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!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stripping down to jogbra (Part II)

So you feel like you'd like to shed some inhibitions, cut down on laundry and boost the comfort level big-time while on the run. Maybe you've always secretly envied those who dared to strip down to jogbra. Here are a few tips to get past those last few barriers holding you back...

(Note: Much of the following applies to trying out shirtless running for men, with the possible exception of Point 2; call me trapped in stereotypes, but some of the talkie-talkie stuff might be uncomfortable to many a Joe Public.)

1) Start at home: To feel more comfortable with your own skin, so to speak, start by stripping down to jogbra while in the comfort and privacy of your own abode. When doing chores, having a snooze or just lounging about, get used to what it feels like to have much of your upper body comfortably air-cooled.

2) Exploit friendships: You may know someone who is already a confident jogbraed-running exponent. If so, she might not mind company on her runs - and you could very naturally get into sync attire-wise. You might even broach the subject of personal shyness and ask how she got over any inhibitions she might have initially had. Hearing it from another person can help: In my case, learning that one of my relatives was a confirmed shirtless runner gave me an extra boost.

3) Choose your time: It's entirely natural that you'll feel especially intimidated if, plodding along for the first time in your more 'exposed' self, there are hordes of folk toddling past and - or so it will feel - giving your every blemish the once-over. So schedule your first jogbraed runs for times and places where there will be no crowds. Don't sacrifice safety: Late-night adventures down secluded alleys, if in an area where crime is at all a concern, would be highly unwise!

4) Use the 'midway' strategy: Once you are pleasingly warmed-up on your run, with perspiration dewing up diligently, it will feel a lot more natural to be shirtless. If you've been used to being all cladded-up, the immediate difference in comfort will also be very evident. So you might choose to start off on your way fully-attired, and wait till your shirt or tank top is begining to cling or sag damply before determining to remove it. You'll be surprised how those mental obstacles will have been softened and are that more easily smashed through.

5) Stack the deck: To amp up the 'midway' strategy, pick clothing for your run that is thicker than usual, or less absorbent - that way, you'll ratchet up the discomfort level and make stripping off the offending garment a way more inviting prospect. Similarly, deciding for the first time to embark on jogbraed running will be more difficult when the weather is cool (and quite possibly suicidal during winter), but correspondingly easier if you choose a hot summer day. Many 'conversions', by all account, occur when the thermostat has been crawling up relentlessly.

6) Once the first breakthrough is made, keep up the pace: Having tasted the jogbraed life, don't draw back and decide 'to try again in a couple of weeks'. It's natural that the first couple of go-rounds will be accompanied by a certain trepidation that may take away from the enjoyment. It's just like entrenching any habit: A little perseverance pays dividends. Perhaps set aside, for starters, two days when you will go shirtless for every two where you stay fully-clothed: That way, useful comparisons - almost certainly beneficial to ramping up jogbra-time - can be made.

7) Take comfort in numbers (a): There are places where shirtless/jogbraed runners, or for that matter clothes-light sportsmen of some other description, will be thicker on the ground than elsewhere. Parks, trails, neighbourhood hoops courts or soccer pitches would be obvious locales where your arrival would not stand out. So head there if it's convenient, and the sight of other comfortably-exposed torsos could be an inspiration.

8) Take comfort in numbers (b): There are online groups, forums or the odd blog (ahem) to explore where you will recognise in the chatter that there are many, many people who have embraced shirtless running, are interested in taking it up or have begun trialling the option. I try to bring a selection here, of course, but there's no reason why you can't google- or Bing- away yourself. Naturally, some groups or forums will have slants or broader agendas that are not your own, but you can cherry-pick what you need by way of encouragement. Join in the discourse - heck, tell us your experiences in a comment here, or a guest post - and there will be mutual support to draw on.

9) Go bare from the start: This is the critical point, or what might be called 'full conversion' to shirtlessness. Once you've become accustomed to stripping off in mid-run, you'll need to find the psychic reserves to just head out in jogbra from the get-go. By this stage, you'll be somewhat 'hardened' and slightly addicted to shirtless comfort. You'll have become at least partially accustomed to having people's eyes on you, absorbed the odd sly comment and started to see yourself as 'a jogbraed runner'. Initially, you can still bring your shirt along, tucked in for emergencies, but resist any urge to reach for it. Soon it will seem an unnecessary encumbrance that can be dispensed with altogether. Personally, one fine day I just 'went without' from the start, without any momentous clashing of cymbols: The crutch wasn't needed and I left my shirt behind.

10) Mental reinforcement continues: Look back from time to time to when you thought jogbraed running was beyond you. Recalling how much more comfort you now enjoy, just savouring the greater sense of freedom, will help guard against backsliding (which happens more often than you might think!). Your identity as a Jogbraed Runner should now be fully-formed, something you can proudly acknowledge to all comers in the hope that others will come aboard thanks to the example you provide and, where requested, the experiences you share.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From the Internet: Desist, shirtless runners!

On the running scene, certainly in the USA, shirtlessness/jogbra-ness is common enough. There are some veteran members of the running community who are unhappy about this. Paul Staso, in a recent thoughtful blog entry (click here for the link), makes these observations regarding decorum among runners. While I would obviously not agree with the details of what he might consider decorous, his thoughts are at least worth thinking about:

Of course, males running shirtless and females wearing only sport bras has become more common over the past 10 years... but does the mere passing of time make it appropriate?

I often pick up my daughters from volleyball practice at their public high school and see the boys and girls cross country team returning from a training run on the streets of our town. Autumn in western Montana often brings many 80-degree days, and more often than not the boys are shirtless and the girls can be seen wearing nothing more than an athletic bra from the waist up. When I ran on my high school's cross country team back in the early 1980's, all boys were required to wear a shirt (nothing less than a singlet) and girls had to wear at least a bra and T-shirt. Now a days, many girls who opt to wear a shirt purposefully cut their T-shirts down the sides so that there is hardly any material there, clearly showing their sports bras, and many boys don't wear a shirt at all - even though there are high-performance, moisture-wicking fabrics available for today's runners.

Why has this trend developed? Is it being influenced by young coaches, media or advertising? Where is the pride in representing your school on your town's streets - or some other town's streets - by dressing appropriately? Do high school kids take time to think about how they may be influencing younger kids, or how they may be offending older people? By running around without shirts on, or in only sports bras, are they really drawing the kind of attention to themselves that they want?

Unfortunately, it's not just the kids that are dressing in nearly nothing to run around my local community while training for cross country races. Often, I see their male coaches (usually 20-something-year olds) running without shirts or female coaches wearing only sports bras.

So, what do you think? Are males running shirtless through communities and females running in only sport bras inappropriate and/or immodest?

Stripping down to jogbra (Part I)

Here's an excerpt from a blog post (click for the original) in which a runner, Chelsinki, describes stripping down to her jogbra - or so I understand her - midway through a serious trail run:

"I promised myself if I didn't stop I would allow myself to take the descent shirtless... As promised I removed my shirt, which was one of the most liberating, freeing, glorious parts of my run. However, after running into a couple out hiking, I put it back on out of self-consciousness. I still am not sure where I (a petite, fit, LADY runner) fit into shirtless running etiquette. I know whenever I see a hairy, out of shape, shirtless man running, I think, "just because you can, doesn't mean you should". However, I do believe there is a place for shirtless running (i.e. the trail), I just have to figure out where I draw the line, or I guess remove my shirt."
- from 'Running... Cycling... Etc' (now known as 'Surfing the Stars').

Well, as I see it, runners in jogbras should be accorded all the freedom, and exercise the same sense of responsibility and decorum, as their shirtless male counterparts. I would NOT reiterate this statement without qualification if we were discussing those jurisdictions where women have the legal protection to run bare-chested: Tenaciously-rooted social mores make things a little more complicated. But if we stick to the jogbra scenario, I don't see why women should not feel themselves at liberty to strip down - and indeed, I should say should strip down, for the sorts of health-, comfort- and camaraderie- related reasons salted throughout the posts of this blog.

Still, having lived in various parts of the world, I find it a general fact that a smaller proportion of female runners dares to bare, in comparison to men. Though we ought to understand the issue entirely as exercise-defined, it is often conflated with allegations of promiscuity, flirtiness and immodesty. Where a shirtless woman is potentially at risk of bodily harm or serious irritation, discretion and a campaign of 'sensitisation' would seem the better part of valour. Ideally, she would go jogbraed only with a male runner in escort - also shirtless, in solidarity. My suspicion is that, over time, residents would become accustomed to seeing such a pioneer in the vicinity, notice no drastic collapse in the moral tenor of the community and eventually become sufficiently accepting that she can run on her own in safety. Naturally, the more of such 'shirtless pairings' dare to venture out, the sooner the walls of distrust and excessive reserve can be worn down.

For most women likely to read this post, thankfully, the sort of constraints they feel would be of a lesser degree. So why not be thankful that the jogbra option is available without need for extreme measures, and then try it out? Expect occasional wolf whistles, catcalls and other expressions of male attention, but to the extent to which these do not actively encourage one (and why not!), such incidents would form only a drop in an ocean of what I can promise is a generally positive, or at least indifferent, reception.

[Here ends Part One of this focus on jogbraed running. Part Two will offer some tips on how to summon up that initial courage]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Someone I converted to shirtlessness

Having embraced shirtless running, I must confess to have become rather evangelical about it, in that I nurse the hope that others will join our 'stripped-down' community - even as I want to stress that, in doing so, one is simply adopting a healthful and mind-opening pursuit.

I was therefore pleased to learn a day or two ago that I had, unbeknownst to me, converted someone fully to the cause. He is, as it happens, an old neighbour - my family has since moved - who had indeed been one of those who had registered evident astonishment years ago when I first began venturing out of my digs clad only in shorts, running shoes and socks. I was rather nervous about it then, and I fancy I can still remember his slightly forced smile. During the rest of my time living in that neighbourhood, I never saw him head out bare-chested to run - or indeed to go running at all - though we remained overall on the most cordial terms.

Still, so friendly had we remained that, the other day, we dropped by at his place when we chanced to be in the vicinity. It was his wife who mentioned that he was somewhat less of a couch potato than he used to be - and that he would come home from work in the evening, change into shirtless running attire and then trot out. Clearly, the wife had no issues with this conversion, and gave the strongest signs that she was thankful I had given him an example to follow. The man himself acknowledged that he felt the better for picking up a healthy habit and we discussed his hope that his rather slothful children would join him less infrequently. Perhaps there will be good news on the 'younger generation' when next we meet.

I can't really say why I should feel fulfilled at having increased the shirtless running community by at least one (I don't think the tardy children quite count yet). But I do know there are many out there who feel the same sense of pride at shedding the shirt (or running in jogbra), and I hope that more will offer up their views or experiences. Do write in!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lose the shirt, friends (some shirtless testimony)

Some random comments cribbed from the Internet on when and why runners might decide to convert to shirtlessness:

A) When it rains

"If it is REALLY downpouring, I will sometimes go shirtless, just because all my running shirts get heavy and feel suffocating."
- by runner librarian, in a blog comment: click here to access original

B) When it's hot and breezeless

1) "In my opinion, bare-chested with a sunscreen that doesn't block the pores (greaseless) is the way to go. When all is said and done a light shirt offers about spf 15 protection at a huge cost of the body's ability to get rid of heat."
- by Wesley Best, on a forum: click here to access original

2) "I never thought I’d run shirtless but I knew the day was going to be hot and I decided to give it a whirl. In hindsight, it was a great idea!"
- by Natalie in a blog posting: click here to access original

C) To be comfortable

"I enjoy running shirtless because its more comfortable, but only when I'm doing my own, peaceful jog. I don't like to go shirtless around others, it makes you look like you're trying to show something off."
- by runnerboy in a Yahoo! Answers entry: click here to access original

D) To avoid injury

"Whenever possible, I like to run shirtless because it's more comfortable and doesn't make my nipples bleed!"
- by supermanz in a blog comment: click here to access original

E) To gain approbation

[A friend] (shirtless) had passed us going the other direction and was oohed and aaahed at by the girls with his magnificent physique. So I decided to run shirtless for the last section but receieved no swooning from anyone. Ce La Vie!"
- by Peter Giddy in a blog post: click here to access original