Black women have a bad rep for putting hair over health. Even the Surgeon General, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, called us out last year, saying the “I don’t want to mess up my hair” logic against exercising is nothing more than a lazy excuse—and for the most part, she’s right. Messed up hair is a legitimate concern because it says so much about our overall appearance, but a messed up body or even messed up health says a whole lot more.
When I finally made the decision that I was going to tackle the weight that had gotten way too uncomfortably high for me, my hair care regimen was a serious part of that consideration, but not a hindrance. In the midst of figuring out how many calories I would need to eat per day, which exercise classes I would attend on a particular day, and what weight machines I would hit up, I also figured out how I would handle my hair, particularly if I had an event I needed to attend later in the day.
Since incorporating working out into my daily routine, my hair styles have actually gotten a lot more versatile. Always a fan of a high bun, I’ve figured out this isn’t a style that’s particularly compromised by sweaty tresses. I can just as easily brush my hair up on the crown of my head and go on with my day when my strands have a little moisture in them as I can when it’s completely dry. Wash-and-gos have also become my best friend.
Most black women’s hair tends to get a little curly, kinky, or wavy when it’s wet and after exercising it’s easy to just add a little more moisture to my head (or wash it) and apply a leave-in conditioner or a curl product and let my hair air dry. On days when my hair doesn’t dry quite the way I want it, I’ll slick it back in a ponytail or bun and go on about my day.
You don’t even have to totally switch up your hair styles to make working out work. Simply choosing the right times to workout can protect the look you’ve got going. Instead of working out first thing in the morning and worrying about how your hair will look all day at the office, hit the gym after work. By the time your workout is done, you’ll have plenty of time to wrap up your hair at night and maybe do a once-over with the flat-iron in the morning to get your locks back the way they were. Also, there’s no rule that you have to work out every single day. On days where you know you need a perfect coif, simply skip the sweat session and make up for it earlier or later in the week. The key is not letting this be a regular excuse.
Maintaining my hair in a way that would still look good to me outside of the gym was definitely a concern I had before beginning my weight loss regimen, but I’ve found that as I drop more pounds, what’s going on on top of my head isn’t as important as what’s going on with my body. Hair is just one part of my physical appearance and I’m happy to rock a messy bun or wild waves a few days if it means less jiggle around my middle and more tone in my arms. Paying more attention to what I’m putting in my body has also made me pay more attention to what I’m putting in my hair and how I’m treating it, which was an unexpected side effect of my journey. Having nice hair and a nice, healthy body are not mutually exclusive, you just have to figure out a fitness and hair care regimen that works best for you to achieve those goals and in the end you’ll know it was well worth the effort on both ends.