Exercise and Black Hair

I know combining exercise with hair care can be quite a conundrum for some people. It has been an issue for me. My work is sedentary and I love to experiment with food, hence, exercise is not an option that I can ignore without repercussions to my weight.

And I must confess, sometimes I hate to exercise because of my hair. One session of cardio and it is as wet as if I went under the shower. I sweat in my hair, not pretty little rivulets either. I mean I get soaked. I even sweat when doing Pilates, which is not known to be in the vigorous exercise category.

Because of this sweat issue, sometimes I can’t bother to exercise. Even when I listen to that popular motivational video, Rise and Shine- the one where it basically tells you to ignore that defeatist voice within, in the first couple of lines it says- “Sit up. Put your feet on the floor and don’t look back because we’ve got work to do.”

And sometimes, I do sit up and put my feet on the floor and then decide that the floor is too cold and then I go back to bed.

There are times though, that I push myself to get up, I ignore the voice that says, “your hair is going to be hell to dry” or “why torture yourself with all of this activity?”

Instead, I try to focus on the many benefits of exercise. Some of them are below if you want a refresher.

Exercise Benefits

  • Controls weight
  • Combats diseases
  • Improves mood
  • Boosts energy
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Reduces stress
  • Aids in the flushing of toxins from your body, all of that icky sweat is good for something.
  • It stimulates the blood flow to your scalp aiding in hair growth. Not to mention that the blood circulation is good for your skin and hair.

There is really no excuse not to exercise and it’s not only for overweight individuals either! It is always good to keep it moving.

So how do we work it into our hair regimen? How on earth can you handle exercise without hacking off all your hair or going back to natural or relaxing it if you are natural?

It is ironic really, that many persons who have natural hair, think it would be better to relax their hair in order to frequently exercise for ease of combing and many people who are relaxed who want to go back to natural hair because it is easier to wear certain styles when the hair is wet.

There is no need to do anything that you don’t want to do, work with the hair you have, exercising with natural, relaxed or transitioning hair is quite doable.

Here are some general tips to make exercising a little easier on your hair.

Guideline For Hair Before Exercise

  1. Wear a sweatband. It stops or delays the sweat from getting into your eyes, absorbs some of the moisture from a vigorous work out. It is especially useful if you sweat in your hair. The downside is, some sweat bands work pretty well, some do not. Try it and see if it makes a difference to your workout.
  2. Keep your hair off your face and neck. Bunch it up in a ponytail. If you have a curly hairstyle and you don’t want your curls to be limp, keep the ends away from possible moisture.
  3. Do not put heavy oil based products on your hair or products with artificial ingredients. When you sweat these products will find their way into your eyes, mouth and wherever else. Only use light oils or natural sealants. Things you would not mind swallowing, if some got into your mouth or eyes.
  4. Prepare to rinse your hair more regularly than normal. And I say rinse, not necessarily wash with a shampoo or whatever else you use to cleanse your scalp. When you sweat, the body purges itself of waste and salt. You do not want that sweat drying on your hair. The best way to cleanse the hair is to rinse it out. You may not need to do this everyday based on the heaviness of your sweating and how vigorous your exercise is but when you rinse, seal in that moisture from the water with a light oil. Leave the heavy oils and butters to your off days.

Natural Hair Exercise Hair Tips

Natural hair-curly, kinky hair loves water; don’t be afraid to get it wet. If you have your hair in a bound style like twists, braids, you can simply rinse your hair; allow the water to run through. Paying close attention to the areas where you sweat the most. There is really no need for the agitation of the scalp everyday or even manipulating your hair.

You can gently massage your scalp and then sluice the water over your hair if per chance your scalp itches or feels dirty. You can use a t-shirt to wrap around the hair to sop up the excess water. Use a light oil for sheen and to seal moisture.

For loose hairstyles like wash and go’s, you have it made. You would probably be refreshing your hair anyway for the day. Use a plant based gel, like flax seed gel for hold. Try not to use heavier gels, because you will be sweating it out the next day anyway.

Keep your ends up and out of the way.

If you have a handheld steamer you may not even need to rinse your hair. It is a quick and easy way to refresh your hair without the water.

Try not to abuse your diffuser or blow dryer to dry your hair every day, remember it is still heat. Air-drying is still the best option.

Relaxed Hair Exercise Hair Tips

You definitely need to rinse your hair every time you sweat in it. Don’t let the sweat dry in your hair. A simple water rinse will do. You can hasten the drying process by using a t-shirt to dry your hair. Make sure your hair is at least damp before you seal with oil. If you seal the hair while it is sopping wet it may take longer to dry.

Putting your hair in large plaits will allow it to dry quickly too; the added benefit is that you have a braid out when you are done.

Don’t skip the t-shirt method to absorb excess moisture it can help with the cutting down of your drying time.

If daily or every other day manipulation is something that you are not comfortable with, you can consider rinsing your hair while it is in a  ponytail or braids. One convenient way to wear your hair especially if you want to wear your hair out in the morning is to braid or cornrow your hair overnight. After your workout, rinse your hair with the braids in, t-shirt dry and then seal.

When rinsing the hair you can gently massage the scalp and then rinse. No need for a big wash until the end of the week or whenever you are ready.

Transitioning Hair Exercise Hair Tips

I am in this place myself. I am on a long transition and I have to exercise. I exercise for an hour six days for the week. I wash my hair twice per week so in between I rinse with just water. I part my hair in four large sections and then part each section with my fingers and using a spray bottle I massage pure water into my scalp. It takes about ten minutes tops.

Then I rinse with my hair still in sections, absorb most of the moisture with a t-shirt and then seal with avocado oil (my new go-to oil). After which, I braid my hair in chunks with a scarf. It takes about an hour to dry, less if I am on the road and driving with the windows down.

You can use a steamer instead of water. If your hair has low porosity you can use warm water to rinse it. Don’t forget to seal up that lovely moisture though.

Whatever state your hair is in, whether it is relaxed, natural or transitioning, do not let it hinder you from getting some exercise in.

3 Comments »

  • RMAU said:

    The roundtable discussion was more than the debate over relaxed versus natural hair , it delved into the politics behind the focus on and fascination of black women and their hair.

  • Susanna said:

    Hi Brenda

    I live in the Caribbean and besides that I’m a sweater. I exercise daily and two and a half years ago I went natural because it’s convenient for me. When my hair was relaxed it was beautiful but as I’ve gotten older I realized that i seemed to be losing my edges at the sides. After I had gone natural I also realize that my edges were of softer finer texture from the beginning – I just hadn’t noticed as I began relaxed in my late teens. I’m now I n my late 40’s. Suffice it to say I would to try relaxing again. I use the product Affirm which upon research seems to be kinder to black hair and can be applied in different strengths.

    My issue lies in the daily exercise and sweating. Is would like to look well put together most days. I’m also a performer who travels quite a bit and yes I do exercise while I’m on tour – I sweat profused onstage as well. Is there anything else you can add since some time has passed since your post on that matter. Your blog has been very helpful. Thanks in advance.

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