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, 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!