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, 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.


Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to agree with the points you make. Waiting until you're sweating is just sort of lame. It's as if all of a sudden, 5 minutes into my run in 95 degree heat and sun (did I mention I live in Texas?), I just realized I may perhaps break a sweat and maybe this run will be more comfortable shirtless. It's idiotic. And it's definitely annoying to tuck it into the shorts. Sometimes it falls out, which kills my momentum when you pick it up.
Unfortunately, my home base for my runs is generally the gym next to my work, because I run on my lunch break. Strict policy forbidding shirtlessness, even if you are just quickly bolting from locker room to outside. I walk there, so I can't ditch the shirt at my car, and I'm not convinced if I just tried to find a clever hiding spot that it wouldn't get stolen, leaving me with nothing to wear back into the gym. But I can confirm how annoying and uncomfortable it is to throw that shirt back on when I reach the gym's front door.
As an aside, I definitely got more than a few eyes when staying at a hotel in Austin this past weekend. I was staying on the 11th floor, and I was headed out on a run. Knew I'd want no shirt as soon as I got outside, so I just hopped on the elevator shirtless. One floor below a family gets on. You'd think I was a leper. The mother grabbed her kid like I was going to grab him away. Meanwhile, a student group was using the elevator all weekend to go to and from the hotel pool, shirtless all the while. If I didn't have my running shoes on and they assumed I was heading to the pool, would they have even thought twice? Who knows (granted, I'm in my late 20s - maybe that behavior is considered more acceptable for high school boys).

Shirtless Robbie said...

Indeed, I usually start out shirtless unless it is cool enough to need one until I warm up, and even then I sometimes take off without one and just bolt out the door running hard to get my body temp up. People who aren't accustomed to hard running often find it hard to understand, but in weather that is quite chilly in long-sleeves when you are standing still, if you run hard enough you can shed the shirt and still be hot enough to break a sweat. Those guys who run shirtless in the cold aren't crazy, they just run hard enough that they generate enough body heat to be sweating while someone on a casual stroll (wearing considerably more clothing) shivers.

But you are quite right, it is more convenient and less awkward to just leave the shirt at home (or your car, etc, as the case may be).

As to the gym thing, I would probably keep a spare shirt in my locker and wear one out the door, and hide it somewhere before taking off running. On the off chance someone did steal it, I would explain that at the gym and tell them my only shirt was in my locker so I must go and fetch it because someone freakin stole my shirt. And if they couldn't deal with that then I would definitely find another gym and advise my friends to avoid that gym.

I have a friend who went to a very conservative school where students were ordinarily not allowed to go shirtless anywhere on campus, including sports fields, parks, running tracks, etc. He ran a 5K there for charity in which he pulled off his shirt and chunked it on the side of the road near the destination (the course looped near the finish line less than half-way in). It was a public street, so the school couldn't say anything. But when he got to the finish line and went to retrieve his shirt, it was gone. He went around on campus asking about it and whether the event had a lost and found, and eventually went to retrieve his other shirt in the middle of the student center. They were understanding and no one bothered him about being shirtless, even inside of the student center. So if your gym can't handle such an incident, they are a bunch of jerks.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Shirtless Robbie- temperature does influence whether I start out my run with/without a shirt. If it's hot out, I don't bother bringing a shirt. If it's cool at the start of the run, I'll wear one until I'm hot & sweaty enough to take it off. Unfortunately I do fall under the category of guys who hang their shirts from their shorts. In the past I've tried to ditch my shirt by hiding it in some bushes along my run route but once it ended up being stolen when I got back. If there's any advantages of bringing a safety shirt along, it might be used as a towel to wipe sweat off.

If you are uncomfortable starting a shirtless run without a safety shirt, a possible way of getting accustomed is to do some 'practice' runs at a running track on a hot day. On a track, there's no need to hang a safety shirt off your shorts- you can just dump it on the side and thus you can experience the freedom of 'natural' shirtless running, without the awkward shirt tucked in your shorts (even though technically your shirt is still reachable). At first you may start out running the first few laps with a shirt on before ditching it. Then as your confidence grows you will find it easier to take it off right before the run, until one day you find it unnecessary to bring it along with you to the track, leaving it in the car or at home.

Rockbound said...

I agree completely, and have been doing this for many years. The only reason I'll wear a shirt is if I know it's cold enough that I'll need one for the entire run. I make that determination before heading out the door, and unless it's too cold, leave the house with no shirt in my possession. As Shirtless Robbie said, one can run shirtless in rather chilly weather if the pace is fast enough.

I think the strongest reason, aside from the simple fact that shirtless running is more comfortable, is your reason (2) -- that shunning the safety shirt is a statement of confidence. As such, it can boost your own confidence as well as indicate to others that shirtless running is indeed natural and proper.

barethomas said...

You folks are quite right, of course, to note that weather can -at times, must - modify any intention to trot out the door in minimal attire.

To add to Shirtless Robbie's point that setting a sprightly pace can warm one up so quickly that a safety shirt can be foregone, what I sometimes do when it's chilly out is to amp up my usual pre-run warm-ups. I typically do a few push-ups, sit-ups and loosening exercises, and the routine - especially if upped a notch - can get the blood pumping so that the outdoor cold doesn't bite so badly.

Still, one should factor in the possibility that one might be brought up short by cramp or some such, in which case wind chill could quickly take its toll. So common sense should be practised.

Anonymous said...

It has been hot and humid in my region this year and I have converted to becoming a full time shirtless runner. Last month my girl friend and I were heading out to a race, it was a hot and humid night with temps near 90 degrees. Upon leaving for the race, I reached over to grab for my safety shirt and she pushes my hand away saying “you don’t need that, just go to the race without a shirt”, so I did. For the first time in my life, I went to a race shirtless, from the registration process all the way through to the ending award ceremony. Must say, having my girl friend there helped give me the initial confidence to abandon the safety shirt. Since then, I have been doing all of my runs (races included) shirtless, no safety shirt needed.

barethomas said...

You must have run well, and stuck around for the award ceremony to collect a prize!

Congrats on losing the safety shirt and converting fully. Is your girlfriend 'one of us' (that is, a jogbraed runner)? You're not the 1st to enter the barechested fold under a girlfriend's influence - see 'Why don't you run shirtless?' on this blog.

I hope you both will swing by from time to time and perhaps offer advice to others still on the path to shirtless running.

Anonymous said...

And here I thought I was the only guy out there who even KNEW about the concept of a "Safety Shirt." Ha ha. In Atlanta, Georgia, where I live, running at any hour from April through October means running in warm humidity. I have not yet graduated to the point of no shirt from the get-go. Instead, I have a little hiding place in a stand of bushes along the way where i ditch the shirt, then pick it up on my way back. It's only about a quarter-mile into my run. I have grappled with this running shirtless thing for a long time -- because I love doing it and I should have every right to do it. But while I am in good shape, I have one of those bodies some sectors of society have deemed undesirable in a man, in that I've got a hairy chest and belly. Don't get me wrong -- I don't think of my body hair as undesirable, in fact, I like having it. But I hear so much negativity about chest hair and so much of this "manscaping" crap that it does make me stop and wonder who I'm offending as I'm cruising along, gorilla guy in shorts. But, the larger point I wanted to make, is that when I see a shirtless runner -- almost regardless of the shape they're in -- I feel a deep sense of envy for the freedom they enjoy. And it was that feeling that drove me to strip down in the first place. I never, ever say to myself, on spying a shirtless compatriot who may be flabby, "you should put a shirt on," because I know the feeling they are enjoying and it's a good thing. Part of that tolerance surely comes from the many hours I play shirts and skins basketball -- where I have absolutely no inhibitions about stripping down -- and where most of the guys I play with are WAY out of shape. Great site.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. I'm convinced that shirtless running should be the norm. Whenever I see a guy with no "safety shirt" I know that he is confident, poised, and would be a great friend.

Another blog that promotes shirtlessness is

Hairy Jim said...

A couple of nights ago, I did it! I ditched the safety shirt and ran barechested from the get-go. I waited until the sun had gone down, of course, but still... I felt an incredible sense of pride and freedom. And I do love running at night. Now I just have to work up to ditching the safety during the day. Part of my issue with shirtless running is my hairiness. I matured early, and so felt quite self-conscious about my body during the years when many guys I hung out with had no problem showing theirs off. Hard to believe I am still working through that adolescent crap now, but there you have it. But anyway, it was a great feeling and I am looking forward to doing it again soon.

Marc said...

I just discovered this site and am glad to find a group who is into this as much as I am. I went throught the same process as most on this site until I now start out shirtless from the very beginning. I do most of my running at work over the lunch hour. Our workout center has a policy against going shirtless inside so I must wear a shirt until I get outside. Just outside the entrance to the gym, you will find a post where all the guys hang their shirts before they start their run. It is quite a site to behold and I really feel part of the club when I hang my shirt there with the others before heading out.

Anonymous said...

I love this site as I have just recently taken up trail running and am working up the guts to go shirtless. I like the idea, someone mentioned, of not hesitating and just doing it from the get-go. I also like the post by the guy who said his girlfriend got him to ditch his safety shirt - I suppose I'd do that for a girl. But for those who may find it difficult to ditch the safety shirt from the start, one idea (a cheat, I know)is to wear an old disposable shirt when you start out then, when you are a good distance away from things (secluded if you like)dispose of it by ripping it or tossing it in a disgusting waste can, etc. After that, you pretty much have no choice but to continue shirtless.

Marc Taylor said...

I always bring a shirt and tie it around my waste because I sweat so much and need something to wipe my face and body with.

Anonymous said...

Running in humid deep south Georgia in the evening, after the sun was gone, it made no sense to wear a shirt. However, with my uptight upbringing, i craved the safety of a shirt. Instead, I forced myself to leave the house shirtless for my nightly runs. It took me several tries, but it was more comfortable and definitely liberating. I got a few horn honks, some "Whooos". I don't know what they meant. I'm not so hot I'm certain they were flattering, but I decided to interpret them as positive, because, why not? Best of all, I didn't have to virtually cut myself out of a sweat-soaked shirt when I got home.