What I Learned About Body-Positivity from Running Through NYC In My Underwear

A lot of things can fly under the radar in NYC that would cause a total commotion elsewhere. Morning commute pole-dancing by subway entertainers, naked cowboys serenading tourists…But running around in your underwear? That might just be the craziest NYC-approved thing I’ve done.

I’m not shy about my body-any chance to not wear pants, show a little midriff, or live in just a bathing suit is A-OK with me. My college roommates would joke that they’d seen my full moon more than they’d even see their own. And, as of late, my life has been so absorbed by fitness that I’ve stopped thinking about my body in terms of what it looks like and instead for what it can do. So when I got the invite to run the 1.7-mile Gildan Underwear Run-an annual race to celebrate the beginning of the New York City Triathlon weekend-my initial thought was, “This is hilarious. I can run 1.7 miles. Hell, yeah-let’s do it!”

But as the race drew closer and the reality of my commitment sank in, I had a lot more questions, concerns, thoughts, and feelings. Here, everything I learned along the way of what I thought would be a good-time, no-worries streaking sesh-and why I think you should strip down too.

1. Your support squad means more than you think.

I originally planned to do the race with two friends. Something about running solo and underwear-clad through Central Park didn’t seem as appealing as having a squad to Snapchat, giggle, and #realtalk with through it all. Plus, how cute would it be if we got matching tighty whities to wear with a cheeky saying on the butt? I could just see the future Insta post in my head and was already brainstorming a caption… that is, until my friends bailed. To be fair, they both had legit work-related excuses, but that didn’t mean running around alone was going to be any fun. Suddenly, I was terrified of sitting at the starting line alone, naked, and afraid (ok, not really, but kinda). (And I wasn’t even stripping all the way down. This writer ran a 5k totally naked!)

2. It’s easy to be comfortable when you’re, well, comfortable.

I agonized over what to wear. (The idea of running in ANY of my underwear seemed utterly impossible. Thongs? No way. Cheekies? Nope. Boy shorts? Wedgie central.) Eventually, I settled on the most butt-covering bikini briefs I could find and my #LoveMyShape sports bra, which seemed highly appropriate for the occasion. (Here, read all about our epic #LoveMyShape movement.)

I decided to run from my apartment to the starting line in just my sports bra and shorts, because I wasn’t sure of the bag check situation. The idea of wearing my running belt to hold my phone, keys, etc. seemed ridiculous considering I wasn’t even going to be wearing pants. Do I listen to music? Do these sneakers look dumb? What do I do with my hands? Can I even run? You don’t realize how clothes function as a safety blanket are until you can’t have them-I was second-guessing everything.

On my way to the starting line, I was paranoid that EVERYONE was looking at me, and I hadn’t even shed my shorts yet. Normally, I’m totally comfortable rocking a sports bra during a run or workout-so why was I so nervous and self-conscious? This was going to be one long-ass 1.7-mile race. (Read about how one woman’s learned to love wearing just a sports bra in public.)

3. Body confidence isn’t a destination-it’s a journey. That never ends.

When “perfect” people complain about their insecurities, people get mad. “Imposter!” cry the internet trolls, as if a socially-accepted outward appearance means everything is golden inside too. But no one is truly confident and happy with their body 100 percent of the time. Even if you’re feeling pretty damn good right now, you may be put in a situation where that seemingly rock-solid floor beneath you totally disappears. Maybe it’ll happen when you’re stripping down with a new intimate partner, rocking an outfit that’s totally outside your normal style, or undergoing some life experience that’s radically changing your body (hi, pregnancy). At some point, life will test your body confidence in a way that feels like it takes you back to square one. For me, that was standing alone in my underwear at the starting line.

4. A body is just a body-and what it looks like doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re worth.

When the run finally got started, it was a little easier to forget what was going on-although the adrenaline had me cranking past my usual pace. While pounding pavement, I chatted with some girls in matching “Donut Touch”-printed panties and dudes in supertight boxer briefs. I laughed as tourists walking through the park gawked at the crowd of naked humans running by, and I tried to imagine how they’d tell friends back home what New York City is really like.

I realized, after seeing too many stretch-marked, cellulite-speckled, jiggling bodies to count, that-frankly-bodies don’t mean a thing. We agonize over the tiniest bits of pinch-able fat on top of our bras and scrutinize the tiny wrinkles next to our eyes. We seek bigger breasts and smaller hips, or bigger hips and smaller breasts. We tell ourselves we aren’t as good as the person next to us-just because they might look more like that one girl on Instagram. So we try to change it all. And for what? The inside-the important part-is going to stay exactly the same.

If you step wayyy back, your body is not more than a vessel to hold your consciousness (deep stuff, I know). So anything you do to/for your body should be helping it be its best, healthiest self so that it can carry you around for as many years as possible. What it looks like, honestly should be last on the to-do list.

5. Getting over the scary stuff is worth it.

Yeah, the pre-race jitters sucked, but by the end, I was feeling good-and now I’ll wear my “I Ran Through Central Park In My Underwear” finisher T-shirt proudly, and reflect on the unexpected body confidence journey that happened that day. And for that reason, I would encourage everyone else do the same (or something similar that terrifies them, like wearing only a sports bra during your next spin class or even stripping down for naked yoga).

At the very least, runners, you might get a PR out of it.

  • By Lauren Mazzo @lauren_mazzo

by Nikki & Chase Parnell — December 7, 2019

Nikki here! So I went for a 20 mile run a couple weekends ago with some girlfriends. As we were out, running and winding our way along a beautiful river trail in Bend, OR, I started to notice some discomfort with my underwear. Rubbing in all the wrong places if you know what I mean! I always run in underwear because I feel insecure, exposed, and like things will chafe if I don’t. But this time my undies were betraying me and not providing the protection a runner requires. When I got home I found said undies to be literally almost completely shredded and almost torn in half along a seam that was supposed to keep the front of the underwear connected to the back. Shredded!! I know, don’t ask, I don’t know how I did it either. Needless to say, I relearned the importance of having your gear in harmony with your body – especially in sensitive regions!

Underwear Made for Ultra Runners

This story leads us in to our very first gear review! We were contacted by T8, a running company out of Hong Kong who designs ultra running gear. They asked if we’d review their flagship product, the T8 Commandos, which are anti-chafing running underwear.

Note: we are not getting paid to do this review but we did receive a couple pairs of Commandos to test for this review. Our goal here is to provide some unbiased and informative feedback to all of you who might need a solution in this department.

Specs:

  • Weight – under 35 grams (35 grams is 1.23 ounces).
  • Chafe-free guarantee! If you experience chafing and send T8 a picture of the chafing (yikes) you will get a 100% refund.
  • No inner thigh seam.
  • Stretchy.
  • Highly Breathable.
  • Bonded leg seams to prevent riding up.
  • Italian blend fabric (90% polyamide, 10% elastane) – tag says 78% nylon, 22% spandex.
  • All seams are reversed, so that the smooth side is against your skin.

In Testing:

Chase’s initial thoughts: “They feel good on my booty.” We spend way too much time with our four year old, therefore we use words like “bum” and “booty”. Sorry not sorry.

Chase’s thoughts during running: After my first run in them, I realized that I didn’t really notice them the whole time, which I think is exactly how it should be with underwear when you’re running! They’re designed in southern Asia, for hot and humid conditions where moisture and sweat become a real issue, but they’re also great for wearing under running tights in colder weather. I usually wear running shorts under my tights (for support), but always hated how they’d bunch up. With just the Commandos under my tights, I definitely felt sleeker and appreciated the added comfort. Also, by substituting in the Commandos, I can prolong the life of my shorts by not having to wear them on every single run throughout the winter.

Nikki’s initial thoughts: I was intrigued by the fabric feel – very light, sheer, silky and stretchy. I noticed that the women’s Commandos seem to be a little nicer than the men’s in my opinion – the waist band is a little wider and the “bonded leg seams” (the elastic bands at the bottom of the underwear to prevent ride ups) are smoother on the women’s underwear. I noticed these things, Chase didn’t seem to, so maybe that’s exactly why there’s a difference between gender styles. The next thing I noticed was that I was a little unsure as to how to wear them. Because they’re a longer “boy short” design to reduce inner thigh chafage, they are also longer than the shorts I typically run in (Oiselle Roga shorts). So to avoid looking like I was wearing shorts under my shorts, I wore longer tight style shorts (an old pair of Oiselle “Flyte” or “Long Flyte” shorts). This was a magical combo – so comfortable and no risk of others doing a double take at me because my underwear were sticking out. I also tried normal long running tights over them and these work too, though I must mention that the “bonded leg seams” do give my thighs a slight indent/bulge and you can kind of see that crease when wearing leggings… so I’m not sure if I would be comfortable wearing them that way often. I think the underwear fit me great, maybe my thighs are just too much to handle? I tested a size small, might be more of a medium?

Nikki’s thoughts during running: They really did feel smooth with no hint of chafing. I’ve only tested them on runs up to 10 miles but I didn’t sense any problem areas arising!

Pros:

  • Light, moisture wicking, not bothersome, does not become shredded while on a run (at least not yet!).
  • Great value. The Commandos are very reasonably priced. If you use the discount code at the bottom of this post, a pair of Commandos will only cost you $13. And there’s FREE Global Shipping. Don’t be thrown off in checkout though as the price can be displayed as Hong Kong Dollars.
  • 1% of all sales goes to the Trail Running Association of Hong Kong that focuses on the promotion, education, and sustainability of ultra running in Hong Kong. Very cool!

Cons:

  • A little tricky knowing how to wear them. If you’re used to wearing shorts with built-in underwear (for men and women), then these underwear are slightly awkward. You’d have to change up the shorts you wear them with.
  • They can create a thigh bulge, though we were researching a bit more and found that T8 does use Asian sizing so they suggest rounding up a size if you have large quads or want a more comfortable fit. Still unsure if Nikki’s smalls are too small in the thighs or if that’s just how the Commandos are – everywhere else fits good!

Verdict:

  • We like!
  • We want to try their Sherpa Shorts – which are shorts with a built in run belt where you can carry water/nutrition/phone/keys with minimal bounce. They would also be a great thing to wear over the commandos for both men and women. And 1% of all Sherpa Short sales go to Himalayan Trust Nepal helping with healthcare, education, and earthquake rebuilding in the Solukhumbu district – we like that T8 seems to be involved and committed to doing good things in their region of the world!

There you have it! And again, we don’t earn any money if you purchase a pair, but if you’re in the market, you can head on over to T8 Running and shop around. Normally the underwear cost $19 but for Treeline Journal readers only, apply the following discount code for an extra $6 off!

Discount Code: 50-TREELINE#20

*Code valid for six months.

Let us know if this gear review was valuable. We’re sort of on the fence with how big a role gear reviews will play on Treeline Journal. We tend to lean more towards providing inspiration than technical knowledge but we want this site to be valuable to lots of different types of people. Let us know!

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Jasmine Grimes, 24, is a body-positive blogger based in San Francisco who began posting underwear selfies in January 2017. Here, she explains the significance of baring her body and how she responds to negative commenters on the Internet.

Right before I went to college back in 2013, I kept seeing all of these cool, hipster-ish style photos on Tumblr. I couldn’t help but notice they only featured straight-size models.

Around the same time, I’d begun to notice that most companies that used plus-size models were only using women who looked no larger than a size 12 or 14 with flat stomachs and wide hips. While there’s nothing wrong with their bodies, some women, like me, happen to carry a lot of weight in their bellies. Seeing campaign after campaign featuring models with bodies that looked nothing like mine didn’t exactly boost my self-esteem.

I’d always been interested in photography and my mom had just bought me my first DSLR camera for my birthday. So in 2013, I decided to start taking photos like the ones I saw online, but featuring people of my size — namely, me.

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Guys this hair is giving me life! I just love it so much! 🙌🏾

A post shared by Jasmine Grimes (@myssematch) on Dec 4, 2016 at 10:03am PST

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Side Glance 🙃 #plussize #psblogger #curvemodel #effyourbeautystandards #imnoangel #lookbook #ootd #honormycurves #alt #alternativegirl #curlyhair #curlyhairkillas #blackgirlmagic #blackgirlsrock #Fatbabe #fatshion #bodypositive #bodysuit #altgirl #alternativecurves

A post shared by Jasmine Grimes (@myssematch) on Apr 17, 2016 at 12:27pm PDT

Even though I used to shy away from my reflection, posting about 250 photos of myself in the past year has helped me become increasingly comfortable with my body. Just looking at the photos, which showcase how brave I was in the moments when the camera was flashing, makes me smile. See, I used to let the beauty standards set by airbrushed images affect me, but I’ve come around to the idea that my body is beautiful just the way it is — that I don’t have to conform to anyone else’s expectations. It’s why I typically just block commenters who leave nasty comments or accuse me of being unhealthy because of my size, and move on.

I don’t believe in the whole, “new year, new me,” thing, but back in January, I told myself I’d no longer let fear get in my way. I was happy with the way I looked, so I decided to take the first photos of myself in my underwear in my bedroom, where I’d set up a makeshift photo studio with a ring light and a tripod.

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You. Are. Perfect. The. Way. You. Are. So stop being so damn afraid to show it! #lanebryant #MyBodyMyRules

A post shared by Jasmine Grimes (@myssematch) on Jan 12, 2017 at 3:36pm PST

I was a little nervous to post this first one, but only because I wanted people to understand the message without sexualizing the photos. (I’d already seen and deleted quite a few sexually charged comments from my posts.) The reason why I put myself out there in my underwear is because I know there are so many women (and men) who grow up self-harming, starving themselves, and contemplating suicide because unattainable beauty standards lead them to think they’re ugly. I want to show other women that bodies like mine are OK the way they are.

It’s why, since January, I’ve shot several series of underwear selfies and try to post at least one every other week.

A few weeks ago, though, I saw an Instagram caption arguing that the only thing that matters is confidence you exercise offline in the real world. I felt it undermined the fact that posting underwear selfies takes courage that promotes personal growth IRL. I thought it also suggested that the only reason women post underwear selfies is for attention, specifically from men. As someone who has not just loved photography all my life, but has used the medium to foster confidence and self-acceptance, I know how much a single image can mean. And I was sick of people suggesting otherwise.

So, two days later, I decided to challenge these misconceptions by posting a photo of myself wearing nothing but my favorite bra and underwear, with a caption that speaks about the importance of underwear selfies.

As usual, it was nerve-racking — I stepped away from my phone for a while before checking to see the response. Most of the time, I just hope that my photos resonate with at least one person. In response to the one above, I got a message from a woman who said my account inspired her to spread the message of body positivity on her own Instagram account. That meant the world to me.

Of course I know it will take more than one person posting a couple of underwear selfies to normalize plus-size bodies. And although I’m planning on publishing more, people need to see all different shapes, types, and skin tones to stop hating and hiding themselves.

While I’m not saying you have to pose in your underwear to be body-positive, you’ve got to admit that photos can change people’s perceptions, particularly before you judge my approach.

Get all the ~FiTsPiRaTiOn~ directly in your feed. Follow Facebook.com/CosmoBod.

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter and Instagram.

Elizabeth Narins Senior fitness and health editor Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer and a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan.com, where she wrote about fitness, health, and more.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving last year, I was on a panel for a lingerie brand where we were talking about who our underthings were for. Namely, when we slipped on a pair of sexy underwear, did we do it for ourselves, or did we do it for the person who might be lucky enough to slip it off? I argued that it wasn’t an either/or issue—it could be a both/and. “I feel sexy when I know that someone wants to rip my panties off,” I argued to a room full of gals grasping gin cocktails.

Then the next morning, I rolled out of bed, took a shower, and opened my underwear drawer to start getting ready—and I was horrified by what was looking back at me. My bras were ratty and stretched out. My underwear were old and full of holes. It was a bleak scene. This was the panty drawer that, according to what I’d told a room full of women the previous evening, was my source of strength and sexiness. And it was a f*cking mess.

Now, looking back at the year I had in 2018, and the lack of sex I had in said year (it was the driest of spells, my friends), it’s not surprising that my panty drawer looked like a post-apocalyptic relic. I worked through a series of hard knocks and bad dates. I lost my job in the beginning of the year, so instead of focusing on dating and caring for myself, I focused on getting my career back on track. Because of my professional pitfalls, I felt like a loser and a failure. And that’s not exactly the hottest feeling in the world, so my dating life suffered. I was in survival mode, not siren mode. My clothing, both visible and not, took a hit as a result.

But that was then. And in the cold light of day, I realized that I needed a change. I wanted my sexy back, and I was going to start with my underwear drawer. But instead of just relying on the same stretch cotton I typically did, I was going to finally indulge in some lacy underthings. (My fun fact is that, in the years before this panty overhaul, I’d just go commando on dates where I thought that sex was a possibility. Yes, even in a dress. I know.)

To me, lingerie was always the ultimate indulgence. It was one of those things I’d dreamed of owning when I was broke and living off pasta in college. “When I make it, I want to invest in some amazing lingerie,” I’d tell my friends. “That’s how I know that I’m successful.” In the meanwhile I relied on bargain-bin panties and bras at a heavy discount. Were they cute? Absolutely not. But economic? Of course. My Depression-era grandmother would be proud of those panty purchases.

Tossing out the old undies felt like I was cutting ties with a part of myself that no longer served me.

One of the benefits of the tough 2018 I’d had was that I started making good money as a freelancer—more, in fact, than I’d made in my previous full-time jobs. I hadn’t exactly “made it” per se, but I did have a little extra income to splurge on some bras and panties. Couple that with the insane Black Friday sales that came up a few weeks later, and I was able to do a complete overhaul for a grand total of less than $300. I shopped around but got the most stuff from Savage x Fenty, because their sizing was amazing and their deals—like three-packs for $30—were fabulous. (Leave it to Rihanna to do lingerie right.)

Every time a package arrived, it felt like it was Christmas morning. I’d open it up, lay my bounty on my bed, and do a little fashion show for myself in the mirror of my bedroom. The transformation I felt was instant, and it was incredible. Slipping on the new underthings, for me, was like popping on Wonder Woman’s arm cuffs. I felt invincible and confident, regardless of what I was wearing on top of the underwear. Underneath, I had super powers.

Central park underwear run

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