IMAGINE…You’re a sexy girl triathlete with locks of hair blowing majestically in the wind as you, glistening, run in the sun.  You “Bay Watch Style” flip your wet hair up and in slow motion, exit the ocean and head into T1.

Okay, so we all know this doesn’t happen to any of us…

Let’s face it.  For the triathlete woman, hair is a REAL challenge come race day!  Not only are more photos going to be snapped of you achieving your PR time (I have confidence in my fellow racers) than most other days of the year, but you’re also going to look like a half-drowned rat with matted hair knotted to your face in all of them.  Oh, joy!

what are some hairstyles for race day that work under a swim cap and helmut

Not the most attractive look…

We’re beasts on the course, but we’re beautiful ladies, too!  So, why can’t we look like a sexy beast ON the course?  I’ve made it my mission to look good during an Ironman.  IT IS POSSIBLE.  And, I’m here to share my TESTED triathlon race-day-hair with you!

I have long hair.  It is down below my chest.  It is layered (meaning hello braiding problems). Therefore, come race day, I’ve always just done the single braid.  Yes, the single braid works, but that’s also why you’ll look like every other girl on the course.  EVERYONE does the single braid and let’s face it, not everyone looks awesome in a single braid.  It’s not a hairstyle you’d probably wear at any other time.  Plus, I am just over it.  So, I did my research and found lots of other options for us that are:

  • stylish
  • unique
  • and most importantly, can fit under a cap, be shoved under a helmet, and not fall apart on the run.

Then, I wore these hairstyles in my training (swim, bike, running, and agility/crossfit training) and took a post workout photo of my hair.  The pictures below are of me testing all these hairstyles over the course of 2 weeks – through the BAD workouts and the good!  Now, I am posting the winning styles here for you!

what are some tried and tested hairstyles for race day

All the hairstyles I tested over 2 weeks…

BRAID #1 :  The Braided Mohawk

what are some hairstyles for race day for triathletes

The braided mohawk.

For this style, french braid 2 or 3 tiny braids on each side of your head and secure with a clip, temporarily.  French braid one large braid down the middle, eventually working in your small braids into the main braid.

BRAID #2 :  The Fishtail Braid

do you have ideas for hairstyles for race day for a triathlete

The fishtail braid.

Split your hair into 2 even sections around the top of the back of your head.  Grab a small strand of hair from section 1 and move it to the outside of section 2.  Then, grab a small section from section 2 and move it to the outside of section 2.  Okay, so if it sounds confusing, here’s a tutorial on how to do a fishtail braid to help.

BRAID #3:  The Headband Braid to Buns

what are some hairstyles for race day that work for athletes

The headband braid to bun.

I love this braid.  There’s so many different ways you can make a headband braid, too.  Basically, you start below the ear and take tiny sections to braid up over your head, ending at the back of your neck. Then, do two normal pigtail french braids all the way down into 2 twist buns.  This is my go to style.  I used to do it without the headband.

what are some hairstyles for race day that work for triathletes

My go to braid.

BRAID #4:  The Side Braid

what are some hairstyles for race day that work under a helmut

The side braid.

This style is just a cuter deviation from the single braid.  I part my hair on the side and start french braiding the side with the most hair.  Once it gets to the back of the head, I start pulling hair from the side with the least hair, pulling it around to the opposite side I started from.

BRAID # 5:  The Criss-Cross Braid

any ideas for hairstyles for race day that work under a swim cap

The criss-cross braid.

Okay, this is best explained in the criss-cross braid tutorial where I learned it from.  But basically, you pigtail the french braid as normal.  Then,  when you get to the back of the head, you leave out two strands of hair.  You NEARLY finish your french pigtail braids, then go back to the small strands you left out and braid them all the way down.  You cross them and then use those strands to continue your french braid pigtails.

BRAID # 5: The Swirl Braid

what are some hairstyles for race day

The swirl braid.

This is not 3 braids –  this is really only one braid!!  You first part your hair on the side.  Then, start on the side with the most hair and french braid it around in a circle (leaving hair to braid later from in the middle of your head) back up to the top of your head.  Continue STRAIGHT down and over the first part of that braid!

Tips & Tricks

  • For layered hair:  end the braid sooner, so there’s more ponytail at the bottom.  I find it helps my hair stay intact better.
  • If the wet ponytail on your back gets annoying, try tying the remains into a bun.
  • All of these braids are done without hair clips or bobby pins.  Clips hurt under a helmet after 1 hour.  Trust me on this one.
  • Test race hair before the race, just like you would a new running shoe.  You have to make sure it’s comfortable for you!

So, this is how I manage to keep my hair looking decent on race day.  For me, there’s pressure enough just with the race, so it helps if I feel good about myself and don’t have to worry about what’s going on with my hair.  I know it may sound vain, but hey we’re girls, too.  I hope the styles work for you.  Since not all of you have long hair, I’ll be back soon with Part 2 and how to do deal with short hair on race day.

If you are around the LA area, A RUNNER’S CIRCLE will be having a race day hair clinic at their Hollywood store lead by myself and Kaitlin!  Check ARC’s Facebook and website for details soon!



My friend and hair stylist at Humphreys.

Here’s a special behind the scenes time lapse video just for fun!

Until next time, keep being young, wild, and free, you sexy, single, 20-something trident triathlete you. And, go PR on the course and in life.

what are some hairstyles for race day that work for athletes

Modeling for Runyon Canyon Apparel.