Looking good and working out: The hair problem

Image description; Sam wearing a purple headband/hair cover that says “being badass” in black letters

I was back at the hair salon last week, getting shorn. As usual, we had the age old debate about how long/how short etc etc. I tend to keep my hair longer on the top in the summer (because curls) and short on the sides and back (because summer sweat and bike helmets). In the winter I have to blow dry (because cold and Canada) and I don’t have the patience so I like it short then too.

All of this is just to say that I get it that my hair choices are heavily influenced by my workout habits. I don’t have fancy long hair (as much as I’d sometimes like to) because it simply isn’t practical. But I get that lots of women–faced with this conflict–choose the other direction, prioritizing hair over working out.

I’m in a forgiving career path for hair choices. Short hair also helps me with other kinds of visibility. And I’m not a particularly appearance focused person. Short, curly hair works for me.

Hair and working out is obviously an issue for lots of women. In studies about why women don’t exercise as much as we ought to, hair is often raised as an issue, especially for black women. That’s because the kinds of hairstyles that count as professional for black women often involve big commitments in terms of time and cost. See Black Hair v. Working Out: 3 Black Women Share Their Stories and Hair deters many African-American women from exercising.

I got chatting about this with the stylist who does my hair. She admitted that she doesn’t exercise much because she only washes her hair every second or third day and that that timing adds an additional constraint to the already vexed “when do I find time to workout?” question. She says she maybe gets one workout a week in.

While chatting about hair and exercise, I mentioned  the older women I know who get their hair done once a week and who spend the rest of the week protecting their ‘do. She says that’s on the rise again, the weekly blow out. She has a a few young women who come in once a week to get their hair done, usually on Friday, and they also don’t workout–except maybe Thursday night or Friday morning. Again, once a week to go with the weekly hair ‘do.

The internet is full of articles about it. Just look! See Is Your Workout Ruining Your Hair?  and How to Deal With Your Hair After the Gym also Here’s How To Avoid Washing Your Hair After Working Out and How To Maintain Your Edges While Working Out.

We’ve written about it too. See Sweaty hair solutions (Guest post) and Helmet Head, Sweaty Hair, and Summertime Curls.

It’s tempting to think about this as just a question of values, weighing caring about hair against caring about time for fitness activities. But it’s not just a matter of individual women and our values and choices. There’s also the matter of judgments that others make.  Some of the articles about black women and hair talk about women being nervous wearing a hair covering to protect a hair do for fear of mockery. And we as a society also aren’t easy on women who wear their hair natural for the purposes of sports.


Do you experience a tension between hair and working out? What’s your personal solution?

Sam’s new summer hair cut
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