Natural Hair Styles for Exercise | “Black Women are Fat by Choice”


How many times have I gotten the question “How do you preserve your hairstyle while you workout?”  Well, I just want to say A LOT!  I, too, have had these thoughts before I went natural (and even after): 

I don’t want to sweat my relaxer out… I’d be wasting money if I did that.  I just got my hair done yesterday, so I can’t mess it up… This twist out took forever to perfect, and now I’m going to sweat it out?  Not happening…

So yea, this post will touch on the issues of black women’s hair being an excuse for not working out and discuss some natural hair styles for exercise.  I recently read an article published by Huffington Post entitled, “Exercise Not As Beneficial For Black Girls As Whites, Study Says“. Within the article, I was immediately startled to see this quote:

“Too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be,” columnist Alice Randall wrote…” (source)

Powerful statement. Made me think back to the days in which I interned with the University of North Carolina Healthcare Profession Program in which I shadowed researchers tackling the topic of obesity and diabetes in African Americans. There was an influx of childhood obesity and in turn, type two diabetes happen to develop a a very early age.

Not to go too much into the findings of that study, I was more curious to understand why Black women really don’t have a desire to workout out. Based on my own reasons excuses for not working out/exercising, I have compiled a list of reasons why we, as African American women, don’t work out and how to ditch those excuses.

Speaking of excuses:  This hair thing has got to be the weakest one of them all.  It’s unhealthy to use hair as an excuse to being out of shape or even obese.  What the hell are we thinking sometimes?
What can we do to keep our hair in tact while working out?

Get a hairstyle that works!  Ultimately, we should be embracing hairstyles that are conducive with our active lifestyles instead of trying to have these intricate styles that will not allow for us to be healthy.  Hair should not be the focal point of our healthy lifestyles.

For my relaxed sistas, try styles such as roller sets, twists sets, or straw sets as they disguise puffy roots that may incur from sweat.

For my natural sistas, embrace your natural curls!  Wash ‘n go’s (or defining coils) are definitely the ultimate style.  Manipulating our hair is fun, but not necessary.  Simply defining our coils is really the most ideal hairstyle.

What about twist/braid outs?  Those can work, too! If you want to wear those styles, try putting them in a loose high/low bun or puff while working out as to not disturb the curl pattern you have made.  I prefer high buns because I don’t like my hair on my shoulders while I workout.  You can find out how to maintain a twist out here.

Maybe twists or braids?  Those are ideal, too.  Protective styling gives you more freedom to workout and not worry too much about your hair.  While I had my mini twists, I definitely didn’t have to fuss and fight with my hair post workout.  It was just too easy.  If you get the “itchies” and need to wash, you can treat the irritating spot with some tea tree oil (just a drop or two) and massage it into your scalp – instant relief!

Not one of those girls who likes curls and you’d prefer to wear your hair straight?  Workout with a scarf or (in my case) a t-shirt sleeve.  Before you go all “OMG, that is so hood!  Why would I wear a scarf while I workout?  That’s not a good look” ask yourself who is really trying to look GOOD during a workout?  Oh yea, the people that don’t really put in WORK during the workout!  Wrap your hair as you normally would and have your scarf there to secure the wrap.  Simple as that.

I wear my scarf if I have twists/braids in my hair for a twist/braid out and don’t want them to show.  Trust me, no one is that concerned that you have on a scarf.  No one really cares that much (except for you).

Additionally, if your hair gets really wet during your workout, immediately remove your scarf/headwrap during your cool down.  This will allow for your hair to start to dry up some.  When in the shower post workout, put on a shower cap (or not – your choice) to avoid getting your hair wet in the shower if you’re trying to preserve your style.

You can also use the bunning method.  Make sure your bun is loose.

Should I wash my hair?  Shampoo about once a week (that’s for all types of hair – relaxed or natural).  You can always wash more than that, but remember you don’t want to strip your hair of it’s natural oils so do not wash everyday.  These are the times in which I lean more toward co-washing (or conditioner washing) than using a shampoo.

If you do not want to wash your hair, at least cleanse your scalp.  You can use astringents such as witch hazel or Seabreeze to get rid of the build up.  Again, I would follow up the treatment with a nice scalp massage using your choice of oils and a few drops of tea tree oil.

It’s a fine line between neglecting your hair and caring for your hair while working out.  You still want to pay attention to its needs while also embracing the fact that health starts from the inside out.  If your insides are busted up, how do you really expect your hair to luxurious on the outside?  Looks can be deceiving…

By the way, check out my interactive fitness video series here.

What are some ways in which you preserve your style while working out?  What are you favorite styles for your active lifestyle?