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 barethomas@gmail.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!

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
Confess

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 (barethomas@gmail.com)with 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.

5 comments:

John Parker said...

I was a shy boy growing up, and it was difficult up until I was in my teen years, but with the help of a cousin who had embraced almost fully the shirtless lifestyly, I started to see that it wasn't that hard or bad. When I visit him one summer, I saw him going everywhere shirtless and without a safety shirt, to buy something, to do chores like cleaning the family restaurant shirtless, doing some homework he had, and his family never blinked an eye about it. At that time I was around 13 and he was around 19. After that first summer I started making small steps, like being shirtless in my room when I was alone or by sleeping shirtless; or when I went to the beach or some club with friends by staying shirtless the whole time even when not in the water. As I grew older I started to go running, always with a shirt or tank top, but ditching it after a while and so on. Now I'm more comfortable about being shirtless, sometimes I hve even taken taxis without a shirt or when running sometimes not taken a shirt with me at all, or also when just walking and getting home just taking of the shirt if I feel sweaty or hot. I'm turning 19 soon and I think is good to know that there are other people that enjoy doing this, because at first, when I was younger, sometimes I wondered if it was bad or something, so having and older male model helped me a bit and afterwards finding sites like this on the web.


Anonymous said...

Tip number 4 was the one that got help me to go shirtless. I started running in the colder weather and always had a long sleeve shirt on. When the weather started getting warmer I started seeing more and more guys running shirtless. I was never comfortable going shirtless outside, but really wanted to break out of my shell. My solution was to wear a long sleeve shirt run for all of my runs and let the heat force me to take it off. Within a week, the heat of the day was forcing me to pull off my shirt midway through my runs. I would tie my shirt around my waist, but would panic to get my shirt back on once I finished my run.

This went on for a couple weeks until it was time to run my first 5k. I was meeting up with some friends of mine who were experienced runners. It as a warm morning and I had my long sleeve shirt on as normal. As soon as my friends saw me they said, you are going to be a shirtless runner because you can’t wear that shirt. They had to push me a little bit to get my shirt off, but it helped that they were shirtless too. I was more nervous about being shirtless in a crowd of people then I was about running the race, it felt like people were watching me. After the race started then I felt more comfortable and quickly gain confidence and kept my shirt off after the race. I was hooked on running shirtless from the point on.

Anonymous said...

Good post! I have been following your blog with some regularity and an avid shirtless runner myself (in the right conditions). I started running shirtless when I was in my late teens/early 20s. For me I was fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood where it is common and generally acceptable for guys to walk around shirtless outdoors during the warmer months. I started running through joining my high school cross country team. I was a skinny but out of shape kid back then and was therefore shy about baring my torso in public. I then noticed that some of my teammates sometimes ran shirtless during our practices and during cross country meets, it is common for the guys to have their shirts off after their races. I secretly wished that I had the self confidence they had. I kept up with my running after graduating from high school and right through college. Also I started weight training on a regular basis. Consequently, I was in much better shape by then and had greater self confidence, which led me to embark on my first shirtless runs! I first started my shirtless runs with my shirt on, then taking it off later on when I worked up enough of a sweat. It then progressed to days where I did the entire run shirtless- I still kept a safety shirt with me to wipe up sweat. Now I can say I'm more comfortable ditching my shirt on a warm day for a run or whenever I engaging in other physically demanding activities.

Anonymous said...

Great post, went through some of the same stages in my journey to freedom and it feels GREAT! I will never go back to the feeling of being trapped in a sweaty t-shirt again.

Anonymous said...

Back before I was forty years old,my dad was driving past Rice University in Houston during Spring and I was in the back seat of the car and all of the sudden,I saw young guys jogging with their shirts off. Their bodies look athletic and that's when I'd tried it myself. I wasn't scared now to take my shirt off in public to go for a jog,I need to exercise to be as skinny as possible.