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Sep 28, 2021

Wash and Go Run, Part 1

More than 20 years ago, I moved to Orlando, Florida, to start my first full-time professional job. As a newbie to the area, I knew I needed to find things to do and make friends, so of course, I joined a running club.

Around the same time, I was experimenting with wearing my hair in natural styles. I had done a slow transition from relaxers in college, and now with all my relaxed ends gone, I was truly wearing my hair natural. And, since I was now training with my new running buddies for a marathon, I had to figure out what I was going to do with my hair.

Braids or locs would have been an easy choice, but I wanted to wear my hair loose. So, in those early days in 2001, I broke all the so-called Black hair rules. I was so sweaty after exercising in that Florida heat and humidity that I washed and conditioned my hair after every run. I liked how my curls looked after I washed, so I left some conditioner in (I didn’t need to do this, I’d later discover) and then tried out a few gels to see if they would hold the curls in place.

And… it actually worked?

My hair was hydrated and moisturized and my curls were popping. No more dandruff and itchy scalp, and my hair got longer because I was retaining length – my strands weren’t breaking off as much. Shampooing frequently happened to be a good thing for me and my lazy attempts at a style somehow turned out perfectly. I never worried about my hair again as a runner, as I knew I could just wash, condition, apply gel and walk out the door. Worst-case scenario, if my style didn’t turn out the way I wanted, I could always put it in a ponytail.

Minus the drying process, my hair was washed, conditioned and styled in 30 minutes or less. No multi-step processes, no deep conditioning, no prepooing – and my hair never missed any of it.

Years later, when wearing natural hair became a “movement,” I realized I’d been doing the foundation of a basic wash and go all along (minus leaving the extra conditioner in after washing). But the style seemed elusive to so many Black women I talked to, especially as they tried methods like LOC (liquid, oil, cream) and LCO (liquid, cream, oil); bought all sorts of masks and powders; “cowashed” only because people said shampoo was drying; and tested all the other ideas presented through social media as “natural hair care.” I occasionally commented in hair care groups about my routine of shampooing and conditioning a few times a week, only to be told that this was “bad” for Black hair.

If it was so bad, I responded, why was my hair thriving more than it ever had when I was just washing twice a month? And no, it wasn’t just because of my hair type – trust me, I experienced the whole struggle of the hot comb, relaxers, breakage, weaves, wigs and more – I just finally found what worked best.

Nearly 20 years later, more professional stylists specializing in natural hair care have managed to cut through the clutter of conflicting “advice” about moisturizing and styling. The wash and go IS simpler than many of us think and can be the easiest style to do on a regular basis. For runners, I think this is especially important, as a wash and go gives us the freedom to not have to worry about how we’ll do our hair after we finish that half marathon, or how we’ll manage it during months of training and workouts.

While many of us who run with natural hair have turned to braids and locs – also excellent options – for women like me who love wearing our hair out, mastering a simple wash and go can be life changing.

Read Part 2 for tips from a professional stylist on a great wash and go!

By Shannon Shelton Miller /Twitter: ShannonSMWrites, Instagram: shannon.shelton1

Shannon Shelton Miller is a longtime writer and journalist who enjoys writing about sports, fitness, health, beauty, and parenting. She has been running for 27 years, starting from joining her high school cross country team. She has run a marathon, two half marathons, and countless 5K and 10K races.