fitness · swimming

Swimsuit options: the ethical edition

Last week, Catherine explored different swimsuit options beyond the one-piece/two-piece dilemma and our bloggers talked about their swimwear preferences. But what if, on top of wanting something you feel great in for getting in the water, you also want something that isn’t going to poison the environment even further?  As a swimmer, I’m painfully aware that my sport of choice isn’t exactly light on the planet. All my equipment is, essentially, made from plastic. It also doesn’t take a genius to figure out that keeping the pools I train in filled with water, clean, and warm is going to have some environmental impact. And last but not least, I have to drive to the pool (where I train is too far to bike and unreachable by public transport from where I am).

So I started looking around for some options that would reduce the environmental footprint of my aquatic exploits at least a little bit. It’s not easy, but it is getting easier.

Last year, I purchased a bikini made from Econyl, a recycled nylon fiber. It’s produced by a small German startup, INASKA Swimwear, that aims to produce bikinis for women who do water sports (rather than for lounging round the beach or pool), so that was huge in my book. They also sell tops and bottoms separately, which is fantastic (one of my main gripes with bikini shopping is that not more companies do this. I always struggle to find bikinis that will fit both my boobs and my bum). The bikinis are made in Europe.

Beach
Bettina in the far-off distance, sporting her ‘ethical’ bikini on a beach in Galicia, Spain. (There are no other pictures of me in swimwear and I was too busy this week to take any).

The bikini itself… fine but not a 100% hit just yet. Especially the bottoms were cut in a way that still makes them feel like they’re about to slip off when you’re swimming fast. But the nice thing about a small startup is that they’re responsive: at the end of last year, they did a customer survey and it seems like I wasn’t the only one who complained – there’s a new model out this year that promises better hold (I haven’t tried it yet, though I’m tempted – but in line with trying to reduce my environmental footprint, I decided not to buy a new bikini this year). I would also add that their bikinis don’t strike me as particularly plus-size friendly, even the new model. Their advertising is certainly geared towards the thin end of the spectrum. And the bikinis aren’t fully recycled fibre (78% I think). I actually don’t know if 100% recycled is technically an option at this point, or whether something is going on with the fibres that would prevent that from happening.

bikini.jpg
Bettina’s teal-coloured sports bikini.

For training suits, the picture doesn’t look an awful lot better, but again here, this is starting to change a bit. Adidas has launched a collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, a campaign seeking to clean the sea of plastic waste. Among other things, they make Parley swimsuits. I own one, though again if you read the small print, it becomes obvious that it’s only partially made from recycled material (and they don’t say how much, at least not that I could find). It gives the whole thing rather a “greenwashing” taste. But other big companies of swimming gear such as Speedo or Arena don’t seem to have caught onto this issue at all yet, so at least Adidas’s move is something? Also in the big-name range, PrAna and Patagonia have some interesting options made at least in part from recycled materials. PrAna in particular offers a wide range in terms of coverage.

Still, if you want ethical swimwear, in many cases you’re going to have to buy from small businesses. Which has the added benefit of being able to support young, often female-owned, companies. Frequently, they spring up from their owners’ passion for water sports and factor in the needs of women who like to be active.

But it is more complicated than being able to just walk into any old sports shop, try something on, and choose between different options. Some of these small companies produce on demand, so you have to measure yourself first to work out your size, order, wait (after all they still have to make it), and hope for the best. They’re also not cheap. And in many cases, their sizing options are more limited. But it’s an exciting scene, and if you’re willing to put in a bit of extra effort, you may well end up with something lovely.

In addition to the aforementioned INASKA Swimwear, I’ve done a bit of research for options on both sides of the Atlantic. Once you start looking, there are TONNES of ethical swimwear companies out there. I tried focussing on those geared towards more active behaviour in the water. One thing that struck me was that this seems to be a bit of a Euro-centric endeavour. I found more European than North American-based brands (and a lot of Australian ones) that matched my ethical-and-activity-friendly search criterion. There were loads of US and Canada-based ethical brands that make bikinis and one-piece suits in the “cute but not for sporty swimming or movement” range. Without further ado, here are some options, in no particular order:

  • Finisterre (UK-based) – swim and surf gear made partially from Econyl, and they donate 10% of the price to Surfers Against Sewage). Cool stuff, but comes at a price.
  • Davy J (UK-based) – also made from recycled fishing nets (also Econyl, I think). I’m not totally sure their stuff will really stay on (the tops seem a bit low cut), but they claim it will.
  • Josea Surfwear (Germany-based) – bikinis and one-piece suits designed for active women and produced in Hamburg, Germany. I’ve heard great things about their stuff, but their collection is a bit… changeable. I’d had my eyes on a pair of boyshort bottoms that have now suddenly disappeared from the shop. Also, no detailed information about the materials they use, only that they’re “sustainable”. I’d want to know more.
  • Greenswimmers (Germany-based) – I had really high hopes for these guys after reading in a swimming magazine that they were going to start producing swimsuits for women this March. The men’s trunks had received rave reviews, and the preview of the women’s suit was also great. But alas, no swimsuits in sight, and it’s now July. I wrote to them at some point and they said they were still planning on launching them but had some internal issues. The website hasn’t changed since early this year (they still promise the swimsuits for March), so I’m starting to wonder if the whole enterprise hasn’t gone South. Sad times 😦
  • Beefcake Swimwear (US-based) – already mentioned in Catherine’s post for the cool options they provide, this company doesn’t say anything about using environmentally friendly or recycled materials, but they are female-owned and make their suits in the US, so at least that’s fewer production miles and fair wages. It’s a great start.
  • Loka (Canada/Australia-based) – also using Econyl, Loka makes different options, at least some of which look like they might withstand sporty behaviour (like this one).
  • Rubymoon (UK-based) – multi-sports wear that transitions from the water to the yoga mat or the gym. They re-invest all their profits into women-owned micro businesses.
  • Mymarini (Germany-based) – many of their models are in the less practical range, but there are some options that would be quite good for water-based activities.
fitness · swimming · training

Bettina has a new swim team – finally!

I owe my passion for swimming to my mother. She never learned how to swim as a child (though she did when she was in her late 40s and became quite an avid swimmer), so made sure I learned at the tender age of about five. I was terrified of water getting in my ears. When it came to having to jump in, I always stood at the back of the queue hoping that my turn would never come. But I did learn, and eventually the water in my ears didn’t bother me any more.

SwimKitBettina
Bettina’s kit – swim suit, goggles, cap and pull buoy.

Then, in primary school, my mum realised I had rather poor posture, so she stuck me in the local swimming club to make sure I got back strengthening exercise. Since then, on and off, I’ve been swimming regularly. I was a competitive swimmer until I was about 14 (though I was never super fast), which was when our coach quit. In the small town I grew up in, they didn’t find a new person to replace him, and that was when I made my first contact with lifesaving, because we had the option to join a local team, and some of us did. I took my first lifeguard qualification when I was 15 and even “worked” at a local open air pool one summer. Our payment was a season ticket in exchange for the hours we put in, and a bit of pocket money. I was hooked. I loved the idea of combining sports with something socially meaningful.

At 17, I moved to the UK. My school had an intense social service programme, and one option was lifeguarding. I qualified as a beach lifeguard. We spent an amazing August patrolling a beach – who knew Wales could be so sunny! After high school, I didn’t join a team for many years. At university, I swam with the university life saving club a few times, but somehow never managed to requalify. I kept on swimming more or less regularly though.

LifesavingCertBettina
Bettina’s lifesaving certificate.

Fast forward about 15 years – one day I was doing my laps at the local open air pool when I noticed a bunch of people in swim caps of the German Lifesaving Association (sorry, no English website) in the lane next to me. Something clicked – I suddenly wished I was with them and part of a team again. They really looked like they were having fun. I approached the coach and asked if I could do a trial session. I loved it! I requalified as a lifeguard and over time even swam a couple of competitions with my team.

If you’re now wondering what a lifesaving competition looks like, let me tell you that it is very, very cool and direct you to the following video of the 2014 world championships:

Then, just over a year ago, I moved to a different city. I tried the local lifesaving club once and it wasn’t a good fit for me. They do fantastic work with swimming classes and lifesaving training for kids, but the adults hardly swim (how much swimming a team will do depends a lot on their local focus and demographic). So I was on my own again.

Then we bought a car. And a colleague had told me that her daughter swam with the lifesaving club in a neighbouring town – with my own four wheels, this was suddenly within reach. On Tuesday, I decided to give it a shot – and it was brilliant! They train in a primary school pool, so it’s tiny (16m lanes are a fun thing when trying to calculate distances), but the team is exactly my jam! It’s a gender and age group mix I like, they seem very nice, and they swim decent distances. On Tuesday we did 3,500m and on Friday, 2,600m – there were lots of drills in the Friday session.

I couldn’t be more happy I gave this a shot. Before I went, I’d been worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up – I’m not all that fast and thought they might be super hard core. In true impostor syndrome fashion, I can really get up in my head about things like this. But it was perfect! So I have a new team and will be training with them about twice a week. Watch this space for more!

competition · fitness · race report · running

Bettina’s sunny 10k race report

Last weekend, I ran a 10k race. It was only my third ever ‘proper’ race, so these things are still sort of new and exciting to me. A key difference was also that I ran this race with a group of colleagues. To be fair, I started my first 10k running with a friend, but I knew he was going to be way faster than me so I wasn’t surprised when he took off after the first kilometre and the rest was very much a ‘me-vs-the-road’ thing. Last week’s race definitely felt like we were doing it as a group.

I had specifically picked this race because it was a flat course. I do very, very poorly on hills and it’s something I want to work on. So if anyone has any tips on how to improve running uphill, send them my way. I really need them. I also had a goal: I wanted to do it in under 60 minutes.

StLeonRot10k
Bettina post-race, complete with post-race hair.

The day of the race was a beautiful sunny Sunday and threatened to actually get quite hot. That thing about the hottest spring in the history of weather recording? Definitely true for this part of the world. It felt more like July than early May. Luckily the race was in the morning and substantial parts of it were in the shade. Still, when the 5k water station came around I was very grateful.

I started off sticking to a colleague with whom I’d run in the past and whom I knew to be more or less at the same pace as myself. Well… it turned out that apparently she’d been getting in a bit more training than me  and  set off faster than anticipated. Nevertheless, I tried to hang on to her as long as I could, because if anything, I’m competitive. But about three kilometres into the race I knew I had to let it, and my colleague, go.

But given that I was doing well for speed, I decided to try and stay at roughly a 5:30km/h pace, which is still faster than I normally run. At this point, I wanted to see if I could do it. And I almost could! In the end, I averaged 5:34, which is really good for me and I was very pleased with my final time of 56:46. I would have been even more pleased had I been able to do it in 55. So that’s my goal for next time.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable race in a small town with a very community feel, organised by the local sports club. The atmosphere was really relaxed, and while some of our team mentioned that it would have been nice to have more people cheering us on along the course, I actually didn’t mind the calmness of our run through fields and forest.

I’m not going to lie, parts of it were a struggle. It was quite hot out in the fields, so that was a factor. Also, when I had to acknowledge that my colleague was actually too fast for me, while a few months ago she was definitely slower, I couldn’t help but feel a bit frustrated with myself. But I’m trying to push past that and focus on the fact that I ran an awesome time by my own standard. All in all, I had a great time. We went for a nice lunch with some of the team members afterwards and it was a lot of fun. I hope we run again soon!

fitness · traveling

Bettina goes Patagonia, hikes a lot, and thinks about things

My husband and I just spent three weeks in Patagonia (both Chile and Argentina). It was fantastic. Here’s a quick round-up of the itinerary and activities we did, and some thoughts about travel and feminism and sustainability.

Santiago, part 1: in which we cycle through vineyards

We flew to Santiago de Chile, where we spent a day and a half. We spontaneously booked a cycling tour of a vineyard located right at the edge of the city (picture below). The contrast between city and vines is actually quite striking.

The Cousiño Macul vineyard with the skyline of Santiago de Chile in the background

The company we booked with offers different cycling tours of the city and nearby vineyards. I liked them because they openly state that they have a pro-LGBTQ hiring policy, and because they try to offer something different and active, but are quite inclusive about it. They make it clear right when you book that you’re not signing up for a workout, but for a leisurely ride. Ours lasted about one hour plus another hour and a half touring the vineyard’s facilities. We also sampled five different wines. It was relaxing and wonderful.

Bettina and her ride, a seasoned green bike ideal for cruising around, but not for competitive cycling.

Torres del Paine National Park: in which we hike a lot and are exposed to the elements

From Santiago, we flew to Punta Arenas in the very South of Chile and took a bus to Puerto Natales, a small town that mainly functions as the tourist

hordes’ gateway to Torres del Paine National Park. We spent a night there, left some luggage at the hotel (we were returning five days later), and took only the necessary hiking and camping equipment to the park.

Torres del Paine is the national park everyone ‘does’ when they travel Patagonia. It’s easily accessible and has some stunning scenery. As a result, the infrastructure is excellent. There are lots of campsites, refugios where you can get a bed, and even some pretty luxurious hotels and cabins. Chile’s only eco-hotel is also located in the park. Also as a result of this, Torres del Paine is totally overrun. I wasn’t joking when I wrote “hordes” above. We visited at the tail end of the season, so it wasn’t too bad, but in high season, around January and February, I can only imagine it must be packed. We did a four-day trek known as “the W” (because of the route, which looks like the letter W) and stayed in our own tent.

View from our trusty red tent. The poor thing got quite battered by the Patagonian winds and rain, but it kept us nice and dry.

The park has suffered quite a lot from this; there have been some major fires and it’s definitely not as untouched as you might associate with the cliché of Patagonia. Rules are fairly strict, you can only enter if you have all your reservations beforehand, fires are forbidden, and at some places they don’t let you cook with a camping stove (conveniently, this also means the campsite/refugio can charge you a ridiculous amount of money for mediocre food; on the upside you have to carry less of your own).

What can I say? It’s still beautiful despite the masses. There is a reason the park is so full – it’s stunning. One morning at 8 o’clock, I’d just woken up and stood, mouth agape, marvelling at the mountain behind the campsite, aglow with the rising sun. It was out of this world.

The mountains, aglow with the rising sun

We had initially considered going to a much more remote park with next to no facilities, where we would probably have been mostly alone. However, we would’ve lost considerable time getting there, plus two contingency days for resting and in case we took longer on the trek. It would also have meant two additional flights and thus even more emissions, and this trip already wasn’t exactly an exercise in CO2 reduction. And as I mentioned before, there are upsides to the infrastructure: hot showers, you don’t have to carry all of your food, and you can go somewhere nice and dry when it’s storming and raining outside, which did happenon a few occasions.

It also occurred to me that on the whole, it may be better if only a few places are “ruined” by tourists – it offers an opportunity to keep the rest of the region largely untouched. I’m really not sure where I stand on this, and whether it actually is better to “sacrifice” some parts for others to be preserved. The way tourists concentrate in a few key locations throughout Patagonia is astounding. As soon as we moved off the beaten track, which we did for a bit of our overall trip, we were often on our own. I will return to this below.

Road trip: in which we bomb around Patagonia, stay at mostly empty campsites, and hike the Perito Moreno glacier.

Having completed the W, we returned to Punta Arenas via Puerto Natales to pick up a little camper van. We then drove south towards the Magellan straits (where I saw a dolphin! I’m still excited!), and then up to Argentina, across to the Atlantic coast, where we had planned to see a penguin colony close to Río Gallegos. Unfortunately this plan failed because of the poor road conditions and our van’s distinct lack of suspension and 4×4 drive. So we spent a lazy day in Río Gallegos.

This brings me back to my point about people not really moving off the beaten track. Maybe this is different during the high season, but both south of Punta Arenas and in Río Gallegos, we stayed at completely deserted campsites that were like straight out of a bad horror movie. We did get some beautiful sunrises out of this though, below the one from Río Gallegos.

Sunrise over the river Gallegos. Our campsite was located directly on the shore.

Via another stop further north and a guided hike through a petrified forest, we moved on to El Calafate. This little town is another touristy place and the gateway to the Perito Moreno glacier. El Calafate is nice and seems to consist mostly of tourist accommodation. We ate very well there.

We had booked an all-day hiking tour of Perito Moreno in advance. In the early morning, we were picked up by a bus and shipped to the Parque Nacional de los Glaciares, the national park covering most of the Argentinian part of the Southern Patagonian ice sheet, including Perito Moreno and Mount Fitz Roy. Perito Moreno was everything we had imagined and more. We lucked out with the weather and got a sunny day that made the blues of the ice intense and the three-hour hike on the glacier very pleasurable.

The face of the Perito Moreno glacier with some icebergs floating in the water

The guides split our busload into two groups first – a Spanish and an English-speaking one – to approach the glacier. It was a just under one-hour hike up to the access point, where were fitted with crampons before they subdivided us into smaller groups of about eight people for the hike on the ice.

One thing that surprised us was that the tour company didn’t follow through on their advice to wear suitable footwear and clothes, and only allowing people with a good level of fitness on the tour. There were lots of people who wore running shoes or sneakers and jeans rather than the recommended hiking boots and hiking gear. And a fair number of participants struggled on the hike to the access point already.

Bettina, wrapped up warmly and arms spread wide, atop Perito Moreno.

In a way it’s nice that they’re lenient, because it makes the experience more inclusive, but I do have to say that it compromised the experience of the rest of the group somewhat since accommodations had to be made for people who hadn’t read or didn’t care about the instructions on the website. They’re very clear and could only be improved in one way, which would be to remove the advice that this tour is not for overweight people – you can be “overweight” as long as you’re physically fit.

But I digress. Once we were subdivided into smaller groups it was fine; I think the guides did realise this was an issue and formed the subgroups accordingly. We very much enjoyed our three hours and lunch on the ice! The absolute highlight was an ice cave we got to see on the way down. Incredible.

Ice cave below the glacier – incredible hues of blue!

Goodbye Patagonia and Santiago, part 2: in which we “rescue” a solo traveller

From El Calafate, we took a small detour to a lovely campsite on a lake called Lago Roca. This was the only campsite where at least a handful of people other than us were staying overnight, and it was very well run. We then took two days to head back down to Punta Arenas to return the van and fly back to Santiago.

While we were waiting at the airport having a coffee, an American woman suddenly turned up at our table asking if she could talk to us for a while. It turned out she had been pestered by a guy who had kept asking her awkward questions about how long and where she would be staying in Santiago and what she’d be doing there. She had pretended to know us to get away from him, so we invited her to sit with us and had a nice chat.

I had thought about this on several occasions throughout this trip already: my privilege of accompanied by a man, who was also clearly my partner. No man on any of the tours or anywhere we went took any sort of “particular” interest in me.

I have travelled in Latin America on my own quite a lot and this lack of unwanted attention was a welcome change. As a female solo traveller, I have had to spend time fending off such approaches and have generally been a lot more alert. It’s definitely doable and lots of women do travel the region on their own, but it’s a different experience. Aside from general security considerations, this isn’t something a solo male traveller would have to spend a lot of time thinking about.

This also made me more acutely aware of my privilege as a woman living in a society where it is, for the most part, safe to walk around on one’s own after dark and go wherever I want. It’s complex, because in this particular case, it’s also about being a tourist. I don’t know if our airport friend would have had the same experience had she been Chilean. It’s possible, but probably less likely.

And also, even though it’s mostly safe for a woman to do all those things on her own where I live (in Europe), it’s not completely safe either. At a much lower level, here I’m also on alert walking or running alone in the dark or in a place where there are few other people. Or a creepy guy can chat you up in public and be difficult to get rid of. It’s an interesting thing to think about, and I’d love to hear your experiences with solo travel at home and abroad.

fitness · swimming

Meet our newest Fit is Feminist Issue regular blogger, Bettina!

Following my first post, I’m excited to return on a monthly regular schedule! Sam asked me to make this post an introductory one, so here goes.

My name is Bettina, I’m 33 and from Germany. I live in Heidelberg, a university town south of Frankfurt, with my scientist husband, who is originally from the Basque Country. I always joke that we’re here because of him, not because of me, and it’s true – I would’ve happily stayed abroad after finishing university. As it turned out, I ended up earning my PhD in Political Science back in Germany, having spent the last two years of high school and most of my undergraduate years in the UK, plus a year in Spain.

While working towards my PhD, I realised I didn’t want to pursue a traditional academic career. Slowly but surely, I moved into research management. Three jobs later, I am Senior Project Coordinator at a European research funding and enabling organization in a field that has nothing to do with my own – the life sciences – and loving it.

Fitness has always been a part of my life, but not to the degree it is now. When I was in primary school, my mother got worried about my bad posture and put me in the local swimming club. With short interruptions, I’ve been swimming regularly ever since. It’s my meditation, my favourite way of clearing my head after a long day. I love doing laps in the pool. Lots of people find it boring, I find my zen in the back-and-forth.

I’ve tried lots of other sports, many of them water-related. I love surfing and kayaking, but since there are no large enough bodies of water close to home, these are currently not often on the sports menu (sigh). Being outside is always good, so hiking is another favourite. I’ve done lots of yoga, which nowadays happens mostly at home, right after getting up in the morning, with Youtube tutorials.

Fitness has taken on another dimension for me over the past year though: a year ago to the day, I was diagnosed with Auto-Immune Haemolytic Anemia (AIHA), a condition where your immune system breaks down your red blood cells. Many things can trigger AIHA; in my case it was probably the flu. It’s pretty serious but treatable, and I’m in remission now.

But while I was in treatment, exercise became a way of feeling like I had some control over what was happening to me, full of all sorts of medicine and shocked as I was by this experience that was entirely outside both my control and my comfort zone. Incidentally, exercise is also a pretty good barometer for a relapse, which can happen at any time (or not – there’s a large suspense factor with this condition): one of the first things to go is your stamina, which was also how I started noticing I was sick in the first place when I could no longer keep up with my swim mates.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve started running much more regularly in addition to swimming twice a week if I can. Having been a rather reluctant and irregular runner before, I’ve done a 10k and an 8k since last September. I’ve also taken up a new sport, bouldering, which is different from anything I’d ever done, and which I love for its community spirit (Lynette recently wrote about it here and here). And it’s so empowering when you’ve figured out a tough route!

Empowerment is also where fitness and feminism intersect for me. Both are, in a way, about feeling strong and being entitled to that, no matter who you are or what gender you identify as.

There’s still a lot to fight for in terms of feminist fitness. Athletes who are not straight males continue to be on the receiving end of everything ranging from condescending advice to discrimination and hatred. We’re overlooked, spoken over, not taken seriously, judged for our looks rather than our athletic achievements, objectified, and ridiculed.

Feminism in fitness, to me, is about considering how a feminist lens can change our thinking about fitness and what a “fit woman” looks like. It’s about what the needs of women practicing sports are and how they’re different from those of male athletes. It’s about what we can do to make women of all ages, shapes, and abilities feel welcome in the world of sports and encourage them to discover it.

Bettina, looking distinctly wet but happy, in hiking gear at the summit of Skiddaw in the Lake District, UK
Bettina, looking distinctly wet but happy, in hiking gear at the summit of Skiddaw in the Lake District, UK
fitness · Guest Post · running

Competitive streak (Guest post)

I work on the campus of a research institute with lots of scientists working round the clock to get out their next, hopefully highly-cited, paper, knowing full well that their career hinges on being faster, better, more hard-working than the person next door.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of these people aren’t just competitive in research, but in all aspects of their lives, including fitness. One colleague of mine referred to it as a “cesspool of incredibly fit people”. Personally, I’ve left research in favour of a career in research management. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a competitive streak of my own.

I exercise quite a lot, swimming, running, and bouldering mostly. I love hiking, kayaking, and surfing, although I don’t do much of the latter two these days, mostly for want of a large enough body of water nearby. I enjoy all of it immensely most of the time.

The problem is: I’m not good at any of it, or at least not what people generally define as “good”. I’m not strong, or fast, or well-coordinated. And I constantly compare myself to others.

The reason I mentioned my workplace before is that I sometimes go running with a group of colleagues at lunchtime. Our campus is located outside the city on a hill in the forest, which is perfect for that. Most of them are faster than me, in fact I’m frequently the slowest member of the group by some distance.

I boulder with a group of people a couple of times a week. Most of them can do harder routes than me, even the ones who have started bouldering later.

And in the pool, I compare myself to the people who are faster, not those who are slower. Every so often, I come home from exercising feeling frustrated and bitterly complain to my husband.

Why can’t I be better at sports? What’s the point of doing it if I won’t ever be any “good”? I like the social element of exercising in a group, but I can’t seem to stop comparing myself to others. And so my competitiveness sometimes gets in the way of my enjoyment.

I sometimes wonder if this is related to the way society expects women to give 150% in order to be considered “successful” (or even adequate). Or is it just my own personality? Am I intrinsically competitive, or have I been socialised to be that way, through the environment I grew up in and the academic training I’ve received?

As usual, the answer is probably “a bit of everything”. The thing is, in sports I don’t owe anyone anything. As long as I enjoy doing it, it shouldn’t matter if I’m any “good” at it. And yet.

So I’m interested: how do others cope with their own competitiveness? Does it affect your enjoyment of exercise if you work out with people who are better than you?

Bettina is a political scientist-turned-science-manager and feminist from Germany, where she now lives after stints in the UK and Spain. She enjoys sports, reading, food, and travelling.

Picture of Bettina in a green running shirt after completing an 8k race on New Year’s Eve 2017, during which she couldn’t stop comparing herself to other runners, but had fun nevertheless.