The Sports Bra Challenge 2013 (Or, The Time I Worked Out in a Sports Bra in Union Square)

I’m seriously still riding my endorphin high from yesterday. I think I banked enough endorphins for at least the next week or so.

After the half yesterday, I skeddadled home, and even the 1 train being off couldn’t mess with my great mood.

I went home to put some clean workout clothes on my sweaty body (so classy) and get down to Union Square for workout #2 of the day. (Please note that I rarely, rarely do two workouts in a day, much less two intense workouts, but I couldn’t say no to this second one.)

Workout #2 of the day was the Sports Bra Challenge, which benefits the Seak Foundation. I was invited by Glam, my blog ad network, to participate for free, which I’m incredibly grateful for, as this is not a cheap fundraiser. The cheapest bike was $150! The foundation raises money to work with schools to help them renovate gyms and set up fitness programs, as well as providing them with the necessary equipment and appropriate apparel/footwear. In 2014, the foundation is launching a Seak Builds Confidence Retreat to work with women between the ages of 16-22 who have dealt with eating disorders or body image issues to help them build confidence through fitness.

Charlotte from The Great Fitness Experiment and Rachel Wilkerson both had great posts on their opinions on the event beforehand. I had wanted to participate in the event mostly because it seemed like a ton of fun–a spin class outside? Sure!

I loved what Rachel had to say about taking her shirt off to run in just a sports bra during a really hot run a few years ago: “During that run, I realized…sometimes a body is just a body, existing in space, doing its thing. It’s not there for others to look at. It wasn’t even there for me to feel good or bad about. It was just…a body.”

When I was overweight, I certainly struggled with body image issues. As I lost 50 pounds, I learned to love my body. Yeah, a lot of that was how it looked, but I also learned to love it for what it could do as I started running. As I’ve acclimated to my new normal of being at a healthy weight, I sometimes, like most people, compare myself to others and wish I were a little thinner or a little more toned. Then I remember where I came from, and how much I sacrificed and how I’m happy to eat mostly healthy now but not be afraid to indulge or drink some wine.

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So I was mostly excited about this challenge, but I still had a bit of trepidation about taking my shirt off. In front of hundreds of other people. With lots of people watching (and there were plenty of spectators on the outskirts of Union Square watching us.)

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But I did. There you go.

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Me, the lovely Alyssa and Morgan from Glam, and Kristin McGee, the cutest pregnant person ever.

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I got on the bike, was a bit concerned about being in the back row and everyone behind me watching any back fat jiggle, wondered if you could see my spine, if seeing one’s spine was even normal…and then I got over it. I was basically in the middle of a Soul Cycle flash mob in Union Square. Whatever you felt about the event, it was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime sort of event.

Our class was taught by Stacey Griffith and Melanie Griffith. I’ve only been to Soul Cycle a few times, so those names don’t mean much to me, but other people were very excited they were teaching. With my post-run high and the excitement of such a wild event, there’s really no way I wouldn’t have enjoyed this. I’m pretty sure I was grinning the whole time, and so were most other people. Since I’d, you know, had a 13.1-mile warmup, I took the class relatively easy, but my heart rate monitor still said I burned 450 calories. I’ll take it.

A fun part of being so involved in the fitness community is that I knew a gazillion people there. My Uplift buddies were all just a few bikes over from me, and I ran into so many other people I knew.

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My Junior League buddy Mary.


My good friend Emily. Jess and Gia were also there, but I don’t think we got a picture?

So, no, I don’t have the perfect body, and I certainly don’t have the perfect abs, but my body doesn’t define me.

Would you work out in just a sports bra at an event like this (or…elsewhere?) Do you think that something like this is empowering?

19 comments on “The Sports Bra Challenge 2013 (Or, The Time I Worked Out in a Sports Bra in Union Square)

  1. lisa fine

    Sounds like a cool event. Do you find out about stuff like this mostly from Glam, or are there email lists or Twitter groups? I get into NYC a few times a year, and would love to find out about more fitness events, especially if there’s every free stuff.


    1. Theodora Post author

      @lisa fine: Some of it I find out from Glam, some I find out from email pitches from PR people and some I find out from just following a TON of people on Twitter. Well + Good (@wellandgoodnyc) on Twitter is a great resource to follow for fitness events. Or send me an email if you’re coming into town! 🙂

  2. margaret

    I think it’s powerful. I also think no one is looking at your more critically than yourself. I think women come in all shapes and sizes, and I think we should be proud of it. You work out and eat healthy. so you’re not rocking a 6 pack, i don’t think most women are. I challenge myself every summer to run in my sports bra. Is it because I think my gut looks rocking, not at all. I consider that if I can put my most vulnerable self out there, exposing my core, and come back from my run unscathed, than I’m doing ok. It makes me feel stronger and independent from what other people think my body should look like. I think this event sounds really cool. So happy to hear you participating.

  3. Ash bear

    I’m not going to lie. After reading this and other inspirational posts, including Rachel’s post a few weeks ago, I’m tempted to run in the park or head to Revolve/Soul and strip down to just the sports bra. So often we hold ourselves on unmanageable or attainable levels which leaves us frustrated.

    Great job!

  4. Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat

    I was wondering what had gone on there yesterday! Was walking back from brunch to my sisters and saw all the bikes. What a fun event! And bravo, I know I would hesitate before taking off my shirt and take some time to feel comfortable. Inspiring!

  5. Jane @ Not Plain So Jane

    That looks incredible! I am trying Soul Cycle for the 1st time this morning here in Santa Monica and I am pumped! I would be hesitant to work-out in a sports bra, but surrounded by a large group of other women doing it, I would too!

  6. Jessica @ FromtheKitchentotheRoad

    Sounds like a very cool event. I’m super modest so it would take a lot to make me feel comfortable taking my shirt off there. I think I am getting closer to feeling comfortable with my body, which is a nice feeling, so I think I’d at least consider doing something like that. Great post!

  7. Cathryn

    I ran in just a sports bra for the first time a few weeks ago, during a particularly sweaty trail run. I was definitely more up for doing so because it was on trails and there was no-one except my friend and our kids to see me. I loved it when I was doing it and I kind of like the photos as well but not 100%. My baby pouch (which won’t ever go away, i feel) bothered me. But as you said…this body dealt with heart surgery as a child, ran a marathon, gave birth to a healthy, enormous child and now runs half marathons regularly. I’m grateful for it.

  8. Rebekah

    I think its sort of awesome to have an event where its about what your bodies can do… not what they look like. My legs have always been really thick and I hated them but when I started hiking and running a lot I decided to just be grateful for having strong legs that let me have so much fun with my life. Our bodies are for ourselves more then they are for anyone else… we all need that reminder.

    And you looked super cute in all your pictures!

  9. emily @ 2:design:cents

    You go girl! I’d love to do a challenge like this, in the warmer months I sometimes only run in a sports bra(depending how I’m feeling about my abs that day…ha), it can be more comfortable and the stomach needs to get a tan!

  10. Jess

    Amen – your body does NOT define you. But it does propel you, it does enable you, it IS you. But it’s not all that defines you either. I LOVE that you got out of your comfort zone and just went for it. I did a sports bra run challenge with my sis and our bestie last summer, we wanted to do it together, to get past our fears and we went for it. And it was probably the most freeing run ever. Sure, I had to get over those ‘jiggle fears’ but once I did, it just felt good to be out there in my own skin, just running some miles, enjoying the morning fresh air and running with my friends. It suddenly didn’t matter that I was topless (so to speak). Reminds me, I ought to give it a try again at some point, just to remember that feeling, you know?

    1. Theodora Post author

      I forgot to mention in the post: I turned to someone next to me and said “I bet every single person here is engaging their core.” So maybe you even get a better workout without a shirt 🙂

  11. Kristin

    Good for you!!! Looks fun and I love the excerpt about a body just being a body. Great way to think about our strong, capable bodies even if they aren’t always perfect.

  12. Nicole

    Fun event and great weather!
    At the indoor track I tried to run in a sports bra and running shorts because it was really hot and stuffy in the gym…an employee quickly told me to put a shirt on–but it was ok for the guys playing basketball to play shirts vs. skins. I was so mad–but I took it out on the track 🙂


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