead we got heat alert day 2. I hate the part of the heat alert that says ‘avoid outdoor exercise.’

Sarah and I talked lots about how best to handle it. We opted for a very reasonable pace, stopping at all the stops, and drinking all the things. It’s a long haul to the first test stop on day 2, 38 km, but after that there’s lunch and two more spots and we just kept our focus on getting to the next break.

Here’s our route

You can look it up on Strava here

And you can donate to the bike rally here.

We’re working hard, riding in weather the no one would choose to ride in, and as a friend said over dinner, it’s all pointless if we don’t raise money to help people living with HIV/AIDS. These are people who need food, wellness care, peer support or just to be in a place that is welcoming and safe for them. We’re riding to raise 1.5 million dollars for the Toronto People With Aids Foundation.

Rear view of Rally’s Angels

I ended the day today happy. I’m happy that we made it in good shape, still feeling strong, happy to be riding with these wonderful people, happy to go for a swim when we got in, happy to be working together raising money for an important cause, and happy tonight for the rally’s talent show.


The rigours of rigging (guest post)

My parents are both theatre artists. One year to the delight of their art and their artist wallets, their play was especially successful and got picked up and produced by the Mirvishes. They contemplated what to do with this surplus of cash: invest in our children’s education? Or buy a boat? Thankfully, they chose boat.

Photo of our family sailboat anchored at Camelot Island in 2021.

My sister and I grew up sailing the waters of Lake Ontario. Every weekend of the summer was spent hosting friends and family, anchoring at Hanlan’s point on Toronto Island, blowing up the floaties, swimming, and barbequing veggies on the “Sea-B-Que”. We would also take vacations on our travelling cottage to different marinas across the Lake and even explored some in the States. In fact, I write this post from our favorite anchorage at Beaurivage Island on our annual two-week trip to the Thousand Islands!

Since we loved sailing our big keel boat so much, my parents decided to send me and my sister to sailing camp every summer so we could learn to sail dinghies, which are like bathtub sized sail boats.

Photo of my friend and I sailing a 420 dinghy in 2019 with Toronto skyline in the background.

Sailing camp memories rank up there among my favourites. Two of my closest friends, as well as two of my sister’s, joined us every year for a tradition of biking down to the lake for two weeks of anxiety-ridden fun. We took pride in our rag-tag little sailing club, which sits adjacent on the shore to a fancy-shmancy boating/tennis club. They whipped around in shiny new 420’s while we proudly duck-taped our boats for repairs. Despite our less-than optimal equipment, we beat those fancy boats at every regatta.

For me, there is nothing more invigorating than sailing a 420 dinghy in high winds. In the right conditions it’s a full mind and body workout. It’s a core blasting exercise to keep your boat flat while the wind fights against your sails. We’d hook our feet to the hiking straps and, sitting on the edge of the boat, we’d lean back with the power of a thousand sit-ups, upper body parallel with the water, to keep our boat from capsizing. In later years we would use trapeze, a harness attached with wire to the mast, and standing upright on the edge of the boat, we would lean back with all our weight. Then there’s the unforgiving arm workout that comes with pulling in the ropes of a wind-filled-mainsail or fighting to control the tiller to steer the boat through colossal waves.This is all happening with the added difficulty of belly-laughing the whole time at the hilarity and excitement that comes with battling the elements with a bunch of friends. Even the rigging and de-rigging of the boat could be a workout, hauling up sails and getting the boat in and out of the water. We would come home from the lake exhausted and sun beaten, but ready to do it all again the next day.

One obstacle that presented itself at sailing camp was the culture. The higher the level you achieved the more male dominated the group, and the jokes, became. It was a total boy’s club.

Everyone on the predominantly male race team, the highest level of sailing camp, was deemed a god and was highly esteemed by the rest of the camp: you obeyed their wisdom and every command. Whenever you’d make a mistake, rigg up a boat wrong, crash into the dock, capsize, or get stuck in irons, you were guaranteed jeers and laughs from these older ‘experienced’ teenage sailors. It was the ULTIMATE embarrassment: public humiliation.

In a more lighthearted vein, the older guys on the race team really loved to mess with us new naive sailors. When we would occasionally join the race team for an afternoon on the water, they would shout fake rules at us to confuse us and pass our boat. While a starboard tack, (sails on the right side of the boat), has right of way over a port tack in the event of a collision, they’d instead yell “PORT TACK OPTION!” to justify overtaking your boat. Or in a brilliant tactic to worry younger campers, they’d make up non-existent boat parts that needed adjusting: “YOUR BOOM SHACKLE’S LOOSE!”. An equally devious scheme, they’d hop on your boat, in the guise of helping you fix your “boom shackle”, and then tip your boat over, jump back in theirs and sail away laughing. They loved yelling those types of rules and insisting that the younger sailors steer clear of the course and “DO A 720!” as punishment for their made-up crimes (turn the boat in a circle twice, an embarrassing way to slow you down in a race). They also knew who made for the best targets, and our boat of awkward un-self-assured middle-school girls fell right into their traps. Oh, we fell for all those tricks all the time when we were just starting out. And at first it was very embarrassing and discouraging to be yelled at by these older and ‘wiser’ guys. But once we caught on to their games, it became our mission to seek vengeance, and it was such fun to yell those same things back at them and even get up the courage to pirate and capsize their boats. What’s more, we realized that for them to go out of their way to trip us up, we were considered real competition for them, the ‘undefeatable race team’, which was in all a confidence boost.

Eventually, we made it to the race team as well. In our powerful new position, it was very tempting to continue the cycle of terror for the younger generation, but, for the most part, we refrained and tried to be as helpful as possible. We reserved our dirty tricks for fellow members of the race team, so not to risk discouraging younger kids from a continuing in a great sport they were learning for the first time.

Photo of pink and gold sunset on the St Lawrence River from tonight’s anchorage at Beaurivage Island, taken from the sailboat with sailboat visible in the shot.

camping · charity · cycling · fitness

Bike Rally Day 1: Toronto to Port Hope, #f4lbr2022

Here’s our day 1 route, Toronto to Port Hope. As you likely know or might reasonably expect, getting out of Toronto is a chore. It seems to take forever.

But after the lunch stop in Oshawa (ish) it’s a very lovely ride. We keep saying that we could do that chunk by taking the GO Train to Oshawa and bypassing the city bits.

Now for the actual bike rally, I like the crowds at the big departure. I like the spirit and the cheering. We joke sometimes about going for the send off ceremony before sneaking off to the GO train.

Today was no different. It was a long hot slog getting out of the city with so many traffic lights and lots and lots of unclipping.

What I like? All of the music and cheering and the chatter.

What I don’t like? City drivers and traffic lights.

Upside of today’s ride, we were all so happy to be together again. There was a lot of grinning and hugging. The volunteers were lovely and helpful as always.

Downside, wow the heat. It was probably the hottest and most humid bike ride I’ve ever done.

We worked hard at hydrating though. Also, stretching. No cramps or barfing today!

We’re staying the night at Haskills’ Farm. Here’s what it looks like.

Wish us luck tomorrow when the weather turns. From heat and humidity to thunder and rain. After that though it’s perfect cycling weather. Sun and highs in the mid twenties. And overnight lows in the low teens.

Tomorrow we ride to from Port Hope to Adolphustown.

challenge · fitness

Considering pointless fitness goals

Recently, the Atlantic featured an article on the notion of “pointless goals”– challenges that don’t seem to make sense. Their canonical case is the guy who decided to walk all the way from Los Angeles to New York– wearing a bear suit. Which he did.

Jessy Larios, alias @iambearsun, walking in his bear suit along a US highway somewhere.

Larios said he did it sort of on impulse, although he ended up raising money for charities. It was quite hot inside the suit. But he said he met a lot of very nice people.

People do variations on this theme all the time. While riding the NYC Century (I did the 75-mile route), there were folks riding it on single speed bikes, folding bikes and even unicycles. One guy did the New York City triathlon on a BMX bike. And for the annual Halloween bike ride in Boston, there’s always that person riding the route in wheelie position.

This got me thinking: maybe Larios is on to something here. We are definitely in a challenge-oriented epoch. Many challenges confer a semblance of purpose: write a novel in a month, or try one new recipe or yoga pose or language lesson or book chapter every day for a month.

There are also the infamous 30-day fitness challenges. They seem to be focused on some (possibly bogus or even downright unhealthy) so-called wellness or fitness goal. We’ve all seen the plank, squat, abs, strength and other challenges. They tend to come in graphic box form with teeny-weeny print.

In a way, lots of goals we set are pointless. After all, what does it matter if we visit every state or province, or climb all the 4000-foot peaks in New Hampshire (a popular one where I live)? Or (as my niece seems on her way to doing), collecting all of the Squishmallow stuffed animals? Warning: clicking on the link may make you want to buy one. They’re totally adorable.

And yet. It feels kind of cool and fun to set and complete a pointless goal. I once (accidentally, it wasn’t a planned goal) rode a rental bike on the beach at the Atlantic Ocean and also the Pacific Ocean (different bikes, obvs) in the same week. Yeah!

Now that I’m on sabbatical and have more time to be out and about and also travel some, I’m shopping around for pointless fitness challenges. Here are some I have in mind:

1. Swim (or at least immerse myself) in all of the Great Lakes this fall. The hard ones are Superior and Michigan, but I *could* do the drive to Mackinaw, Michigan, and then up to Sault St. Marie. Why? Who knows. It just seems like a fun thing to do.

Uh oh. I just found this site by swimmers who dipped in all five great lakes in 24 hours. See? Once you get started, you have no sense of where to stop, and before you know it, you’re walking in a bear suit outside Iowa City, looking for a gas station restroom.

Maybe there’s a way to do this in a controlled manner. How about this pointless fitness goal., which I actually want to do:

2. Ride all of the Rail Trails in the Rail Trail Hall of Fame. Yes, this seems like a lot of fun. I’ve already ridden five of them. Only 31 to go. Honestly, some of these trails I’ve been salivating over for a while.

I’m in no hurry to complete this pointless goal; it seems too nice a goal to rush. And I want to include as many of my friends on bikes as possible on my quest.

3. Another swimming goal that lots of folks have done, but I haven’t (yet): swim in open water (fresh or salty) outside in nature every month starting, well, now (August). During the pandemic, loads of folks started wild swimming. Yes, some of our bloggers have been swimming wild and swimming cold for a long time. But it’s okay to come late to the party, right? The reason is simple: use this pointless act as a way to get me out in nature, really immersed in it (no pun intended).

By the way, I’m going to count January ocean swimming in South Carolina or Florida as having fulfilled that month’s immersion quota. Consider yourself notified.

Readers: I’m in need of inspirational suggestions. What sorts of pointless fitness goals are you actively involved in, or tried and completed, or want to do, or rejected after one day? I’d love to hear from you.


Come cheer us on and see us off! #f4lbr

Tomorrow is bike rally departure day. For more information see here. If you’re in Toronto and feel like cheering when we leave please come along.

We’re leaving from Corktown Common tomorrow morning. Things get underway at 7 am. There’s speeches etc at 8 and I think we ride away at 9.

There’s also currently a heat alert but I’m not thinking about that.

And it’s not too late to sponsor me here.