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Exercise During Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time of fasting and prayer, as well as a time to celebrate with family and friends. For some, the idea of fasting while keeping a consistent workout routine sounds impossible. Thanks to the will and commitment of two of my clients, I have learned that exercise during Ramadan is very possible.

My client Kimya and I have known each other for several years and have worked together consistently for nearly two years. For Kimya, healthy eating and consistent exercise is a lifestyle, not a quick fix. She was doing online programming with me well before the gyms shutdown. And she was seeing real results! Last June, during the first shutdowns and chaos, Kimya told me about the Fasting of Ramadan. She explained that she would eat before Sunrise, then again after Sundown. It was important for us to design a plan that would maximize her energy intake first thing in the morning. We agreed that she would eat before sunrise, then workout right after. We also scaled back some of her cardio and limited strength to balance movements and low-resistance movements. Then we continued our weekly phone check-ins to discuss her progress and any changes that needed to be made to her plan. She was open about her struggles when things got tough. At the close of Ramadan 2020, we were both pleased to see how Kimya was able to ease back into her regular workout plan.

This March, Kimya's Sister / friend Kristina starting working with me as well. Kristina lives in a different state, so we have been doing Virtual sessions through Zoom. When we started, she was eager to get back to the exciting workouts she was used to doing, 2-3 times a week, before a five month break. We started with once a week for four weeks, then added a second day. In the past month, she has gradually worked her way back to her previous high performance level. With Ramadan approaching, we discussed how we could adjust her work out time to maximize her energy intake. Kristina is a nurse who works overnight, so first thing in the morning wouldn't work for her. We were training together at 10AM, Tuesdays and Fridays through Zoom. She decided she would work out at 7PM to be finished at Sunset. So I designed an Online program for her, specifically for Ramadan. She is able to follow the workouts on her time and check in with me once a week. If at any time she feels the workouts are too draining, or too easy, we will adjust. The main goal is to keep her consistent and maintain her progress.

Here are some tips from Kimya and Kristina for success with exercise during Ramadan:

  1. Plan ahead. Kimya started reducing the amount of snacking she was doing in the middle of the day to prepare her body and her mind for fasting. She also had a plan for when she wanted to workout.

  2. Stay hydrated, with water! Hydration is especially important during a time of fasting.

  3. Veggies and lean protein are easier to digest after breaking fast than heavy meats. Kristina is eating less and less meat during this time because the lighter food feels better going down in the evening.

  4. Fasting does not automatically equal weight loss. Kristina knows a lot of people believe this myth. But she wants them to know that the body will go into starvation mode, storing all energy as fat to protect itself. As a result, many people gain weight rather than losing it. Balancing a healthy diet with consistent movement will keep the body properly burning fat and using energy to maintain homeostasis (healthy state).

It is such a blessing to be able to help Kimya and Kristina during this very special time. People should not have to choose between celebrating a sacred time and staying in shape. As long as there is planning and support, consistent exercise is still possible. More than that, it is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle that honors the mind, the body and the soul.

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