The Benefits of Running Shirtless
Even in the grey areas such as walking down the high street, running through a town or at a friends BBQ - being shirtless is my default option.
Perhaps in terms of evolution, maybe I've not quite refined my "caveman" genes. The idea of running across a field, taking down dinner and having a feast of meat to enjoy does sound a little bit like heaven!
I realized fairly early on that not everyone shares my love of partial nudity. However in the truest fashion of "do what you want to do as long as it doesn't hurt anyone" - normal social conventions hasn't stopped me.
One of the best times to be topless (except at a beach, near a swimming pool, or other situation involving lots of sun and water) - is when running.
Only recently have I begun to think about what it is about running that means it's a perfect opportunity to take my top off, plug in some rhythmic drum and bass, and clock up a few miles.
All 9 reasons are below - maybe after thinking about the benefits of running shirtless, you might leave your shirt at home next time...
Apologies to any women reading this article in advance. Personally I wholeheartedly support the notion of women running topless (#freethenipple #genderequality). Sadly - society isn't quite there yet. However, to enjoy all the benefits below whilst still keeping your breasts stable on your weekly 5k - try a lightweight sports bra!
Right - let's get into the benefits!
Reason 1 - Burn More Calories
Your body also requires energy to keep itself warm in colder temperatures. With 50% of your body exposed to a colder environment, it's going to take a little bit more effort for your body to keep itself warm.
There's no t-shirt to cover your torso from feeling a little chilly meaning your body will work that little bit harder to keep your body temperature at a reasonable level.
A study from the University of Utah reported that the basal metabolic rate (i.e. the number of calories needed to simply exist without spending any extra energy) increased slightly in colder climates .
Dr. Askew also stated there could be an additional increase in calories burned from the warming of cold air by the lungs and also from the rewarming of skin that has been exposed to the cold - useful to know when over 50% of your skin is exposed!
Now this effect is by no means a complete game changer, and the effects over a 10 minute run will be pretty negligible - however think of this effect over a 10km run, or even a half marathon and the effect will be greater.
Don't expect a six-pack straight after your first topless run, or even your second or third, but if you're able to burn another 10-20 calories for free each time you run then it all helps over a longer term period.
That being said - it won't be nearly enough to make a dent in the extra calories consumed at a thanksgiving day dinner!
Reason 2 - Stay Cool
Typically it's a fairly healthy process - when your body temperature gets too hot, produce sweat, cool down.
It's a biological mechanism which helps keep us from burning up inside and damaging a whole host of internal activities in our bodies. Not only this, but it can help clear pores and even help the body remove toxins.
Personally, however, I try to keep the amount I sweat at a minimum (unless I'm in a sauna of course!). This applies just as much when I'm out for a run around my local area.
During the Summer months or if it's an otherwise warm day, you can bet your money that I've started to feel a bit hot and sweat within the first 10 minutes of running.
Contrast this with running topless and you can feel the air blowing against your whole torso. This is an excellent way to stay cool when running in warmer weather and takes us nicely into reason 3 below.
Reason 3 - Save on Laundry
As a single bachelor - laundry is on my top 10 things I'd rather not be doing on the weekend. Unfortunately I'm in the habit of never wearing anything twice without having it cleaned - except my suit jacket as dry cleaning costs can get fairly expensive!
As you might have guessed from the whole theme of this website - I'm also someone who values time as one of my most previous commodities. If there's something I can do to spend more time on things I like and less time on things I don't like - I'll probably do it.
Here running shirtless works perfectly in helping me spend that little bit less time doing the laundry.
Let's say an average runner completes 3 runs a week, maybe 2 5ks and some speed work one evening. This might result in an extra 3 t-shirts a week that need to be washed.
Assuming about 30-35 items need to be washed by an individual each week, those three extra t-shirts represent an additional 10% of clothes to be washed.
Remove this 10% and reasonably you can expect to reduce the time you spend on laundry per person to go down by 10% too.
For me, an average load of washing takes about 30 minutes per week, but for those living with partners and families - I'd expect this to be significantly more.
Instead of completing 52 washes per year (& spending 1,560 minutes to do so), by running shirtless I may only need to do 47 washes per year (a total of 1,410).
The result? By running without a t-shirt or a vest I could save up to 2.5 hours a year to spend on other things. This isn't revolutionary as a bachelor - but I'd much rather 2.5 hours to spend as I'd like if given the choice!
If you're in a household of more than 1 person - how much time per year do you think you could save by running topless?
* Pro tip = If you've got swimming shorts, try running without underwear! This would mean you'd only wear 2 items of clothing for every run (socks and swimming shorts) resulting in even less time spent washing.
Reason 4 - Embrace Public Opinion
I often like to use the reactions of the public to gauge my current level of aesthetics. Whether positive or negative!
After a few weeks of hard training and with the abs on full display, it's not unusual to get wolf whistle or two from members of the public. When I've been in great shape I've regularly received a few car beeps, head turns and "dayuummm!"s from ladies appreciating the view.
As with many things in life - you have to of course take the rough with the smooth.
Typically during the winter or early spring and if I've been carried away with bulking season I won't have the same reaction from the world. After one too many cheat meals I've at times ended up more "festively plump" than I'd like to be.
"Go put a shirt on tubby" wouldn't be an overly surprising comment to hear if the abs have gone into hibernation for the winter.*
*Disclaimer - in this respect, thick skin is recommended.
Personally, I'm always happy to receive feedback, whether positive or negative. If the comments are more negative than positive, it's probably a good signal that I need to increase the intensity during HIIT sessions!
Reason 5 - "Self Reflect"
Without sounding too much like Narcissus (that guy out of Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection), having the opportunity to see your own body regularly over time is a great way to reflect on your own progress.
The beauty of seeing the reflection of your own body in a mirror is that is does not lie. When measuring your own progress through the use of scales, it doesn't quite offer the same unbiased opinion.
Is the weight you've lost all fat? Have you lost some muscle? Did you eat a big meal last night which has skewed the result? Have you recently loaded up on creatine and now you're carrying more water weight?
There's a whole range of factors which can influence what the scales say, either positively or negatively. For this reason using scales as a way to reflect on your progress over time is not completely trustworthy in isolation.
Why not take your next few runs topless then? This gives you the opportunity to have a well rounded view on how your body looks. Use this time to think as you run around how happy you are with your progress so far and be sure to congratulate yourself if you're pleased with the results!
Reason 6 - Feel great
There's not many feelings quite like it. Not only is being out in the sun proven to make you happier , it's also a great time to give your body a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D has a whole range of healthy effects on the body including;
- Maintaining healthy bones and teeth
- Supporting the health and immune system
- Regulating insulin and helping diabetes management
- Supporting lung and cardiovascular fitness
- Fighting depression
Studies have also suggested that up to 50% of people worldwide are vitamin D deficient . This is absolutely staggering. BILLIONS of people in the world don't get enough vitamin D!
Fortunately - in addition to finding vitamin D in a range of foods, we can also produce it ourselves by absorbing sunlight through our skin.
Without getting into the technicalities, the scientific fomula goes a little like this:
Expose skin to sun -> Body produces vitamin D
Throw away the t-shirt, wear a pair of shorts (& embrace the cold if you can!) and you'll have a much more impressive 50-90% of your skin exposed to the sun.
Let's assume you've got 75% of your body exposed to the world, it's easy to see you'll have 15 times more skin exposed and therefore absorb 15 times more vitamin D if you're running for the same amount of time.
The fresh air against your body and a whole super dose of vitamin D on your next run - what's not to feel great about?! =)
Reason 7 - Avoid Chafing
For anyone who hasn't, chaffing is the constant rubbing of t-shirt against nipple over 20 minutes or more. This can quickly cause so much pain that you forget that your legs are tired. Over time - the rubbing against your torso can feel somewhat similar to someone sliding sandpaper against your nipples as you run.
This can also make you look like you've been shot in the nipples if you run for long enough...
Unsurprisingly, there's a simple way to avoid chaffing - avoid the t-shirt altogether!
Going for a run topless, in addition to all the other benefits, is a great way to make sure your nipples are chaffe free no matter whether you're covering a 10k or an ultra marathon.
Reason 8 - Top Up Your Tan
For anyone else who doesn't live in such a gray environment, reason 8 will be much more applicable.
Typically running in the Summer with a t-shirt, wherever you are in the world, will give you a fairly healthy tan. Unfortunately this will be limited to your face and forearms, maybe your entire arms if you've opted for a vest.
The solution? You've guessed it, lose the top altogether! Running topless can give you a beautiful full torso tan - leaving everyone else with their "farmer's tan" looking pretty silly indeed!
Reason 9 - Go Faster*
Well maybe this one is completely made up, but personally I always feel much faster when I'm topless!
Also thinking about points 4 and 5, maybe being exposed will make you a bit more self concious. If this is the case you might start making healthier choices with food.
When you see that final bit of body fat that you're looking to lose as you run past a mirror, saying "maybe I should avoid that next donut?" becomes much easier to say.
Add these mini decisions over the course of a week and you're well on your way to preventing those extra calories blocking your weight loss progress. With you being that little bit lighter - you'll then be able to run that extra bit faster!
Whether light rain or beautiful sunshine, there's always a reason to ditch the t-shirt and run free. Personally (unless it's super cold), I'll simply put just my shorts and running shoes by the door when I'm next thinking of heading for a run.
What's your favorite reason to run shirtless?
Share this article on Facebook next time you're asked why you're topless! :)