This Ramadan, Keep Moving

Just about a week to go until Ramadan, in sha Allah!

Every year, the period leading up to Ramadan is flooded with a lot of nervicitement (yes it’s a new word coined for moments of nervous excitement alright!) with discussions ranging from resolution and goal setting to menu planning.

During this time we make a conscious effort in realigning our spiritual well being, spending time in prayer, supplication learning and reciting the Holy Qur’an. While this remains the main focus of the month, we still have  to carry on with our daily chores and activities – and this whether we like it or not – includes maintaining our fitness levels.

In the past, I, like many others, absolved myself of any fitness related activities during Ramadan, simply because of the fears of dehydration, fatigue and hanger, which ultimately would take away from the spirit of the month. However, while making up for some missed fasts this past month, I trained and it dispelled all the notions I had built up in my head. In fact, I felt energized, Alhamdulillah!

I am a moderately active person with average fitness levels. Between work and school runs, I manage to train 3-4 days a week during which I do a mix of weight training and running.  So here I am sharing learnings from my own experience – a beginner’s perspective if you like – to encourage you all to keep moving this Ramadan!

When do I train?

I choose to train 60-90 mins before Iftar for about 30-45 minutes. While many suggest it is better to train after iftar or before suhoor, I go with what works best for my schedule. Since school and work schedules operate on shorter timings here in the Middle East, there should be enough time to prep Iftar and dinner well in advance.

The other recommended times are generally post-iftar or pre-suhoor, times at which our bodies are better hydrated and nourished.

What kind of training?

The training intensity would vary based on when you choose to train. Since this will be the first Ramadan I will be training, I plan to stick to a light schedule, which ensures that I keep my body moving.

Model: Nura Arabi Wearing Nashata Modest Sports Wear

  • Yoga routines: There are many free apps and videos which take you through simple routines that range from 10 minute warm up exercises to 40 minute deep restorative routine which are fantastic in relaxing your muscles and breaking a sweat without tiring you out.
  • Functional Training: This involves compound movements that mimic patterns from daily life. Here again, there are several apps which have routines of varying effort and duration to guide you through a simple routine. If this is the first time you would be training while fasting, I suggest relying purely on your body weight and gradually introducing light weights based on how your body takes to the stress of fasting. Start with 3 sets of approximately 10 reps of each exercise. Some great exercises are:
    • Step Ups
    • Squats
    • Walking lunges
    • Push Ups
  • Brisk Walking / Jogging: Considering the weather in the UAE during this time of the year, I stick to the treadmill. Each day of fasting can feel different, so choose a speed and incline based on how you feel on that particular day. As tempting it is to push yourself to try harder, this is not the time to set new challenges. Start with a 15 minute walk, which you can then increase gradually in duration, speed and effort as you progress.

For the sake of avoiding repetition, I will not delve into the What to Eat during Ramadan spiel. But I will emphasize  this – HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE! And start preparing your body from today. With the time being between iftar and suhoor being so short in the summer months, it may not be possible to maintain fluid intake as you would on regular days. The solution? EAT water! Hydration is aided by the intake of foods rich in water content and potassium rich foods which help maintain the electrolyte balance in our bodies.

As we all know, the key to having a productive and less stressful Ramadan is being organised.  So plan ahead and schedule in your time to train!

Wishing you all a blessed Ramadan. May it be source of nourishment for our minds and bodies!

Sir Bani Yas Challenge (29-30 March 2018)

Marwa Al Wadhahi, a young Omani lady who is enthusiastic about sports and adventure shares her experience at the Sir Bani Yas Challenge 2018. She loves challenges, pushing her limits and experiencing new things. She works in the Oil & Gas industry during the day and passionately practices sports in the evening and holidays. 

Marwa Al Wadhahi

I was very excited when I saw the announcement of Sir Bani Yas Challenge which was originally consisting of 3 km of kayaking, 10 km of trail running and 37 km of cycling. I was excited because I never cycled and kayaked these distances, I’ve never been to Sir Bani Yas and I’ve never done a 50 km challenge in single day. Basically the challenge had a variety of activities and in a unique and exciting venue.

Wildlife at Sir Bani Yas

Sir Bani Yas Island in the Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, was the venue of the challenge. The island was one of the first “Greening of the Desert” projects established by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1971. Over the years it became one of the UAE largest animal reserves and is home to over 15,000 free roaming animals and birds.

Due to circumstances out of control, the cycling was cancelled and the challenge was modified to become a total of +33 km of an amazing hike on & between mountains, fun kayaking and a long trail run.

The challenge was tough, we started at 6.30 am where the weather was foggy and nice then it got hotter as time passed approaching noon. I personally absolutely loved the hike and the kayaking, I found the trail run (which was the majority of the race) fun at the beginning but then it was really torturous due to the heat, strong pulsing cramps and trail that felt like infinity as the long distance was new to me.

I pushed myself hard, I felt like crying, I felt like giving up, I thought to myself “What made me do this? What was I thinking” I literally felt physically and mentally exhausted. However, because I signed up for the challenge with a mindset and goal to finish as a minimum and despite all the pain and torture I felt, I was absolutely determined to finish, I limped, I walked, I jogged with pain until the finish line.

Husaak Support Stations

On the other hand, the organisers, Husaak Adventures, and fellow participants along the way were very supportive which injected me with positive energy amid the suffering, I smiled to them, felt positive and said to myself that I can do it and I should not give up even though I felt like it! Giving up was just not an option for me. I had fun chatting with some participants along the way and cheering others to continue as well which really makes a difference and pushes people further. Organizers were at the water/food stations and also driving back and forth with cars cheering, checking on us and supplying water

Hiking Trail Views

With a few hundred people participating, Alhamdulillah I’m proud to finish 4th out of more than a 100 female participants, and 33th Overall out of almost 300 male & female participants 🏁 I really pushed myself that day. I haven’t had specific training for this event, just my regular gym training. So I was basically fit but not really trained for this kind of long distance running.

Trail Run

I believe if I hydrated more in the weeks leading to the event and practiced long runs, it would have went even better. Maybe I wasn’t trained enough or ready to go at the pace I was going at but the experience was definitely enriching. The feeling of true struggle that I haven’t felt in a long time, but pushing hard and fighting pain & fatigue to reach the finish line was priceless.

Nashata at the The Dubai Women’s Run 2017

The Dubai Women’s Run held on 17.11.17 was a very special run for me in more ways than one.   

Firstly, It marked the launch of Nashata in the UAE, a project which I had envisioned   with the founder, Eliza, exactly one year ago.

Alhamdulillah, it came to fruition with a lot of support and encouragement from family and friends, despite the many bumps and hurdles along the way.

Secondly, the event proved to be a huge learning experience for me.  Running is truly a metaphor for life – so many life lessons reinforced through my period of training and of course race day.

 

The importance of setting goals –big or small. 

I am not a runner.  Far from it in fact. I had been telling myself that I will run a 5K “some day” for quite some time – until I decided that I needed to set myself a target date.  So I signed up for the run,and followed an 8 week training program on a running app.

As a mother venturing into a new business, keeping up with the app’s schedule was not always easy – but I tried to maintain some form of discipline and prioritized my time for training as my time for calm and focus.  Race day was challenging but I managed to shave a good minute from my previous time.

The best part –  the adrenaline rush lasts for a good 48 hours 😊

Compete with yourself, not others, and that will always bring out a better version of you 

At the end of the day, running is all about effort.  You will get uncomfortable.  You will want to stop.  You will ask yourself many times, “How am I going to make it to the finish line?”  You just have to keep moving!

Finishing the race becomes so much more about your mindset than your physical ability.  I slowed down at several points during the race, but as the time raced towards the 40 minute mark (my previous time), I sprinted to the finish line to finish at 39.06 mins.  Yes,  every second counts.  

 

There will always be records to beat – aim for your personal best!

Celebrating our own identities

The run was a beautiful confluence of so many women from different backgrounds, fitness levels with different goals.  There were mothers running with their daughters, women dressed in Indian saris, hijabs and abayas, all participating at the same event.  It challenged me to see beyond my own presumptions.  We can carry and celebrate our identities anywhere and everywhere.

So here’s to being proactive, setting goals, making no more gccexcuses and constantly striving to bring out the better version of ourselves each day, in sha Allah!

So…who’s up for a 10K?

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