Running without a shirt is new for me. I've only ever taken my shirt off in the yoga studio or on the beach. Running down the most populated streets in my city without a shirt on is not my idea of comfortable. But because this is true, along with the fact that I like to explore my fear, I decided to start running wearing only a sports bra.
At different times in my life, I've been a size 0 and a size 16. Today I fall somewhere in between, and I feel really, truly healthy in my body and mind, quite possibly for the very first time since my prepubescent years when I wasn't so consumed with fad diets and needing to look a certain way.
As I train for my first-ever race — a half-marathon — I decided I owed it to myself to celebrate my healthy body just the way it is. So here are nine reasons I celebrate my body and run with my shirt off, and why you should try it, too:
1. It makes me feel brave.
Taking my shirt off for the first time on a run was paralyzing — I even took the service elevator so no one would see me leave my building. Now, taking my shirt off is almost second nature. What I once thought of as an act of bravery has turned into a routine practice of self-acceptance.
2. It’s empowering for the others.
When I run with my shirt off, I often pass women who smile back at me. I know that when I see a confident woman running by (with her shirt off) it creates a sacred, unspoken space for me to accept my own body with radical confidence. Women supporting women are infinitely more powerful!
3. It makes me feel like I belong — which I do.
I used to think that because I didn’t have a “runner’s body” I shouldn’t be running. Now that I know how good it feels to complete a challenging run, I want to set an example for more women to get outside, move their bodies and find their flow moments.
4. It helps me reflect.
Seeing my reflection in a shop window or reflective window used to make me nervous. Now it makes me proud. I used to hate my reflection while running, but now it's a daily reminder that the only true reflection nature has given us are the people who surround us — not what we see in a window.
5. It proves "healthy" can come in any shape and size.
I can only hope when a young girl sees me running in my sports bra that I can inspire her to feel good enough to do whatever she puts her mind to and to not feel limited by the shape or size of her body, ever.
6. I’m learning to accept myself, just as I am.
I don’t need to lose five pounds or have a six-pack stomach to enjoy running. I can celebrate my healthy body just as it is. I don’t need to be anyone other than myself.
7. I’m accepting the jiggle.
Women come in a million different shapes and sizes. I certainly enjoy being athletic, but that doesn’t mean I can't embrace a little feminine jiggle. I'll never give up dessert for the sake of looking a little thinner on a shirtless run. Let it go. Let it jiggle. It's all good (and normal).
8. Less laundry!
I am OK with having fewer shirts to fold.
9. I practice being a no-excuses kind of woman.
I don’t need to apologize for my body. Back when I would've rather been caught dead than exercising in my sports bra, I'd make excuses as to why I was shirtless because I thought everyone was judging me and I needed an answer for my actions. But when I realized no one actually cares (or was even thinking about me), I vowed to stop making apologies for my body and just jump right into what feels so good to me.
You don’t necessarily have to run with your shirt off, but if there’s a fear of exposing your healthy midsection to the world, I highly recommend you taking the plunge and bravely bare your beautiful belly. Because you can, sister!
Photo by Matt Roy