Tag Archives: exercise

Is your hair preventing you from working out consistently?

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Since the Madam CJ Walker’s straightening tools were invented, working out has conflicted with hair styling and maintenance, for many in the black community. People would straighten their kinks and curls, but any slight moisture on the scalp would cause their precious straight hair to revert back. The time and pain experienced during this process, meant that reverting back so quickly was not an option. Parents would  warn their little girls to look after their hair, to preserve the style for as long as possible. Even playing outside and running around could pose a threat to the hair.  In an 1982 article by Ebony Magazine, reader Pam Proctor recounts the many missed opportunities to swim or participate in sports because her hair would ‘go back’.  Then came the years of relaxers, which, are still going on til this day.  Some subscribed to this notion of ‘sweating out the perm’. This may be why stereotypes have  formed about black women in particular, not participating in swimming.  Not wanting to get their hair or weave wet, has typically been a reason given for avoiding it.  Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but many of these stereotypes started because of hair..

So how have attitudes changed since then? With access to the internet and the growth of the information age, people are becoming more informed about health and fitness. More of us, from all races and backgrounds are learning about prevention rather than cure. People are taking responsibility for their health and know that a lifetime of dependency on prescription drugs and medicines isn’t their only option.  Unfortunately, certain diseases are attributed more towards people of African descent (type 2 diabetes, certain cancers for instance). Most health problems are connected to poor diet and a lack of physical activity, Staying active is a huge step towards taking control of your health and breaking the cycle of disease.

Hair should be the last thing that prevents you from working out. For those who don’t want to be another stereotype or statistic; here are some tips on staying motivated to workout and not allowing your hair to get in the way.

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Plan your hairstyles around your working out, not the other way around

After styling your hair in a fresh twist out or spending an uncomfortable night with your hair in flexi-rods, the last thing you want to do is go to the gym and sweat profusely. A fresh new hairstyle can instantly switch your mind off workout mode. However, you could workout Monday to Friday and do a new style for the weekend. Consider flat ironing your hair as a treat rather than a necessity. Even if you regularly flat-iron, you can still wear curly and wavy styles, don’t be so hung up on achieving that bone straight look all the time.  You could even plan your styles around certain workouts that aren’t as strenuous. If it’s cardio day tomorrow, keep the hair in a bun, but if it’s weights day, your hair should not get too frizzy. If you have a special occasion coming up, you could prep your hair after your workout, and it will be ready for the event the next day.

Find your workout hair style

This depends on how you are styling your hair for the week. A protective style is probably the easiest style to manage when working out. Two strand twists, pinned up or put into a ponytail, work well. I prefer to put my hair in a puff, as it is the most convenient style for me.  If I want to preserve a twist out or curly style, I work out with my hair in a loose pineapple. Go for a style that keeps the ends of your hair away from your neck and off your forehead, so they remain dry. If your ends remain dry, your twist-out will still be somewhat evident, even if the roots become a little damp or frizzy.  I also find wash and gos hold up well when working out. To maintain a wash and go, I put my hair in low pigtails. Then I take them down when I am finished, give the hair a little shake, and I am ready to go.african-american-woman-running-400x295-300x295

Keep your hair up for as long as possible, after a workout

Unless you are taking your hair down to wash, perhaps leave it in a puff or pineapple. This will prevent your ends from becoming frizzy while your scalp dries.  It will also keep the hair taut at the roots so your hair is more stretched when it is taken down.

Avoid working out with your scarf or bonnet on

Sweating helps to regulate your body temperature by removing excess heat. We usually lose a lot of heat from our head. A scarf may cause you to retain more heat during a workout, as the heat is restricted from escaping. It is important that your scalp remains breathable, so the body does not become overheated. This can end up having a negative impact on your workout overall. If you want to keep your hair sleek, spray your hair with a mist of water after your workout, and then put the scarf on to sleek the hair and edges down. After 15 minutes or so, the hair will appear sleeker once the scarf is removed. From my experience wearing a scarf while working out never really prevented my hair from becoming frizzy anyway.

Practice co-washing more frequently

If you are working out during the week you will want to wash your hair more frequently. Many would want to avoid exposing their hair to frequent shampooing because of the drying effect this can have. Frequent co-washing is considered kinder to the hair and even moisturizing. Wash and gos may also work well for this reason. Check out the post: Stretching and styling your hair after washing for convenient styling ideas.


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Focus on the benefits of working out

Frizzy hair is not as serious as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stress or depression. Just a few health issues exercise has been proven to prevent or treat. The hair challenges that exercise may present, are minor in relation to the benefits. Such benefits will not be seen unless you workout consistently and make it a lifestyle rather than just a New Year fad. People who exercise also have a longer life expectancy and generally are better off physically and mentally. Besides, when you take care of your body, your hair and skin will thank you for it!

We have all been guilty of it at some point. How do you manage your hair when working out? Share your tips below.

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Seven Reasons For Excessive Shedding or Breakage

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Hair sheds naturally each day. This occurs when a hair strand has reached the end of its growth cycle and falls out, making room for the new strand.  On average a person sheds up to 100 hair strands a day. Naturally shed hair usually has a white tip at top and will be near to full length. However, at times you may experience more shedding than usual for a number of different reasons. As you know your hair better than anyone, you can monitor the shedding of your hair and spot when it becomes excessive. Shed hair is usually evident after detangling, combing, or styling. At times the shedding may increase to an uncomfortable level. Seven reasons why excessive shedding may occur are as follows:

 

Protective styling

The benefits of protective styling are evident. However there is a way to do it safely to minimize damage to the hair. Weaves, braids and wigs should not be too tight and it is better to have a break in between protective styles so your hair is not constantly subject to tension. Excessive protective styling, done poorly can lead to traction alopecia,  Traction alopecia is more prevalent in black women than any other group. After taking out a protective style, you may find that you have a lot of shed hair. This is perfectly normal as shed hair is built up for as long as the style is kept in. Monitor the amount of shed hair that accumulates each time you take out a protective style. If this amount increases dramatically after a particular style, damage may have been caused.

Deep conditioning for too long

Deep conditioning is a vital part of our hair care regimen. However there seems to be a growing idea that the longer it is left in, the better. Some women choose to leave their deep conditioner in overnight. This is considered unnecessary by some  hair care experts. It is important to note that hair is more fragile when saturated in deep conditioner that is water based. While sleeping, a person is likely to move around a lot, turning their head numerous times. This may cause a lot of rubbing and hair strands may be tugged and pulled in the process, which may result in broken or weakened strands.  This may cause them to shed before their time or break off easily when styling the next day.

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Product ingredients

Glycerin is a humectant that absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. It is a great ingredient to create long lasting moisture for the hair. I like to use ‘glycerin heavy’ products when  putting my hair in a protective style, so the moisture can last a few days without having to reapply frequently. However sometimes I find that my hair becomes more fragile after this and this can result in excessive shedding.  After washing my hair and simply using water for moisture, along with oil for sealing, I experience much less shedding. Glycerin can weigh the hair down and keep feeling damp for longer periods of time, this may weaken the strands. The amount of glycerin used should be limited, as a little goes a long way. If too much is used, it may be better to wash your hair sooner, so it doesn’t  build up and become detrimental to the strength of your hair.

Protein/moisture balance

Too much emphasis on moisture may result in weaker hair strands, as the hair needs protein to rebuild and reinforce itself. However constantly using products that contain protein may cause excessive dryness. Hair that is too dry also becomes brittle. So the protein moisture balance is important for healthy hair. Substitute every forth deep conditioner for a protein treatment and avoid using products that are protein heavy unless necessary.  Alternatively, simply examine your hair regularly and decide if it is in need of protein at that time, instead of your usual deep conditioner.

Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the body starts to lose more fluids than it takes in. Hair is one quarter water and water carries vital vitamins to the hair root. It hydrates the entire strand from the inside. Water is also the main source of energy for hair cells, including the ones that promote growth. It also clears the body of pollutants, which cause hair loss. Suffering from dehydration causes a shortage of a water supply to the hair. Water is then rationed to vital parts of the body, such as the brain and heart. This leads to excessive shedding and the roots will not be stimulated enough for new hair growth. So drinking plenty of water is crucial to the health of your hair. It is recommended that we drink six to eight glasses of water a day.

Medication

Hair loss may be a side effect of certain medications, so check the labels of your prescriptions. Some particular medications that may cause excessive shedding include blood thinners, antidepressants, and birth control pills. For birth control pills, the American Hair Loss Association recommends that all women interested in using oral contraceptives should only use low-androgen index birth control pills. If there is a strong predisposition for genetic hair loss in your family, they recommend the use of non-hormonal forms of birth control. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your medication.

Stress

There are different types of stress.  Telogen effluvium causes a large number of hair follicles to go into the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. The affected hair might fall out suddenly within a few months when simply combing or washing. Trichotillomania is when a person feels a sudden urge to pull their hair from the scalp to cope with  stress and anxiety.  Lastly, alopecia areata is one of the more serious forms of hair loss. This is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss. This can also be caused by stress. This can be reversed with better stress management techniques, exercise and reducing your caffeine intake may help for instance.

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Leyla of FushionofCultures has spoken about dealing with Trichotillomania

Dieting or poor nutrition

Crash dieting or failing to maintain a healthy diet, may have a negative effect on your hair. The hair is the last part of the body to receive nutrients, as major organs are prioritized. Hair needs the right vitamins and nutrients to be healthy. Two vitamin deficiencies that can particularly cause excessive shedding, or breakage, are vitamin A and iron.

Have you experienced excessive shedding or hair loss? If so, what  was the reason?

 

Eight Benefits of Cycling

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Some of you may be throwing gym membership money down the drain. Being indoors, running on a treadmill or trying to figure out how to use workout equipment, isn’t for everyone.  That doesn’t mean you should give up on exercising completely.  There are many other ways to get fit.  In Australia, where I am currently living, the weather is cooling down.  This actually makes it more conducive to exercising outdoors.  Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere should be seeing the first signs of spring, perhaps this has inspired you exercise outside.

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Cycling is a great way to get in shape.  Here are eight benefits:

 

1. You can start indoors

Perhaps you are not quite ready for the tour de France, but you can get fit in front of the TV and leave yourself with no excuses.  According to Dr Lennert Veerman at the University of Queensland, being inactive can be just as bad for your life expectancy as smoking.  You can purchase an exercise bike or put your road bike on a bicycle trainer and cycle while you watch your favorite programs.  This will reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as improve your fitness.

 

2. You can cycle on the way to work

Cycling on your way to work is convenient and cost-effective.  These days, many office buildings  have showers for employees to use.  Pedaling at 9 miles an hour burns about 287 calories per hour.  Exercise also releases endorphins which elevates mood and promotes energy. This is a great way to start the day and prepare for the challenges ahead.  Start planning what to do with the money you will save on transport and gym membership.

 

3. Mountain biking is better for fitness than road biking

You can burn more than 500 calories with an hour of mountain biking. Studies show that off-road bikers have higher bone density than road cyclists. Mountain bikes are not as fast as road bikes because the wheels are heavier, so they require you to work harder. Choose the most appropriate bike for the type of riding you wish to do. Check out your local national park, there should be a variety of biking tracks to use for some good off-road action.

 

4. Cycling helps you  sleep

A study at Stanford University School of Medicine found that insomniacs who began cycling 20-30 minutes every other day, fell asleep sooner and slept for longer.  Cycling outside during the day helps to get circadian rhythms back in sync. This reduces the stress hormone cortisol which disrupts sleep.  Good sleep is essential for weight loss and overall health. Researchers at Brigham Young University found that high quality sleep was associated with lower body fat while poor sleep correlated with higher body fat.

 

5. Stand up on the pedals for a greater workout

Standing on your pedals engages the whole body in order to keep balance and generate force.  This raises the heart rate and burns more calories.  It also builds strength in the upper body.  Switch between standing and sitting at different intervals.   Try  ten minute hill climbs, alternating between sitting and standing.

 

6. Exercising outside promotes vitamin D production in the body

Our bodies can produce vitamin D with direct exposure to sunlight. The main function of vitamin D is to regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in our bones and aid cell to cell communication in the body. Vitamin D helps to support the immune system, maintain healthy bones and even reduce the risk of cancer.  According to a study conducted by the Medical College of Georgia, vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body weight. Vitamin D deficiency is common in people who wear sun protection frequently and in people of  African descent, because pigmentation reduces vitamin D production.  Vitamin D can also be received  through food and with supplements, however going outside for a bike ride  is a fun way of getting a much-needed dose of it.

 

7. You are less likely to get bored with cycling

You can always try a different route for a change of scenery and, treat  cycling as an opportunity to explore.  Try combining your cycling with some photography. I occasionally stop along the way to take photos if I find something interesting. From animals, beautiful sunsets, exquisite scenery, to classic cars or planes; you never know what you might find.

 

Cycling route, Glenelg SA

Cycling path, Glenelg SA

 

8. Cycling is a low impact exercise

Cycling is a good form of exercise for people with knee problems, as it does not directly put pressure on the knee joints. The  repetitive motion of cycling works the quadriceps and hamstrings, which are the muscles that support the knee joints. It is an exercise that strengthens the legs and promotes cardiovascular fitness. For the best results, cycle at least three or four times each week for 30 minutes.

So get on your bike, get in shape and start exploring!

 

Are you a cyclists? What benefits have you discovered from cycling? Share your experiences below.

 

 

 

Natural Hair Journey to Health Journey

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It’s amazing that so many women who are discovering their natural hair for the first time have also begun to consider their overall health.  Many have now embarked on a health and fitness journey.  If we are going to take the time to research what makes our hair healthy and what to avoid to prevent damage to our hair, how much more should we do this for our bodies? Hair and nails are the last to receive vital nutrients from foods. Our bodies are so amazing that they are designed to prioritize the vital organs. If we take the time to learn how to look after the least important part of our bodies; hair, then it’s only a matter of time before we desire to do the same for our overall health.

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What goes on inside our bodies is reflected on the outside anyway. Having the best hair care products, the best regimen and the most creative hairstyles, will not get us very far if we are not healthy from the inside. If our bodies are not hydrated for instance, our hair  and skin will suffer from dryness to reflect this on the outside.  If we are lacking key vitamins and nutrients, it doesn’t matter if our shampoos or conditioners are ‘enriched with vitamins’, our hair and overall health will still suffer.

I am glad to see so many newly naturals not only embark on a natural hair journey, but also considering the effects of diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle on their bodies as a whole. I often hear many not only discussing good hair care practices, but fitness and workout regiments, weight loss and avoiding processed foods or drinks. Not only are they avoiding  chemicals in their hair products, they are also doing the same with their skin products and food.  Quite clearly it has become about much more than hair, and I for one believe it is a step in the right direction.

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I’m tired of reports suggesting that certain health problems are more prevalent within the black community and with black women in particular. Regardless of whether you believe such statistics are accurate, it should be a priority for us to break any negative trends and set a better example for our children.  Many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer can be prevented by having a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Such diseases can also be cured or managed simply by improving your diet and adopting a healthier lifestyle. For example according to the America Diabetes Association, weight loss of just 10 to 15 pounds can make a huge improvement to the health of those with type 2 diabetes.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that overweight and obese women were at a higher risk of uterine fibroids.  A diet high in fruits and vegetables and thus high in fibre was found to be crucial for the prevention and treatment of fibroids.

More and more women in the natural hair community, and beyond are realizing the importance of healthy eating, exercise and the avoidance of harmful chemicals. We understand that we no longer have to be reconciled to a lifetime of taking numerous medications.   Instead, through education and basic research we can learn to look after our bodies as well as our hair.

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Did going natural lead to a health journey for you or have you always been conscious of these issues? Maybe you are yet to embark upon a health journey. Share your thoughts below.

My Workout Essentials

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Here’s what I need for a good workout.

Music

Good music makes all the difference. If my iPod isn’t charged I have to reschedule my workout time. Sometimes a good song comes on just when you feel like giving up and you find the energy from somewhere to keep going! Here’s my random selection of songs I like to play when working out.

Top five workout songs:

  1. Jackson 5 – Can you feel it?
  2. Rocky Soundtrack – Gonna Fly Now
  3. Rocky Soundtrack – Eye of the Tiger
  4. En Vogue –  Hold on
  5. Jackson 5 – Dancing Machine

Favourite piece of gym equipment

I’m not a big fan of the gym because I hate the treadmill. Personally, I find it extremely mundane and I don’t particularly like doing weights either as I’m scared of bulking up. Although light weights are fine and don’t really cause you to bulk up I prefer to do resistance training with my own body weight (push ups, squats, sit ups ). This is something I can do at home.  However, the only reason I visit the gym is to use my favourite piece of gym equipment, the Cross/Elliptical Trainer.

When I first tried this machine I was hooked. It provides a simulated running experience without the high impact. It is sort of like running through the air.  It works the same leg muscles that cycling does. However, because you are also rotating your arms on the machine and using your core to remain balanced, it works the whole body.  When I used to go jogging I would get a recurring pain in my left knee. This was due to the fact that jogging is a high impact exercise that puts pressure on the joints . However with the Cross/Elliptical, there is hardly any pressure on your joints and back so there is less chance of injury.  Nevertheless, it still provides the benefits of high impact exercise such as strengthening your bones.

To be frank this machine is pretty easy to work on. You really do feel like you are getting a good work out and it causes you to sweat! However it doesn’t feel as tiring as jogging does. This is due to the fact that is low impact and puts less strain on the body. This is why you could probably work out for longer on this machine and burn more calories.  When I use it I stay on it for 45 minutes. I usually have it at level 10 and have it on the random setting. This gives me a varied workout with various peaks and troughs. I usually burn 450 calories, not bad! I would certainly recommend trying this machine.

Favourite workout DVD

I first ordered Billy Blanks Tae Bo DVD when I was really looking for something other than the gym or jogging outside. If you stick to the same thing you become bored with exercising.  The good thing about using workout DVDs is that there are always new ones to try.  Tae Bo is fun and challenging at the same time. Billy really knows how to motivate and encourage you. You find each DVD gets easier as you do them regularly, then its time to move on to a new one. In saying that the DVD that involve a lot of floor work (abs, back, leg etc) are extremely challenging and I haven’t quite mastered those ones yet. I prefer jumping around as opposed to lying on the floor working on your 100th sit up! That was probably a slight exaggeration but that’s what it feels like.

What are your work out essentials? Share in the comments below.

References: munfitnessblog.com

livestrong.com