I realized how far along I am on the road to curly-haired recovery — and I made this realization in the strangest place: my exercise class. It’s a body-sculpting class that uses your own body weight and a ballet bar to whip you into shape. It’s extremely popular with NYC women not just because of the amazing results you reap, but because most people don’t sweat enough to ruin their hair. No, the exercise studio doesn’t boast about this on their website, but it’s something I’ve heard countless women rave about.
So, you ask, how do you get a great workout without sweating? Well, first of all the heart-pumping, aerobic intervals are intense but short so they’re over before you start sweating. Second, building lean muscle means you boost your metabolism. Lastly, and most important for good hair, they blast the air conditioning. Any curly- or wavy-haired girl knows that this is a godsend since most of us have had a period in our lives when our workouts revolved around our hair.
Mine was right after graduate school. I’d interviewed for several jobs, but the one I was offered was the one I’d chemically straightened my hair for. I was convinced that my smooth strands were responsible for my success, so I started blowing them straight all the time. This meant I couldn’t work out or swim as often (which is probably why I gained more than a few pounds), but as long as my hair was in control (or so I thought), I didn’t care.
I discovered the exercise class I take now when I was still chemically straightening my hair. The first few weeks after a straightening I didn’t care about sweating, but I did when my curly roots would grow in and frizz at the top. Still, it wasn’t until today that I saw the insanity of not letting your hair do what it wants to do naturally. The air conditioning was broken at the studio so suddenly this sweat-free, hour-long workout had us all drenched within the first fifteen minutes. Since I’m going curly, I didn’t care. In fact, I liked it, because I was burning off a few more calories, something I needed after last nights’ brownie binge!
But with each droplet of sweat, I watched the blown-straight women around me go into a hair panic. They were doing all the things I used to do to keep my curls from unfurling. One woman put a towel around her neck so that the sweat would get absorbed rather than linger in her locks and cause an underlying layer of frizz. Another did the "unicorn" — putting her hair in a loose ponytail directly on top of her head.
This strange looking style (that I used to reserve for the privacy of my own home) lifts the hair away from your body so you don’t get as hot and keeps any sweat away from your hair. A third woman dabbed her forehead, hairline and the nape of her neck so often that she missed most of the exercises. A fourth simply walked out of the class at the first sign of perspiration — grumbling that saving her blow-out was more important than toning her butt.
I’m not putting any of these women down, because I’ve done all these things and more to stay straight. But I was happy that I could sweat buckets and not care what my hair was doing (which wasn’t much thanks to lots of conditioning and DevaCurl AnGEL!) More than that, I realized that I’ve made lots of progress in heading off the straight and narrow. My life no longer revolves around chemically straightened hair, and I’ve got the toned arms and legs to prove it!