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Curly Nikki

Exercise Routines and Natural Hair Styling

By August 2nd, 202122 Comments
Exercise Routines and Natural Hair Styling
by Danielle of
How do I maintain my hair if I want to work out?

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.

Read On!>>>

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!

Let me know what you do with your hair for workouts!


CN Says:
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. 


  • Anonymous says:

  • Erika says:

    Nicole Ari Parker (who's natural now) created a line of head wraps for natural girls who work out. It's suppose to protect your hair from sweating out. I posted an article on the KandyCurls facebook page (@kandycurls):

  • Anonymous says:

    I need some advice..I work out at least 4 times between Zumba, the track and boot camp. I recently just took my braids it's wasn't a issue before.

    I am completly going natural (no relaxer since Oct/11) should wear my hair before workout. I have 3 kids and have a busy I am on short time after my workout.

    I need some advice on maintaining before during and after workout..when short on time.

  • TiFFyfAYe85 says:

    Thanks for this post. I cowash everyday and wash on the weekends. I am currently engaged in the insanity workout and I sweat like crazy!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    I too have a pixie after chopping off my long natural tresses- ( after a liftime of long hair, I just wanted a different look). Now trying to reclaim my body is a whole other story when trying to look 1/2way decent to go to work/ dates while exercising though. Bot trying to burn out my pixie but i am flat ironing every morning to rectify the night before's workout. i wap it & bont touch it again till the next morning when i know its dry

  • Anonymous says:

    i wear puffs or mini twists.easy to manage and easily cleaned

  • Anonymous says:

    This is great. Any advice for a transitioners with short hair. I run into this problem on the blogs all the time. There's lots of advice for fully natural and tons of advice for transitioners with length but very little for short hair transitioners. I had a short pixie do (Halle Berry) when I decided to go natural. It seemed like it you be easier this way but it turns out to be more difficult. I can't do the pin ups and pontails and twist outs and braids that every one talks about. And at the same time because I still have relaxed ends on the top and I can't do the wash and go without looking a little freaky with the straight ends. I know some would say cut it off but I don't want the to go that short. So I am waiting for the top relaxer to grow out, keeping the sides and back cut close and getting it penciled curled once a week.

  • webdesign says:

    wow great website
    workout routines

  • Unknown says:

    i work out 5 days a week in the morning before my gig. when my hair is not in a protective style (i usually rock a sew-in for that), i'm usually ina twistout. since i don't have the kind of hair or sleep routine that can maintain the twistout without retwisting every night, i moisturize my hair and seal the ends with an oil (almond oil, coconut oil or olive oil) and retwist before bed. recently i've been wearing rollers on the ends as well. i rock the twists and the rollers to the gym in the morning covered with a light rayon scarf for hard cardio and weights. i let the hair airdry after the shower and getting ready, and take it all down for work.

  • HairPolitik says:

    I do twists, spray on my leave-in and let it air dry. Then, once that dries, I put on a wig cap and rock a lace front or half wig. 🙂 The ultimate protective style!

  • Anonymous says:

    Twists are my best option for working out. I can rinse my scalp while they're in and take them out at the end of the week for a twistout. While out, I pineapple. I also work out with a cotton bandana tied around hairline to help soak up the sweat. I take that off and replace with a satin scarf immediately after exercising and let it dry (unless I'm washing). Then I'll spritz with aloe vera juice and tie back down for the night.

  • tdotcurlie says:

    I work out 4 to 5 days a week…and have found the most success with a bun or pulled back in a banana clip and french braided. i take down the hair after bootcamp /socacize wednesdays, co wash and back up till saturday night when i wash.

  • BKelz says:

    I have a TWA and I work-out everyday so I always co-wash after every session (esp. since I just cut it and it could use the moisture. I only shampoo once a week. However before I cut my hair (I've always been natural) I would just pull my hair back into a pony tail and sometimes tuck the pony tail in if I didn't want it touching my sweaty neck. Braids are always a good choice too (I kept my hair braided when I played soccer and would get them redone once a week).

  • BreukelensFinest says:

    this is a great post! i have always wondered how to best manage hair while working out. love it!

  • am says:

    I am so glad this is being addressed, as I prefer my hair straightened, even though I'm natural. The secret seems to be in pulling your hair back before working out and letting it dry while pulled back after working out. I will be trying this, this evening.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow, I wish I could run for 12 miles that is impressive. Anyways, my hair is at the akward stage right above the ear. I work out 5 days a week in the am. I usually will do my hair the night before in either twist or braids and turn on the ceiling fan to dry my hair. Once I shower and get dressed I will style my hair. Sometimes if my hair is really wet I will blow out with condish. However, mid week I am going to try to do some kind of cowash just to clean my hair a bit from the salt and sweat left in the hair. I will say that my hair is much easier to manage now that I am fully natural and no perm.

  • TiAnna Mae says:

    I'm down to working out 3 days/week, but I was up to as many as 5 days. When I was transitioning and wore my hair straight I would wrap my hair around my head and put a silk scarf on before every work out OR I would wear it in a bun or pony tail and wrap the edges with a scarf. Now that I am fully natural and rocking the TWA, I don't have to worry as much. I use dry shampoo on the days that I sweat a whole lot and I maintain my routine of co-washing every 3-5 days and shampooing every 2 weeks. My hair has always seemed to thrive when it gets a little dirty, so it doesn't bother me too much.

  • Anonymous says:

    I work out about 6 days a week and I do high intensity cardio. Since I drink a lot of water, I also sweat a lot in my hair to the point where it's dripping wet. I just keep the hair in two strand twists all week until wash day. After each workout, I do a light rinse and spray with a conditioner rinse, then add some oil and sit in the sauna for about 15 minutes. I get a conditioning treatment and muscle relaxation sessin all at once. This has been my routine for the past 6 years.

  • joyzcurls says:

    I do an intense strength training followed by cardio session 4-5 times a week in the mornings. The other days I do Pilates. Back in the day I always worked out at night because working out in the morning would ruin any chance of a good hairstyle for the office. But about 8 years ago I decided that I wasn't going to let my hair ruin my workouts. I'm currently transitioning so for the most part my go-to is some sort of bun, so it doesn't bother me if my roots are a little moist. I do wear a headband while I workout though to keep the roots and edges from frizzing too much. If I've recently straightened, I can run a cool blow dryer over it to get the moisture out and use flat iron on the roots to save the style. But this I don't do very often anyway.

    My health is certainly more important to me – not that my hair isn't, but it's easier to find a hairstyle that accomodates my workout than trying to make my workout accomodate my hair style.

  • Anonymous says:

    My workouts include 1-1.5 hrs of hard cardio which creates a great deal of sweat.

    My routine is very simple. I high pineapple it, put on a sweatband and go.
    Afterwards, I take it down and let it airdry after rinsing briefly with water and a leave-in conditioner. Towel dry with a microfiber towel, add a small amount of leave in and a bit of coconut oil on the ends and ack up in the pineapple.

    Simple and easy.

    When I want to wear it out, I have to do more to style it, but that is not very often.

  • Carla says:

    I am natural and I never straighten my hair. I work out 4-5 day a week as well.

    Before going to the gym, I oil my edges and nape with either Jamaica Black Castor Oil (my favorite) or regular castor oil mixed with sweet almond or jojoba oil to thin out the oil a little. I keep a towel with me to soak up the sweat.

    My hair is either in a bun or pineapple for working out. Sometimes when I'm wearing a twist-out, its still in the original twists. with a headband.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm a runner, 4 business days 1 weekend day. 45-50 miles per week.
    I run with my shoulder length hair in 4 large braids at 6am during the work week. When I finish, I quickly rinse/wash my scalp with the braids still in. I slather on some leave in and oil and then use the blow dryer on cool quickly over my hair. I typically then style my damp hair in one large braid or a bun. My hair is typically dry by the late afternoon.
    My long run (12+miles) is on Saturday morning. After that I do the whole wash, condition, detangle shebang. I usually wear my hair out then from Saturday-Monday.
    I really can not run without washing my scalp.

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