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!

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.


Anonymous said...

Sounds quite like how I began running shirtless. I used to start out wearing a shirt, then taking it off and hanging it from my shorts later in the run. Now if the weather's hot enough I don't bother bringing a shirt with me when I head out for a run.

barethomas said...

Yes it comes by small degrees, doesn't it? If you'd told me a few years ago I'd end up a devout shirtless runner, I'd have laughed in your face.

Anonymous said...

good for you -- looking fwd to warmer weather !

barethomas said...

Happy shirtless running to you, then.

Duncs said...

Great blog.
One thing I find is it makes me a great weather forecaster. I run at night, maybe 10 or 10.30pm, UK south coast, only a mile or 3 as there's not time for more. I look at the thermometer before I go out and nearly always get it right to nearest degree. 7 degrees or more no probs, 6 degrees or less I have a longer warm up than usual. There's nobody out 10pm in November, not even dogwalkers, so it's me, maybe a fox, great stars, 2 degrees, a bit of speed, and exhilaration, and definitely no top. Lowest I've done is minus 1C for a couple of miles, great feeling once home too.

barethomas said...

Two degrees, Dunc?

You're really hard core.

Tremendi said...

In the UK I would say that you can run shirtless virtually all year. Like Duncs, I run shirtless 2 ro 3 times a week but early in the morning - not late. At the moment (January)that means starting in the dark on the road at 07h00 but after a mile or so its light enough to see the paths in the woods that I run through and almost fully light by the time I get home. Total run is 4.4miles (7.1km). I have run that in temps down to about -3C. Did a short shirtless run (4km) on snow covered ground with a strong wind chill the other day in -6C whilst in Germany - that was the day I didn't look at the thermometer or weather forecast before heading out - it was perhaps a little too cold, but I survived the experience and am the wiser for it too. Dont knock the cold weather runs until you try it. If you get used to it gradually as the season changes its OK. Happy shirtless running guys. Good blog too.

barethomas said...

Thanks for swinging by, Tremendi, and the kind words.

Re 'If you get used to it gradually as the season changes, it's OK': Hmmm, maybe that's the secret. I've always had a 'woke up one morning and found it just too cold' experience at some point, but perhaps regularity and discipline are the key.

Tim said...

Great post, I may just become a shirtless runner someday. I added your site to my suggested links page, you can check it out here:


barethomas said...

Hi Tim, thanks for the link and for visiting. I popped over to your blog,, read your post on shirtless running and observe that your fair complexion is one bar to more regular bare-chested runs.

Perhaps a good sunscreen might be the answer?

Anyway, I look forward to when you join us 'full-time'. Happy running!

Joseph Ford said...

Shirtlessness doesn't just apply to running. In the summer I'm shirtless all the time. Nothing against shirts, I just like not wearing one generally. Maybe I'm weird? There's a lot of shirtless running, bicycling, skateboarding, whatever. Maybe it's just natural for boys to be shirtless. And running/biking/skating is a socially acceptable "excuse" for it?

Gavin Roberts said...

I used to run a lot, but only do short runs now due to a back problem. However, I love going shirtless when I'm outside (I have an outdoors job) - as it makes me feel healthy and uninhibited.
Of course you do get odd looks from other people who are all wrapped up - one early morning in January I couldn't sleep, so I got up and walked up a nearby hilltop, at poss. -4'C; at least by doing that in the dark, I could assert my right to go shirtless without anyone staring.

bridlebank17 said...

Last year while out running in the woods on a freezing cold evening, I decided to remove my t-shirt, and run shirtless for about 20 minutes. It felt great. I continued doing it last winter - when there was snow on the ground I'd go out just wearing trainers and a pair of brief running shorts. I've been waiting 10 months for a really cold, foul night to try it, hopefully that should happen soon now. Love to hear from others - contact me on

Anonymous said...

I have been meeting up with a buddy mine every weekend since mid summer for a 5 mile loop trail run. We have both been running shirtless since he realized it is a better way to run. However with the colder weather coming in we made a small wager as to who would give in first to the cold and wear a shirt. Last weekend at daybreak it was 5C(41F), and I thought I had won it for sure, but we both showed up shirtless. This weekend it will be near freezing or just below, see what happens this weekend.

michaeljackson said...

Hey Anonymous, who chickened out, you or your friend?

Anonymous said...

Reading this account really struck a chord with me as it summed up most of my own feelings about being shirtless during my teenage years. I used to be envious of the boys who would lose no opportunity to take off their tops, especially during summer, playing football or messing around in the park. Somehow I couldn’t make myself do that, partly because I didn’t feel I had the physique for it and partly because I had the impression that it was a bit yobbish to be wandering around with no shirt on all the time.
Then, of course, there was PE and games at school and one or two boys in my class would regularly ‘forget’ their tops on purpose so the teacher had to let them do the lesson bare-chested.
It was PE that eventually forced the issue when I was 14; suddenly shirts and skins was introduced for sports in the gym. I can’t recall what the reason was but I clearly remember my mixed feelings. On the one hand I felt nervous at the thought of having to take off my t-shirt in front of the rest of the class. Yet at the same time part of me was hoping to be picked as a skin so I would be compelled to do what I was too self-conscious to do by choice.
As it happened, I was kept in suspense for the first couple of lessons as I stayed on the shirts team – but the moment of truth came next time when the teacher picked sides for basketball. When he announced that my team would play in skins my feeling was one of relief rather than panic, now the choice had been taken out of my hands I had no alternative but to take off my top and play bare-chested. It felt very strange at first, but by the end of the lesson I was more comfortable and as I walked off I could feel the sweat cooling on my skin instead of having a damp t-shirt sticking to my back.
Over the next few months I went bare-chested for PE several times and soon realised it was really no big deal. Looking back I’m grateful to the teacher for picking me on the skins team and forcing me to deal with my hang-up.

Anonymous said...

After several missed weekends I finally meet up with my running buddy to continue the shirtless cold weather challenge. We changed the running time to mid morning which upped the ante a bit since a lot more people would be out that time of day. It was sunny brisk morning with temps around 37F (3C), I must admit I hesitated a bit, but went shirtless down to the running trail. A lot of folks were out running that time of day, but I was the only shirtless one since my buddy wimped out with a long sleeve shirt. It was kind of fun though, with my buddy pointing out me being shirtless to other passing runners, got all kinds of odd looks. My buddy ended up going shirtless about half way through our run, but had to show up shirtless to win.

Arnaud (France) said...

Firts, thanks for this great blog.
I'm not sure to well understand all is written and computer translations (for helping) are often funnier tan mine own.
I like very much to run shirtless, generally from middle may to september, depending on the weather. It give me a feeling of freedom, power and being in harmony with nature. I'm not a good runner but I'm a little faster and hardier when I'm shirtless.
At the begining, I put my shirt into a bush on the path in the forest because I was afraid to be seen by people I knew.
I ended up leaving my shirt at home and running shirtless the 1.5 kms from home to the forest. It's thanks to my wife, seeing me hesitate, putting my shirt on a chair then taking it and again, looked at me from head to feet and told me : "yes, you can run like that !" Since, I've met neighbours and friends and I do not care.
Sorry for my pitiful english.

Anonymous said...

I am a guy who lives in Singapore which is located 2 deg north of the equator. Temp range thruout the year is 24-35 deg Celsius. I love running trails and avoid crowded area whenever possible. I am quite tanned and always enjoy being tanned. So shirtless running is the best way to get a tan and workout at the same time.

Generally I am not shy running shirtless but if a trail is known to be crowded, I may put on my shirt. Public generally don't react to shirtless men especially when they are exercising.

I enjoy running shirtless with a friend. Somehow helps us to bond better, as though we are being more open to each other thru our bare chest.

I keep a blog and sometimes write about running. Just select "running" tag.

barethomas said...

Jerry, would you consider writing up your experiences as a guest post for this blog? I am interested in your thought about "bonding better through our bare chest". Is this like the shirtless camaraderie referred to in several posts here? I certainly feel an immediate kinship with any barechested or jogbraed runner I meet, especially a fellow full convert (no safety shirt). However I run alone, or in a gym where shirts must stay on. Perhaps the fellowship is enhanced when it intersects with an existing friendship?

Josh Schorle said...

I just recently started trying to run shirtless in efforts to force myself to get out of my comfort zone and to generally feel better about my body. I will say, it is definitely more freeing and I feel a little more in tune with my body.