Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Exercise-proofing your natural hair

I've been asked a few times for tips on how to exercise with natural hair and, to be honest, I feel a bit of a fraud every time someone asks.

Not because I don't exercise; I do. Rather a lot. It's more because my hair is aaaalways in twists during the week. And if you don't know how low-maintenance twists are, well, now you know.

Twists are a great low-manipulation style. (Technically they aren't considered protective as they don't protect your ends). If done neatly enough, they can look very beautiful and stylish.

Model: Judge Joanne of Sakata 4
Twisted by Ethyl of Ashley's Westgate and styled by James of HAIRworld
Photography by Oskavybes

Mine, sadly, are neither neat, nor stylish.

Generally on Mondays, I put my hair in two strand twists then wear those until Friday. Et Voila! Thatisall..  Ok not really. I  do about ten chunky twists, more if i want a defined twist-out, then cover with a scarf when I'm out and about. The purpose of the scarf is two-fold. To protect the twists from rubbing and catching on things while I train, particularly when doing floor work, and to protect their increasingly disheveled state from prying eyes. 

Because I work out hard, I'm a Sweaty Betty at the gym. No 'glowing' here. 

just saying...
All the salt in sweat can really dry out your hair so I co-wash and condition two or three times a week and apply a little sealing oil over the twists. I also spritz them daily, in the mornings, to saturate them so they absorb less.. Sweat. Sorry. 

Because of all the washing and spritzing, I usually re-do them midweek because not only do they get fuzzy looking, they actually begin to lock, meaning ill be tearing them apart on Friday. Which breaks my hair and means I can't wear a defined twist-out. 

Which brings me back to the whole fraud thing. Most people can't (or won't) run around in scarfed-up twists for a week. So what to do?. 

You could opt for a flat twist; gorgeous and protective. because your ends are tucked away, they are also easy to undo if you want to wear your hair out. Actually, writing this now, I don't remember why I haven't done them in a while. 

Flat twists
Picture courtesy of Wambui of

For those who prefer their hair open, top of the list is the much loved and loathed wash and go. It should actually be called a wash-spritz-seal-then-go because that's what it is. For those who can wear their hair like this, it is a perfect, easy option. For those of us with nappy hurr, you KNOW you look crazy when you do these. So it's on to the next one.

On the odd occasion that I do wear my hair out to the gym, I always put it in a puff.

all puffed out in True Love Magazine September Issue
This will probably stretch-out beyond repair any style you may have had, but rocking a smooshed-at-the-back fro is a pretty hard look to pull off. As an extra precaution, I also wrap my puff in a scarf to protect my ends. When you're done with your workout, you can simply carry on with your puff or wear a variation of it. Once my hair is tied back, no amount of teasing will revive it at the front so I have I wear off-the-face styles. 

If your hair is long enough, a great low effort, low maintenance style for the gym is a bun. The ends are tucked away, hair is pulled back so it won't snag on anything and is can take you from the gym to the boardroom with no fuss. 

Another way to wear your hair out straight after exercising is to do a roll, tuck and pin style. These are particularly beautiful and can look very formal and elegant if you have a formal event to attend after.They are also deceptively easy to do. 

And finally, there are combs. Now, I don't comb my hair (gasp), but if you do, then you will not have to worry about styling. Simply comb out your fro after your workout and off you go. 

The key to exercising with natural hair, regardless of your hair length and goals, is protecting your hair. Especially your ends. Our ends are the oldest, most fragile parts of our hair and therefore are susceptible to tangling, knots, damage such as split ends and breakage. Scared? You should be. Especially if length retention is your goal. Make scarves your best friend. 

The next thing to remember is moisture. Moisture keeps your strands supple, preventing breakage. Sweat drys out your hair. Try to rinse out or co-wash your hair regularly to help with moisture retention. Sealing your hair after, particularly your ends, is also vital. For this reason, I will generally have a mini spritz bottle in my bag for a quick on-the-go moisture touch up. 

And finally, just do it. Being healthy on the inside is good for your skin, nails and hair. Your hair will thank you. And if you really start losing hope, just remember we are ALL in the same boat. Naturals and crackettes alike. Hair is actually the number one reason most black women do not exercise. Dying to look cute? Sobering thought. 

1 comment:

  1. Any tips for protecting your hear from the sweat when its in braids? I also do not look good at the gym, and my hair looking good is the last thing i think of when I am in beast mode. Lots of tears in the shower area after when trying to style it later so i have given up and am in crochet braids or braids 95% of the time. mostly because I workout 6 days a week.