It is freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
For the longest time I was a slave to my hair. Before I became actively involved in endurance sports, I would avoid almost any type of activity that would cause me to sweat heavily. I did not want to “sweat out” my relaxer. Like so many women, I invested a lot of money and time in keeping my hair beautiful. I went to the hair salon every two weeks and only used salon quality products. At its longest my hair was halfway down my back. I loved my long hair and the attention that it brought me. Many times I was asked if my hair was a weave, and if so, where did I purchase it. My hair was part of my identity.
As stated in an earlier blog I began running so I could control my blood pressure without using medication. I fell in love with running, but I did not love what it would do to my hair. My relaxers that would normally last up to 8 weeks were barely lasting 5 weeks. My excessive sweating caused my hair to dry out and become brittle. I was putting too much stress on my hair because I had to blow dry and hot curl it more often. I was at my wits end! I wanted to have beautiful hair, but I didn’t want to give up running.
I finally decided to give up on having great looking hair except for special occasions. I didn’t want to be one of those women who chose my hair over my health. According to a government study that was cited in a NY Times article, “nearly 50 percent of black women over the age of 20 are overweight or obese, compared with 33 percent of white women and 43 percent of Hispanic women.” And unfortunately one of the main reasons that women did not exercise, in particularly black women, was because of their hair. The black hair industry is a $9 billion dollar industry. Many black women spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year to maintain their hairstyles. In 2011, Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin began a crusade of encouraging women to choose their health over their hair. For me it was no brainer. I would rather be healthy with ok looking hair, than in a casket with awesome looking hair.
My hairstyle of choice became the pulled back bun. It was nothing beautiful, but it was easy to do and work appropriate. Even on days that I didn’t train I would pull it back because I just didn’t want to be bothered with my hair. Around the time I decided to do a half Ironman, I made the decision to grow out my relaxer and go natural.
For many black women going natural is a HUGE decision, and it was for me. I had been getting my hair relaxed since I was 10 years old. I didn’t even know what my natural hair texture was like. Furthermore, I was unsure of how and if my natural hairstyle would be accepted in the workplace, and how my friends and family would react. Since I was not 100% sure about my decision I decided to transition than do the big chop. Transitioning is allowing the hair to grow but periodically trimming the relaxed ends until all the relaxed hair is gone. The big chop involves allowing your natural hair to grow out a little and cutting off all relaxed hair at once. The big chop was too extreme for me. I needed to ease into this transformation.
The transitioning process was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I still primarily kept my hair in a bun, but when necessary I could style it, even though I was dealing with two types of hair. The more my hair grew out, the more anxious I became about how it would look. I just wanted the process to be over with. On Saturday, August 4th, at 4:00 pm I asked my stylist to cut off the last remnants of my relaxed hair. I had an event to go to that evening, so I asked her to flat-iron for me. I would see my hair in its true state the next day.
Late Sunday morning I went for a swim followed by my usual shower and the shampooing and conditioning of my hair. I used a towel to squeeze the excess water from my hair and gently wrapped it. As I got dressed my heart began to race. I was not too sure what was going to be under that towel. The towel came off and all I saw were curls, curls, and more curls. I added a little product to style it, and that was it. I loved what I saw, but most importantly I felt this weight lifted off of me. I was finally free of my hair!
The freedom that I feel I cannot fully explain. I feel as if I am beginning a new chapter of my life. I feel bolder (if that is possible) and more in tuned with myself. The initial worries I had about how other people would react have disappeared. My friends and family have been very accepting of my new do. No more hair worries as I train. And best of all I can have great looking hair AND my health. Here I come Augusta….fly and healthy!