So you feel like you'd like to shed some inhibitions, cut down on laundry and boost the comfort level big-time while on the run. Maybe you've always secretly envied those who dared to strip down to jogbra. Here are a few tips to get past those last few barriers holding you back...
(Note: Much of the following applies to trying out shirtless running for men, with the possible exception of Point 2; call me trapped in stereotypes, but some of the talkie-talkie stuff might be uncomfortable to many a Joe Public.)
1) Start at home: To feel more comfortable with your own skin, so to speak, start by stripping down to jogbra while in the comfort and privacy of your own abode. When doing chores, having a snooze or just lounging about, get used to what it feels like to have much of your upper body comfortably air-cooled.
2) Exploit friendships: You may know someone who is already a confident jogbraed-running exponent. If so, she might not mind company on her runs - and you could very naturally get into sync attire-wise. You might even broach the subject of personal shyness and ask how she got over any inhibitions she might have initially had. Hearing it from another person can help: In my case, learning that one of my relatives was a confirmed shirtless runner gave me an extra boost.
3) Choose your time: It's entirely natural that you'll feel especially intimidated if, plodding along for the first time in your more 'exposed' self, there are hordes of folk toddling past and - or so it will feel - giving your every blemish the once-over. So schedule your first jogbraed runs for times and places where there will be no crowds. Don't sacrifice safety: Late-night adventures down secluded alleys, if in an area where crime is at all a concern, would be highly unwise!
4) Use the 'midway' strategy: Once you are pleasingly warmed-up on your run, with perspiration dewing up diligently, it will feel a lot more natural to be shirtless. If you've been used to being all cladded-up, the immediate difference in comfort will also be very evident. So you might choose to start off on your way fully-attired, and wait till your shirt or tank top is begining to cling or sag damply before determining to remove it. You'll be surprised how those mental obstacles will have been softened and are that more easily smashed through.
5) Stack the deck: To amp up the 'midway' strategy, pick clothing for your run that is thicker than usual, or less absorbent - that way, you'll ratchet up the discomfort level and make stripping off the offending garment a way more inviting prospect. Similarly, deciding for the first time to embark on jogbraed running will be more difficult when the weather is cool (and quite possibly suicidal during winter), but correspondingly easier if you choose a hot summer day. Many 'conversions', by all account, occur when the thermostat has been crawling up relentlessly.
6) Once the first breakthrough is made, keep up the pace: Having tasted the jogbraed life, don't draw back and decide 'to try again in a couple of weeks'. It's natural that the first couple of go-rounds will be accompanied by a certain trepidation that may take away from the enjoyment. It's just like entrenching any habit: A little perseverance pays dividends. Perhaps set aside, for starters, two days when you will go shirtless for every two where you stay fully-clothed: That way, useful comparisons - almost certainly beneficial to ramping up jogbra-time - can be made.
7) Take comfort in numbers (a): There are places where shirtless/jogbraed runners, or for that matter clothes-light sportsmen of some other description, will be thicker on the ground than elsewhere. Parks, trails, neighbourhood hoops courts or soccer pitches would be obvious locales where your arrival would not stand out. So head there if it's convenient, and the sight of other comfortably-exposed torsos could be an inspiration.
8) Take comfort in numbers (b): There are online groups, forums or the odd blog (ahem) to explore where you will recognise in the chatter that there are many, many people who have embraced shirtless running, are interested in taking it up or have begun trialling the option. I try to bring a selection here, of course, but there's no reason why you can't google- or Bing- away yourself. Naturally, some groups or forums will have slants or broader agendas that are not your own, but you can cherry-pick what you need by way of encouragement. Join in the discourse - heck, tell us your experiences in a comment here, or a guest post - and there will be mutual support to draw on.
9) Go bare from the start: This is the critical point, or what might be called 'full conversion' to shirtlessness. Once you've become accustomed to stripping off in mid-run, you'll need to find the psychic reserves to just head out in jogbra from the get-go. By this stage, you'll be somewhat 'hardened' and slightly addicted to shirtless comfort. You'll have become at least partially accustomed to having people's eyes on you, absorbed the odd sly comment and started to see yourself as 'a jogbraed runner'. Initially, you can still bring your shirt along, tucked in for emergencies, but resist any urge to reach for it. Soon it will seem an unnecessary encumbrance that can be dispensed with altogether. Personally, one fine day I just 'went without' from the start, without any momentous clashing of cymbols: The crutch wasn't needed and I left my shirt behind.
10) Mental reinforcement continues: Look back from time to time to when you thought jogbraed running was beyond you. Recalling how much more comfort you now enjoy, just savouring the greater sense of freedom, will help guard against backsliding (which happens more often than you might think!). Your identity as a Jogbraed Runner should now be fully-formed, something you can proudly acknowledge to all comers in the hope that others will come aboard thanks to the example you provide and, where requested, the experiences you share.