Getting primed for race day requires a few essentials: dedication, training, grit, heart—and for many elite athletes, a kickass hairstyle that not only keeps those strands out of the way while conquering obstacles but also shows major spirit. Here, Spartans share the go-to workout hairstyles that get them through all that mud, sweat, and tears with sass to spare.
8 Insanely-Cool (and Effective) Workout Hairstyles
Fierce Faux Hawk
Leah Duhon likens experimenting with her hair to art. “It’s like a canvas attached to my head. I love epic mohawk-type workout hairstyles, so after messing around with a bunch of versions, I came up with this upside down, backwards twisted braid. It’s tight, doesn’t move while I run or climb on obstacles, keeps every bit of hair out of my face, and makes me feel intimidating. I get insanely nervous before races, and having a badass look makes me feel way more confident and ready. If I look good, I feel good, and if I feel good, I race good.”
Swipe this style: Start with tight Dutch braids (reverse French braids created by crossing the strands under instead of over each other) on each side of your head, leaving enough hair on top for a thick braid down the center. Flip your head upside down, and create a Dutch braid starting at the nape of your neck and going up toward the forehead. Pin the ends of the braid underneath. Run a bit of hair wax or pomade over top to hold.
Laura O’Donnell’s colorful coif sparks joy all around. “I wanted to celebrate life and fun with a multicolored look,” O’Donnell says. It’s a workout hairstyle that generates buzz wherever she races. “I can’t tell you the number of people that start a conversation with me because of it. It creates a connection because it’s different. People remember you because different is memorable.”
Swipe this style: While O’Donnell puts her painted tresses in the hands of a pro, you can mimic the look at home with a hair chalk like Splat, which comes in a variety of shades and is applied like a crayon down the length of your hair. It washes out instantly, so you can color all you want.
Spartan Dorothy Leung’s look of choice features two French braids along the sides of her head that merge into one. “My hair is very long, and French braids keep my hair pretty, out of my face during the run, and contained so it won’t get caught under the barbed wires. I have French braids for every race—and also make them for my Spartan sisters if time allows.”
Swipe this style: Divide hair into a center part and separate into sections on either side. Tightly French braid the first section from the crown to the nape of the neck and secure with an elastic, leaving the length free. Repeat on the other side and join the lengths together into one low ponytail. Braid ponytail and secure with an elastic.
As her tried-and-true strand tamer, Lauren Tripp opts for a look she calls “The Super Bun” for race day. “It’s also my go-to for running and gym classes. This bun holds solid. Sometimes I even keep it through the next day!” Tripp says. “I tested it out on the last two Supers in Fayetteville and Asheville, and it kept my hair out of the way through all obstacles. I get major knots with a ponytail when running, another reason why I like to use this.”
Swipe this style: Secure hair in a tight, high ponytail and fasten with an elastic. Twist the ponytail and wrap it around the elastic to create the bun and secure with another hair tie. Tripp uses a generous amount of strong-hold hairspray to keep it in place.
Braids are all in the family for Theodore Leung. The young Spartan sported a tri-braided workout hairstyle–a take on his mom’s look. “Like mother, like son; Theodore loves to style his hair before Spartan Kids races,” says his mom, Dorothy. “This year, he requested French braids, too.”
Swipe this style: Separate the front of the hair into three small sections and French braid each from the forehead to the neck. Secure each with an elastic. Gather the ends in a bun at the back of the head.
Braids for Days
For Shannon Morris, tiny all-over braids are her race-day jam. “I love braids for races because they are so easy–and make for great pics. My hairstylist and I strategize on the best looks for me and my races. This particular hairstyle took seven hours!”
Swipe this style: Morris recommends wearing your hair up in a ponytail to keep it out of the way when you have a hairstyle featuring more than a couple of braids.
Related: These 4 Race-Day Rituals Work
Pretty in Pink
Rachel Wall’s daughters, Brylee and Avery, wanted to do something fun with their hair, so they went for matching pink braided ponytails to go with their outfits. “To them, Spartan is about being different and standing out,” Wall says. “They are able to show themselves the way they want, and it made them more confident in their abilities and the race.”
Swipe this style: Secure hair in a tight ponytail and braid down the length, fastening ends with an elastic. Wall applied pink hairspray from the party section at Walmart (it washes out easily!).
Kristen Perkins found inspiration for her intricate braids within braids by doing her research. “I spent countless hours on Google searching for warrior-type workout hairstyles and came up with these; I’m always looking for fun, creative designs,” Perkins says.
Swipe this style: Perkins created her hairstyle by tightly French braiding tiny sections from underneath the front of her head on either side, going from the sides to the crown and securing with elastics. She then combined the ends of those braids, split it into two sections, and French braided each straight back.