Midriff Class Guilt

You might have noticed it’s been a bit warm outside recently.

I mean, I say a bit warm. Hotter than Lucifer’s Runderwear on a particularly muggy day in the middle of the Gobi desert might be a rather more accurate assessment.

Choosing suitable kit to run in during the heat wave is an interesting question for those of us who aren’t used to a summer longer than that bank holiday weekend that was a bit sunny that one time…

I’ve noticed an upswing in Twitter posts hashtagged #sportsbrasquad. I’m a fully paid up member of this squad, or the ‘crop top squad’ at least. As this very hot summer has worn on I’ve had a lot of people saying to me that they would never dare to run in a smaller top, regardless of the weather.

Everyone has their own reasons for this, but the popularity of the #sportsbrasquad on social media and the fact that there is now an annual National Sports Bra Squad Day suggests to me that actually there are lots of ladies out there who, when the mercury climbs, would be more than happy to shed their running vests.

So what’s stopping them? Is it just about body confidence, or do we feel in some way that it’s only ok for fast runners, or that people might think we’re being posers?

Well, I choose to run in a crop top based on three simple questions:

  1. Is it hot out?

As soon as the temperature climbs over 25, I don’t want to be wearing any more clothes than absolutely necessary when I’m running. That’s especially true if it’s muggy, as it was on yesterday’s run on a day so muggy I got flying ants in my hair.

Wearing a crop top allows the breeze to blow over your sweaty skin and keeps your core cool. This sounds gross, but it really helps keep your temperature down. It’s exactly the same as men running about with no tops on at all, and no one seems to think that’s a problem, so I refuse to be made to feel like my bare midriff is in some way inappropriate if I’m trying to do a tempo run in 31 degree heat. It’s just the sensible thing to wear.

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New PB at the ISEH 5k in July

2. Are you comfortable?

By which I mean mentally and physically.

I always think I’ve got slightly odd proportions, because regardless of whether I’m working hard to maintain race weight or it’s the week after Christmas and I’m wolfing down a chocolate orange and France’s entire gross domestic cheese product on a daily basis, I always have a difference of 11 inches between my hip measurement and my waist measurement. So for me, crop tops are actually way more comfortable because I don’t have to buy whichever one is the best of a bad job in terms of whether it fits my hips, waist, both or neither.

I feel happier in what I’m wearing and freer on the run without things riding up or slipping down. Lots of women are not the same size on their hips, waist and bust measurements. If you struggle with this and it annoys you, give it a go – it makes a difference! I’ve actually been trying to work out how I can carry water and fuel for longer runs without having to wear a full top to avoid chafing from belts and hydration packs – I haven’t quite managed it yet but I’ll keep trying!

I know that plenty of women are not at all interested in trying a crop top style simply because they don’t feel confident enough. Honestly though, once you get going that becomes less of an issue. And realistically, it’s everyone else’s issue.

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The 2017 Newham 10k…hot! 

At last year’s Newham 10k I got loads of odd looks at the start of the race when I was warming up in my brand new club ‘racing tank’. I’m pretty sure this was because I didn’t ‘look the part’ in it (whatever that means). But didn’t care – I had done the race before and knew how hot and exposed the route can be. 2 miles in they were all wanting one!

3. Do you want to?

This is the main question. The #sportsbrasquad is about taking a less is more approach to your kit if you want to, and not everyone will.

However, contrary to the current media scaremongering, we do not in fact live in the Republic of Gilead and we are at liberty to wear whatever we want. So if your reason for not wanting to try it is because of what other people might think rather than whether or not you want to, then my question would be do you actually care what they think, or do you just think you should?

When I’m out for a run, I’m there to hit certain session targets or to spend time with my friends. I’m not there to be responsible for what strangers think of what I look like when I’m doing it. And it’s worth remembering the Phoebe from Friends philosophy of running; anyone looking at you funny is only there for a second because you’ve dashed past them and you’ll never see them again!

We all know we get the odd cat call or comment when we’re out running, but that also happens in the depths of winter when you’re wearing 6 layers and a bobble hat. I honestly don’t think it makes a difference – the people who think it’s ok to yell at you will always yell at you, and nice, decent people who don’t cat call other folks are not suddenly going to start just because you’ve got your tummy out. I also think that in this current heat wave most people realise we’re just trying to make it bearable – again exactly the same as blokes who leave their tops at home altogether.

In fact, there are only two sets of people whose opinion I care about when I’m running. One is other runners, and I don’t think they give a damn one way or another what kit people are wearing (unless it’s to think ‘ooh where is that from and can I get it on sale’).

The other group is girls and young women.

The one reaction I’ve had when out running in a crop top that made me very cross and upset was a couple of weeks ago.

I ran past two girls, about 10 or 11 years old. They laughed at me. Openly and loudly, and whilst chasing me for a few paces until they realised they couldn’t keep up.

Now, I was going at a decent lick and it was early enough in the session that my form was still good, so objectively I knew I didn’t look funny. The impression I got was more that the concept of a grown up woman running at all, regardless of what I was wearing, was hilarious to them and it was that which upset me.

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I mean, I know my hair’s sticking up but I don’t look that funny! 

It’s 2018. Women still don’t have equal pay. We’re still fighting gender specific marketing in toys and clothes for girls. This even extends as far as which careers girls are traditionally encouraged to aim for. Lots of girls stop taking part in sport as teenagers because they don’t want to be muscly, or be seen as not feminine enough.

I’m not a role model. I’m not especially fast or attractive or clever or talented. I’m a pretty bog standard, normal woman. But I am a normal woman who believes in the rights of all women to do whatever we want to in and with our bodies, and to express ourselves however we want to, and to wear whatever we want to whilst we’re doing it.

Which is a bit deep for a post about wearing a crop top to run, I know. And maybe I’m now overthinking it, so I’ll stop.

Just…wear what you want. Run how you want. Do what you want.

Screw what anyone else thinks. You only have to answer to yourself.

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One thought on “Midriff Class Guilt

  1. Well said.
    I tend to wear a loose vest in hot weather – I feel that at my vintage a crop top may scare the horses. My middle certainly looks better covered up in my opinion. If my middle looked like yours I might be persuaded to change my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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