The privilege to sweat

Some time last fall I discovered a new blog about running. I added it to my already too long list of running blogs in Google Reader. I unsubscribed a few weeks later when I realized I wasn’t very interested in what she had to say.

One thing that stuck out about this blog was how she frequently showed photos of her (or friends) in a t-shirt proclaiming “I ♥ sweat.” The shirt was sold to help her fundraise for an organization that does research to find a cure for a chronic illness.

There was something about the t-shirt that got to me, aside from seeing it a dozen times after following the blog for a couple weeks. I didn’t figure it out until I started thinking about the running community and issues of race and class thanks to a Runner’s World article.

I don’t love sweat. I sweat most days when I go out for a run, lift weights or go to the gym for some cross training. I chose to sweat most of the time because (a) I’ve never had a job that requires regular manual labor, (b) I live in LA where summers are comparatively mild and not humid and (c) I have the luxury of having my own car with air conditioning.

These hands weren't made for "real work"

I haven’t always recognized my privilege, but family and friends keep me in check when they feel my soft hands that have never done “real work.” (Except when I help out with the biennial mulberry tree trimming project at my parent’s house as above.)

Manos de un trabajador

My grandparents’ and parents’ hands aren’t so soft and smooth. My grandparents came to this country to do hard work in the fields, landscaping, and in heavy industry. They didn’t sweat because it was their hobby and they loved it, but because they needed to feed, clothe and house their families. Through their work, they gave their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren opportunities they never imagined.

I get to leave work at the end of the day feeling energized enough to run 5 miles and work up a sweat. Thanks for giving me that privilege, abuelitos.


7 thoughts on “The privilege to sweat

  1. AR says:

    Dead on.
    There were a couple days here past summer where temperatures were over 100 on asphalt on top of already oppressive humidity. There was a concert going on and I knew some of the guys who had to work in the heat from 7am to 11pm, setting up and taking down and doing everything in between in oppressive fucking heat. I remember looking on twitter and hearing people whining about the horrible heat – all of whom were sitting there in AC. The paper had articles about how they wondered about the turn out for the concert and TV reporters were interviewing those guys (and nearby construction workers) about “WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WORK IN SUCH HEAT?” By the end of the day, something made me feel bad for not wanting to walk outside to my car because for many people, this shit isn’t a choice.

  2. Don’t have much to add to your lovely post, other than:

    1) I unsubscribed to the same blog a few weeks ago. I’m sure she’s nice in person, but she just comes across as sort of whiny (like duuuuuude, why do you run if it upsets you to tears? that is not healthy), in spite of her weekly “thankful” posts. I can understand her illness is hard, but running itself is not.

    2) I realize that I am also privileged in that my sweat is limited to running and the gym. I am not rolling in money, but I make enough to support what is a rather expensive hobby. I’m pretty fortunate, thanks to my parents’ work and sacrifices.

    So when other privileged people complain SO MUCH about running, not running, anything remotely related to running … I get annoyed. Annoyed enough to unsubscribe, yeah.

  3. Dead on. My grandfather was a lawn guy in Arkansas. My grandmother cleaned houses – aka scrubbed other peoples toilets. My paternal grandfather worked for the post office. In the nasty warehouse sorting mail for 30 years. All of them sweat a whole lot and not by choice.

    Also, I can’t get behind that blogger. She annoys me to no end. The leg warmers, sparkles, OMG look at me running is just too much for me. Shut up and run, girl!

  4. diANA says:

    That article in that magazine was spot re: race and running. I notice myself have this invisible barrier about running; like (what am I running from, who am I running from, why would I). I want to be a runner, I like the idea of it, and your writings make me reflect and motivate me, Mis abuelos y papas and my husband also have had hard jobs that include not having no choice but to SWEAT! I have no doubt this highly influences the barriers I face with not only running but SUDOR in general, thanks for this awesome post

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