Q: "My latest logistical worry with regards to my upcoming triathlon is my hair. It gets on my nerves if it is hanging anywhere near my face or neck when I work out. How do you wear your hair during triathlons so that it's out of your face and off your neck, doesn't drive you nuts in the pool and is bike helmet friendly? I have been wearing a swim cap while training but haven't decided if I want to wear it on race day. What are your thoughts on this?" - Susan A., Eldersburg.
The easiest solution would be to lop it off. But, if you're like me and you're opposed to shearing your locks for the sake of sport, go with a low ponytail and a swim cap, especially if you have long hair. I, personally, find it is easier to shove all of my hair into a swim cap if it is first gathered and bound by elastic. If you are swimming in open water, a swim cap is required for both men and women so your best bet is to get used to wearing one. Once the swim leg is complete, a low ponytail will be compatible with a bike helmet and most any type of hat or visor you may choose to wear for the run. However, at any given triathlon, plenty of braids and pigtails can be spotted on the course, so experiment during training with various hairstyles to find the one that works best for you and remember that the cardinal rule of racing applies to hair too; never try anything new on race day.
While we're on the subject of hair, womenshair.about.com notes that regular exposure to chlorinated swimming pools can cause significant damage to your hair, including excessive dryness and increased porosity, and dry, porous hair, especially if it has been chemically treated or highlighted, is more likely to absorb chemicals and become discolored. If you have chemically or color treated hair, or thin, fine hair, you should take extra care to prevent and treat chlorine damage.
Always rinse your hair before swimming. Like a sponge, dry hair is more absorbent. By saturating your hair with clean tap water before your swim, it will soak up less of the chlorinated pool water. A swim cap worn over wet, saturated hair adds an extra layer of protection, as does applying a light layer of conditioner.
Be sure to rinse your hair again immediately after swimming, and thoroughly shampoo and condition as soon as possible to remove any lingering chlorine and prevent damage. Some shampoos are specially formulated to remove chlorine, and using a conditioner that helps to restore moisture and protein to your locks is also a good idea, as is a regular deep conditioning treatment to seal in moisture, battle frizz and repair split ends.
If chlorine damage has already taken hold and your hair is extremely dry, frizzy, discolored or feels like straw, it may be time for a trip to the salon to have a pro assess the damage and recommend the appropriate products or treatments for your hair. At the very least, getting a haircut will remove the ends of your hair that have likely suffered the most damage.
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