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Is Hair Still Stopping Black Women From Working Out?

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Khaleeqa Rouse Hair

I was once the girl that didn't exercise because of her hair. Several years ago, I would use the excuse of work or a hot date for why I couldn't sweat out a freshly pressed hairstyle.  Looking back, I don't think my rationale was correct but it was my truth despite me being fully aware of the benefits of being in shape, desperately wanting to lose the 60 pounds that had been plaguing me for years. However, because of the fear I had of not having perfectly pressed, swingable strands, time and time again I made the silly decision to preserve my hair over my health.

Panelists at the “Black Women Health and Hair Event” discussed this very topic during a recent panel for New York City's Social Media Week. Speakers included Niema Jordan, Health Editor at ESSENCE, and hair bloggers Franchesca Ramsey and Francheska Medina, and moderator Tina Shoulders, all of whom were active Black women who exercised almost daily and still looked fly.  It was very inspiring to hear how fitness had become a way of life for these women. Ramsey recounted daily gym adventures which consisted of racing strangers on the treadmill and attending pulse-pumping kettle bell classes. Medina explained her love of outdoor training, which included 5 AM yoga sessions in Central Park and bike rides through Brooklyn. Shoulders has lost over 55 pounds by eating healthier and becoming a marathoner.

Each of these women found a way to work around their initial “gym hair” dilemma once fitness became a staple in their lives. This resonated with me because I have experienced a similar mental transformation.  Once I finally took my health seriously and decided to lose weight, maintaining a perfectly coiffed mane became the least of my worries. Now 65 pounds lighter, maintaining my hair and working out consistently has become a way of life. Through the use of ponytails, Save Your Do Sweatbands, and wash n’ go styles, I have found what works.

The panelists discussed how creating a support system held them accountable to working out and deterred them from using hair as an excuse. Ramsey tweets her workouts so her followers hold her to them. Jordan sends out health and fitness articles to her family and friends keeping her on the straight and narrow while Shoulders meets regularly with a group called “Black Girls Run,” who continuously motivate and support one another. I walked away from the event feeling exceptionally empowered and a strong sense of camaraderie because I was surrounded by women who valued an active lifestyle yet had faced the same hair issues I had once faced. Our hair may not be as easy to maintain on weeks where we are hitting the gym frequently, however, that will not stop us from being healthy and setting a positive example for our community and generations to come.

Khaleeqa “Roxi” Rouse is an Ironman triathlete and creator of the health and fitness blog, Paparoxi, the voice of healthy living. Through her 60lb weight loss, love of cooking and passion for exercise, she uses her blog and fitness consulting business to encourage people to achieve their fitness dreams. Follow her on Twitter @Paparoxi.

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