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Biggest Loser winners in sports bras
The Biggest Loser's Hannah Curlee and Olivia Ward flank SoulCycle's Jenny Gaither. The three recently spearheaded the spinning studio's Sports Bra Challenge


“Take your top off” might sound more like the cheers of carousing frat boys than cardio fitness instructors.

But on a Wednesday evening in August, as a packed class worked out to pounding pop music at Chelsea Studios, many women heeded the call. “Take it off!” the instructors yelled. “You all look so hot!”

Shirts came off. Cheers erupted. Sports bras emerged.

This wasn’t a strip-tease lesson. It was the latest iteration of popular mind-body workout IntenSati, a class called “Love Ur Body, Move Ur Body” created by Erin Stutland and Natalia Petrzela.

Natalia Petrzela and Erin Stutland
Natalia Petrzela and Erin Stutland

And it’s just one of many workouts asking attendees to shun their shirt—and work out in their sports bra—as a way to confront body-confidence issues.

“This class is about dropping the body drama that we all have,” said Petrzela in video invitation to the event. “Ideas like ‘I can’t wear that. I look too fat. It’s too tight. I’m too old. What will people think?’”

Almost a month earlier, SoulCycle’s Jenny Gaither expressed similar sentiments when announcing her Sports Bra Challenge, a spin class that asked riders to lose their tops.

Biggest Loser winners Olivia Ward and Hannah Curlee got involved and galvanized their fans across the country for the challenge. “There were big girls, small girls, girls of every shape and size,” said Ward, in a recap video. “The energy was so awesome.”

And recently, as a 40th birthday present to herself, Sadie Nardini gathered a group of over-40 yogis in the middle of Times Square. They celebrated by stripping down to bikini tops and boy shorts, and moved through scantily clad sun salutations. Many proudly wrote their age with magic marker on their bodies.

Sadie Nardini
Sadie Nardini and her scantily clad yoga flash mob.

“With all the body-image issues I hear from women every day, and used to have about my own body, I felt it was high time we revealed not only some skin, at our ages, but also the confidence to step into that skin, explains Nardini. “Body confidence can come with a dedicated yoga practice both on and off the mat.”

So is this topless workout trend partially attributable to the sunny freedoms of summer? Maybe. But hopefully the embrace-your-body mindset they inspired will continue into fall and beyond. –Lisa Elaine Held