I’ll admit. I schedule(d) my workouts around my hair. When I was working out four days a week in preparation for Thailand (and ended up losing more in 2 weeks there than in 4 MONTHS with a personal trainer, but I digress), I would go Mon-Thurs, and wash my hair thursday night for the weekend. Weekend workouts? No thanks, those don’t let my hair be great. When I was invited to attend the Black Girls Run! event in Philadelphia last Saturday, I was really excited to go. BGR is a network of running clubs across the US that inspire women to get off their butts & on the pavement/treadmill. Dark & Lovely was sponsoring the event & promoting their line of hair products specifically developed to help your hair resist “reversion”, aka roots a hot mess. It was a very fun event, and I learned all kinds of things I never knew before – like that when stretching, you’re supposed to hold each position for 30 SECONDS PER SIDE?!?!?! Who knew?!
True to my inner hair junkie, I started by checking out Dark & Lovely’s 6-Week Anti-Reversion line. Mezei Jefferson, D&L’s Director of Education was there answering questions, and I had a TON for him. He explained how they work (special ingredients temporarily coat your hair, keeping your strands smooth), effects on your natural coils over time (natural girls rejoice! Your natural texture won’t change one bit!), and how effective they are in combating hot-sweaty-mess-syndrome (they work better if you’re a glistener vs a dripper).
After getting the lowdown, I jumped right into the fitness-themed activities. First up was a workshop on all things running.
Chris Naimoli taught us proper running form, which I’ve apparently been doing wrong my whole life. We started running in place, paying attention to how our foot fell & adjusting as necessary. When running in place, I noticed that I land on the ball of my foot (correct), but when actually running, I would revert to landing on my heel (wrong). Chris recommended that we pay attention while running until the correct stride becomes second nature.
He showed us his sneakers, which have protruding ridges under the ball of your foot to help propel you forward as you run, and advised that we visit a sports store for a foot consultation to be sure we’re choosing the right kind of sneaker.
Catherine Williams-Frank, a local running coach, talked about how to run efficiently. She said that no matter how fast/slow we’re running, our goal should always be 180 steps per minute, or 90 steps per foot. As you speed up, you can lengthen your stride to allow for 180 beats, and obviously shorten it as you slow down. She had a mini metronome on her belt that we practiced running in sync with, and 180 beats is no easy feat! Some women asked if they could work up to that pace, and she said the lowest she recommends to beginners is 170 beats/minute (!!). After we practiced, Chris & Catherine mingled among us, answering our questions face-to-face, which I thought was pretty cool. Chris shared his inspiring weight loss story with us, which he achieved mostly by running. I asked how long/often is the ideal when it comes to running, and he recommended 45 minutes every other day.
Next, Dr. Aisha Lord Ryan taught us how to properly stretch to prevent injuries. I really underestimated what was going to happen here, as we all lined up around the room and stretched ourselves into positions I’ve never tried before. Let me also just say this: Dr. Lord is pregnant. Like REALLY pregnant. I was veryyyy impressed by (a) how well she was carrying, and (b) how hyper/energetic she was, especially considering her pregnancy! Very cool to see.
After talking to us about muscles & demonstrating stretching techniques, we tried foam rolling. I’ve always seen them lying around in gyms, but have never actually used one. It hurts!!! Not in a really bad way, but definitely not in a good way either. According to Dr. Aisha, it’s definitely necessary though… so get to rolling!
The event wrapped with a fitness party, hosted by Niche Faulkner. She led the room through a cardio routine influenced by West African dance moves. All the ladies looked like a cross between having the time of their lives & intensely focusing on not getting left behind!
As I headed out, I had the chance to chat with the founders of Black Girls Run!, Toni Carey & Ashley Hicks. We talked about the impact that BGR has caused in the African American community by encouraging women to take control of their fitness. Partnerships with hair companies like Dark & Lovely show AA women that all aspects of their fitness are being taken seriously, and tackling obstacles that are unique to women of color. When asked what they’d like to share with women that aren’t currently participating (yet!) in BGR, they said that too often they hear “I’ll join once I get in shape” or “Once I can run X miles without dying, I’ll join”. They stressed that BGR meet-ups are for runners of all intensities & experience levels, and that you can come just as you are! What are you waiting for? Go find your BGR group!