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, September 20, 2010

Guest post: Shirtless, and cold, in Sweden

Here, Anders in Sweden reminisces about his youthful, shirtless times. Hang on, it's an icy ride...
The picture on top of your homepage just reminds about when i was young, round 16 years.  We were some schoolfriends who went running every Sunday, as much for the fellowship as the training. We persuaded more of our friends to join us and soon we were about 10 tough guys running together.
When we were out, we looked much as the runners on that picture. We thought that only cowards ran in jogging suit or shirt. We found in 'tougher' to run in shorts only. We did so the first autumn only until the temperature dropped to zero Centigrade, but next year we stayed bare for the entire winter (and winters are really cold in Scandinavia).
Not all the runners stayed with us when it dropped below zero.
We thought those bailing out were cowards and not tough enough. We got much "good advice" from "more knowledgeable" runners we met and much ironic commentary, such as: Are you training for Alaska?
It made for marvellous fellowship amongst tough guys and good training, too. I just felt a tough guy together with the others. The fellowship made it easier to run in the cold and to run faster. 
The best thing was that we became popular among the girls. We asked some girls we knew to be present at the spot where we would reach the endpoint of our run. They came, waited and cheered and clapped their hands.  It was marvellous then to chat briefly with them, before we got too cold because we were standing still.
You can call it flirting if you like. Knowing that the girls were waiting for us made the run easier.
After running, if it was cold, we would have boxing glowes in our bags. We would then stage short fights outdoors, when we still were warm. It was on a green common. If just two of us brought gloves, everyone could fight but it would be  two at the time. The boxing was also a part of that fellowship. Again, it made us feel more like a tough guy to be in such company.
After running and boxing, we would don our training suits, which we would have stowed in bags on our bicycles, then bike home.
If it was snowing we might substitute a snowball fight for the boxing. We would hurl snowballs at the bare bodies and shove our friends into the snow.
I wrote in because the picture on top of the homepage just looked the same as when we were running in those days.I'm middle-aged now but still cycle a lot.
Anders Ström,

Monday, September 6, 2010

Guest post: Inspiring other runners to go shirtless

Here's the 50th post on the blog, and it's all about spreading the shirtless running bug! It's a guest post by Rockbound. Read on...

Inspiring shirtless running

I've been running for many years, always shirtless if the weather permits. Over those years, there have been numerous times when I suspected my shirtlessness inspired others to "convert". I've never suggested to anyone that they run shirtless or commented on it, so I cannot be sure I was their inspiration, but I strongly believe my example was a factor in some of the cases.

A typical scenario is when someone else's running schedule happens to coincide with yours and you meet them by chance on the road. After a few days, or longer, you notice that they have shed the shirt. This happens more frequently if you wave or exchange a brief greeting with them when meeting. I think the greeting helps make you more "real" to them, and makes shirtlessness seem less intimidating. This sort of thing has happened many times over the years. The most recent example was in the past month, when I met a high-school cross-country team starting their preseason training. All these runners wore shirts the first couple of days I saw them. By the third or fourth day, several of the guys on the team were running shirtless.

It's not always runners that are inspired. For several years, I've seen a guy who walks along some of my running trails. After two or three years, I noticed that he'd started taking off his shirt for at least part of his walk.

Sometimes, the inspiration seems to work quickly. A few months ago, I met a young woman running in the opposite direction. She wore shorts and a T-shirt. I waved as we passed, but she did not respond. Toward the end of my run, we met again. By then, she had rolled her T-shirt up over her sports bra, exposing her midriff. Now happily "shirtless", she waved, said hello and even made a remark about the weather. I was amazed at the transformation!

Why does shirtlessness inspire shirtlessness?  I think there are two big reasons.

The first is confidence, which can be contagious. Your confident shirtlessness demonstrates to others that it's okay to run shirtless. People often hate to be the only one doing something, so you help their confidence by setting an example.

Next, I think that shirtless runners are happier, enjoying their runs more than many others, and that enjoyment is clearly evident to others. Think about it -- don't you see shirtless runners smiling more, showing more confidence, having more of a spring in their step, than most shirted runners? That positive attitude and enhanced pleasure in the running, I believe, inspires others to do likewise and make their runs more fun.

Let's keep setting an example and inspiring others!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Guest post: One new full convert's story

Richard has just this year become a full convert to shirtless running. He describes his journey in the following post (the 49th on this blog: The next will be our 50th)!

'I had thought of doing it for several years'
by Richard

Running shirtless… it is something I had thought of doing for several years.  I’d seen people on the streets – sans shirt.  I wondered what others might think.  A few had great bodies.  Most – like me – were less than sculpted, just average.  A few were maybe even less than that.

Now 45, I finally got the nerve to give shirtless running a shot just one year ago.  Sure, the fears existed.  What would people think?  What if I was spotted – naked from the waist up – by a neighbor or co-worker?  But, it didn’t matter.  Inspired and given reassurance by Bare Thomas’ Running Shirtless blog, I took to the streets.

Much to my surprise and comfort, I have survived.  I’ve moved from a safety shirt in my hand to a full convert. In fact, just recently, I didn’t store my condo keys in my normal hiding place, so I had to buzz another building resident to let in her shirtless neighbor!

Running barechested is liberating and comfortable.  No shirt sticking to my torso on humid days.  A cool breeze on my skin.  I have a 4.5 mile loop – on well-traveled streets – and I have yet to cause any accidents or be scolded/ laughed at by anyone.  In fact, I’m just now becoming secure enough to stand pat at street crossings (waiting for the lights to change and right time to safely cross).  Previously, I’d run a little to the left or right and loop around, rather than take the chance of those cars viewing my bare chest while they waited at the light.  I’m now convinced no one is bothered by my average torso being exposed.

Now, I look forward to running shirtless.  It’s fun, relaxing and easy.  The “what is he doing” stares – if they exist – aren’t evident.  My runs are better than ever (I didn’t say faster than ever!).

I thank Bare Thomas and his blog, and all those who contribute,  for giving me the courage and the push to shed my shirt and get out on the streets.  From this point forward, my neighborhood runs, weather permitting, will be shirtless.

I still haven’t run into – literally – any friends or co-workers on my shirtless jaunts.  I don’t run shirtless when I run from my work place (we have facilities here).  But I’m convinced I can continue the movement to shirtless running … and hopefully inspire others to join me.

Just do it!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guest post: Tips on shirtless self-confidence

Going barechested or jogbraed for the first time can be a daunting experience, so ROBIN VANAGS has offered a few tips on how to weather that initial storm.

 Shirtless Self-confidence
(perhaps it’s obvious – but...)

(a) First off, remember:  Hesitation is the enemy. Whenever/wherever you run shirtless, take the shirt off decisively and keep it off, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world; you’ve been doing it all your life. The illusion of confidence can be beneficial.

(b) To shield from insecurity, try the ‘what are you looking at?’ technique. I don’t advocate hostility to those you encounter, of course. Rather, try a blank stare if you sense unwelcome attention. Let them question their own behaviour – not yours.

(c) Mental application is important: To fend off self-consciousness, concentrate intensely on what you’re doing and your surroundings – or on anything other than just that you’ve got your shirt off.

(d) Remember your posture! Keep your back and head up straight and your shoulders back – so nothing sags and you don’t slouch. This is one area where thinking about what you look like is going to help (well, I think so).

I hope this isn’t too patronizing – it helped me in my early twenties, I hope it could help others.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Giving up on shirtless running

Visitors to this blog occasionally recount how they came to be shirtless runners, but the truth of course is that the traffic isn't all one-way. Some people start off down the barechested/jogbraed route, then decide they would rather stay more covered-up. Here are five reasons most often given for 'backsliding':

1) Cancer fears: This is the top factor cited. You meet or read of someone who has had the great misfortune of contracting the dread disease, and who expresses regret at having been a sun worshipper/ shirtless runner/ etc. The psychological impact of this should not be sniffed at. It's all well and good to say that slathering on sun block or running at certain sensible hours greatly minimises any risk. It might all just seem not worth it to some.

2) Psychological trauma: Having someone yell, 'Put a shirt on!', or other more crude or derogatory comments can greatly wound one's self-esteem, especially if one is a relatively new convert to the shirtless ranks. If one is already a little insecure about one's body, a couple of nasty encounters can completely destroy any enjoyment that might be derived from going bare.

3) Consideration: This isn't quite the same as (2). One might speak to a friend who expresses great displeasure at 'having to endure these half-naked types', or read blog posts in which the author insists that our social mores strongly militate in favour of staying covered-up. One is then convinced that running shirtless shouldn't be one's personal choice, or decides that on balance it shouldn't be practised.

4) Simple self-doubt: This can easily and insiduously take hold. Perhaps over winter one puts on a few extra pounds: For some, it's just a matter of working them off with healthful exertion, but for others it ups the insecurity level enough to warrant keeping the shirt on. I've personally found that simply not running barechested for long enough can raise the psychological barrier to taking off my shirt (click here for the blog post in which I mention this)

5) Inertia: This is factor is more prevalent than you might think. You might run shirtless one year, but then through a winter of non-running, the relative benefits of stripping to the waist may fade from the mind. When the running shoes can be dusted off again, one just automatically keeps one's shirt on again, and life just goes on.

I would think there are reasons that could be adduced to counter any of the factors cited above - they are salted through the posts of the blog. But I don't think there is a real right or wrong to the matter. But feel free to write in and disagree.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Updating this blog: Your help needed

Dear readers:

This blog is just a few entries short of the 50th post mark! Here are some new features I'm already piloting, or are thinking of doing so, as the half-century looms:

1) The new info bar (it's above the 'Notes' and the first post). The first four sections I've bashed out are below in beta; swing by and critique, or suggest other useful sections:

'About me': Pretty obvious
'Vocabulary': Some terms one keeps falling over on this blog
'Links': I need good ones. Please contribute: Leave a comment or e-mail me at
'Policies': Some principles guiding the use of other writers' materials and other topics

2) I've begun Tweeting. Click on the Twitter icon on the upper right corner of the page to follow me! I will use Twitter to trial ideas, gather feedback and relay interesting Netstuff (observations, articles, quotes, tweets). Warning: On Twitter, I am barethomas10. There is ANOTHER barethomas, who's not me.

3) I'm thinking of serving up some ads, maybe Amazon or Google - that sort of thing. I want to be sure it won't clutter up or cheapen the page, but a little return could allow the blog to be upgraded further down the road. Anyone has ideas, criticism or advice? Any site designer want to freshen up the look? I can offer only an ad/link, a prominent acknowledgement and a post on the finished article by way of payment.

4) I've added a 'Share' button at the end of each post to offer a convenient way for posts here to be shared through social media like Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon and so on. It will help drive traffic to the site, so your assistance in spreading the word would be a huge help!

5) I've already installed a 'Latest Comments' widget to give your great feedback more prominence. Thanks so much, and keep it coming. However, while anonymous comments will continue to be allowed, please consider identifying yourself so we'll know who's saying what.

Friday, July 16, 2010

From the Net: The naked run

In this perky blog post (click here for the original), Rachel Wilkerson finds herself stripping off for a jogbraed run and revelling in it. She doesn't seem to be really a full convert like emiliab9291 (From the Net: A convert to Jogbraed Running). But as she says below, "you don’t want to have all those clothes on your skin…take them off!"

Lemme work it: The Naked Run
by Rachel @ The Life and Lessons of Rachel Wilkerson

I’ve written before about getting buff in the buff and stripping down to minimal clothing for a home workout…but I’ve never been that girl, the one who could hit the gym or the 5K in just a sports bra and shorts. That girl, I always believed, had to have abs like Britney circa the “Slave 4U” VMAs. My abs are more like Britney’s circa the head-shaving incident. But last Saturday, I had spent a long day by the pool and then needed to get my run in for my July goal. I was so hot, so brown, so sweaty, that I just couldn’t bear the thought of putting on clothes. So I decided to just…not. I mean, it’s just a body right? It’s not perfect, but it’s just a body. Being naked is natural for bodies. It was the kind of hot day in which most men would just go shirtless…no matter what their bodies looked like.

I decided I’d just bare all.

I figured that if I felt totally self-conscious, then, at the very least, it would make me run faster!

So out I went, wearing nothing but my ipod, my bra and shorts, my bomb kicks, and my sunscreen. And after a few minutes I realized…this isn’t so bad. At all actually! I was actually really quite unaware of my partial nakedness. I mean, I was aware of the fact that I wasn’t wearing a tank top because I was infinitely cooler…and I was aware of keeping my abs in, which is a good thing when you run…but I was also just not hyper-aware of myself, feeling that naked.

By the end of the run, I was actually covered… in more sweat than I even knew was possible. But even though I couldn’t have been more dirty and in need of a shower, I actually felt really cleansed and really sexy
 [Note from BareThomas: Sounds like the famed 'shirtless charge' kicking in]. It takes a team of stylists to make Megan Fox look that gritty and wet on a photo shoot, and look — I had Ijust done it all on my own!

I’m sure you, like me, read fitness magazines and stare at the beautiful, happy models who are always exercising in gorgeous locales in something with more no coverage than a bathing suit and thinking, “Pshhh…yeah right!” Well, hey, now I have to say… maybe they just got too hot!

Although I can’t say that I would ever rock that outfit at the gym — I don’t want to be That Girl — I feel like now I wouldn’t hesitate to strip down to my sports bra in an overheated spin class. It’s just a body. It goes running! It gets tan! Sometimes…it gets hot so then it gets kinda naked!

If you’re the sort of girl who stares at her “flaws” in a magnifying mirror for hours on end or the girl who has sex with the lights off, I highly encourage you to give into the heat. God knows men use warm weather as an excuse to take their shirts off — why shouldn’t you? It’s hot. You don’t want to have all those clothes on your skin…take them off!

Don’t worry about what people will see. They’ll just see a body. And a body is just a body. We all have them. None of them are perfect but all of them are kind of amazing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Three obstacles to running shirtless

Here are three problems that may keep otherwise willing converts from embracing shirtless running. Anyone with solutions are welcome to offer them (* Refer to Comments section for these).

1) In a comment on this blog, Anonymous wrote:

I would love to (run shirtless), but I have bad acne on the shoulders and back . I always imagine people staring at me, even if nobody really does. Mostly, I am thinking if somebody would be feeling offended not only seeing me shirtless but my problem. Any psychic trick I may use?

Thoughts: I'm no doctor and speak from complete ignorance, but might some sun on your back actually have a therapeutic effect on the acne? Thought admittedly it might make it worse for all I know. Could you seek medical advice on how to deal with the acne? Perhaps you might reflect that acne on the back might be considered far less of a psychic hindrance than 'heavy man-breasts', 'rather a prominent beer belly' and other oft-heard laments. Alternative 'psychic tricks', anyone?

2) Jiruns, in 'The best place to run in Philadelphia...', from the blog The Training Blog of Jiruns (click here for original), wrote:

The only problem with running shirtless is there is nothing to soak up the sweat from the torso as it cascades down the body to the shorts. By the 35:00 mark today, my shorts were soaked. Luckily, running shorts don’t get much heavier when they are wet. The second half of the run was mostly uphill, with soaked shorts, socks and shoes. Needless to say, not the best conditions to run.

Thoughts: One might suggest carrying a hand towel, but that's rather a pain to clutch all the while. If it's a breezy-enough day, the wind might dry more of the perspiration before it pours downwards. I've heard of products that can impede sweating, but I would avoid these as they might hinder the conducting of heat away from the body. Suggestions?

3) Anohergal wrote in a comment on this blog:

I lived in a more conservative community for high school (many Asians)... and it would have just been weird for people at my school to have seen me running in a sports bra... also awkward if I stumbled upon someone who knew my parents, etc. However, in college, it was a more laid back community and I felt much more comfortable going shirtless there. Coming back for summer vacation was bad though...!

Thoughts: A restrictive social context is, with minor tweaks to the context, a common complaint. It's easy enough to glibly say that, for change to come, someone must be the first to 'cross the line', but guaranteed opprobrium is hard to withstand. Finding 'a really quiet area' to run in is unwise since there may be safety risks. Joining a gym for jogbraed treadmill running might work, though most gyms would frown on males going shirtless. But there's the cash outlay to consider, and you might think the outdoors more inviting anyway. Another tricky one.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ditch safety shirt, run bare from the get-go

Fair warning: This post may stretch your boundaries. Well, just a little bit.

So you're someone who's 'sort of' converted to shirtless running and has become comfortable doing part of your runs sans shirt. Perhaps, as is most often reported, you usually remove the garment when perspiration starts to flow.

For my money, though, getting the most out of shirtless runnng means going a step further and losing the safety shirt. In other words, you shouldn't have to plod along with a singlet still tucked in your waistband or clutched in your hand. You should be starting off - from home, or your vehicle, or what have you - in just bare chest or jogbra, thereby 'converting fully'. Here are five reasons why you should:

(1) First, and most prosaically, having to hold on to a tank top or having it dangle off your shorts is a bit of a pain. It can throw you off your stride, distract from enjoyment and make you look ever so slightly awkward.

(2) That safety shirt draws attention to yourself. Someone who is full-bore shirtless is telegraphing a certain devil-may-care confidence about one's appearance, a naturalness that can be attractive in its own way but doesn't go out of its way to make a forced statement. But someone gripping a crumpled-up shirt while topless or jogbraed is another matter altogether.There are mixed signals here, a jangling discordance that pulls one up short. Is this person acknowledging that he or she needs to hang on to a shirt because there is something rather improper about 'going without' - so that, at need, he can cover himself post haste? If so, why is he shirtless at all?

(3) There is a satisfying sense of casting-off of a prop or crutch about heading out from the get-go without a shirt. You might have to wrestle with a taking-on of social risk - 'will I spot an old friend heading my way, who would never have imagined encountering me in the new guise as a shirtless runner?' - but if you can withstand the stabs of self-doubt, the sense of total freedom and not being tethered to some 'essentially shirted identity' can bring relief and giddy liberty. As the safety shirt is left further and further behind with every footfall, the internal naysaying should subside.

(4) Conversely, so long as a shirt remains within grasp, you are likely never going to shake off regular urges to put it on - especially at the end of your run as you are heading back to your home base. In the first place, that's going to detract from your run proper. Further, if you succumb to that end-of-run temptation to cover up again, that would deprive one of the great joys of shirtless running: Completing a run shirtless and feeling a sheen of honest perspiration on one's torso, without a clinging upper-body garment to literally dampen the sensation.

(5) Ultimately, as has been hinted at in (2), by converting fully you are validating the basic claim that being a shirtless runner - one who runs without a shirt - is merely embracing a healthsome activity and responsibly maximising comfort. If you really accept that, why need there be these odd shifts of gear, of having to endure part of your route shirt-encased? You might even say that abandoning the safety shirt is simply to be true and honest to yourself. Call it a test. If you cannot pass it, then perhaps there are hang-ups still to be overcome.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

From the Net: A convert to jogbraed running

An exuberant blog post from 'Hey, check it out' (click here for the original), whose author appears to be an enthusiastic new jogbraed runner. Welcome to the community of shirtless runners!

You know, that Sigmund Freud was on to something...

by emiliab9291

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of jogging — mostly with my shirt off. Don’t freak out, I’m always wearing a sports bra, but I’m just wearing a sports bra. I’m adopting this new lifestyle: Telling t-shirts to take a hike.
Running in a sports bra is absolute freedom. I did it for the first time on Saturday, and I don’t think I’ll ever wear a shirt while jogging outside again. I became one with Mother Nature. The wind and air caressed my torso, and all the world was laid before me in the form of a never-ending cross-country course. My feet never got tired and I never wanted to stop running. The sun hugged my shoulders, back and stomach, and I smiled back. We’re pretty good friends now — the sun and I. We’re close.

Where does Sigmund Freud come in, you might ask? Well. As I said, I’ve been running sans-shirt lately –  but that is only when I’m jogging outside. I work-out daily at the LA Times, as there is a wonderful gym in the basement of the building. So, last night, as usual, I packed my gym bag with my daily work-out necessities (gym clothes, gym shoes, what have you), and I grabbed the bag this morning when I went to work.
But when I got to the locker room to change, I was surprised. I had packed everything I normally pack — except a shirt. Now, of course, there is no way I’m going to jog shirtless on a treadmill next to my colleagues (aka: the premiere journalists of the nation), but I did find it a bit hilarious that, subconsciously, I knew I wanted to work-out without a shirt. It feels that good.

Unfortunately, I had to abandon my work-out plans at work today — but who knows? After work, I might just make a pit-stop at my local cross country track. Sure, I don’t have a shirt with me, but then again, in the luscious, loving outdoors, do I really need one?

Ah no. No I don’t.

Friday, June 11, 2010

More on why people run shirtless

Here are five more quirky quotes sourced from the Internet, from people expounding shirtless running:

"If you make it a point to run shirtless once a week, I GUARANTEE you will make better eating decisions... girls included!" - RunMikeRun1 (click here for original source)

"I don’t see why it’s special. I know a lot of people who run shirtless because they don’t want their clothes to get sweaty" - Hollywood star Kellan Lutz (click here for original source)

"I always feel like people are staring at me. I don't like it. It didn't help I was the only the person shirtless, but hey it was hot!" - Leandro (click here for original source)

"Time to test my Heat Theory, in which I theorize that by getting out and getting maximum heat exposure in the hottest part of the day, for example by running shirtless in the sun on asphalt at 2pm, the body is trained to function at a higher temperature, thereby rendering all other parts of the day more bearable, especially when at rest." - Booksy (click here for original source)

"What better way to meet a guy than to see him running shirtless in the park?" - Carly (click here for original source)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

From the Net: Another school bans shirtless practice

Every once in a while, we hear of schools banning their track/ cross-country/ some other sport team from practising shirtless. I have already reproduced a critical report of a school banning shirts-vs-skins practice  (click here for the report). Below is an excerpt from chronicling - and protesting - another 'let no one be shirtless' order. Writer Meghan Morris' arguments seem to me concise, pithy and hard to refute. There's something truly antediluvian about such edicts, and it's a good job some students aren't just knuckling under without a fight.

No shirt, no shoes? No running

By Meghan Morris
Assistant Managing Editor

It happens every day. Warmup. Stretch. Suns out, guns out. No matter who says it, every runner promptly peels off their shirt on command, readying themselves for an intense workout. It’s practically Pavlovian.
Due to a recent ruling from Athletic Director David Grace, however, boys are no longer permitted to run shirtless, and girls can no longer practice in only a sports bra. According to Grace, a concerned community member complained about the shirtless female runners, prompting a new decision to enforce a rule  prohibiting the team from running shirtless, even during hot August preseason practices.

I am a writer, but I am also a runner, which is why I take issue with changing my team’s favorite running traditions. Yes, we run shirtless, but not to promote any sexual image of ourselves. When the thermometer climbs to 95 degrees in August, running six plus miles during the typical practice becomes unbearable when even Under Armour tech shirts can’t keep you from sticking to your shirt.

I challenge our concerned community to practice with us at Wilson Park and Valley Forge Park, and to look around. At these parks, there are elite runners from all over the country, as well as neighborhood runners, most of whom do not wear shirts on hot days. In competition, too, many female runners’ uniforms consist of a high-tech sports bra and shorts resembling bikini bottoms.

Kara Goucher, a leading professional runner, wears such a uniform when she races in global competitions. She embodies strength and poise, not indecency, as she crosses the finish line in her sports bra. Her photo on the March cover of Runner’s World magazine, in which she confidently smiles in a sports bra, portrays her as a role model for runners of all ages and genders. Runners like these do not project a sexual image, nor does the Conestoga track team.

While I do not argue that sports are an extension of class policy, the reasoning behind this particular rule is illogical. The policy is not P.I.A.A.-enforced, nor is it standard across schools. To continue this running tradition, our community and athletic director need to prioritize. Questionable indecency is not enough to end a practice that produces Division I runners and state champions.

Meghan Morris can be reached at The original online version of this article can be reached by clicking here.

Printed originally on p. 22 of The Spoke’s May 6, 2010 edition.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My take on the Shirtless P.E. debate

One topic that pops up with some regularity online is the 'shirtless for physical education' issue. The starting point is typically that, at least in the U.K. and the U.S., it has become less common for boys to strip to the waist for P.E., whereas in the past it was common for the entire class to do gym, calisthenics or the like sans shirt. One camp in the debate will argue that requiring everyone to go shirtless can be harsh on plump or shy students, who may develop 'body issues'. An opposed faction responds that there are valid health benefits to going shirtless (not to mention safety concerns when it comes to getting entangled in gym equipment) and  that students are more attuned to staying fit if they have to be bare-chested among peers. It is also commonly claimed that, once boys are required to go shirtless a time or two, they find this so much more comfortable than exercising fully-clothed that many end up stripping down of their own volition.

My sympathies, with some qualification, are with the second camp. I think the 'body issue' matter could be overblown. Students are required to sit school tests that could be deflating to the ego of less-prepared or less-keen students, but that is no reason to say that tests should be banned. Why should 'body issues' be more serious? Indeed, they are surely less serious; by banning shirtless P.E. on their account, we are sending precisely the wrong message: That these matters are very important indeed. And why should we do that?

Now, I rather think there is some truth to the proposition that students would make more of an effort to burn carbs and stay fit  if they knew they'd be shirtless regularly in front of peers. But I'm not sure this is something to be encouraged: After all, isn't this the flip side of the 'body issues' point? There's nothing wrong about wanting to be presentable - children ought to be turned-out decently for church, or class, for instance - but there is rather a whiff of objectification about saying they should become obsessed with their own bare-chested appearance.

On the other hand, the 'it's more comfortable' argument holds water, if you ask me, and I personally know of people who at the very least lost their uneasiness about being shirtless after having to go bare for shirts-vs-skins basketball or soccer. But for myself, at least, I am partly guided by my on-balance preference for school uniforms: There's something equalising about ruling out attire envy or whose-sneaker-is-the-coolest differentiation. Enforced shirtlessness is simply an extension of this democratisation, a further paring-back of inessential ornamentation.

Is this, ultimately, a major issue that might alter a child's schoolgoing life spectacularly? I wouldn't have thought so. But enforced shirtlessness, even if it's only for a term or a year, would broadens students' experience and allows them more of a choice, hopefully breaking down some unnecessary inhibitions. So why not?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

From the Net: A revealing poll?

In a post (since removed, but for the original URL, just click here) on his blog, Alias Basil: Just another running weblog, aliasbasil reports on the results of an experiment he ran in Edmonton, Canada:
On my lunch break today, I conducted a small survey. I walked down to Jasper Ave and showed the following picture to random passers-by:

I asked them which of the five bodies they preferred. 9/10 women and 7/10 men said that if they had a choice, they’d go with the second from the right. What distinguishes this person from the other four? The lack of a shirt, that’s what.
If the weather forecast is to be believed, then this weekend the temperature may creep very close to 20°C. For some, this will signal the first day of the shirtless running season. Time to witness bouncing guts and jiggling moobs, as they come huffing, puffing and sweating along the river valley trails. Is shirtless running really necessary?
Perhaps the shirtless runners know something that those who always cover up don’t. Much less laundry and, of course, the skin is the ultimate technical fabric. It wicks moisture out of your body and provides a surface from which it can evaporate, enhancing the cooling process. Why interfere with what millions of years of evolution has perfected? Shirtless runners, it would seem, also know how to dramatically increase their risk of skin cancer.
I’m not sure that I ever really saw much shirtless running until I arrived in Canada. I definitely never saw it in races. It gives me a chance to be grumpy and mutter “put it away” as the shirtless runner passes by. It is, in many ways, still a novelty to me. One of the last Neanderthal acts of bravado. And because of that fact, it is one of the 52 reasons to love running in Edmonton.
- aliasbasil

Monday, April 5, 2010

'Why don't you run shirtless?'

Hoover recently shared how he came to doff his vest and go bare-chested for runs on the beach: Yes, the lucky blighter lives by the sea. His account is given below (it's originally a comment on the 'The Creed of Shirtless Running' post in this blog), and is especially interesting in that it was the persistent egging-on of his wife-to-be that did the trick. Let's reserve further discussion to after we've read his story:

I live within a stone's throw of a beach in the North of England. My partner, soon to be wife, first started running with just her sports bra on at Uni. After we started seeing each other we also became running partners.

My partner had encouraged me to try running shirtless for 4 months when on a very chilly October's morning she remarked on how schoolboy-like I looked by wearing a vest for a run and challenged me to take it off... a few seconds later off it came and I haven't worn a vest since.

We go out in all weathers, rain, snow and shine. Yes, people have looked at the pair of us out running on the beach but the only reaction we've had are people smiling and saying "You're mad!". Since we started running together there, are a few more runners, both male and female, out shirtless on the beach, including a group of teenage boys who are out running on most days too.

Some preliminary observations: We see, as has been alluded to elsewhere in this blog, that setting an example can cause others to strip to the waist. Also, the reaction from strangers is seldom to pour on vituperation, but is indifference at worst (shirtless in snow? no wonder some folks can't resist an exclamation). But what we also have here is a case of 'direct broaching of the subject' being what's needed to get someone to try something out.

The necessary cautionary note here is that one is probably best off never suggesting shirtlessness to anyone who isn't at the very least a semi-regular running partner. Though one may wish for the solidarity of a fellow-jogbraed or shirtless runner, broaching the subject could well be take in the wrong way. Run shirtless yourself: The possibility of thus 'inspiring someone else follow suit' is probably quite enough with someone you don't know fairly well.

Where the preconditions are met, though, some proselytising probably won't hurt. If your pal is obviously in great discomfort, gushing perspiration and such like, a kindly word that losing his top might mitigate things would be your good deed for the day. You might mention how your times have improved/ enjoyment level has risen/ mental wellbeing has surged since you took to shirtlessness. Take a leaf from Hoover's partner's book and frame it as a dare or challenge. If there's no reaction, let things be. You can always mention it again some other time: It appears Hoover's partner took four months effecting his 'conversion'. And she knew just how to pitch it too... but then again, she is to be his wife.

(I know of only one other runner who urged his running group to join him in trying out shirtlessness. Apparently, they would 'agree only some of the time'. This was a while ago, though, so perhaps by now barechestedness/jogbraedness has taken hold. If anyone else has a story - perhaps even a warning note to sound - to tell in this regard, do write in).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Porn, prurience and shirtlessness

Here's an acute, and rather disturbing, observation, excerpted from a comment on The Creed of Shirtless Running (click here), a post found on this very blog. The thought is by Crow. and runs:

I think going shirtless is a good habit... in any conditions where I don't feel bad because of it. People used to do it more, I think a modern prurience has set in because the net has made it easy to associate it with porn. I think people get embarrassed about seeing private stuff in public. The more they see sexuality, or even just a less than totally clothed human body, in adverts, on the net, etc, the more they feel confronted by their newly conditioned reactions when they see it on the street.
Interestingly put! Perhaps I might take three points of interest for further expansion:

1) 'People used to do it more': There are undoubtedly many places in the world where shirtlessness is on the decline. But as far as shirtless runners is concerned, I'd be interested to know if that holds true too. Haven't heard or read too much on that score, but some would claim that more people are running wearing less. My own experience has been that there has been neither an uptick or a drop.

2) 'A modern prurience linked to an association with porn': If indeed day-to-day shirtlessness is ebbing, the fact that shirtlessness is simultaneously more easily 'accessed' through porn sites these days would institute a damning, self-reinforcing cycle!...
a) People's exposure to shirtlessness would increasingly be through media glorifying sexual objectification, which
b) leads us to see all shirtlessness in such terms, causing us to scale back 'ordinary shirtlessness' all the more,
c) further reducing the contexts outside e-porn in which we see bare-chestedness... and so on.
If Crow. is right, then how can the circle be unbroken?

3) 'People get embarrassed about seeing private things public': Of course, some would allege that sexuality ('private things') is increasingly seen in these so-called liberated times as precisely something that can now be flaunted in public. And this may perhaps be why going shirtless - whether when running, exercising or just chillin' - tends now to be associated with 'showing off', at least with some folks. It certainly didn't used to be so, by all accounts.
From this, we might take away the fact that, perhaps for most people, a sense of modesty is still bred into our social DNA, so that we reject 'flaunting for the sake of it', finding it uncouth and cheap. The challenge is to break through the misconception that running shirtless is inherently about that sort of thing. Sundry posts on this blog, of course, hopefully tell against this falsehood.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Creed of Shirtless Running

From time to time, there have been references on this blog to people 'converting' to shirtless running. This is just a figure of speech, mostly: In truth, of course, we happy converts hail - male and female - from every religion and belief system.

That said, in embracing our healthful practice, we can also see ourselves as standing up for certain 'higher' tenets that go beyond just 'Be Comfortable'. A brief summation of such a five-fold 'creed', entirely in keeping with most faiths, might run as follows:

(1) All Are Equal
When we run shirtless, or jogbraed, we voluntarily reject any need to clothe ourselves in fancy attire (though at night, reflective material should be part of our get-up). Our upper body is no longer an advertisement to our financial ability to afford special fabrics, or aesthetically pleasing clothing. We strip ourselves back to the essentials - we wear enough to protect our modesty, but that much anyone can afford.

(2) We Stay True To Our Beliefs
There is always the possibility that someone will demand we 'cover up', that unflattering comments may be directed our way. In ignoring such 'slings and arrows', we declare that we are people who strive not to compromise in doing what we believe is within our rights, where we do not impinge inappropriately on others' lives.

(3) We Declare Our Commonality
By stripping to the waist or jogbra, we dare to be jointly distinctive as a community, and effectively call out in solidarity to every other shirtless runner. This is the 'camaraderie' of being stripped-down together, a powerful oneness despite other differences.

(4) Our Bodies Are Temples
By committing to running and regular exercise, we respect our bodies and put health first (we could, after all, be the sort of 'comfortably shirtless' person who simply lounges about at home)

(5) We Are Unafraid To Set An Example
There is evidence that there are runners who feel constrained by being fully-shirted, yet feel too 'embarrassed' to reduce their attire-load. By presenting ourselves as exemplars, we may lead some to join us and overcome inhibition. Even people who never imagined there was freedom in running shirtless may be inspired by us.

* An important point missed, in your view? An element needs modifying? Just write in! *

Friday, March 12, 2010

From the Net: In defence of 'shirts vs skins'

One of the first times I came to realise that going shirtless while exercising was socially acceptable was via that great American tradition of 'shirts vs skins' team play. It's especially common in basketball. But it is, in some places, under siege - so highlighting the topic might be forgiven though this is a 'running-centric' site. Appended below is an editorial from the Orchard Farm Eagle Vision (click here for the original), a school publication.

Shirts vs Skins
by Preson Steinhoff

Is it wrong for a man to have his shirt off? Recently, the boy’s basketball team has been instructed to not take their shirts or jerseys off at any time or for any reason during basketball practice. This rule was made to decrease the spread of staph infection. Boys bumping and running into each other while being sweaty and shirtless may transfer a staph infection from one person to another. However, there is a very low percentage of kids, and even a lower percentage (exactly zero percent) of boys basketball players who even have staph. This makes the possibility of spreading staph infection at Orchard Farm High School practically non existent. Not allowing the basketball team to take their shirts off during practice is not only ludicrous, but also absurdly preposterous.

Why should our basketball team not be allowed to take their shirts off during practice like every other school allows their boys to do? I have played on various basketball teams throughout my short career and every basketball team I have played for has always allowed “Shirts and Skins” to be played. They often allowed this when players were hot, which happens frequently with exercise. Our school might be trying to be a leader on this issue, by starting this “no shirtless policy”. I have only one problem with our school being a leader, and that problem is; our school is leading in the wrong direction.

Playing “Shirts and Skins” has been a long lasting tradition in the history of basketball. Why should our school try to diminish this? Would you hate it if our school canceled Winter Break (a long lasting tradition)? The two situations are basically the same and should never be done. Our school believes that we should be able to wear our green and black reversible jerseys instead of going “Shirts and Skins”. This is okay, only until we split up into three teams, and there are only two colors. Being able to take off our shirts would allow us to play with three teams and eliminate this problem we are faced with.

Men don’t have to wear shirts in a swimming pool, (which could spread staph easily through the water), so why can’t they go shirtless in a basketball gym? It is not considered indecent exposure if a man has his shirt off. We are not practicing with women. Some may think that we are putting pressure on kids to take their shirts off, but there isn’t any pressure. Now I know that our school is not a swimming pool, but it is a public place and no one has complained or seemed offended by us practicing with our shirts off.

The boy’s basketball team being restricted from taking off their shirts in practice is extremely pointless. The team wants to be able to distinguish teams during practice. The team wants to keep the tradition of “Shirts and Skins”. The team wants their shirtless freedom! And finally, the team wants your help; the help of standing up to our school and letting them know how crazy it is to deny the boy’s basketball team the right to take their shirts off in practice.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Guest post: Running shirtless, whatever the temperature

For what might be described as true dedication, it'd be hard to beat Tremendi, who blogs at Diary of a Cold Water Novice. Here's how he describes himself:

I'm just a normal guy experimenting with some new ideas. Trying to get physically fit, in shape and toughen up using some unorthodox methods, such as cold water immersion and pain control. I also like to run shirtless in "any weather, any temperature" as part of my normal routine. My blog describes some of those activities. Why not take a look at my blog and make a comment or two. Maybe it will inspire you to run shirtless too.

Here's a taste of Tremendi's discipline, in his own words:

"I haven't yet hit a low temperature that I wont run in. The distance that I will run may vary depending on the temperature but I don't think I have hit an absolute minimum yet. It has been quite cold in the UK this winter but I have continued to run shirtless (i.e. in just shorts and trainers) all of the time.

I will do my normal 7km (4+ miles) circular route from home shirtless in just about any weather and temperature (a few Mondays ago it was -2C windy and snowing so probably with wind chill around -5C or -6C conditions) and another weekend I ran 10km shirtless in -4C with clear and windless conditions for an hour with a group of 3 other guys (who were all dressed for a Siberian winter!). The coldest I have run shirtless in was just over 4km @ -6C with a fairly strong
wind chill.

If it was really cold (like below -10C) I would probably do shorter (500m to 1km) "out and back" runs so that I could quickly escape the cold if I got to a point where I was really feeling the effects of hypothermia.

In the USA, I think a great place to run in such cold conditions would be around the perimeter of a large shopping mall. Then if you got really cold you could duck into the shopping mall to warm up or cut back through to where you parked your car!

The more difficult question in my view is what is the highest temperature you would run in - that to my mind is a far more dangerous situation for a runner.

I haven't entered any races yet and here in the UK I think that for an actual race (unless its a fun run) you are required under the UK Athletics rules to wear a vest or shirt to display your race number - so that really sucks!. It would certainly be one question I would ask of the race organiser - "Can I run shirtless?" - before I entered the race."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Enjoying the sexy 'shirtless charge'

In the just-launched 'shirtlessrunning' group at Yahoo! Groups, moderated by Tommy, he writes:

"I (run shirtless) mainly for the freedom it gives me. It feels great to run with the sun, wind, and elements on my bare torso. It also gives me a bit of a sexual charge too which helps me to run a bit better. I didn't start running until a couple of years ago, so I'm relatively new to shirtless runnning. There are a lot of guys who run this way in southern California."

This invoking of a 'shirtless charge' set me thinking. It's probably not the same for each shirtless runner, newbie or veteran. A fellow shirtless runner once spoke of intoxicatingly 'feeling the girls' eyes on me'. Yet I'm not sure that it is necessarily absent even when one is pounding along by oneself (perhaps we imagine eyes on ourselves).

One guess is that the 'shirtless charge' is at heart a primal celebration of feeling 'unshackled' - literally, as we rid ourselves at least partially of constricting attire. In doing so, we dare the world to feast on our revealed bodies. I don't really know much about what constitutes 'exhibitionism' but this could be some domesticated variant. Speaking personally, I certainly feel what has been described as a 'sensuous buzz'. It is undoubtfully part of the pleasurable package that comes with running bare-chested. It appears that jogbraed runners feel something similar: See From The Net: The naked run and the reference there to 'feeling sexy'. I'm more aware of myself, of the 'sun, wind and elements' as Tommy puts it, and of a casting-away of encumbrances. When I'm stripped to the waist and trotting along, I feel more in touch with my true self.

If you haven't a clue what I'm talking about, but find it intriguing, perhaps it's time you gave shirtless running a try!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Are celebrities good role models?

There are a number of celebrities who are known for enjoying a shirtless run, both male and female. I'll skip the Hollywood name-dropping, since a Google search will reveal who they are. And I'm also in two minds regarding them, despite my own support of their cause.

On the one hand, they could be doing a lot of good, in that many people who read about their exploits may feel more inclined to give a shirtless trot a try. On the other hand, these stars are almost inevitably toned to a ridiculous pitch with the aid of personal trainers, hours in high-tech gyms and so on. They give a false image of what a shirtless runner ought to look like - and could even act as a disincentive, since most folks' bodies and body shapes are rather less ideal.

Personally, as far as role-modelling goes, it was the example of persons far closer to my own day-to-day life that helped me overcome my own inhibitions. Two sets of persons come to mind.

With the first, I knew a cousin who always removed his shirt before playing racquet sports, and another who always did so when jogging. Both signalled that my own incipient sense of being uncomfortable when exercising fully clothed was not a bizarre anomaly but something that could be acted on. They were completely comfortable being seen shirtless, without ever seeming to be exhibitionistic or - as is always a suspicion with celebrities - preening for the camera. I knew them both to be 'normal' people with 'normal' physiques, so emulating them was not an insane notion.

As for the second set of people, there was a Rangers troop at school that required its members to strip to the waist for certain activities, including group exercise, foot drills and some games. I never did join up, but I came to notice that some of my pals who did so became, after a time, much more comfortable about being barechested - and indeed began opting to shed their shirts for gym class or PT. Again, they hadn't become show-offs anxious to display bulked-up muscles and draw girls' attentions. They had simply shrugged off their inhibitions, and were the happier for it.

This blog, then, will ignore the Olympians, professional sportsmen and superstars (even a certain President), however inspiring their shirtless exploits might be to some. It will showcase the thoughts, example and struggles of ordinary folks - even as I am myself as ordinary as any Joe could be - and hopefully show these to be more than enough reason to embark on shirtless runs.

Friday, January 8, 2010

From the Internet: Be shirtless, be green

This 2008 post, from a discussion board (click here to access the original), is from a badminton player who comes to believe that shirtlessness during his sessions is ecologically friendly. It applies equally to running and in fact to all forms of exercise where one's shirt would otherwise end up drenched and unwearable. In these eco-aware times, that's another good reason to embrace the shirtless cause!

Is going shirtless going green?

I not only play badminton twice or more a week, but squash, tennis and go running as well. It occurred to me after seeing those notices in hotels about all the towels they unnecessarily wash, that I get through a lot of shirts each week. If you multiply this by the huge number of players around the world, think how many washing machine loads are players' shirts.

Why do I need to wear a shirt? Usually after 15 minutes of play, my shirt is starting to look as if somebody has spilled water on it, and by the end of a session it is sodden and stuck to me. It interferes with the natural perspiration process and even makes me feel cold when I break for a rest.

So will I be making a sensible and green statement by starting my racket sports sessions by removing the shirt I arrive in before starting to play?

Some will say it is unsightly to see shirtless amateur sports people, but this is only a conditioned expectation. You think nothing of the various shapes of bodies seen at a swimming pool or on the beach. There are examples of some of our top racket sport players practicing shirtless, particularly tennis players in the sunshine.

So I am willing to go green and shed that unnecessary shirt that only ends up sticking to me, so that I can re-use the shirt I arrived in (after towelling down) and save another shirt from the wash.

If we all do the same, then it will become the normal practice we will all be greener as a result, saving electricity and detergent pollution.

- From