I am a black girl.
Oh you noticed.
Yay! We can proceed.
Black girls unfortunately have a reputation for choosing to preserve their hairstyle over working out. I have never really been that girl, except for when I got my eyebrows microbladed. Those two weeks of very minimal sweating was SO worth it because I have eyebrows that anyone would be (and rightly so,) should be, jealous of.
Microblading incident aside, I am a huge proponent of health over everything. When my hair was longer, I would rock up to the box with the dodgiest looking cornrows, twists, looking crusty as anything, and I must be honest I didn’t really care. It’s easy now, to stand on this pedestal, preaching to all who will read this blog that health should be a priority over everything, however (remember how I wrote in this post, that there is ALWAYS a ‘however’ in life!) when I first started CrossFit, I foolishly believed that I could look cute while working out.
The year was 2013, I had just moved back to South Africa from the UK and after watching a RIDICULOUS amount of CrossFit videos on YouTube, I bit the bullet and joined a box that was a stone’s throw away from home. I had no idea what a black female CrossFitter was supposed to look like, (do you see why representation is important?) I hadn’t yet discovered Elisabeth Akinwale, Quiana Welch or Deborah Cordner-Carson.
The funny thing about being the only black person anywhere is that sometimes you feel as though you’re there as a delegate to represent all black people and naturally you have to be good at everything AND look the part.
On that day I decided that I would wear the new silky black and stupidly long wig that my sister had bought for me. I had just chopped off all my hair for the umpteenth time so while there was nothing to secure that wig to, I had tied a headband around the perimeter to sort of secure the wig. I’ve never been one to cherry pick my wods, so on that day I rocked up to the box ready (or so I thought,) for whatever would be thrown at me. I’ve been active my whole life, not as much as I am now, so I foolishly believed that I had encountered every move possible in the world of what my narrow definition of fitness was. On that fateful day, in the elements class, we would be learning how to do handstands. I was excited until the coach began to demonstrate the warm up. It involved forward rolls. I only really started to panic when I crouched down, attempted to roll forward and as I did, felt my wig start to shift. That wig shifted all the way off my big ol’ head. I had just revealed a black girl secret. After that day, I would love to say that I learnt my lesson but I didn’t…I haven’t! When my hair grew long enough, I dipped in the box braid trend, (thanks Solange,) only to get the worst neck ache from the weight of the braids whipping back and forth whenever I did pull ups, and I’ll never forget 16.4, where I hoped to never get to the HSPU. How would I be able to do those with the weight of these insanely long braids?
I’ve had wods where my braids have flipped in front of me, blocking my vision and effectively ruining my life. Wods where all I could think about was the pain of those fresh braids. I’ve even suffered from slight chafing on my back from the friction caused by having the bar on my weave. You’d think all these things would cause me to call it quits on looking cute while working out, but they haven’t deterred me. I am on an eternal quest to work hard without looking like I’m working hard and I have learnt a few things from these hair mishaps and luckily (unless you want to,) you don’t have to go through what I did, to find out what works best for a black female CrossFitter.
Tip #1: Box braids will never be your friend! The sooner you accept this, the better. In last years Open, I (still being ever so brave, foolish perhaps, and not willing to accept this,) had box braids. They made everything that much harder, annoying, and hotter. The amount of times my rope got caught in my braids during 17.5, wasn’t that high but in a wod where you’re racing against the clock, that second spent on re-adjusting a stray braid was one second too long. At least I looked cute right?
Tip #2: Go natural. I’ve worried the least about how my hair is going to surprise me, or what it’ll do during a wod, when I’ve worn it in its natural state. There are no movement restrictions and I know for a fact that I don’t have to worry about whether my hair will get caught on my rope, chafe my back, or block my vision. Afros are a beautiful thing, they defy gravity, it’s part of that black girl magic.
my face of disbelief during 17.1
Tip #3: Remember to cleanse and moisturize. If you’re anything like me and you sweat when you work out, this is an important (and obvious,) one to remember. Natural hair gets dry quickly and because sweat contains salt, it can cause further dryness. You’ll want to use products that inject moisture every step of the way. I wash my hair once a week, and will use shampoo every second wash. My choice of shampoo is the Aussie Moisture Frizz Miracle shampoo, and more recently Shea Moisture’s Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow & Restore Shampoo. On the days that I don’t wash my hair, I make sure to rinse it with lukewarm water and apply a leave in conditioner like my absolute favorite again by Shea Moisture, the Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow and Restore leave in conditioner. Firstly, it smells like vanilla cookies (SO IMPORTANT!) and with water as its first ingredient, it provides maximum hydration and softness to your hair because of the shea butter & coconut oil in it. A great bonus to this product is the addition of the Jamaican black castor oil and peppermint oil which are helpful in stimulating blood circulation and in turn boosts your hair growth. I should really do a review on this…
Tip #4: If you’re gonna fake it out with hair that’s not your own, make sure that your cornrows aren’t so tight that they give you a facelift. You’re black. You’re not gonna crack, so your cornrows don’t have to feature in your anti-ageing regimen. You’re just gonna end up bald 😂 #realtalk. Cornrows done in a circular pattern help in alleviating the strain on those precious edges, and if done neatly, you can even rock that as your protective style. If you decide to go the wig route, PLEASE for the love of preserving all black girl hair secrets, secure that bad boy correctly!
Tip #5: Accept that it’s a losing battle. If you’re going to choose your health over your workout, you will have days where your hair is going to look like a hot mess, you will have days where because your hair looks like a hot mess, you’ll look like a hot mess, BUT that’s okay because at least you’ve got a bangin’ body!