How to work in Ramadan work outs
By Ibrahim Abdul-Matin
Abstaining from water and food during these long and hot summer days is not going to be easy. As we attempt to purify ourselves spiritually and physically and learn good habits for the year to come, I wonder, could working out be part of our Ramadan routine?
In the past few years, advice on good foods to eat and lifestyle tips to help us operate optimally during Ramadan have been the rage on blogs and social media. In general, I appreciate this advice. Thanks to Muslim Observer columnists like Noor Salem, I am now well aware that broccoli, avocados, oatmeal, eggs, fruit, water, and of course the sunnah – dates – are an ideal mix of foods for suhoor and/or iftar. Thanks to columnists like Sayeda Habib, I’m taking to heart using Ramadan to improve relationships and de-clutter our living environment.
So where does working out and staying in shape fit into all of this internal and external work?
As a physically active person, this has been a recurring theme for quite some time. In high school I remember running wind sprints in basketball practice during Ramadan and staying in the middle of the court when my teammates took a water break. Later, as a college football player, I ate suhoor on campus with a handful of students and headed to early morning workouts immediately after Fajr. Those days were brutal. After practice, the team went to lunch to eat and drink heartily while I found time to pray, study, or sleep.
As an adult, I no longer participate in competitive athletics and struggle to be physically active on a regular basis. As a full-time working dad, time is limited. Sometimes, I need motivation. I need a reason. This year, Ramadan feels like it could be the reason.
Am I crazy to think adding working out to Ramadan, but especially to THIS Ramadan with the long days? Can I really stop eating from 4am – 8:30pm, manage my kids, job, and work out? I interviewed some friends who are elite Muslim athletes who may have figured out the right balance.
Ibtihaj Muhmmad, USA fencing world champion, will be away in Europe for training camp this Ramadan. She said, “In the few weeks leading up to Ramadan, I have been more conscious about eating foods that will provide me with the most energy throughout the day and keep me hydrated during my training camp.” She explained that her diet is protein rich, filled with fruits and lots of water. The key, Ibtihaj explained, is the planning and prepping. Just like many of us shop to stock our fridges and pantries to get ready, our bodies need to get ready for Ramadan, especially if physical activity will be a part of it.
Then, when Ramadan starts, Ibtihaj finds creative ways to use hours of the day. She says, “Most people sleep between taraweeh and suhoor, but I use the time to refuel my body, and drink tons of water, to prepare for next day’s training.”
Another friend and basketball player shared, “My general approach to training/working out in Ramadan is to cut back on cardio and focus more on weight lifting/strength training/plyometrics.” So in this case, the key is changing the type of workout to something less intense but still effective.
The next big question is when is the right time during a long day of fasting, to work out? My sense is this depends entirely on each person, their schedules, and their bodily rhythms. For example, I’m a morning person and most energetic before noon. That might be the right time for me. My wife on the other hand, is a night owl, so maybe post-Isha is best for her. There’s also scheduling around suhoor and/or iftar. Working out two hours before iftar means you’ll be able to refuel soon. Working out before suhoor allows the same benefit. One year, when my life was less crazy, I did sprints before suhoor and a mile right before iftar. That was one of the best Ramadans of my life!
Who wants to try this out with me? Maybe creating a hashtag can keep us sharing and motivated all month long. Maybe “BeLikeIbtihaj , #RunRamadan, #LiftRamadan, or even just #StretchMorethanUsualRamadan.
I hope you are looking forward to transforming life, spirit, and body as much as I am.