Say you have been running or jogging for a little while and, whether egged on by the example of others or not, have come to nurse the thought of dispensing with a shirt.
Very likely, in runs past, you will have been held back by certain apprehensions. But there comes a day when you are ready to shed that top for the first time. How might such a day go? Drawing on my own experience, and that of others who have recounted their 'first day', here is how you might launch into your first day as a shirtless runner - and what to expect:
(I) You would have begun by trotting along, at your accustomed pace, and a build-up of perspiration would have begun to niggle at you. The familiar thought arises that it would feel pretty good to remove that irksome upper-body garment that is beginning to get soggy and restrictive. Someone may have passed you, striding along without a top, reinforcing the temptation. However, another part of you is urging that you hold back: You would look daft, someone you know might see you, a cutting remark might be uttered within earshot.
(II) But you are not getting any more confortable along, and now you tell yourself: What exactly am I worrying about? I know that there are other runners in the neighbourhood or elsewhere, known to their neighbours or loved ones or running partners to be partial to going barechested or jogbraed. They seem to be doing fine. How are they different from or superior to you? You decide that these wisps of apprehension - which have stopped you perhaps multiple times in the past - are so many will-o-the-wisps, with no substance to them. What the hell! You arms reach down, and before you know it, your shirt - incredible! did I really do this? - has been stripped off.
(III) Immediately, what breeze there is seems to have been magnified in effectiveness. Your skin has been freed to do its job of wicking away heat and perspiration. Your senses feel preternaturally sharp; you are especially aware of your body - your stride, the way you are holding your core and posture. There is a prickling of delight, a frisson of freedom: Without thinking, you pick up the pace, move faster.
(IV) The counterreaction now sets in: Your love handles seem to be calling out 'Notice me!' to all and sundry. You become increasingly sure you are a ridiculous figure strutting along. Every indistinct figure approaching appears to be that of someone you know; you begin to imagine the things they will say ('Hey, Ron! What's with the half-naked look!') or - worse - will giggle over later even as they soberly greet you ('I saw Terry this morning; he's joined the shirtless brigade, and heavens wasn't there a whole lot of jiggling going on'). Was that someone taking a cellphone camera shot, to be Tweeted along with a snide comment or two? What was I thinking? I need to put my shirt on right now.
(V) Even as you are thinking this, however, you have been loping along and there is now a full, cooling sheen of perspiration enveloping your bare upper body. As you heft your damp tank-top, the thought of pulling it over yourself again is not an attractive one. And amidst the negative thoughts, others poke through too: That the sun on your skin is pretty delicious. As is this heightened awareness of one's surroundings. In fact, I'm feeling a burst or two of confidence: I don't need to stay encased in maximal clothing. I'm proud to be safeguarding my health and fitness through exercise. Why should I not be minimisng extraneous attire? There's nothing lurid or obscene about such confidence! Indeed, it's making me feel a little, well, sexy... and why not?
So might you conclude your first run as a convert to our shirtless cause. The apprehensions won't be going away immediately, but now that they have been bested once, their hold will have been weakened. Possibly permanently.
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 email@example.com) 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!