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, October 19, 2012

Becoming a shirtless runner (I): How does an example inspire?

Note: This begins a projected series of musings on that interesting process through which one changes from 'someone who runs with a shirt on' to 'someone who runs without'. Thoughts on this quite complex topic would be very welcome, whether you are a shirtless runner, an adamant opponent or no partisan of either side.

 Let me start with an inspiring tale from PHIL, straight from our Comments archives:

I met up with a buddy of mine for his first 5k race last weekend. He had been running on his own for the past few months so knew little about what to do at a race. After picking up our bib numbers, my buddy asked what to do next. I told him the race number goes on your shorts and to run without a shirt. I could tell he was uncomfortable since he paced around a bit, but once my shirt came off he did the same. Most of the shirtless runners were in the lead pack so I thought he might be peeved at me for telling him to run shirtless since we were far from the lead pack, but it went well. We met up the other night for a quick trail run and to my surprise he showed up shirtless, and he thanked me for showing him a better way to run...

Many's the time I've heard it reported that the journey to 'dispensing with the shirt' starts with the example of a friend or acquaintance. But if we converts actually consider their own experience, exactly how does an example 'act' on us?

One possibility posits a 'neutral' exerciser who has never considered the possibility of going shirtless or in jogbra. Then, along comes someone doing just that: A mental bomb goes in your brain and you think: 'Heck, that looks comfortable. It makes a lot of sense. Maybe I should try it...'

To my mind, however, it is unlikely that most of our conversion stories begin this way. Had our minds been really in this neutral state, we would probably 'think practically nothing of' the appearance of a shirtless would-be-exemplar; we would simply immediately ignore or forget it, beyond perhaps a momentary bemusement or amusement.

I propose instead this scenario: By the time someone's example can jog us decisively in favour of stripping down, we would likely have been already engaged in an internal conflict. We would have experienced a certain constriction or discomfort in the course of physical exertion; the thought of removing the upper-body garment would already have been stirring as a pleasurable prospect. However, and this is critical, a contrary notion would have been trying to snuff it out. This 'opposing' notion might take the form of doubts regarding whether one's body is in decent shape for 'exposure', or whether one's friends or neighbours might be amused or scandalised.

It is only when such a tug-of-war has already begun, perhaps in some mild way, that stumbling across an 'example' or 'inspiration' can make a difference. At some level, the forces within us that have been urging shirtlessness would receive vindication or reinforcing. Opposed arguments suddenly seem weaker: The more the exemplar is an otherwise trusted or respected one, the more of an effect he or she is likely to have. To use this blog as an example (it is, after all, a 'friend' to all who would run sans shirt), I have received numerous notes from folks to say the writings therein have strengthened their impulse, or wish, to join the shirtless cause. I have yet to receive a communication from anyone claiming that said writings felt like some 'bolt from the blue', so that they had gone from 'never giving shirtless exercise a moment's thought' to now holding it a pleasing possibility.

If I am right, the importance of setting an example is not diminished in any way. Indeed, it becomes even more important. After all, we really need not concern ourselves with the 'doubt-free' of the world: Those to whom the very notion of going shirtless is a dead option, worth only a moment's disparagement, or indeed those to whom stripping down so is so utterly natural that they have been doing so forever. Perhaps most people fall into this 'doubt-free' camp: We need wish them only happy lives. Yet if we agree that there are many out there who are caught in a upper-body no-man's-land, both wishing-to yet fearful-to, then surely the value of 'showing the way' becomes undeniable.

To take Phil's story, we now see that it is likely that his running buddy was already gripped with a prior degree of internal conflict. The seed of shirtlessness must have already been planted, yet contrary conditions were keeping it from germinating. Note Phil's observation: "I could tell he was uncomfortable since he paced around a bit". He does not say that his friend instantly whipped off his top. No, battle had been joined, if not for long, and 'take off the shirt' had to see off a rival conviction. Yet if not for Phil's example, his buddy might have spent years wracked with internal dissension; his preference swinging now this way, then the next. Instead, as Phil reports, a new convert was born, confident and sure, so much so that he soon shows up for a run shirtless, and specifically thanks Phil "for showing him a better way to run".

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Are women taking to shirtlessness in a big way?

I'd never thought I'd say this, but could the ladies be challenging for the lead in our struggle to normalise shirtless running?

Today I googled 'running shirtless' on Blog Search and was quickly reading well-written piece after well-written piece concerning running sans extraneous upper-body attire. Each one by a woman:

- There were 'trying it for the first time' confessionals
- There were 'why you should try this too, girl' proselytisations
- There were even how-to guides on the right attire for shirtless running, complete with clinical discussion on what sort of jogbra to wear and which colour to avoid.

I scanned the Comment sections and almost invariably there was only supportiveness, envy ('I wish I could do it!') and approval being channeled.

Now that I think about it, my own observation at the gym I sometimes use is that more women are adopting the jogbra, while we men stay shirted (of course, gym rules make this mandatory - but that's a gripe for another time).

I'm not complaining, for all sorts of reasons - including the most obvious one. But why is this trend gathering apparent momentum?

One answer puts it down to confidence. As women make strides in arena after arena - now justly sure of their equality - it could only have been a matter of time before this confidence strips away the constraints that inhibit body comfort. Confronted by examples of men who cast aside their shirts to exercise, why should women not partake of the same sense of freedom?

As for why conversions, as we deem it on this blog, should be breaking out all over in the summer of 2012, we might make reference to such things as 'critical mass' (online as well as on the ground) and 'tipping point being reached'. I'm no sociologist, but with every extra jogbraed body out there pounding the pavement, we have an additional role model playing her role. Another sister, or daughter, or mother would have discovered the joys of shirtlessness - and pointing the way to more.

Yet perhaps I should conclude by addressing my fellow men, especially those who feel yet resist that so-natural tug towards tugging off the shirt: The ladies have seen the light, fellows. If once we feared to offend their sensibilities by 'exposing too much', do you need further evidence that there is no erosion of modesty here?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why I am not a nude runner

It will be very clear from this blog that I am a confirmed proponent of running sans shirt, or in jogbra in the case of women. Many comments have come in either in support of this position (along with some pretty critical ones) - but every once in a while someone will suggest taking the next step: Why not run nude?

Now of course, in many parts of the world, there is a simple answer to the question: If you tried to in pretty much any precinct, you would soon be in the clink. But in some 'enlightened' places, and certainly in specific colonies, you could indeed choose to shed every last thread.

I have never ventured to do so and do not intend to. This is not because I have any lack of respect for those of the nudist persuasion. Indeed, perhaps some of us who have converted to shirtlessness are indeed travellers on a journey that - in the fulness of time - will lead to the embracing of nakedness as the ideal. But that path is not one I see my myself treading.

First of all, I do not see shirtless running as essentially some sort of 'half-way point'. The freedom that I feel when I go bare-chested on my runs will not, I don't think, be materially enhanced by the mere  discarding of yet more articles of clothing. I feel spiritually recharged when trotting along and have to my mind reached a prefect balance between comfort and modesty. To be in quest of yet 'more of a good thing' by looking to go yet barer seems pointless. Indeed, it seems to me that the realities of human biology mean that being totally 'freed of constraint' when running might be distinctly uncomfortable for many of us, as it becomes a case of being 'free of support'.

Secondly, I am precisely a proponent of shirtless running because to my mind it is something that anyone can embrace in almost all communities, and at any age - hence that 'caramaderie' that I have written of that unites all shirtless and jogbraed runners. Even in more conservative quarters, shirtlessness is seldom considered so outrageous a phenomenon as to provoke outright hostility (at most, it typically evokes a tut-tutting of disapproval); were more individuals to embrace a shirtless identity, we can imagine attitudes being further modified, though there would be no radical shift.  Such a degree of acceptance - actual or at least potential - would be very dramatically shattered if we were to now espouse nudism: A decided majority would part company from the minority.

Thirdly, the 'sensuous buzz' that many cite as a benefit of running shirtless - others have described it as 'feeling sexy' or sensual - is, to my mind, bound up with the fact that we are choosing to both simultaneously expose part of our anatomy and yet cover up another part. . We project the confidence of being willing to 'go this far', and the confidence to say 'this is just enough'. Art, someone once said, is all about knowing when to stop. I'm right where I want to be.