Hair Care 101: Permission to be a Black Female & Work Out

In choosing to empower women in the first month of the year, I wanted to share my thoughts on one of the biggest hindrances in the African American Community when it comes to exercise.

NOTE: This post isn’t just for sistahs! Other fitness professionals, gym rats, and people frequently wondering what exactly is going on with that black chick on top of her head at the gym….keep reading!

QUESTION FOR BF: Have you ever skipped a workout because of a fresh new hairdo? You are not alone and this IS NOT AN EXCUSE!!! This is a very real daily dilemma for women of African descent. I often look around the gym and I will be the only black female in there. Other times, it will be just a few of us. Amongst the few, you will always see some type of “savior” atop our heads, whether it’s a scarf, mesh cap, pin curls, etc.

PIN CURLS, TIED DOWN WITH RACE FOR THE CURE FESTIVE INSPIRED SCARF:)

PIN CURLS, TIED DOWN WITH RACE FOR THE CURE FESTIVE INSPIRED SCARF:)

Some of the most common reasons for our absence are; we spend a ton of money at the hair salon, depending on our hairstyle one trip to the gym can totally mess up the look we are going for, and finally it’s too hard and time consuming to get presentable after leaving the gym.

A FRESH HAIR DO CAN COST A SISTAH ANYWHERE FROM $45 - $450!!!

A FRESH HAIR DO CAN COST A SISTAH ANYWHERE FROM $45 – $450!!!

I have tried several things with hair maintenance and it has been a trial and error headache of a journey. However, I found my routine and often assist several ladies with fine tuning their own system. Below are some tips I’ve come across that you may already be doing and others that you may not have thought about.

Tips for Working out and Maintaining your Hair

  1. Wrap your hair and use a Ridoc™ All Purpose Mesh Wrap if you have a bigger head than normal. Otherwise, a regular mesh wrap, any brand will do.
  2. Pull you hair into a loose pony tail to keep the bounce and wrap it after the workout while you shower and get ready.
  3. Try a roller rod curl set. The curls are really tight when you first finish at the hair salon but they can maintain any level of physical activity for up to two weeks and still look decent.
  4. I use the Save Your Do Gym wrap. It has edge control technology in the wrap that stops the sweat from wetting the edges of your hair. It comes in narrow, wide, and full triangle sizes and is available for purchase online right from my site by clicking here for under $30.
  5. Alternatively, if you think that is too much to spend on your hair care, then FIRSTLINE Dri Sweat Edge Women’s Active Wear Headband is a less expensive option. Dri sweat It can be found at your local Wal-Mart for less than $5 and aims to achieve the same purpose. If you have a big head, this might be a little tight. It does not have the option to tie it tailored to your head like the Save Your Do Gym wrap. It is elastic but the stretch is limited.  I wonder where I’m getting all this big headed advice from:)
  6. If you wear your hair with lots of curls, try pin curling your hair, it is not the most appealing cosmetically but, it will save your curls. You can also pin curl your hair, then place the mesh wrap or scarf around your pin curls. If you are really self-conscious about wearing pin curls to the gym, you can place a wig over the pin curls. When pin curling your hair, if you blow dry any parts that are mildly damp after the workout while leaving the pin curls in, then take them out and wrap your hair while showering, it should look back to normal.
  7. If you are trying to lose a lot of weight and going really hard in the gym or at a boot camp, wearing braids temporarily is an excellent option. There are all kinds of braids and twists that you can choose from.
  8. You could consider wearing dreadlocks. It is very easy maintenance.
  9. You could try a sew-in weave. This is where the majority of your hair is braided down and tracks of human hair are sewn into the braids. You can be as active as you like with weave because you can apply heat to that hair as much as you like after the workout. A tip with weave is to wear a very high pony tail to keep the hair from getting sweaty and tangled on your neck during your workout.
  10. Try a natural hairstyle, like a low haircut. If you are natural but wear your hair with the look of a relaxer, you stick with the other tips but you may have to get your hair done weekly as opposed to biweekly.
  11. Try to budget your hair to be done professionally if you are very active. They will work with you to figure out what is best for your particular hair texture and taste.
  12. Try to strategically schedule your workouts. Start your week with your weights and or abdominal workout. Really hit the heavy cardio in the middle and on the day that you get your hair done. Then take off the day after or the next two days after getting your hair done. You can forget getting me to sub a class on a Saturday morning after I get my hair done, and everyone knows it, lol!
  13. Finally, don’t worry about what people think about your hair savior method. You are there to take care of your body by staying fit. It is not a fashion show. There is a time and place for everything and the gym is not prime time at the social event of the year.  Yes, people will ask questions but, it is only because they are unfamiliar with the struggles of black women when it comes to hair maintenance. I give them a quick 20 second informative spill on our (black) hair and the response is always Ohhh and now they understand.   Unless you are working out with those who chose to make comments about Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas’ hair at the 2012 Olympics, then I really don’t think anyone cares.
    2012 GOLD MEDALIST GABBY DOUGLASS

    2012 GOLD MEDALIST GABBY DOUGLASS

    Source

I hope you found this article informative and motivational. Please be inspired to step outside the box and try a new hairdo.  If you just LOVE your current style, use some of the tips, exert the extra effort of energy, and preserve the style by any means necessary. Your health and fitness is your priority as is your presentation. You can be successful with both!

PLEASE share this with at least 1 sister and empower the African American fit community! I added share buttons finally;)!!!

Rx Fitness Lady wants to know…

  • Ladies, what did I miss? Please share any other tips!
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Rx Fitness Lady

Greetings, I'm Joi, a Pharmacist with a passion for fitness & a community leader. I teach BODYCOMBAT, BODYPUMP, Tabata Boot Camp, & serve as a mentor to young girls. My goal is to inspire people to live healthy, active, & prosperous lifestyles through practical blog posts deliveries. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, & on The SITS Girls site as a Community Lead. You can view more post and subscribe to stay tuned to latest updates at Rx Fitness Lady.

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81 thoughts on “Hair Care 101: Permission to be a Black Female & Work Out

  1. Hi Joi!! This is great info! I’m am all natural diva so I always need suggestions on how to keep my mane controlled. For now I plan to wear protective styles such as braids and twists. I do want to look into that Save Your Do Gym wrap that you mentioned. Loving your BLOG LS!

    • Hey April! I have never tried natural but my Mother wears Keratin (think that is the spelling) treatment and her hair is amazing with her workouts, but she wears it like a relaxer & she does Save your do too. I’m a fan! It doesn’t work magic but it does help a lot. I’m so glad you love the blog my LS! Thank you for commenting.

  2. Joi. Great info. I have not found away to save my hair style and have tried many of the above. What I have found that some what helps is a keratin treatment. This does not save my hairstyle but it makes my hair more manageable when I leave the gym. I continue to go hard at the gym while rocking a ponytail after the second workout of the week.

    • Pony tail it then or bite the bullet and sew it up:) Thx for sharing at the gym how you really feel, LOL! Thank you for keeping it G-rated on this here blog!

  3. Love the skin you’re in….regardless of what ya hair look like while you get there!!!!!;) I found this post so informative b/c I went through so many of these hair changes during the last 3 years of me trying to drop some weight!!! I finally settled for the hair weave but at the end of the day!!!! I felt like my body was so much more important than my hair until I get to a maintainable place in my journey!!!;) I also am very comfortable with going hard Mon.-thurs and have the weekend for a sensible look!!! It works for me!!!! I truly feel the Black Female has got to get to a WIN (what’s important now) mentality and get outside the box like you said Joi and conquer this hair thing!!!! So I figured instead of being chunky with the best laid hair, I would be fine with manageable hair that compliments my GO Girl look!!!;) LoL!!!
    Love the post!!!;)

    • LOVE IT, so well said Geneva! Thank you for commenting. Keep up the good work in the gym boo. Getting fine with manageable hair, can I put that on a T-shirt?

  4. Hey my darling Joi, I have been using your advice for weeks now. I use the Save Your Do Gym Wrap and I love it. It really works . I work out 3 to 5 days a week and I get my hair professionally done every Thursday because I take pride in my hair looking nice. I also pin curl and pull my hair up in a pony tail . Thanks to your advice, I can work out and still maintain the look I like daily. You are such a blessing in so many ways. Haircare when working out was one of the many things I learned from you in 2012. Thank you for all your tips. Keep posting this much needed advice. Experience is the best teacher!!! Your proud mother, RoberTa

    • Thank you for the testimony Mother! Thanks to the sew in, you know I’m not rolling with the every week crew at the Hair Salon anymore. I can get by with every other but I was right there with you when I was pin curling my own hair. Thank you for the encouraging comment. Love ya!

  5. I wear a sew in religiously and it’s just for this reason. As a television personality it’s a part of my daily responsibilities to have my hair look suitable for television. I love to work out it gives me energy and keeps my body looking great… So I could let wearing my God given hair stop me from those things. So I get my hair weaved up and keep working on fitness. If you’re one of those anti – sew in people, I say give it a try. Get one that looks exactly like your hair and I promise you and other people will hardly notice. And if it’s your man that says he doesn’t like them, he lying! They all love all the super stars with long hair, and once you get long hair he’ll love yours too.
    Thanks Joi! This topic was AWESOME!

    • I’m glad you liked it! Thank you for convincing me to try something different after ummm 2 years! I am so grateful for the easy maintenance now. Thank you for calling out these men! Ladies gotta do what we gotta do, and the men have to get on board. BTW, yall with these nicknames attached to your name….young one….the bestie..cracking me up! Love it! Thanks for commenting lil sis;)

  6. Great article Joi!!!! I agree with 13. The primary reason for going to the gym is to WORK OUT. I’m natural so 9 times out of 10, I’m rocking a puff ball on top of my head; however, the times that info have my hair straightened, I wrap it prior to going to the gym and tightly cover it with a satin scarf. This always works for me.

    • Thank you for sharing that Ciara, I use to do something similar with my hair as well during one of my trial periods. Thanks for mentioning again the importance of knowing your purpose at the gym…WE WORK OUT!!!

  7. Hey Joi!! I’m just loving the information that you’re putting out there for women I am totally inspired. I went and got my gym membership yesterday and I’m trying to get motivated about my health I just wanted to tell you thank you and just keep doing what you do because its wonderful!!

    • CONGRATULATIONS Altineka!!!! I’m so proud of you. You are most welcome and Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I hope that you will stay connected here as you begin this new journey. Just hang in there for 21 days girl, it will be routine. We are gonna do this thing in 2013!!! Ha, I like the sound of that!

  8. This is a great post! I work out very frequently and I have a Sew In for one of these purposes. This is one reason that some people feel African American women don’t work out because we are always concerned with our appearance. The trick I use when I’m working out is that I use Motions pomade on my edges (Olive Oil Edge Control is good as well) and I wear a sweat band, with a tight pony tail or high bun. It works well when I have sew ins or wearing my natural hair! When I run I switch it up between a Dri-Fit hat or the sweat band.

    Another trick I learned is to not take your hair down immediately after a workout and to give it time to dry from the sweating and put a scarf on as soon as possible after a workout (if you already have on your scarf don’t remove until your hair is dry), I live by this after a grueling workout!

    • Hi Amanda, Thank you for your insight. These are some awesome tips! I will have to try out Motions product. You are a role model for the AA female community. Keep it up! Thank you so much for visiting.

  9. Thank you so much Joi for this wonderful information. Your website is truly inspiring. As some have mentioned above, I am starting a total body transformation. I too was once more worried about my hair than my health. I have had a sew in a few times now, and honestly I work out more frequently and much harder when I have it. I have decided to continue to wear them until my body gets the makeover that it needs. After this, I will worry about the HAIR thing! I was once an anti-weave person and working out has changed the way I feel about wearing it! Thank you for ALL of the outstanding information….YOU are a wonderful example for ALL AF women. :-)

    • I was anti-weave for myself as well, but use to love it on other ladies. Stepping out of the box made life so much easier. Whatever we have to do, Just Do It! Thanks for visiting & commenting little cuzzo;)

  10. I am a definite example of having to skip exercising or planning gym time due to hair. I’m currently natural and I can sweat all day without care! I don’t have an excuse… After reading this blog post of helpful tips no one should have hair excuses!

    • We all should put some planning into this thing, it can be done without sacrificing a truly diverse & beneficial workout regimen. Thanks for visiting.

    • Thank you so much for sharing that on here Candace! I actually used some of the stats from the study in the extended version of this that will print in the GA Informer. I kept it a little lighter here with the stats, but I’m so glad that you shared it with this community so they know I’m not just blowing smoke, lol! Thank you for visiting!

  11. Hey cousin very informative. Will have to try some of these things in the coming months as I work on working out.

  12. I love this blog because this topic is a constant in the gym amongst black women. I’ve been a trainer and group fitness instructor for over ten years and the most frustrating clients are those that would rather maintain a 200 plus weight than to rearrange their hair regimen to fit a healthier lifestyle! I urge woman of all races to embrace a healthier you for not only yourself but for your loved ones as well. I had a huge wake up call while living in California and being slightly overweight after having my first child when I was asked if I truly loved my child then why would I let myself get overweight and possibly leave her motherless. My hair was not an issue ever again.
    My promise to women everywhere is that once your concentrate on a more fit and toned body; the rest will fall into place! I guarantee, it is much more attractive to maintain a trim waist and a gorgeous physique than any Bronner Brothers Hair Show style you’re desperately trying to maintain! I always know when a sistah is for real about getting fit when her desire for getting healthier trumps the little things like hair, nails or anything that can be fixed by a professional within a day.

    • So true! It all comes together once you get started. Thank you for sharing your wisdom in the fitness journey. Much respect for your dedication to health over the past ten years. Thanks for visiting, glad you like the post!

  13. Hi Fitness Lady, I am stopping by from SITS and although I am of Asian Indian descent, I have dry, naturally curly/frizzy hair and man, I look like a poofball after my workouts no matter how I try to tame it. You’ve inspired me to get back into my fitness routine though, I need it to be able to maintain joint mobility as I combat Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was doing well exercising to my limit, then got sick and with the holidays, haven’t gotten back on the treadmill in a month. Time to get back to it! Have a great weekend!
    Tanya recently posted…2013 Book Blogger Recommendation Reading ChallengeMy Profile

    • I’m glad you were inspired. Hope 2013 treats you better physically as you try to work your workouts into your schedule. Thank you for visiting.

  14. Joi great info. I am always skipping out on workouts because of my hair. I will definitely try some of these suggestions. GREAT Job!

  15. Now this was just Wonderful! Very informative!!!!! I may actually start working out now that I have seen so Many options for my hair. :) Being natural makes it so hard to “go hard” in the gym, once those roots and those edges feel that moisture it’s O-V-E-R !! But i’m glad to know there are alternatives other than just getting a sew in (which is a great option, in my opinion). Good Stuff. Thanks!

    • Lol, I hope that you will give it a try. I understand your delimma but if we add a couple of extra steps and make the time for maintaining, it’s not so bad. Thanks for visiting Miss Lady!

  16. Hello Ms. Rx Fitness Lady,
    Great article! This is an awesome information piece to help black women fine tune their workout. Keep up the good work LS!

    Yours in Health & Wellness
    Fine 9

  17. Hey Joi! My best friend gave me a “Save Your Do Head Wrap” for Christmas and I love it! I usually wear weaves but since I’ve been wearing my natural hair I haven’t been to the gym at all. I plan to try a roller rod set next week and see how that works. Thanks for the advice!

  18. Joi, the hair-do was once a barrier for me even thinking about joining a gym but last year the drive to beat this hypertension took front seat to the the hair worries even though I keep my hair cut pretty short with a body wave style. Pretty easy to manage. My beautician is now retired from that occupation with me still being the only kitchen customer (LOL). I am looking forward to buying that save my do wrap though… any help is good even with a personal stylist at my fingertip.

    • Round of applause Cynthia for taking that step to lower your blood pressure. Exercise is the number 1 lifestyle modification to help with several diseases states. So glad you are taking responsibility for your health. Thank you for this comment. So important that we recognize the true purpose for staying healthy and fit and realize that our hair is small potatoes compared to our HEART!

  19. These are amazing, this is the number one reason why I wear a sew in. I have been natural for 6 years however, I think about managing my natural hair + my 5 day a week gym regimen and I simply don’t have the patience or the time!! These are awesome tips though. For a while when I was natural I’d go to the gym and end up with a scary mess on top of my head when it was done. :)
    Nellie recently posted…Identity Theft: Someone STOLE MY MONEY!My Profile

  20. Really great tips. When my hair was relaxed, I always worked out with pony tale and a bandanna tied around the edges. Now that my hair is natural and not that long, it’s easy to wash and go.

    BTW, I’m really loving your energy and enthusiasm. It emanates from your words. Blessings!
    Hope recently posted…I’m SITSing on Cloud Nine!My Profile

    • Thank you so much Hope! I wish I could wash and go! The joys of trying to stay fabulous and fit! I hope your SITS day was all you desired and more! I know I was happy to have come across your site.

  21. When I am on the walking trail , I don’t mind sporting my Du-Rag. There were times that I felt uncomfortable, but now I could care – less. The important thing is that I get out there and walk! Every woman concerned about her “do” needs to read this. There should be no excuses for not doing some type of exercise. Where there is a will – there is a way!

    • I was like that when I first went to the gym with my hair pinned up and tied down, then I didn’t care. I just got comfy with the stares. These days, I’ve modified it to wearing the Save Your Do since I’m an instructor. Otherwise, I’d pinned, locked, and ready!

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  23. HELP! My edges don’t like sweat…. Before I started working out my very short (think Halle Berry) doo was healthy and full of shine and bounce. Now it is very dry. Unfortunately, I started off just trying to live life as regular. Waiting once a week to get it washed. It got dryer and dryer from the sweat sitting on my hair until wash day. But, now I add coconut oil to the my edges and I co-wash after I workout, and I still get my hair done once a week. Working out has ruined my hair. But, don’t worry I won’t stop even if I go bald. Any advice would be appreciated.

  24. I am so glad I found your blog because I was totally lost and feeling alone about how to care for my hair after a work out. I just started working out earlier this year and my hair was in micro braids. They were in for about 8 weeks and when I took them out I had significant damage to my edges so getting another braid style was out of the question. I had a lot of new growth but wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back natural. So all this time I’ve been working out my hair is half-relaxed, half-natural and looking a mess. I decided to get a relaxer and not even a week later, my relaxer is showing signs of sweating out. I work out 5-6 days a week and sweat profusely so just short of chopping it all off… I was clueless.

    You have given me great options and hope for my hair. Thank you for a great, informative article.

    -C

    • Hey Cynethia, I’m glad you found it as well. Please do check back in and let me know what works for you!

      Joi

  25. Love this article Joi! Yes that is my bigger hinderance in going to the gym! I go to a gym on base that has RULES – even for civilians – so do you know I can’t even wear a wrap on my head? No hat, nothing! So either way I go in looking crazy and go out looking worse. The style that it is in can’t be pulled into a ponytail. Now I am curious about that edge thing. It looks like a sweatband. I am sure I could wear that in there. Whether I exercise in the house our outside I still wear a scarf. My hair doesn’t look great when I’m done but at least sweat isn’t dripping off the ends of it. I’m forwarding this one to my mom.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…Sunday Breadcrumbs…My Profile

    • The Save Your Do of course is better, I was just trying to provide affordable options that meet everyone’s budget. I never knew of the military restrictions! I guess that makes it difficult. I truly hope this article helps and I appreciate you sharing it Kenya!

  26. My daughter forwarded this link to me and I love it! I can see she has commented as well. After 30 years of wearing a short natural brush cut, I let my hair grow out to its full length. Needless to say, this completely changed my hair maintenance/workout routine and it has been quite a challenge. Your tips were very confirming, because through trial and error, I’ve learned to do most of what you have suggested. I get my workouts in and schedule them from light sweat to wringing wet depending on how close it is to getting my hair done….professionally every other week and “do it myself” in between. Now that I have retired and don’t have to look perfect every day, I can get away with pinning it back into a french roll or something else very simple if I don’t want to bother with curls. I have saved you to my “favorites” and will share with other “sistahs” in need of this advice.

    • THank you so much Mrs. Gallion for visiting and commenting. Your routine is very similar to mine! I try to encourage people to find something that works for them. We are going to have to sacrifice. It’s hard being a sistah and keeping up with this hair, but we must not be victims. THank you so much for sharing.

      I have to say..I totally adored your first post on Kenya’s blog! I see where she gets all her humor! I can’t wait to read more!

      Joi

    • Tell me about it. This is one of the reasons I made that button on blog front and center last week bc I just keep getting so many emails and questions! Thanks for visiting!
      Please come back again.

      Joi

  27. Thank you for this post! There is no reason black women shouldn’t be able to work out. I went natural because I was tired of stressing my relaxed hair. I have always sweat in my scalp and could barely keep a nice style, nor did I have the patience to do so. Even with natural hair, there are some styles I want to do and working out will mess it up. So I KISS and wear my hair in simple mini-twists and call it a day!

    • Good for you Alwina! This is an ongoing struggle! I love to see all kind of women choosing all of these variety of options to stay healthy and fit!

  28. Hi. Thank you for this information. I workout 4-5 times a week and I have limited my hairstyle options because of my active lifestyle. I keep thinking that weaves and braids won’t work for me because I sweat too much. (I cover my relaxed hair with a bandanna for workouts and when I am finished it is always soaked.)
    Lately I want to try something new, so while researching, I came across your site.
    I have never had a weave. But I think I will try it and see what happens.

    • Hi Toya! Give the sew in a try! It is the best thing to happen to my workouts and my hair! Thank you for stopping by and I hope you’ll come again.

      Joi

  29. Joi, absolutely enjoyed this post! I used to have a relaxer and my trips to the gym were limited because I hated having to deal with my hair afterwards. Beach, swimming, even avoided steam rooms. Then in 2010 I decided no more relaxers because I had a close call with the “chemical cut”… my hair broke off at the temples. That was my wake-up call. So I’ve finally grown out the relaxer. Honestly, I never knew my hair was this curly because I started relaxing it in the 10th grade. I’m still learning to embrace it and trying to learn how to style it. On the upside, I’m fit and healthy because I workout, swim, steam… anything and everything! Thanks for sharing!

    • Lucky you! I’m still always in a constant battle…the war with my hair and my workouts…I’m determined to win though. I just have come to terms with the fact that my hair will not look 100% EVERYDAY, but at least I have the weekends :) Thank you for coming over and taking time to comment.

      Joi

  30. Love the info that you gave, I workout about 5 days a week so it’s hard to keep my hair looking good, I sweat a lot, my hair is transitioning to natural so I get it blow dried and flat ironed so it reverts as soon as I sweat.

  31. I really appreciate your post. I have been wearing a sew in for the last 2 years. I took it out last week to find healthy, thick beautiful hair( with a tight curl pattern) I went to the gym and my fresh press was ruined. I don’t want to blowdry & flat iron my hair four days a week. I am going to rod twist, if that doesn’t work I’m going back to my ole faithful sew in. Years ago I wore braids, I know this is always an option. I love having healthy thick “black girl” hair and it was nice to touch and feel it for a week. Until I discover another option (cutting off all my hair is not an option)I have decided I love my strong toned body more & refuse to let that go.

    • I hear you Janelle! Thanks so much for sharing. I too have been wearing my sew in for about 2 years. I have let my hair breathe twice for about 3 days at a time. When I went to the gym, it was pitiful! That perm and pretty do sweat out with the quickness. It quickly reminded me why I choose to rock this sew in. I like to look nice and I love to workout so it’s a small sacrifice!

      I’m with you! Team Sew In! Thanks for commenting!

      Joi

  32. These are definitely some great tips! When I was younger for some reason the wrap didn’t work too well. But, I definitely wrap my hair at night when it’s straight. If I work out wen it’s straight, I definitely just put a pony tail in it. :) When I’m wearing it just wash and go, it is so easy to do because I’m pretty much wetting my hair each day to get a fresh look of curls, otherwise I put it in a braid at night and when I wake up and take off my scarf, my curls are somewhat more wavy but it works. Bottom line is, I love how you make it doable for women who are more self conscious about their hair to maintain their hair while they get in shape. I’m sure this will make them feel like they can still work out with all of these ideas to play with. :) Definitely sharing!
    Brittnei recently posted…Transferring from Blogger to WordPressMy Profile

    • I hope so Brittnei! That was the intention. I hate to hear women using the excuse of their hair for not working out. You are so versatile with your hair. That is a luxury in the healthy living world. Thanks for sharing!

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  34. This post is the bomb. I’m thinking about dreading my hair because I’m so active (and love it as well as what it does for my bod) and I’ve been relaxer and braid free for 4 years, but I still use excessive heat on my hair for the straight look. Neat dreads might be where I’m headed so I can give these edges a rest.

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