Here’s one natural hair story I’m sick of — the “black women don’t exercise because of their hair” story. It’s been written too many times and guess what? It isn’t necessarily true.
Yes, sure — there are women of color who don’t want to get their hair all sweaty, especially after getting their hair freshly done from a salon. I think that holds true for women across ethnic lines — women of all races have their own hair hangups and concerns. And I am of the personal belief that if you’re gonna let your hair be the reason you don’t exercise, the issue probably goes deeper than that. There are many other reasons we don’t work out as much as we should. You might blame it on the hair, but more often it really is about what lies underneath it. It’s all about the MIND. Tapping into the motivation within, finding the time in your day and then fighting the phobias that keep your rooted to your seat and staring vacantly at a computer or television. That’s where fitness truly begins, and to be really real with you, that’s the battle I’m fighting.
I can’t claim to identify with the the “black women don’t exercise because of their hair” story. Because I wear my hair natural, I don’t really have any hair-related excuses. My own mind prevents me from greatness and I’m doing my best to overcome THAT. It’s about so much more than hair. It’s about scraping myself up out of my chair and away from blogging and social media long enough to hit the gym or do my Core Fusion DVD workout. It’s finding the time and devoting it to MYSELF.
But for those of us who have lamented about not knowing how to wear our hair while working out, for those of you who have felt like the need to wear your hair in a particular way while working up a sweat — I reached out to some experts. Two of these women have run marathons this year. One of them just appeared on the Dr. Oz show to share her amazing weight loss story. All of them wear proudly wear their natural hair, and have figured out how to keep their hair cute even while exercising.
Tina Shoulders is the creator of popular pop-culture inspired home furnishings line, Laidback. And she ran the Nike Marathon this year — check out all of her training info at beautifulathlete.com.. Here’s what she had to say about natural hair, styling techniques, and her workout regimen.
I’ve been natural for about 16 years now and have gone from years filled with monthly spurts of exercise to disciplined running. My exercise doesn’t affect my styling too much. I sweat profusely and there is just no geting around it, so many times I just let my hair rock in a high afro puff or have the occasional cornrowed style.
I started running about summer time last year, early last year I was speedwalking with the occasional block long run in between and I lost a 6 year old (about 60 lbs) and it felt amazing! So in taking back my health I decided I would use my new superpower to raise money for a major health issue that both of my parents were affected by and many friends, cancer. So I trained and completed a half marathon, and then another this year I decided why not go all in? I also needed something more, I am transitioning in my life’s dreams and refocusing goals and in the midst of a major shift and just needed something that would propel me to challenge myself for a better more fulfilling life.
…Men love a sweaty woman with endurance, LOL! I meet more men while running than when I am dressed nicely with every hair [in place]. But really its about life and preserving our life and that trumps a cute hairstyle any day. However that being said and vanity many times getting the best of us, try a high bun or high loose ponytail if you have long hair because it lets your hair breath a bit more, so it doesn’t get so sweaty. Talk to other women working out in your area that seem to manage still looking good while working out and get tips and tricks from them. As far as feeling restricted by your body, nobody is really paying you that much attention. I know when I was alot heavier I would always think that someone might be looking or laughing at my jiggle, they weren’t. We are our own biggest critic and if we don’t like the way we look or feel we think about everybody else snickering and they are not. You simply have to get over it and for me I wore the tights and tanks, get something cute that fits and feel good about yourself. It makes you want to work even harder.
When training, Tina wore her hair in a cornrowed style and refreshed the style once a week. Here she is after running her first marathon!
Renisha James is a personal trainer available for hire in Chicago — check her out at Renewed Fitness! This year she ran the Chicago Marathon, and is an active member of the local chapter of Black Girls Run — click here to find a group near you!
At one point in my life, yes exercise did play a small role in how I wore my hair. Whenever I first got my hair done (relaxed) I always took a few days off of exercising because I didn’t wanna “sweat my hair out”. After running became something very important to me, I’d just slip my hair back into a ponytail and wear it like that for weeks. I sort of transitioned out of wanting to preserve my hair, to wanting to preserve and feel good about my body and health. It no longer mattered if my hair would “sweat out” or not.
My first inspiration into the marathon world was when I went to volunteer at the Chicago Marathon as a senior in high school. I just couldn’t believe all those people were going to run 26.2 miles, but somehow I wanted to try it and to be able to say I did it. Since that day, it’d been on my “Bucket List”. 10 years and 3 marathons later, I’m almost addicted to it. The preparation for it has pushed me to (and through) limits I never thought I’d ever encounter both physically and mentally. It’s the ultimate challenge of strength, but has shown me what I’m made of. It helps tremendously to have supportive people around you and running with you, especially if it’s your first one.
To women of color who want to do what I’m doing, but feel restricted by their hair or their bodies — I want to tell them there’s nothing you can’t do. Change the way you’re thinking and make yourself and your health a priority. Your hair shouldn’t hold you back from taking care of something so important. Find and research styles, techniques that will preserve your beautiful crown, then…get moving.
Erika Kane is the creator of incredibly motivational and inspiring blog Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. She has lost well over 100 pounds by changing the way she ate and the way she lives, and her recipe guides have been helping other women change their lives through clean eating. She recently addressed hair and exercise in this post.
For me, exercise is the reason why I stopped straightening my hair. The minute I started actively and regularly doing cardio, I realized my hair would be an issue. It’s long, it’s thick and it took forever to straighten… but I was walking/running every day. There’s no way in the world that I was going to be putting heat on my hair every single day after a run. If it was difficult to make time for the run, it would’ve been an epic struggle to find time for the hair every day, as well.
In my mind, I understand feeling restricted by your body more than by your hair, because you can have legitimate physical issues that hinder your ability to run safely and without developing injury. Knee issues, joint issues… that’s how you know you need to simply be gentle with yourself and start off slow with walking. Your body becomes accustomed to the activity and your issues fade… and that’s coming from someone whose knees made this embarrassing cracking sound every time she ran. Hair? Pfft – it’s all about what you want. Have the confidence to know you can make any hairstyle look good and get adventurous with it. Put your hair in twists and plant them in a bun in the back of your head. Give yourself two big pixie braids on the sides of your head. There are tons of styles for women who cannot keep their hair straight and want to be runners, you just have to be confident and adventurous enough to give them a shot!
I hope these women inspired you, if you felt stuck for workout hair inspiration! I’m working on working out and they sure inspired me!
What are YOUR best hair workout tips?