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!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

10 steps to becoming a shirtless runner

I am a shirtless runner. But I wasn't always one. Once upon a time, I sneered at the barechested and the jog-braed, and even after I started feeling a tug towards shedding excessive exercise attire, I was long held back by inhibition, shyness and emotional inertia.

Perhaps you do not think that you could be converted as I was (even if you would like to be)?

Well, drawing on my own experience and that of many others, here are 10 steps. Many of them appear elsewhere in these posts, but I gather them here, and add a new element or two. If you follow them, I suspect your exercise top could end up getting less use, even if you now consider the possibility remote. And it doesn't matter if the weather has turned cold -- some of the first steps can be taken now, and you can build on them so that you may head out shirtless when the temperature is benign once more.

Step 1
See that it's common

 The next time you are in a park, notice just how many of the ordinary folks out keeping fit don't bother with shirts. Runners or joggers. Frisbee or soccer players. Especially when away from the crowds, many people strip down for comfort. These will be folks of widely differing body shapes, ages and levels of fitness, but they have found independently that a shirt is more hindrance than help.Whatever you may have been taught or told, there is no great taboo that needs breaking.

Step 2
Strip off at home

Within the privacy of your own home, take off your shirt. Cast it aside. Then do whatever it is that you would normally do. After a while, you will notice that nothing dreadful happens because you have stripped to your waist. Instead, you may be pleasurably surprised by a feeling of greater freedom of movement. When time comes to resume your shirted existence, your upper garment will have remained as fresh as though just fished from your wardrobe -- your introduction to one of the great benefits of shirtless running: Cutting down on extraneous laundry. Do this a few times, possibly when alone if you are concerned about negative comments.

Step 3

Use the Internet

Google and search at your own pace. You might, admittedly, find screeds by folks who will cite any number of reasons, many allegedly grounded in 'decency', why you should never remove one's top. But you will find much testimony too, to how much is gained by daring to go bare. There are many, many images of folks stripping down and not looking in the least idiotic or obscene. Their stories will be grounded in confidence and body-acceptance rather than narcissism. Whole categories of sportsmen adopt shirtlessness almost as a uniform, certainly when training - gymnasts, wrestlers, cross-country runners and of course swimmers. Look at the photo galleries at many sports camps: Nobody seems to be policing for upper-body coverage.

 Do all this to break down any hidden barriers in your mind. Shirtlessness is immensely normal! This  was an important stage in my own conversion - and the barriers in my mind were high and resolute enough.

Step 4
Get warm on  a run

By now, the notion of trying out a shirtless run should have become less foreign lunacy than interesting notion. When you feel ready, start one of your exercise sessions fully clothed. If anything, overdress. After a little while, the perspiration will be bunching up your shirt material and the discomfort level will build. There is a logic to this torture. The urgency of the need to cast off unnecessary layers will keep at bay any psychic resistance.

Step 5

Don't think, just strip

This next stop is critical. There must be no overthinking; the time for mulling and introspection is past. In one fluid motion, cast off your upper-body attire. You should now be barechested or sports-bra clad. You will feel a marvellous shock as heat dissipates and perspiration on bare skin can play its natural cooling role. Allow yourself to luxuriate in this. You should not cease the sporting activity you were engaged in. It is important that you continue, partly because you want to keep hesitation from crowding in, and partly so your mind can take its first favourable imprint.

Step 6
Acknowledge your sisters and brothers

Now that you have taken a truly major step, begin to see yourself as part of the community of shirtless sportsfolk. Have a friendly smile and a hello for the other shirtless runner you pass going the other way; don't spin your eyes away when a jogbraed woman hoves to. This is not about being intrusive; it is about acknowledging the bond that you share as exercisers who have shed the inessential, who do not need the encumbrances of fancy fabrics or nice-cut tops to gild your exertions. By going shirtless, you have joined a movement, and you have earned your solidarity with the others who have dared to go bare. And you should have plenty of friendliness left over for every other fellow human being too!

Step 7
Feel that sensuous buzz

Having endured a few shirtless sessions, many of us describe a 'sexy charge' as we soldier along stripped and sure. There is no need to deny it and you should rather enjoy it; for me, it is one of the little perks of having converted. By exposing our bodies, after all, we are likely holding ourselves up to a higher standard; we will feel a greater need to ensure that our body-temples are maintained with care, since many is the person who will steal a glimpse, if only fleetingly. There is no issue, then, if a natural frisson of sensuousness occasionally accompanies our assertion of shirtlessness. I have elsewhere called this a domesticated strain of exhibitionism; but then remember that we are exhibitionists when we play a musical instrument, speak in public and do anything that might draw someone's attention. 

Step 8

During your first shirtless exercise sessions, there will definitely be attacks of nervousness and doubt. These are dealt with in some of the posts on this blog. There is an identity war going on: A part of you wants to reformat your identity to encompass your becoming a shirtless runner. A 'conservative faction' will resist, and throw up any opposition it can. One way to stiffen your still-partial conversion is to 'confess' ('it is good for the soul', after all). I see it online often, when people Tweet to their friends, "Went for shirtless run". By forcing yourself to reveal to someone else that you are at least more open to the shirtless pursuasion, there is a solidification in your own psyche. It will lead in time to greater confidence, and it does not matter if the people you make your revelation to fail to express support. It is more important that you have made that confession. Of course, you need not be theatrical about it; just slip it in naturally, perhaps in a conversation about comfort in exercise, or in a self-deprecating manner

Step 9
Converting fully

A a true shirtless runner does not start out shirted. Why, after all - if we now accept that going bare is natural, healthful and to be encouraged - should we still hide behind an initial vest? When you are ready, therefore, the step that really cements a conversion is to remove one's shirt, lay it aside and then head out - stripped to the waist, with no 'safety shirt' to resort to. If a neighbour, friend or colleague meets you, you must mutely declare your devotion to the shirtless cause. The first time you embrace this full conversion, it can be nerve-racking - but as you thereby prove to yourself that you are simply exercising comfortably and confidently, a new level of liberation and exhilaration will be attained. I still remember the day I first did this, and feeling the honesty of removing the last crutch.

Step 10
Convert others

It may take your months or years to travel the road I have outlined. You may turn aside, in which you are still due credit for having explored rather than simply sneered. But if you stay the course, you may in the fulness of time join those of us who have converted so joyfully, we now want to spread the word.

Online, there are many opportunities for converts to testify to how they have 'gone shirtless'; many have done so, and so added their testimony to the evidence that, as Step 3 above, helped precipitate the conversion process in the first place. I always feel a great sense of satisfaction when I read about how, for instance, a brother convinced a running partner to strip down, or how a sister encouraged her spouse to lose the shirt.

If you believe this blog has helped you, I urge you to write me ( your story, so I can share it with others still starting out. The Comment sections are also left unblocked so that anyone may join the discussion.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Becoming a shirtless runner IV: 'Psychic shock' in cementing your conversion

In Jamie's post, featured separately, we encounter a shirtless-runner-in-the-making: There is that familiar hankering-after of unconstricted freedom, counterbalanced by the fear of being judged. The example offered by already bare-chested or jogbraed trail runners, plus accumulated drippy-sweat discomfort, works its gradual magic in breaking down Jamie's inhibitions, and eventually there is that ur-moment of stripping aside of the upper garment, and that rush of sweet coolness.

What I find especially instructive is what happens after this happy moment: Jamie moves with dazzling speed to reinforce the breakthrough. For most of us, however delicious our first oh-my-god-I'm-doing-it experience of going bare, the safety shirt remains a necessary prop for quite a while. It certainly was in my own case. But Jamie busts through that barrier in his very next run, and even adds a special twist: He turns shirtless driver en route! He calls this "ripping the bandage off", and the metaphor is apt. He does not allow the inevitable gathering-together of fresh nerves and doubt to 'scab up' and slow his conversion. Instead, he decisively cuts off any prospect of such a regression.

Jamie says some interesting things about the 'psychic shock' (my term) he gives himself by taking his radical step. "I had major butterflies... Stomach was turning, but it was exciting too", he recounts. But soon, his confidence is surging dramatically: "I am passing people and not caring if they see me shirtless... Running shirtless is feeling great and I am getting more confident every step of the way." Something has happened, the gamble has paid off! He closes his account very positively, saying that "Hopefully soon, I will be converted completely".

Now, some might say that it would be surely best to spare oneself such psychic shock and take things more gradually. But having mulled over Jamie's testimony, I am now inclined to say that some such shock is inevitable if we mean to convert in earnest to shirtlessness. Something must rock us, to test our faith, so to speak: There must be a point of crossing the Rubicon, of some discernible and undeniable changing-over, that begins to cement our new identities as shirtless (or jogbraed) runners.

Jamie, I want to say, was wise to force the issue early - rather than endure a spell of to-and-froing, of the incessant self-doubt that many of us know, before we assay a safety-shirt-free run.

Exactly what form this critical psychic shock might take may differ from person to  person. What is central is a voluntary step taken to fully embrace one's shirtlessness-in-running. In Jamie's case, it was his courage in leaving his home bare-chested and with no safety shirt, to drive to his trail. As I review my own experience, I realise that my shock happened when I first encountered neighbours while stripped down to socks and shoes. I now recognise this moment - rather my first stripping off of my vest while loping along - as in some ways a more significant conversion nexus.

Why do I say this? Now as it happens,  because I have moved house a time or two since, I have had to endure the experience time and again - which has allows me now to clearly capture it. It begins as supreme awkwardness: For an extended second, I almost see my neighbour rearranging his or her impressions of me; once the neighbour actually blurts out, "Oh goodness". I feel an internal sucking gasp of involuntary embarrassment that squeezes at the pit of one's stomach (echoes of Jamie's "my stomach is turning"). But then I move beyond the crisis. I make normal normal conversation about exercise, or the weather, or some such. The neighbour inevitably responds - and suddenly, my exercise attire is no longer some sort of impediment or gap. And at that moment, a little bell sounds. It is like one has affirmed one's faith, and the paradigm shifts. It is now for others to acknowledge me for who I am - still the same chap they always knew, just shirt-free in an appropriate context - and not for me to somehow explain or excuse myself.

I don't know what sort of other 'psychic shocks' might have made a difference to other converts out there. Do share your stories, as many have in these virtual pages, to help others now at the crossroads. For those who have found themselves stuck for long with safety shirts in their waistbands, perhaps it is time you forced the issue and gave yourself a psychic shock. Let Jamie be an inspiration!

[Guest post] A shirtless convert grows in confidence

Jamie contributes this excellent account, chronicling how quickly he went from 'that first shirtless run' to actually heading out for his run (in his car!) barechested. There are many interesting elements here worth discussing, which I will take up in a companion post. For now, here's Jamie's testimony.

A shirtless convert grows in confidence          by Jamie

I started running a few months ago and I am still working myself into better shape and building up endurance.   I know many guys run without their shirts and I have to admit, the idea appealed to me.  However, I am not the best looking guy without a shirt.  I have that same fear most guys do of “who is going to see me?”.  As the weather has gotten warmer, I have sweated through my shirts more and more, while seeing tons of guys running without a shirt, seemingly carefree.  The thought of taking my shirt off still seemed appealing, but, again, who would see me and would people make fun of me?

Well, the other night, it was 92 degrees and quite muggy when I hit the trail for a run.  I thought this may be the day I take mine off.  At first, I didn’t see any guys without shirts and figured I was the only crazy guy out here running in such weather.  Finally, about halfway through my run, I was passed by not one, but two guys with no shirts on.  I said, “OK, this is it”.  I pulled my shirt over my head and off it came.  The breeze (what there was of it) was blowing across my sweat covered skin.  How awesome is this I thought.  Felt a little self-conscious as I passed my first person and moved my shirt to cover my stomach and chest as people approached, but did not even think about putting the shirt back on.   I started to run into more bare-chested guys, including one pack of six.  This made me feel a bit better.  I made it back to my car and walked around the parking lot shirtless for a few minutes as I cooled off.  

So, this morning was my next run on the trail.  The other night, I had made the decision to run shirtless from the beginning my next time out.  No safety shirt to deal with this time.  The temperature was a warm 72. Like ripping a bandage off, I made the decision to not only run shirtless, but to drive over there shirtless, too.  I could not put a shirt on even if I wanted to.  Before leaving, I had major butterflies about it.  Stomach was turning, but it was exciting, too.  Finally, I made a mad dash from my front door to the car – hoping no neighbor saw me.  Got in the car and sped away! I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this!  I get to the parking lot and feel slightly self-conscious as I get out of the car topless.  I feel better when I see a young guy get out of his car shirtless with his jogbraed girlfriend.  I won’t be alone!  So, I start my first full shirtless run and the self-conscious feeling is wearing off. I am passing people and not really caring if they see me shirtless.  This is awesome! Running shirtless is feeling great and I am getting more confident every step of the way.  I make it back to the car in a record time for me.  Even better!  I towel off the sweat and cool off and then back in the car shirtless for the drive home.  

As of now, I am still a bit leery of running shirtless in my neighborhood.  I think the more comfortable I get running without a shirt on the trail, I will be more ready to bare it all in front of my neighbors.  Hopefully soon, I will be converted completely.  I think I have made a great first step.  Hope to keep up the momentum!

Guest post: Uptick in shirtless running?

Note from Thomas
It's been a while since we've had new items. Another summer of shirtless running has been ticking down in the northern hemisphere. So here's the first of a little flurry of posts to catch us up. The first, by Eric James, sounds an optimistic note: He has observed an increase in the number of barechested or jogbraed runners. As he told me during an exchange of emails:"I really do think that I am seeing more shirtless runners of various ages.  I am in a college environment and the trend is most popular among the high school and college age groups, but I am daily seeing very middle-aged folks as well.  Just today I saw separately a couple of jog-bra-ed coeds." More folks seeing the light, eh?

 Uptick in shirtless running?    by Eric James

Perhaps the subject is just old news.  I think I see more and more shirtless runners of all varieties these days. A healthy trend, I believe.  Nevertheless, I still see many negative opinion posts on the net, often in sites of runners magazines. I think that most of these opinions really miss the point.

First, I see no reason why the bare torso of anyone engaged in training or sport should be an offense to cultural norms.  Except in professional or high-level venues, training attire is not at all about impressing viewers in any particular way, positive or negative. But, on the contrary, about appropriateness to the sport and conditions for the active participant.

Second, anyone who has ever experienced the condition called "runner's nipple," i.e. chafed, sore, bleeding nipples after a run knows that that condition must be addressed somehow.  While there are a number of possible solutions including special shirt fabrics, lubricating substances, glues, and bandages, the obvious no-brainer simple solution (weather permitting) is to shed the shirt.  The other solutions which may be necessary in cold conditions are inconvenient, and involve both expense and experimentation for the best individual solution.

Therefore, I would ask witnesses to my runs not to assume that my intent is to display myself, to forgive that I am no longer a fit buff 20-year old, to refrain from judgement that I am neither fleet nor fair, but rather to know that I am doing what seems to aid my efforts, and to credit me for that activity.

Let us all enjoy the sport in unencumbered fashion!