Goodbye, 'Jogbra'...

May 2015: First up, though I still try to put up blog content whenever I can, it has been easier to more regularly visit the the Twitterverse. Follow me at @barethomas10 and let's keep the shirtless running flag flying. Of course, the blog still attracts very interesting comments, and good discussion. Keep it up.

Second, in the years since this venture launched, and as shirtless running among women has gone increasingly mainstream, the term "jogbra" has clearly declined in use. I will thus prefer "sportsbra" henceforth - as has already been the case on Twitter, and in recent posts here.

I continue to welcome guest posts (sent to on any related topic, including from those who would discourage stripping to the waist. I am myself of course a fervent convert to the joys of running bare. But let all voices be heard!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Six drawbacks to shirtless running (updated)

Since I want to be always fair, it ought to be noted that being a shirtless runner has its occasional negatives.

1) I've received everything from unmistakeably disapproving raised eyebrows to schoolgirls giggling to each other; anything from blaring car horns to catcalls and yells of "Put a shirt on, mate" could be directed your way.

2) If you do without a 'safety shirt', it isn't really convenient to drop by the corner store on the way home for a few supplies or the morning paper.

3) There are still people that I would rather not encounter during my shirtless runs. Certain old friends and the like. Irrational? If you like. But most folks have their 'hope not' lists, I suspect.

4) If you get used to running without a shirt, it's rather constricting to have to plod along in some form of upper-body wear. So when it's too cold to do without any, one is caught in a fitness 'no-man's-land'.

5) Gyms typically require patrons to wear at least a tank-top, so I've mostly given up on them since I don't do weights and prefer the outdoors anyway. But for those who prefer treadmills and the like, the problem looks pretty insuperable.

6) Depending on the length of run and the weather, the shirtless runner really mustn't forget his sunscreen (thanks to respondents on for reminders on this point).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Don't knock it if you haven't tried it

For those of you runners who look askance upon your shirtless brethren, perhaps you'll accept the following experiment:

Simply go shirtless in your runs at least three consecutive times. Chances are you've never done that.

Don't run less or more than you would normally, though you may wish to vary your route or when you run slightly if you'd rather not encounter anyone you know (I know how that feels).

I wouldn't be surprised if many of you find that, after that taster, you'll feel a lot better-disposed to us even if you decide you'd rather not 'turn shirtless full-time'.

If you feel like writing in describing just how much you remain unconvinced, that response will get its due too. And you'll have my thanks for bothering to research what you criticise.

(Full disclosure: I've already run the experiment in reverse, at my wife's urging. I once put on a tank top and ran for a week. It didn't take.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

'Shirtless beats holey-shirts any time'

At one point, I was pretty het up over whether (as it is sometimes alleged in online screeds) most women take offense at the sight of shirtless runners. My wife, for one, thinks most shirtless runners - and shirtless sportsmen in general - should stay fully clothed to ward off potentially 'terrifying elderly folk'. Seeking to canvass a broader spectrum of opinion, I broached the topic to a good friend of mine: A woman who does not exercise regularly, wouldn't be seen dead in a jogbra and is fairly conservative overall. Three interesting points emerged:

First, she admitted to being surprised to learn that I had 'turned shirtless runner on her'. She had felt that most men who chose to go shirtless, and to a lesser extent the jogbra crowd among women, were mostly trying to show off their physiques. Yet she knew that I did not fall into the 'exhibitionist maniac' category, so she was interested to know 'what boxes it ticked for me'.

Second, she said that going shirtless was not the worst sin in her book. Worse were men who 'wore mesh shirts with loads of little holes'. If you felt the weather was stifling - or if you felt your body could really bring joy to millions, she said, it was more honest to simply go without a shirt than to opt for 'those things'.

Third, regardless of her personal preferences (hopefully modified by our little chat), she did not think that going shirtless in contexts like exercising or even strolling down the street was to commit some sort of social faux pas. But she knew of friends who thought otherwise.

My friend's observations solidified my sense that to to convert to shirtless running is to accept a certain responsibility: That of potentially affecting the views of the multitudes who simply don't have many friends who admit to being of the shirtless persuasion. Most folks, in other words, simply form their impressions based on those of us they encounter fleetingly in the streets, in the parks or at sports stadiums. There are no doubt out-and-out poseurs among us, but I've no reason to think that the majority of us fall into that category.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nine reasons to run shirtless

Lists are fun. For my money, the three 'Big Cs' - camaraderie, comfort and convenience - capture much of the essence of why running shirtless (or jogbraed) is an attractive option. But let's break things down to nine reasons to go bare:

1) Your body cools more effectively: No wicking shirt will do the job as well, whatever the promotional literature may claim.

2) It ensures you stick to your exercise regime: If you know there's more of you on display, you'll make sure you won't cut too many corners.

3) It saves on laundry: If you play tennis three times a week, or run four times a week, that's 12 or 16 shirts saved respectively from the wash.

4) Enjoy the brotherhood: When another shirtless person hoves to view as you run, you feel an automatic bond. Honest to God.

5) It's just ever so slightly naughty: In the most harmless way imaginable, the shirtless runner bucks anoynimity (though if enough people come on board, we'd be the majority, which would change the dynamic somewhat. For now, however, that's not an issue).

6) For those logging serious miles, you avoid nipple-chafing.

7) Get an even tan.

8) Up your speed: It's been attested to by many runners, though it may not apply to everyone, that there's more zing to your step when you're shirtless.

9) Lead the pack: It's the same attraction that draws some folks to be early-adopters of new gadgets. Anecdotally, plenty of potential shirtless runners are held back by reserve and a lack of exemplars. There's nothing like setting an example and seeing someone else gain the courage to turn up in jogbra or sans shirt.

* I've stolen some of these thoughts from others, without remembering who's suggested what. If anyone's got other reasons, send them in and I'll add to the list. *

Friday, March 6, 2009

How I became a shirtless runner

'Back when I was a boy', as they say, there were always some students in my class every year who were ready to strip to their waist when it was time for Physical Education classes or impromptu games, even when this was not required by the coach or teacher-in-charge. Others were more 'shy', but one signal recollection from when I was perhaps 15 is of a fellow called Samuel who -uncharacteristically - stripped down one day for a game of volleyball. Afterwards, he said that "it had felt great to be shirtless".

Until about eight years ago, I'd always felt a definite sympathy for that sentiment, yet there was a countervailing force acting on me: It seemed somehow 'showy' to be removing one's upper-body attire. I was also conscious that mine was not a sculpted physique. This force is surely a 'socialising' effect but it operated on me - as I'm sure it operates on many others - as a kind of mental straitjacket. I well remember a soccer game where, by consensus, one side - the one I was on, coincidentally - had to go bare. I recall feeling both self-consciousness and a sense of gratitude at receiving the imprimatur to go bare-chested.

For no reason that I can readily divine - eight years ago or so, as I've said - I began to embrace my shirtless self. I was jogging semi-regularly and, if the weather was humid and the environs quiet, I found myself removing my shirt - and enjoying a vast improvement in comfort. It was cooler. Perspiration didn't stick to my shirt and I felt an indescribable 'buzz'. My stride picked up and my very senses seemed more acute.

My conversion had begun and there was no going back. I began spending less and less time during my runs shirted, though for quite a while I had a great fear of encountering people I knew while stripped to the waist. But with time, this psychic hurdle began to crumble: After all, I wasn't robbing an old lady, tracking mud into someone's home or doing anything else shameful. I was just shirtless. One day, I was starting out from my home when some final barrier came crashing down. I paused, removed my shirt and threw it onto my porch - and ran on. There are thousands of people around the world who - voluntarily - run, or play sports, or labour at work sans shirt, and I had joined their ranks. I had converted fully.

That, in brief, is my story. I know it is far from unique, but perhaps it is instructive. Having literally 'kept my shirt on' all those years, I now assent to what my friend Samuel said those years ago: "It feels good to be shirtless". It is a happy creed for a runner, and we who hold to it invite others to seek out its truth.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Why a blog about running shirtless?

Everyone should have a 'thing'.

Some folks have a 'thing' about stamp-collecting, others go in for birdwatching or becoming an authority on rare Oriental vases. A 'thing' usually translates into some interesting aspect of one's character, a perhaps slightly-dotty passion that one wants to share.

My 'thing', then, is running shirtless. My times are south of pathetic and I don't have what is called a 'great bod', so I'm not trying to showcase my extraordinary athleticism or Adonis-like physique. But it feels good to stride along with the wind in my hair, the sun on my body. Compared to when I'm encased in a T-shirt or tank top, I feel free-er and faster.

Like many folks who have come to enjoy a harmless, healthful activity, I want others to partake in it. For one thing, there is a camaraderie - or there should be - among those who exercise bare-chested that I find pleasurable and wish to foster. For another, I believe there are many people who would like to go shirtless, but have been held back for various reasons. Hopefully, some of these will be addressed in future blog posts.

I'll just mention three last points :

1) First, in all that I write about here, I include as effectively shirtless women who strip down to jogbras to exercise. They are included in the camaraderie I refer to above, though they will forgive references to 'bare-chestedness', which is not meant to be exclusionary.

2) Second, there are many debates about where and when it is seemly - or otherwise - to be shirtless in public. There are folks who hew to the line that men ought to feel free to strip to the waist everywhere. I would not go so far: Mine is a terribly unmilitant shirtlessness.

3) Lastly, I do hope that readers will leave their comments, share their experiences or engage in dialogue. Perhaps one of us could convince the other of a contrary point of view, or we might together strengthen an argument that we both endorse. More ominously, some may consider this blog a quixotic venture at best, or batty or even a threat at some level. I'll ensure that your voices are not stifled.

If this blog ends up convincing just a few folks to shed the shirt - even if it's to 'give it a try' - I'll feel that it's been worth the effort invested. For those who might return occasionally to it as a mildly barmy enterprise, you are a welcome visitor always too.