5 Hair Must-Haves For Relatively Serious Athletes

It's nice to look cute while you're exercising, but not if it's compromising your game.
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Nila
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It's nice to look cute while you're exercising, but not if it's compromising your game.

If you’re looking for an article about how to fashion a cute hairstyle for working out, then you might as well skip this one. That’s because after getting hacked by guys twice my size on the soccer field, whalloped with a moving screen on the basketball court, and bulldozed on the flag football field, the last thing I’d ever want to be called is “cute.”

Save for a few 1990s-era Russian tennis players, most female athletes I know despise the word “cute.” We’re athletes; fierce competitors who have one main focus: to win the game.

I always win the balance-the-ball game. ALWAYS.

I always win the balance-the-ball game. ALWAYS.

I’ve played sports my whole life. And I’ve played mostly with and against dudes; tough, physical brutes who didn’t take a loss very gently. So imagine me showing up to the field with cute little French braids and a colorful pink ribbon hair tie. There’s no way I’d be taken seriously.

But I’m still a chick, and that doesn’t mean I have to look as rough as the guys I play ball against. After losing many a hair tie at crucial moments, having my bangs fall in my eyes right as I was about to catch a ball (and subsequently dropped it), and mistakenly using my hands to wipe sweat from my forehead only to make my grip more slippery, I’ve learned I need to train my hair as much as I do my body.

Through ridiculous amounts of trial and error, I’ve developed a hair routine to prep for the high-impact sports I play. (Call me superstitious, but I even think I’ve been playing better, too.) So here are the sure-fire tricks I’ve learned over the years that keep my hair in place and my mind focused on the game.

HEADBANDS

I channeled my inner Serena Williams for this one. After getting annoyed with the copious amounts of sweat dripping in my eyes, I started wearing headbands when I ran and when playing tennis and volleyball. Plus, with the crazy bangs I have, it helps keep my hair out of my eyes.

Look for headbands with moisture-wicking materials. For high-impact sports, I recommend also getting headbands with a gel grip.

Nary a stray hair in sight.

Nary a stray hair in sight.

I found the best ones are made by Zella. No matter how high of an impact sport I’m playing, the headband stays put and I don’t need to adjust it mid-game. It offers a tight grip without the headache most headbands give.

For a lower-impact activity, like yoga, the lululemon headbands work great.

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER

Aside from making your hair uber-moisturized, leave-in conditioners help tame those annoying flyaways that pop up.

Another bonus? Leave-in conditioners not only help prevent hair from drying out, they also provide another coat to buffer against the harsh sun rays. I spray a little around after I get out of the shower and comb it through, and my hair thanks me each time I step into the sun.

Look for leave-in conditioners that don’t weigh your hair down. I like It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product. It smells pretty good, too, which definitely helps when breaking a sweat.

BOBBY PINS

These little metal things are miracle workers. I have found multiple game-day uses for these little wonders.

Because I have bangs, I’m always worried that they’ll fall in my eyes at the most inopportune moments. So if I’m ever looking for a quick fix, I just gather my bangs up, slick them back, and slide a bobby pin to secure them back.

More importantly, if I ever want added security to my headbands, I just clip a few bobby pins in the back--always the back because that’s where they tend to slide first--and it’s instantly more secure.

UV PROTECTION

A standard beach volleyball match can last an hour. Add to that your customary warm-up time and then the post-game pleasantries, and you could be out in the sun for hours. And beyond beach volleyball, there are so many other sports played in the sun, so I found I needed to give my hair a little extra UV protection.

Look for brands that offer two-fers. I love the label.m Thickening Cream as not only does it offer the UV protection, it does exactly what the label says it does: thicken hair for added volume.

SLIDE-PROOF HAIR TIES

After losing my third hair tie in as many 5K races, I'd had enough.

Reenactment. Most 5Ks don't take place on grass next to a body of water.

Reenactment. Most 5Ks don't take place on grass next to a body of water.

My hair is relatively smooth and silky, and while in the middle of running, they'd fall off (I guess all that bouncing around didn’t really help keep it secure); or they’d slide down my head--there’s nothing that’s worse than the feeling of hair clinging to the sweaty nape of your neck.

Then, I found the hair-tie elixir of life: Goody Slide-Proof Elastics. The hair ties grip your hair securely, keeping everything in place for an entire game. Just as important, when you remove them after the game is over, they slide easily, unlike nasty rubber bands that grip too tightly.

They look like little snow tires!

They look like little snow tires!

I’m always looking for other great, easy-fix ideas for my hair when I play sports, so what do you do that helps improve your game?