Getting Fit With Natural Hair

I’m not going to call it a new year’s resolution because I’ve been meaning to get fit for years. 2011 was the closest I got to making exercise an integral part of my life and was able to work out regularly and *gasp* actually enjoy it! I’m not gonna lie, I’d do anything to avoid exercise. I love bumming and when it comes to any form of physical exertion, I’m lazy. So yeah, exercise and I have never been the best of friends. but now that I’m getting older, I’m trying to make choices that I can live with for the rest of my life. With the exception of Christmas break, I eat quite well throughout the year but I know I can’t say that I’m healthy if I haven’t exercised in a year… unless you count the 26 steps I climb up at work every day, in which case I’m the fittest gal alive 😀

Anywho, awhile ago I heard somewhere that black women are apparently less fit than our white counterparts because we don’t want to sweat out our hairstyles in the gym. Wow, that’s disturbing. Of course, at that time I didn’t count myself in that ‘research finding’ because I knew the reason why I didn’t go to gym was laziness. But with this new year coming up and getting all of the holiday indulging out of the way, I’m trying to get on track and finally get my ass moving. And that’s when I thought oh no, what about Fro? after being natural for just over 1.5 years and nailing a routine that makes both of us happy, I’m suddenly faced with the same thing I guess these fellow ‘lazy’ black women are faced with; how do I keep fit whilst keeping my hair the way I like it?

When I was relaxed or braided up, I never really gave this question much thought when I had to do sports for school days etc. but I am thinking about it now and realising that my current routine might not work once I get gym into my schedule. I wash and deep condition my hair once a week on my wash day on the weekend. During the week I re-braid my chunky braids to keep Fro stretched out and untangled. It’s a well known practice to wash your hair after every exercise session but is it actually necessary? If so, then of course I’ll just have to befriend my crazy shrinkage (about 75% of my true length). But if not, what do I need to do to keep my hair healthy, happy and continue my goal of length retention this year?

As usual, I decided to do some research. According to this article by black girl with long hair, if you don’t sweat much during a workout, you could possibly get away with wearing a sweatband to catch any sweat and prevent it from interfering with your hair. And rinsing the sweat off afterwards should be enough. Sounds simple enough – except my issue is the wetting hair bit. Not only do I wear a stretched out fro for cosmetic reasons but because wash and go’s leave my hair scrunched up and very, very knotted which makes detangling day a huge nightmare and impossible for me to realistically retain my growth.

 Another issue is that I’ve always wanted to officially learn how to swim. Not just survive in the shallow end of the pool but to properly learn the strokes and be comfortable venturing out to areas where my feet don’t touch the bottom. If i had it my way, I’d just go into the pool free fro but apparently that’s not allowed at the gym. Sigh. So, how will I manage to stuff my big and stubborn fro into one of those tiny, tight swim caps? Of course, when I have a protective style in, this won’t be an issue and I think caring for it will be a bit easier but it’s when Fro’s out and about that’s worrying me. I still can’t cornrow, so I guess I’ll have to flat twist my hair? perhaps the evening before…go to gym in a cute head scarf get up and put the cap on there? But after swimming, I’ll have to shampoo my hair to get rid of the damaging effects of chlorine. That’ll be all good and well if my classes are at a time where I can fully wash, DC and braid my hair to dry. That can’t happen during the week :s. hmmm… I also read in places that putting conditioner on your hair before you swim helps to create a barrier between your hair and the chlorine-filled water and protects it that way. My Hair Divine explains the tips quite well in this article. Curly nikki also has useful tips on swimming with natural hair.

Basically, these next few months are going to be a huge learning curve for Fro and I. My blog might just end up being called ‘My Fro & I : A Protecting Your Natural hair to Promote Growth & Fitness Blog’. God forbid I end up in a shipwreck one day and can’t swim to safety because I chose to keep my fro looking good.



  1. January 5, 2013 / 6:58 pm

    I also have 4B/C hair with A LOT of shrinkage (greater than 75%). When I exercise (3-4 times a week for about an hour and a half) I put my hair in 2 cornrows and if I feel like I just have to wash it afterwards I lightly co-wash in the braided state. I then give it time to dry and turns out the shrinkage is much less and I can still put my hair in matutas (I think you call them mabutu) and wear it stretched out the next day. The only thing is I've had to make it such that I exercise in the evenings/late afternoons when I don't have to worry about shrunken hair for the rest of the day. Another tip is to plan your exercise routine around when you most want to wear your hair stretched out. In my case, I'll mostly be meeting up with people/going out over the weekends so I exercise on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, fully wash my hair on Wednesday so that by the time Friday comes along it's fully stretched out. Good luck finding a routine that works for you!

    • January 6, 2013 / 7:17 am

      Hey Muyoka, high five for getting your exercise on (3-4 times a week for 1.5 hours each? puts me to shame!) Thing is, I won't be able to gym in the evenings cos my work schedule is unpredictable sometimes so it's a safer bet to go in the mornings which is why I'm unsure of hoe it'll dry if I wash after exercising in the morning, especially in winter. I like the idea of doing it all earlier in the week so you can enjoy your stretched hair on the weekend, I think I may follow your lead. Thanks 😉

  2. Anonymous
    January 4, 2013 / 7:31 pm

    I commented earlier about washing my hair only twice a week. Let me add that it does not get smelly in between.

    • January 6, 2013 / 7:14 am

      Heya, thanks so much for your feedback. It helps to know what others are doing! Do you wash with shampoo or with conditioner?

    • Anonymous
      January 8, 2013 / 12:19 am

      Hello, I co-wash for the one time, and I shampoo the second time I wash my hair. When I co-wash, I just follow with a great leave in and seal with oils. When I shampoo, I follow with a deep conditioner.

    • January 12, 2013 / 4:35 am

      Thanks so much for your tips…wish I knew your name!

  3. Anonymous
    January 4, 2013 / 7:27 pm


    I enjoy your blog a lot. I did a big chop 7 months ago and I am enjoying my hair. Like you, I plait my hair at night to be able to stretch it. I also have 4C hair which shrinks to almost my big chop level if unstretched.

    Anyway, I exercise four times a week, and I do sweat like a pig. I wash my hair twice a week, and that seems to be appropriate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *