I am always fielding this question since I work out approximately 4-5 times a week (well, I try to at least!). Here are my tips and ideas to deal with your natural hair while maintaining a consistent exercise program.
My first piece of advice is to consider your lifestyle, and your hair preferences. If you’re currently a straight haired natural, are you willing to go curly more often? If so, your life will be loads easier.
If not, here is my advice for straight haired naturals that want to maintain a consistent workout schedule:
Time your workouts with your regimen. Meaning, do your more intense, sweat-inducing cardio days before wash day. For example, if you normally do your wash and straighten routine on Sundays then, Mon-Thu you can do your strength training, your yoga and low impact work that doesn’t leave you soaked. Then Fri-Sun you can do your hardcore cardio that will sweat every straight strand back to kinky….just in time for your wash day!
Protect your hair pre-workout and during. When I wore my hair straight and wanted to work out, I would put my hair in one, two or four tight buns and use coconut oil around the nape/parts/hairline/roots before starting to work out. I would blot my hairline and nape and along the parts of my hair with my towel as damage control to soak up any sweat I could as I went along. If you’re not a bun person, or prefer a protective look that is still office-worthy, I suggest a tight ponytail with the end rolled around a large roller while you workout, then as the scalp/roots are drying, just remove the roller and wear the ponytail.
Let it dry. Letting my hair dry FULLY while still in the 4 buns, or after quickly brushing it back into one bun before loosening my hair made worlds of difference. When I loosened my hair before allowing it to fully dry, the first few inches of roots would be curly and puffy, and jacked up any hope of looking sleek. Be sure your hair is fully dried before you loosen so you won’t feel the need to touch up your roots with heat.
If you primarily wear your hair curly, you’re in luck. It’s a lot easier to maintain your hair in curly styles when you’re not so concerned with reversion and a lot less stressful if you’re a fan (or a victim) of intense cardio!
My only tip for curly haired naturals:
Pick easy styles. If your workout routine is intense, you don’t want to have to fuss with your hair before and after each workout. I see some women at my gym two strand twisting their hair in the locker room before their workout and untwisting after. That’s great if you have time to kill and don’t care about over manipulation. But for those who want to be low fuss and efficient, pick a style that will last you a few days, like a twist or braid out, or the trusty bun. That way you can wear it a few days and wash frequently to avoid any buildup on your scalp. Twists are also a great style for consistent exercisers as it’s easy to wash them as you please and you don’t have to do any major maintenance before or after your workout. If you’re rocking a TWA, you’re good to go!
My only piece of advice is to tie your edges down pre-workout with a scarf and then allow your hair to fully dry before you remove said scarf. My mom rocks her natural hair straight and she works out EVERYDAY. This tip keeps her edges laid.