We want your views on running shirtless!

July 2014: It has been a year since I have found time to post in this blog. I've released a little flurry by way of compensation. Thank you for the expressions of solidarity that have come my way in the interim.

If you trawl the runners' forums, you will find that the stalwart opponents of 'running shirtless' have not ceded the field! Almost all of them direct their fire at barechested runners (ie the men!); by unspoken agreement no one assails the growing force of jogbraed runners. Why do you suppose that is the case?

To me, the jogbraed and the bare-chested are alike comrades in the battle to reclaim acceptance for attire-light exercise. I continue to welcome guest posts (sent to barethomas@gmail.com) on any related topic, including from those who would discourage stripping to the waist. Let all voices be heard on this site!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Becoming a shirtless runner IV: 'Psychic shock' in cementing your conversion

In Jamie's post, featured separately, we encounter a shirtless-runner-in-the-making: There is that familiar hankering-after of unconstricted freedom, counterbalanced by the fear of being judged. The example offered by already bare-chested or jogbraed trail runners, plus accumulated drippy-sweat discomfort, works its gradual magic in breaking down Jamie's inhibitions, and eventually there is that ur-moment of stripping aside of the upper garment, and that rush of sweet coolness.

What I find especially instructive is what happens after this happy moment: Jamie moves with dazzling speed to reinforce the breakthrough. For most of us, however delicious our first oh-my-god-I'm-doing-it experience of going bare, the safety shirt remains a necessary prop for quite a while. It certainly was in my own case. But Jamie busts through that barrier in his very next run, and even adds a special twist: He turns shirtless driver en route! He calls this "ripping the bandage off", and the metaphor is apt. He does not allow the inevitable gathering-together of fresh nerves and doubt to 'scab up' and slow his conversion. Instead, he decisively cuts off any prospect of such a regression.

Jamie says some interesting things about the 'psychic shock' (my term) he gives himself by taking his radical step. "I had major butterflies... Stomach was turning, but it was exciting too", he recounts. But soon, his confidence is surging dramatically: "I am passing people and not caring if they see me shirtless... Running shirtless is feeling great and I am getting more confident every step of the way." Something has happened, the gamble has paid off! He closes his account very positively, saying that "Hopefully soon, I will be converted completely".

Now, some might say that it would be surely best to spare oneself such psychic shock and take things more gradually. But having mulled over Jamie's testimony, I am now inclined to say that some such shock is inevitable if we mean to convert in earnest to shirtlessness. Something must rock us, to test our faith, so to speak: There must be a point of crossing the Rubicon, of some discernible and undeniable changing-over, that begins to cement our new identities as shirtless (or jogbraed) runners.

Jamie, I want to say, was wise to force the issue early - rather than endure a spell of to-and-froing, of the incessant self-doubt that many of us know, before we assay a safety-shirt-free run.

Exactly what form this critical psychic shock might take may differ from person to  person. What is central is a voluntary step taken to fully embrace one's shirtlessness-in-running. In Jamie's case, it was his courage in leaving his home bare-chested and with no safety shirt, to drive to his trail. As I review my own experience, I realise that my shock happened when I first encountered neighbours while stripped down to socks and shoes. I now recognise this moment - rather my first stripping off of my vest while loping along - as in some ways a more significant conversion nexus.

Why do I say this? Now as it happens,  because I have moved house a time or two since, I have had to endure the experience time and again - which has allows me now to clearly capture it. It begins as supreme awkwardness: For an extended second, I almost see my neighbour rearranging his or her impressions of me; once the neighbour actually blurts out, "Oh goodness". I feel an internal sucking gasp of involuntary embarrassment that squeezes at the pit of one's stomach (echoes of Jamie's "my stomach is turning"). But then I move beyond the crisis. I make normal normal conversation about exercise, or the weather, or some such. The neighbour inevitably responds - and suddenly, my exercise attire is no longer some sort of impediment or gap. And at that moment, a little bell sounds. It is like one has affirmed one's faith, and the paradigm shifts. It is now for others to acknowledge me for who I am - still the same chap they always knew, just shirt-free in an appropriate context - and not for me to somehow explain or excuse myself.

I don't know what sort of other 'psychic shocks' might have made a difference to other converts out there. Do share your stories, as many have in these virtual pages, to help others now at the crossroads. For those who have found themselves stuck for long with safety shirts in their waistbands, perhaps it is time you forced the issue and gave yourself a psychic shock. Let Jamie be an inspiration!

[Guest post] A shirtless convert grows in confidence

Jamie contributes this excellent account, chronicling how quickly he went from 'that first shirtless run' to actually heading out for his run (in his car!) barechested. There are many interesting elements here worth discussing, which I will take up in a companion post. For now, here's Jamie's testimony.

A shirtless convert grows in confidence          by Jamie

I started running a few months ago and I am still working myself into better shape and building up endurance.   I know many guys run without their shirts and I have to admit, the idea appealed to me.  However, I am not the best looking guy without a shirt.  I have that same fear most guys do of “who is going to see me?”.  As the weather has gotten warmer, I have sweated through my shirts more and more, while seeing tons of guys running without a shirt, seemingly carefree.  The thought of taking my shirt off still seemed appealing, but, again, who would see me and would people make fun of me?

Well, the other night, it was 92 degrees and quite muggy when I hit the trail for a run.  I thought this may be the day I take mine off.  At first, I didn’t see any guys without shirts and figured I was the only crazy guy out here running in such weather.  Finally, about halfway through my run, I was passed by not one, but two guys with no shirts on.  I said, “OK, this is it”.  I pulled my shirt over my head and off it came.  The breeze (what there was of it) was blowing across my sweat covered skin.  How awesome is this I thought.  Felt a little self-conscious as I passed my first person and moved my shirt to cover my stomach and chest as people approached, but did not even think about putting the shirt back on.   I started to run into more bare-chested guys, including one pack of six.  This made me feel a bit better.  I made it back to my car and walked around the parking lot shirtless for a few minutes as I cooled off.  

So, this morning was my next run on the trail.  The other night, I had made the decision to run shirtless from the beginning my next time out.  No safety shirt to deal with this time.  The temperature was a warm 72. Like ripping a bandage off, I made the decision to not only run shirtless, but to drive over there shirtless, too.  I could not put a shirt on even if I wanted to.  Before leaving, I had major butterflies about it.  Stomach was turning, but it was exciting, too.  Finally, I made a mad dash from my front door to the car – hoping no neighbor saw me.  Got in the car and sped away! I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this!  I get to the parking lot and feel slightly self-conscious as I get out of the car topless.  I feel better when I see a young guy get out of his car shirtless with his jogbraed girlfriend.  I won’t be alone!  So, I start my first full shirtless run and the self-conscious feeling is wearing off. I am passing people and not really caring if they see me shirtless.  This is awesome! Running shirtless is feeling great and I am getting more confident every step of the way.  I make it back to the car in a record time for me.  Even better!  I towel off the sweat and cool off and then back in the car shirtless for the drive home.  

As of now, I am still a bit leery of running shirtless in my neighborhood.  I think the more comfortable I get running without a shirt on the trail, I will be more ready to bare it all in front of my neighbors.  Hopefully soon, I will be converted completely.  I think I have made a great first step.  Hope to keep up the momentum!

Guest post: Uptick in shirtless running?

Note from Thomas
It's been a while since we've had new items. Another summer of shirtless running has been ticking down in the northern hemisphere. So here's the first of a little flurry of posts to catch us up. The first, by Eric James, sounds an optimistic note: He has observed an increase in the number of barechested or jogbraed runners. As he told me during an exchange of emails:"I really do think that I am seeing more shirtless runners of various ages.  I am in a college environment and the trend is most popular among the high school and college age groups, but I am daily seeing very middle-aged folks as well.  Just today I saw separately a couple of jog-bra-ed coeds." More folks seeing the light, eh?

 Uptick in shirtless running?    by Eric James

Perhaps the subject is just old news.  I think I see more and more shirtless runners of all varieties these days. A healthy trend, I believe.  Nevertheless, I still see many negative opinion posts on the net, often in sites of runners magazines. I think that most of these opinions really miss the point.

First, I see no reason why the bare torso of anyone engaged in training or sport should be an offense to cultural norms.  Except in professional or high-level venues, training attire is not at all about impressing viewers in any particular way, positive or negative. But, on the contrary, about appropriateness to the sport and conditions for the active participant.

Second, anyone who has ever experienced the condition called "runner's nipple," i.e. chafed, sore, bleeding nipples after a run knows that that condition must be addressed somehow.  While there are a number of possible solutions including special shirt fabrics, lubricating substances, glues, and bandages, the obvious no-brainer simple solution (weather permitting) is to shed the shirt.  The other solutions which may be necessary in cold conditions are inconvenient, and involve both expense and experimentation for the best individual solution.

Therefore, I would ask witnesses to my runs not to assume that my intent is to display myself, to forgive that I am no longer a fit buff 20-year old, to refrain from judgement that I am neither fleet nor fair, but rather to know that I am doing what seems to aid my efforts, and to credit me for that activity.

Let us all enjoy the sport in unencumbered fashion!

Monday, September 23, 2013

[Guest post] Something for women: Choose the right jogbra for running shirtless

 [Let it never be said that this blog does not try its utmost to support shirtless running by both men and women. Zhuang Ping volunteered this how-to guide: And though this is all pretty much Greek to the owner of this blog, I'm sure it will be of use to any female converts to our cause!]

By Zhuang Ping

Women have obviously broken into the workout world, giving men a run for their money when it comes to toning and muscle building. And while weights and aerobics might be some great ways to get a good exercise in, nothing beats running shirtless (well, with a running bra that is!) through the wind, gaining speed and toning every muscle of your body to achieve the toned body you've always dreamed of. However, you don't want to run shirtless with a running bra that is restricting and lacking flexibility, so which running bra should you choose before heading out for a run?

1. Type or Running Bra
            There are four main types of running bras you need to know about in order to determine which bra is right for you. The four types include compression, combination compression/encapsulation, encapsulation, and shimmel. A majority of companies will sell all four types of bras.

-          Shimmel: A shimmel varies slightly from a regular sports bra. This is because they don't cut off at the rib cage. They resemble a tank top, but have a built in shelf bra to help support a woman's physique. If you're planning on doing a 5k marathon, this probably isn't the best option. But many women prefer a shimmel for runs around the neighborhood as they are comfortable and cute. The perfect in-between when you're not quite ready to show off your stomach to the public.

-          Compression: A compression running bra works by pushing the breasts up against the chest as much as possible to restrict movement. This particular bra is best suitable for A and B cups as woman with larger cup sizes may find it uncomfortable.

-          Combination Compression/Encapsulation: This particular style of running bra combines comfort, support for each breast, and only minimal amounts of compression. Best suited for C and D cups!

-          Encapsulation: An encapsulation running bra does not have any compression or restrictions of movement. Instead, this type of bra uses support which surrounds each breast separately. Ideal for D and DD cups!

2. Band
            Next you need to consider the type of band you’re after and the size you need. There is basically two types of bands available, including narrow and wide. Wide bands offer more support than narrow bands. To figure out the size band you need, measure around your rib cage near your breasts. Add 5 inches to whatever your measurement comes out to be, and if you measure above 33 inches only add 3 inches.

3. Straps
            Straps are an important factor to note when choosing the right bra. While it's partially a matter of personal preference, women can also determine the type of strap based on the impact level. Scoop-back sports bras for women are best for low and medium impact runs while racer-back are sports bras for intense running and sprinting as they offer more support. Also consider size of the strap, as wider straps offer greater comfort than narrower straps.

4. Underwire
            Lastly you need to consider whether or not you need underwire in your running sports bras. The underwire in a sports bra will typically be made of plastic or metal and provides utmost comfort during wear.

Bio: Zhuang Ping is a writer with over 3 year-experience blogging about fashion and fitness. She has a great love for all things glitzy, glamorous, and healthy, while also paying close attention to the hottest deals on the market.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

(Guest post) How running shirtless makes me a better branding guy

Doug Brown was kind enough to allow his post at Brand Intervention to be reproduced on this site. It extends the benefits of running shirtless into the branding arena.

I prefer running to every other form of summer exercise because I don’t need much in the way of gear to get going.

Shoes and shorts. A shirt to prevent mass hysteria. Sunglasses to reduce the glare, and a cap on my head. Tunes and podcasts seem to make the miles fly by, so I take my iPod along. And I keep an eye on the time with my trusty old Timex sport watch.

With these, I’m ready to go.

This week as I was cruising along through Esquimalt, fully kitted with the gear I’ve mentioned, I was struck by a thought: How much was all this gear removing me from the essence of what I was doing?

I wondered how much more authentic my experience would be if I peeled away the superfluous.

This is a principle marketing philosophy of mine, which I might summarize as reductio ad absurdum. To get to the heart of anything, you reduce elements to the point where further reduction renders the thought or the action, incomprehensible or absurd.

So yesterday I went for a very different run: one without audio distractions, visual barriers, time-keepers or unnecessary gear.

I took it one step further by going shirtless. All I had left was a pair of shoes and shorts.

Honestly, I felt naked as hell for the first few minutes. But then I relaxed and connected to the experience.

It was probably the first authentic run I have had in 20 years. I was fully present in the essence of the activity, not distancing myself from it by add-ons. To remove any one of the remaining elements would have created absurdity or injury. Or a police chase!

Reductio ad absurdum is the perfect criteria to measure against any brand definition, idea or ad, because it strips away the unnecessary and gets to the heart of the thing.

Running virtually naked is an excellent reminder of the principle.

No, you can’t see a photo.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Becoming a shirtless runner (III): A basic level of fitness required?

Below, upgraded from the Comments logs, are two sparkling first-person accounts of how two runners first went bare-chested. They are great and inspiring reads. What is interesting is that Nick's is actually a reminisce from many years ago, while Paul is fresh from the front. Yet in comparing the two reports, the similarities clearly outweigh the differences: Running sans shirt is an experience all can share.

One point of note is that, in both 'conversion' accounts, allusion is made to having attained a certain basic level of fitness ("got fitter, a little bit more toned" vs "running for a year, confident about doing a 10k"). There is no doubt that someone who is extensively overweight would feel considerably more nervous about doffing his upper-body attire; he would also be much more likely to attract opprobium. But is this fair?

Well, when we go out in public, we do not expect to have to dress in our finest. At the same time, too, if you insist in going about in filthy rags, I do not think you should be fully surprised - or nurse deep resentment - if you get more negative attention than you might like. One might feel that 'it is none of anyone else's business'; at the same time, we are all members of the community and while the days of shunning are thankfully behind us, I cannot in all honesty agree that 'it never matters how presentable you are'.

Transposing these thoughts, then, to the question of barechested or jogbraed running, it is no wonder that a bit of 'making sure one is presentable' pays dividends in terms of greater peace of mind. Which translates, then, to a more fully transformational first-time-shirtless run! Perhaps more importantly, you would be also reaping rewards in terms of health and fitness - regardless of whether you stay shirted or not.

Paul's story:

So I went for my first shirtless run today! In the past 16 months I've lost 39 pounds (not far off three stone) got fitter, a little bit more toned and completed a 500 mile bike ride through France. I've also signed up for one of those 'Tough Mudder' obstacle challenges in October, so I thought a bare chested run was achievable! I'm short and fair skinned, age 33 and certainly not 'ripped' but nonetheless I did feel that 'sensuous buzz' and yes, I admit, did feel a bit more 'sexy' than your average run. I'd just been to my local gym and two guys were working out shirtless there. Now, they WERE very ripped with amazing bodies but it did give me some confidence. It was just round my local park, the weather was dull, cloudy but warm (I do live in the UK after all!) And no one batted an eyelid. It felt great, very practical, comfortable, sexy and cool (not that I generally see myself as any of those things!) And I'll definitely be doing it again.

Nick's story:

I first ran shirtless in a race--my first race. I had been running about a year by that time, and felt excited and confident about doing a 10k. It was a warm spring day; some guys were shirtless It all seemed so natural and relaxed. The next thing I knew, I had pulled off my shirt. Nobody paid any attention--I was just one of several.

It was the most exhilarating run I had ever had up to that time. I felt ten pounds lighter; and for the first time, I had that experience others have described so well: the shock of pleasure from the rush of a cool breeze over my skin and the sudden tightening of my nipples.

After that, it was easy to go shirtless on a run. I usually started off with a "safety shirt," but then pulled it off when I was away from my neighborhood. Gradually, i got used to leaving the house without it. And I wasn't the only shirtless runner on my routes.

If you are considering going shirtless on a run for the first time, I recommend a race. If you can finish a 10k you shouldn't be worried about being in decent shape.

That was a while ago. I am 75 now, and no longer run shirtless, but I have never forgotten how it felt. It added immeasurably to the joy of running.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Becoming a shirtless runner (II): That First Day

Say you have been running or jogging for a little while and, whether egged on by the example of others or not, have come to nurse the thought of dispensing with a shirt.

Very likely, in runs past, you will have been held back by certain apprehensions. But there comes a day when you are ready to shed that top for the first time. How might such a day go? Drawing on my own experience, and that of others who have recounted their 'first day', here is how you might launch into your first day as a shirtless runner - and what to expect:

(I) You would have begun by trotting along, at your accustomed pace, and a build-up of perspiration would have begun to niggle at you. The familiar thought arises that it would feel pretty good to remove that irksome upper-body garment that is beginning to get soggy and restrictive. Someone may have passed you, striding along without a top, reinforcing the temptation. However, another part of you is urging that you hold back: You would look daft, someone you know might see you, a cutting remark might be uttered within earshot.

(II) But you are not getting any more confortable along, and now you tell yourself: What exactly am I worrying about? I know that there are other runners in the neighbourhood or elsewhere, known to their neighbours or loved ones or running partners to be partial to going barechested or jogbraed. They seem to be doing fine. How are they different from or superior to you? You decide that these wisps of apprehension - which have stopped you perhaps multiple times in the past - are so many will-o-the-wisps, with no substance to them. What the hell! You arms reach down, and before you know it, your shirt - incredible! did I really do this? - has been stripped off.

(III) Immediately, what breeze there is seems to have been magnified in effectiveness. Your skin has been freed to do its job of wicking away heat and perspiration. Your senses feel preternaturally sharp; you are especially aware of your body - your stride, the way you are holding your core and posture. There is a prickling of delight, a frisson of freedom: Without thinking, you pick up the pace, move faster.

(IV) The counterreaction now sets in: Your love handles seem to be calling out 'Notice me!' to all and sundry. You become increasingly sure you are a ridiculous figure strutting along. Every indistinct figure approaching appears to be that of someone you know; you begin to imagine the things they will say ('Hey, Ron! What's with the half-naked look!') or - worse - will giggle over later even as they soberly greet you ('I saw Terry this morning; he's joined the shirtless brigade, and heavens wasn't there a whole lot of jiggling going on'). Was that someone taking a cellphone camera shot, to be Tweeted along with a snide comment or two? What was I thinking? I need to put my shirt on right now.

(V) Even as you are thinking this, however, you have been loping along and there is now a full, cooling sheen of perspiration enveloping your bare upper body. As you heft your damp tank-top, the thought of pulling it over yourself again is not an attractive one. And amidst the negative thoughts, others poke through too: That the sun on your skin is pretty delicious. As is this heightened awareness of one's surroundings. In fact, I'm feeling a burst or two of confidence: I don't need to stay encased in maximal clothing. I'm proud to be safeguarding my health and fitness through exercise. Why should I not be minimisng extraneous attire? There's nothing lurid or obscene about such confidence! Indeed, it's making me feel a little, well, sexy... and why not?

So might you conclude your first run as a convert to our shirtless cause. The apprehensions won't be going away immediately, but now that they have been bested once, their hold will have been weakened. Possibly permanently.