Raise your hand if you've ever had to pause the treadmill or miss a sequence in your dance-cardio class to give your ponytail a tightening tug. Or worse—when you're mid-move and your style completely falls out, leaving you scrambling for your hair tie or bobby pins. As surface as it may seem, the security of your hairstyle can affect your workout performance and overall mood. Just ask Svetlana Kuznetsova, a pro tennis player who, when she was losing in the WTA finals in 2016, grabbed a pair of scissors and cut her ponytail which she said was hitting her in the face every time she'd hit a shot. Olympic bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor also recognizes the impact your hair has on your game: "My hair is the first thing people see when I get out of the sled and take off my helmet, so I have to do my hair before I race," she tells Today. It’s kind of taboo to focus on beauty as a female athlete, because you would think you should only focus on the sport, but focusing on beauty, too, makes you feel good. When you look good, you feel good, and in my case, you drive well. That confidence is super important to me."
Curious how to find that balance between confidence-boosting style and fully functional gym 'dos, we tapped Moroccanoil artistic director, Kevin Hughes. He is involved in the brand's partnership with the Women's Tennis Association (Moroccanoil is the official hair sponsor) and is thus on the frontlines discovering which types of hairstyles the players are requesting just before some of the most important matches of their careers.. Below, his thoughts on the best style for just about every type of workout and the products you need to keep them in place.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Whether you're completing circuits on your own or taking a bootcamp class, HIIT (intervals of high intensity moves broken up by active recovery periods) requires a sturdy style that won't interrupt your groove. If you're hitting the gym before work or drinks with friends, Hughes has a great pre-workout styling solution to help minimize your time in the locker room when you're done burning calories: "Spray Moroccanoil Perfect Defense throughout your hair. Wave your hair with a 1 ¼-inch curling iron and pull into a high ponytail with a non-crimping elastic like an Invisibobble, that way when you're finished with your workout, you can use some Moroccanoil Dry Shampoo at your root area to absorb excess sweat and even take away any odor of a workout so you can rock your wavy hair for the rest of the day."
Yoga may be on the lower end of the intensity spectrum, but anyone who's taken a class knows that a vinyasa flow is no joke and thus requires a style that will keep your strands out of your face so you can better focus on your practice. Says Hughes, "This is ideal for a bun. Gather hair into an elastic and position it on top of the head or at the back of the head once the hair is secure. Use some styling cream and twist the ponytail onto itself to create a bun with three large bobby pins to secure.
Barre and Dance Cardio
While dance cardio will certainly give you more air time than the controlled, pulsing movements of barre, Hughes says there's one hairstyle that suits both workouts quite well. "Create a center part from front to back and create two low ponytails. Then, take each ponytail and do a regular three-strand braid or fishtail braid, depending on the braid-wiz that you are. Then, wind the braids around themselves to create two braided buns. Use a few large bobby pins to secure the braided buns low at the nape of the neck—why not have a stylish look for your workout!"
You may also consider making two French braids down either side of your head, then twisting the lower ends into buns, too.
Running and SoulCycle
For these high-intensity workouts, a tightly pulled-back faux braid will prove to be functional and effortlessly stylish. Explains Hughes, "Pull hair into a high ponytail on top of your head and add two or three more elastics down the ponytail about 1 1/2 inches apart to bind the ponytail together. This is great for people that don’t know how to braid and will keep the hair out of your face. And add a cool headband to keep any sweat at bay."
To add a bit of depth and drama to a plain ponytail, Hughes recommends this trick: "Use a larger fabric-coated elastic and pull your hair through the elastic at the nape of your neck. When you're on your last pull-through—when it feels tight enough—just stop short of pulling your ends through completely. This will create an undone loop that has a more casual feel that's quick and easy and looks awesome on curly hair, too."
Swimming and Kickboxing
Given the amount of movement involved with swimming and kickboxing, tight plaits will serve you well here. "You can do one or two braids depending on the length of your hair," says Hughes. "Take a section and divide it into three strands: cross the right side over the middle, then cross the left side over the middle, then add a little bit of hair from the right side to the right strand and cross over the middle. Repeat on the left side until the braid is complete. What’s great about this look is that when your hair is dry after your workout, you can undo your braids and have some cool mermaid waves. Just add some Moroccanoil Dry Shampoo, so your hair isn't limp and damp from sweat."
Up next: The dos and don'ts of after-gym hair.