Hijab Promotes Inner Beauty

Wearing the hijab comes with a heavy responsibility. Not only are we, as women and mothers, the role models for our children, but we represent our families, our communities and our religion. When people look at a Muslim woman the first thing they see is her scarf. Someone who knows nothing about Islam is likely to judge the entire religion based on the actions of that woman. Therefore, it is up to us to uphold the morals and values of Islam as best we can.

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As World Hijab Day is nearing, I thought it was a good time to reflect upon the hijab. I wanted to reflect not just on the importance of the hijab itself but how it has shaped my life, particularly in my field of work as a fitness trainer.

I’ve been wearing hijab for about one year now, alhamdulillah. Of course, the hijab changed me in so many more ways than just my choice of clothing. Hijab started off as something physical. It made me look different. It made me look Muslim. It hid my hair and body. It acted as a barrier between me and strange men.

But as time went on it started working a little more deeply. I began to notice that I was being respected. People were forced to look at my eyes and not my body. I felt proud of the courage I had to wear it regardless of what others thought. I became more aware of my actions and words. And most importantly, I felt a deeper connection to Allah (swt).

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While hijab was helping me in many ways, it was also hard. The hardest part about hijab for me was fitness. As a trainer I thought, “who will want to be my client if I can’t prove to them I have what it takes?” I thought proving I was a good trainer meant showing off my hard-earned muscle as a way to prove I was fit and able. I didn’t think people would take me seriously. But I trusted Allah (swt) and knew that if I had given something up for His sake, He would give me back something better.

As a trainer I had always said health and fitness was about more than just looks, but I never truly felt it. Putting on the hijab helped me to truly grasp the concept of inner health. Of course, I still wanted to look good and be happy with my body, but that became less of my aim and focus. I started feeling beautiful on the inside.

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I was eating better food; I was eating food for their nutrients and the benefit I could gain from them, rather than just eating for low calories. I developed a more well-rounded sense of health; a sense of health that enveloped full-body awareness. Awareness of the mind, body and spirit. Religion actually became a part of my health practices, and health became a means of worship and giving thanks to Allah for all that He blessed me with. And I think that this radiated off of me.

I realized that I was still getting clients. I realized that I now had the power to not only talk about full-body health, but to promote it through my own lifestyle.

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People may not be able to see my body, but is that a true indicator of a healthy person anyways? A healthy person is someone who works not only on their bodies but on their mind and soul as well. A healthy person is someone who balances between food they love and food that is nutritious. A healthy person is some who feeds their spirit. A healthy person is someone who recognizes the issues surrounding this world and lends a helping hand. A healthy person is someone who practices patience, gives their body a break when it needs one, and loves themselves through every step of their journey.

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As hijabis, we have that power to change the fundamental notions of society. We don’t have to live by the idea that beauty and looks are everything. We have the ability to force people to look at our hearts, personalities and intelligence. We have the ability to help other women who believe that their worth lies in their beauty alone. We can promote self-awareness and self-love. We have the choice to use health and fitness as a means of worship and showing gratitude, rather than using it to flaunt our bodies.

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As Muslim women, we have an obligation. An obligation to follow the Qur’an and Sunnah regardless of the barriers our society may put up. Hijab can evoke fear in some people, especially in Western cultures. But if we wear our hijab with confidence and dignity and portray as many characteristics as our beloved Prophet (saw) as we can, we can change that. We can stand up for women around the world and show that health is so much more than our external being. We are unique. We are beautiful. We don’t hide behind our hijab, rather, we use it to blossom.

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11 Ways to Stay Healthy All Year Round

It’s that time again; time to get ready for the New Year. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s really a refreshing feeling to be able to reflect on the previous year and look ahead to something new and exciting and different. Write out goals, create a plan, take advantage of a fresh start, begin your journey and start the things you haven’t gotten around to.

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The New Year is not about becoming a new you, rather it’s about becoming a better, healthier version of you. We often get confused by the word health and think it means weight loss or exercise. In reality, health encompasses all aspects of human nature from physical and mental health, to spirituality, to human relationships, even to hygiene. An important New Year’s resolution is to cultivate a well-rounded health plan to help you look and feel your best. Here are 11 ways you can maintain complete health and well-being all year round.

 

Eat right

Commit to healthy eating. Choose real foods over packaged foods, cook with fresh herbs and spices rather than overloading dishes with salt, cut back on sugar, drink more water and shop at your local farmers market whenever you can. Want help getting started? Download my Free E-Book here which includes everything you want to know about healthy eating along with a Free Meal Plan!

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Exercise

That’s right it’s time to get moving. If you’re already into working out, set some goals that will keep you motivated and challenged throughout the year. If you’re new to the game, commit to at least three times per week of any type of workout you enjoy. The fun part is exploring. Try a yoga class, hit the weights, take a fun group fitness class, get together with some friends for a hike and a picnic. Make it enjoyable and you will be more likely to stick to it year round.

 

Sleep well

A good night’s sleep is essential to your health. Sleep is your body’s time to recharge and to build the immune system back to where it should be. Sleep helps ward off fatigue, depression, anxiety and laziness. Turn off your phone, drink a hot cup of sleepy time tea, and devote 8 solid hours of your night to sleep.

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Floss daily

Flossing once a day is extremely important in terms of dental hygiene. Not only does it help with fresh breath, but it removes plaque from the areas between your teeth that your toothbrush doesn’t get. This helps to prevent cavities and gum disease. It doesn’t matter when you floss, as long as you do it daily and do a thorough job you are on your way to having healthy teeth.

 

Skin care

Developing a regular skin care routine will help you to look and feel beautiful and clean. You can even develop a regimen based on your personal skin care needs. Everyone should wash their face twice per day (morning and evening) and should use a minimum of a face wash and moisturizer. Adding serum and toner to your skin care routine will provide added benefits. For oily skin use gentle cleansers as harsh ones that dry out the face can trigger the production of more oil. For dry skin use gentle, fragrance-free washes and use warm rather than hot water. Anti-aging products are great to slow down the appearance of those unwanted lines.

 

Stay hydrated

Water is not just important during the hot summer weather. It’s imperative to stay hydrated all year round. Water acts as a lubricant in the body and helps ease the process of digestion. It also regulates body temperature, removes harmful toxins from the body and transports oxygen and other valuable nutrients throughout the body. Everybody is different and may need different amounts of water, but in general it is recommended to drink about 2 liters of water per day (this is equal to ½ gallon or eight 8-oz glasses).

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Care for your hair

Hair care is crucial not just for keeping it looking nice but to avoid damage to hair that may result in hair loss. So how do you take proper care of your locks? It is recommended to trim dead ends every 6-8 weeks to prevent the look of unhealthy and frizzy hair. Use a shampoo that is designed for your hair type. Brush your hair daily but do it gently by starting with a wide-tooth comb and never brushing while it’s wet. Avoid using a hair dryer, curler or flat iron as much as possible. A healthy diet will also promote healthy hair.

 

Grow spiritually

Don’t just use Ramadan as the one time of the year where you work on your relationship with Allah (swt). As Muslims we should be in a constant state of becoming better, seeking more knowledge, and getting closer to Allah (swt). Set some goals that you can perform all year round, such as reading Qur’an every day, not missing prayers, making dhikr, and memorizing some Qur’an.

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Fix relationships

Relationships and human interaction are an important part of our health. Use this year to work on those relationships. Fix broken friendships. Apologize to those who you lost touch with. Visit your relatives, especially those that are old or sick. Develop strong trust and communication within your relationships. Foster new friendships by introducing yourself to new people when you’re out or at social events. Good, healthy relationships play a key role in mental health as well as influencing our actions. Surround yourself with those who you can learn form but who also share some common values and interests.

 

Perform good deeds

There is a reason why zakat is among the five pillars of Islam. Charity and good deeds have been linked to health, happiness and longevity. Not only do good deeds help you grow religiously, but they are beneficial to your health, subhanallah! While zakat refers specifically to payment to the needy, Islam stresses the importance of all types of righteous acts. Performing good deeds all year round is very easy. Visit the sick, volunteer at a local children’s hospital, set up a fundraiser, donate to your favorite charity, adopt a cat that has no home. Let your year be filled with kindness and good acts.

 

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Keep your mental health in check

This is the aspect of health that is often left to the side. With our busy schedules, stressful jobs and heavy responsibilities we forget to tend to our emotional well-being. This coming year, pay attention to how you are feeling. Take some time each day to do something for yourself. Whether it’s lying down for 15 minutes in silence, reading a book with a cozy pair of socks and a hot chocolate, spend some time caring for yourself. Use some relaxation tactics when things are getting stressful, talk to someone you trust when you’re having a tough time. Pay as much attention to your mental state as you do your body.

 

May we all constantly work to become better in each aspect of our lives. May the New Year bring on an abundance of health, happiness and laughter…and many more years to come. Ameen.

Glutes & Hammies Mat Workout

Lower body strength is very important not just for shapely legs or muscle symmetry, but for reduced risk of injury, efficient fat burning, and overall total body strength. Your leg muscles are among the largest in your body, and helping them grow will facilitate more fat-burning and a speedy metabolism. In addition, strong legs help to reduce the risk of common injury and provide substantial power to the entire body, increasing your ability in sports and other athletic activities.

When considering exercise, many people will focus on doing cardio and upper-body strength training; it is a common mistake to think that cardio such as running and biking is a replacement for training legs. While these activities are great for the body and do help generate some lower body strength, more specific means of strength training for legs are what will really provide you with the best results possible.

Let’s take a look at the following routine focusing on the glutes and hamstrings. Don’t be fooled by this seemingly simple routine, it is low-impact but will really have you feeling the burn! Take it at your own pace and remember to rest when you need to. Remember that this is meant to target the glutes and hamsrings so you should really feel these two muscle working throughout the routine. This routine should be completed by executing each exercise down the list once. Try to rest as little as possible between each exercise (30-60 seconds). Descriptions of exercises and links to videos are posted below.

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40 Sumo Squats 

50 Single Leg Bridges (25 each leg)

50 Glute Kickbacks (25 each leg)

50 Glute Kickbacks (25 each leg) 

50 Donkey Kicks (25 each leg)

100 Walking Lunges (50 each leg)

DESCRIPTIONS & VIDEOS

Sumo Squats – Start in a wide stance with feet more than shoulder width apart and toes pointing slightly outward. Keeping the weight in your heels, chest up, and knees pointed out, push the hips back and squat down as low as you can go.

Single Leg Bridges – Start by laying on the floor on your back with the feet flat and knees bent. Raise one leg up off of the ground and keep it at around a 45 degree angle. Now, execute the movement by driving through the heel, extending the hips upward and raising the glutes off of the ground. After 25 sets, repeat with the opposite foot on the ground.

Glute Kickbacks – Begin on your hands and knees on the floor or on an exercise mat; your back should be parallel to the ground. Lift one leg up straightening it out at the top and flexing the foot. Squeeze the glutes for a second at the top, then bring the leg back down without completely touching the floor. After 25 sets repeat on the other leg.

Donkey Kicks – Begin on all fours  with hands and feet should width apart and back parallel to the ground. This exercise is very similar to the glute kickbacks. Lift one leg up just as with the exercise above, but this time keeping the knee bent and the foot flexed; lift the leg up until the foot is parallel to the ceiling. Remember to squeeze the abs. Then lower back down to the starting position. After 25 sets repeat on the opposite leg.

Walking Lunges – Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart and hands on hips. Step forward with one leg, bending the knee to drop the hip. Descend until the back knee just about touches the ground (be sure that the front knee does not go over the toes). Maintain an upright posture the entire time.

 

Which Type of Yogi Are You?

Yoga seems to be growing immensely in popularity. Everywhere I look I find aspiring yogis. I suppose this has to do with its amazing physical and mental benefits. Yoga encompasses many important aspects of balanced fitness, such as strength, flexibility, relaxation, and perhaps most importantly, inner fortitude. Yoga is a practice of constantly challenging both the mind and the body. As I have taken an interest in yoga myself I have been getting a lot of questions from women asking where to begin with yoga.

The first and most important step in beginning a yoga practice is determining which type of yoga is right for you. Yoga is such a personal and individualized practice that is not a one-size-fits-all. The type of yoga I perform may not be right for someone else, and vice versa. It’s all about your interests, your goals, and your personal style. Here I will discuss six common forms of yoga. It is my hope with this post that you will be able to find your inner yogi!

 

Hatha Yoga

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The term hatha yoga refers to a few different styles of yoga that are combined to create a simple class that teaches the basic poses. Although this form of yoga can differ, in general it is a gentle, slow-paced class that combines poses with breathing techniques. Hatha yoga is great for beginners but keep in mind that you may have to try out a few different classes to find one that suits your pace.

 

Lyengar Yoga

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This gentle form of yoga is slow-paced and very detail-oriented, really emphasizing proper alignment in order to strengthen the muscles while protecting the joints. These classes often use props like yoga blocks and straps in order to help the practitioner get into the poses. For these reasons, lyengar yoga is another great style for beginners who want to learn proper technique, as well as people who suffer from pain. However, if you are experiencing pain due to some type of neck, back or other injury, you should always consult with a physician before taking up any form of physical activity, including yoga.  This class is often quite long, between 90 minutes to two hours, and includes standing, seated and twisting asanas (poses) as well as inversions like shoulder stands and backbends. Don’t let the inversions scare you away! They provide many benefits to the physical body and your teacher will always help you to modify and work your way up.

 

Kundalini Yoga

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A very soft form of yoga that is more about the emotional experience, rather than the physical one. Classes include a mix of meditation, breathing techniques, chanting, and yoga poses. Kundalini yoga is great for those who are looking to gain the relaxation benefits of yoga.

 

Bikram Yoga

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Also known as hot yoga, this is a more challenging type of yoga where you do a sequence of 26 poses in a very hot room that is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius). Hot yoga is great for those wanting to increase flexibility, as the heat tends to loosen up the muscles, which in turn increases one’s ability to stretch further.

 

Vinyasa Yoga

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Also known as power yoga this type of westernized yoga is somewhat like hatha in that it contains a mix of different yoga styles, but is more fast-paced. This is a very athletic and challenging form of yoga and is great for those who are ready to move at a faster pace and those who want to lose weight. Power yoga is based on the sequence of poses in the ashtanga yoga series which we will get to next. This yoga class will include vinyasa’s (sequences of continuous movement), standing and seated asanas, and even some inversions.

 

Ashtanga Yoga

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This is probably the most physically demanding of all yoga forms. Ashtanga includes a non-stop series of vinyasa’s and asanas combined with a breathing technique to connect the mind and body. This style of yoga is deeply rooted in tradition and is practiced the same way every-time with the practitioner mastering poses one at a time as they are physically able. This form of yoga is great for those who are relatively experienced in yoga as well as those who like structure and challenge.

 

 

 

 

Beginners Push/Pull Full Body Workout

During this workout, we are going to be focusing on movement patterns during strength training. There are many different way to categorize weight training exercises: (1) exercises can be categorized based on muscle groups being worked, (2) compound vs. isolation exercises or (3) exercises can be categorized based on movement patterns of the body. I like to focus on number three. Movement patterns are the best way to ensure you are training your entire body. Movement patterns in strength training are based on the natural movements of the body.

 

MOVEMENT PATTERNS

There are hundreds of different types of exercises in existence, which is why coming up with a workout routine can be so overwhelming. In reality, however, the human body is really only capable of 6 types of movements (with a 7th miscellaneous group that I will explain later):

1. PUSH (HORIZONTAL & VERTICAL)

2. PULL (HORIZONTAL & VERTICAL)

3. QUAD DOMINANT

4. HIP/HAMSTRING DOMINANT

5. ELBOW FLEXION

6. ELBOW EXTENSION

7. MISCELLANEOUS

 

PUSH MOVEMENTS 

A pushing movement is any type of movement where you are pushing a weight away from your body, or where you are using your body as resistance to push it away from something (like the ground). Push movements can be divided into two groups: horizontal push and vertical push. Here are some examples of both:

Horizontal Push

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A horizontal pushing exercise is any exercise where you are pushing an external weight away from your body in a straight-ward motion, or where you are pushing your mass away from the ground. A horizontal press tends to emphasize the pectorals or chest muscles. Think push-ups and bench press.

  • Push-ups (variations: regular, wide, narrow)
  • Bench Press (variations: flat, low incline, decline)
  • Chest Flyes (variations: incline, flat, decline)

Vertical Push

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A vertical pushing exercise is any exercise where you are pushing an external weight away from your body in an upward or overhead motion, or where you are pushing your mass away from the ground. A vertical press tends to emphasize the shoulder muscles. Think shoulder press:

  • Overhead Shoulder Press (variations: standing or seated)
  • Lateral Raises
  • Front Raises
  • High Incline Bench Press
  • Pushups with feet elevated

PULL MOVEMENTS

A pulling movement is any type of movement where you are pulling a weight towards your body, or where you are using your body as resistance to pull it towards an object. Like pushing movements, pull movements can be divided into two groups: horizontal pull and vertical pull. Here are some examples of both:

Horizontal Pull

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A horizontal pulling exercise is any exercise where you are pulling an external weight towards your body in a straight-ward motion, or where you are pulling your mass towards an object. A horizontal pull tends to emphasize the back muscles. Think rows.

  • Bent Over Back Rows
  • Seated Cable Rows
  • Single-Arm Back Rows
  • Chest Supported Machine Rows
  • TRX Body Row

Vertical Pull

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A vertical pulling exercise is any exercise where you are pulling an external weight vertically towards your body in a downward motion, or where you are pulling your mass upwards toward an object. A vertical pull tends to emphasize the latissimus dorsi muscles (lats). Think pull-ups:

  • Pull-ups
  • Chin-ups
  • Lat Pull Downs

QUAD DOMINANT

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A quad dominant exercise is any type of exercise where your quadriceps are the primary mover. A quad dominant exercise very obviously emphasizes the quadriceps muscles. Think squats.

  • Squats
  • Front Squats
  • Split Squats
  • Lunges
  • Leg Press

HIP/HAMSTRING DOMINANT

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A hip/hamstring dominant exercise is any type of exercise where your hamstrings, quads, or the posterior chain as a whole are the primary mover. A hip/hamstring dominant exercise emphasizes the hamstrings and gluteal muscles. Think deadlifts.

  • Deadlifts (all variations)
  • Bridges
  • Hyperextensions
  • Good Mornings
  • Leg Curls (standing, seated or lying)

ELBOW FLEXION

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An elbow flexion exercise is any exercise where the elbow joint in being flexing in order to move an external weight towards the body. An elbow flexion exercise tends to emphasize the bicep muscles. Think biceps curls.

  • Biceps Curls (standing/seated)
  • Cable Curls
  • Preacher Curls

ELBOW EXTENSION 

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An elbow extension exercise is any exercise where the elbow joint is being extended in order to move an external weight away from the body. Elbow extension exercises tends to emphasize the tricep muscles. Think triceps extension.

  • Laying Triceps Extension
  • Overhead Triceps Extension
  • Triceps Cable Press-downs
  • Overhead Triceps Cable Extensions
  • Tricep Kickbacks

MISCELLANEOUS 

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The movements that fall into the miscellaneous group are other movements that (1) don’t fall into any of the other categories and (2) don’t need to be emphasized as much as the other movements. The other movements, especially the first two, should be paid stark attention to in any weight training program. These miscellaneous movements may or may not be added in. This category includes exercises such as calf raises, rotation/twisting movements, ab exercises, rotator cuff work, etc.

 

WHY ARE MOVEMENT PATTERNS IMPORTANT?

As mentioned above, movement patterns are movements that are natural for the human body to perform. It is imperative to highlight at least one exercise from every movement pattern (or at least the first 2 categories aka push/pull) into your workout routine in order to ensure proper strength training, progress, and symmetry in your overall body composition. The simplest way to come up with a full body routine is to pick one exercise from each category.

 

THE ROUTINE

This routine is a full-body weight training routine utilizing the push/pull movements. It is perfect for beginners as it is very basic and includes all of the big compound exercises which are the foundation to any well-developed strength training routine. This routine would produce the best results if it were performed three times per week. This routine is not a one-time workout. You may use it for however long as you are seeing results! Don’t be afraid to up the weight once it starts feeling easier.

The amount of weight you use is based upon your body. You should be able to perform the minimum number of reps without being able to exceed the maximum amount of reps. If you cannot complete the minimum amount of reps then your weights are probably too heavy. Likewise, if you can do even just two or three more than the maximum amount of reps then your weight is likely too light.

You will perform this routine by executing the first exercise for the prescribed amount of reps. You will rest for 1-2 minutes, then perform that same exercise again for a total of 3 sets. Once you have completed 3 sets of the first exercise, you will move onto the next exercise and repeat the process.

*Note there are two workouts here. The first version is a beginners full/body workout utilizing just the push/pull movements. This workout may seem short and sweet, but I promise it will produce results. The second workout is an extended version where I have utilized all movement categories rather than just push/pull. This version is great for those who are still considered beginners but who have mastered form and technique and who have already been successful with the first version.

I have pasted some links at the bottom of the page in order to show you what some of less well-known exercise should look like.

 

Version 1: Full Body Push/Pull Routine

1. Squats (Quad Dominant): 3 set of 8-10 reps

2. Push-ups (Horizontal Push): 3 sets of 8-10 reps

3. Back Rows (Horizontal Pull): 3 sets of 8-10 reps

4. Deadlifts (hip/hamstring dominant): 3 sets 8-10 reps

5. Assisted Pull-Ups (or Lat Pull-Downs) (Vertical Pull): 3 sets of 8-10 reps

6. Overhead Shoulder Press (Vertical Push): 3 sets 8-10 reps

Version 2: Full Body Extended Routine 

1. Squats (Quad Dominant): 3 set of 8-10 reps

2. Push-ups (Horizontal Push): 3 sets of 8-10 reps

3. Back Rows (Horizontal Pull): 3 sets of 8-10 reps

4. Tricep Kickbacks (Elbow Flexion): 3 sets of 10-12 reps

5. Calf Raises (miscellaneous): 3 sets of 10-12 reps

6. Deadlifts (hip/hamstring dominant): 3 sets 8-10 reps

7. Assisted Pull-Ups (or Lat Pull-Downs) (Vertical Pull): 3 sets of 8-10 reps

8. Overhead Shoulder Press (Vertical Push): 3 sets 8-10 reps

9. Biceps Curls (elbow flexion): 3 set of 10-12 reps

10. Crunches (Miscellaneous): 3 sets of 10-12 reps

VIDEOS

Back Rows – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFq5jdwWwX4

Triceps Kickbacks – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGwUy_JFM54

Deadlifts – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5N3yn4JUozI

Assisted Pull-ups – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgulY7UkwIs

Full Body Bootcamp

Happy #workoutwednesday everyone! Today’s workout is a Full Body Bootcamp! This workout can be done anywhere with just a small pair of dumbells. As with many HIIT workouts, we will be focusing on a mix of cardio and strength. HIIT is a great, fast and efficient way to burn a significant amount of fat. It’s great for days when you just don’t have the time to put in, as these types of workouts can be done at home and in as short as 10 minutes. To do this workout you should perform each exercise down the list one time with minimal to no rest in between. Once you have completed the list you may rest for 60 seconds then repeat for a total of 3 times. Remember, if you are a beginner you can start off with 1-2 times, but don’t be afraid of the challenge!

Because many of the same exercises are being repeated from some previous workouts I have posted I will skip out on the descriptions. I will, however, provide links to YouTube videos for the exercises that are not as well known. Please note that these are not my personal YouTube videos.

Ready. Set. GO!

 

30 jumping jacks

10 push-ups

30 squat jumps

10 tricep dips

30 high knees

10 DB shoulder press

30 switch lunges

10 DB back flies

30 mountain climbers

10 bicep curls

30 burpees

10 lateral raises 

VIDEOS

SQUAT JUMPS – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4s4mEQ5VqU

TRICEP DIPS – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kALZikXxLc

HIGH KNEES – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tx5rgpDAJRI

SWITCH LUNGE – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysXybHNtq2Y

DB BACK FLIES – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1U3yZne1jw

MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmwgirgXLYM

BURPEES – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZQA08SlJnM

Fitness Beyond Looks; Hijab Beyond the Scarf

Up until the hijab went on, my world of fitness wasn’t what it is now. I preached that a healthy body meant more than appearances, but the words never resonated in my heart. I expressed to others the importance of focusing on how they felt, rather than the number on the scale. But here I was stepping on the scale every day to check if the number went down, making myself miserable by following restricting diets, and beating myself up if I didn’t feel like my workouts were ‘good enough.’ I was missing out on the number one piece of advice I was giving everyone else: having fun!

Once I started wearing hijab, not only did my life change, but fitness took on a whole new meaning. When you embrace hijab, you embrace it for reasons far beyond the concept of a hair covering. It becomes your identity, your protection, your safe place. It’s not about hiding behind the loose clothes and long sleeves, rather it’s about letting your personality, intellect and true self shine through. Exercise and nutrition have always been a big part of my life, and hijab has allowed me to grasp its due importance.

I won’t say that looks hold no significance when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. Of course, we all want to feel good about ourselves; to look in the mirror and like what we see, and there is no shame in that. But this is just a small part of the fitness equation. First and foremost we need to learn to enjoy the ride. Fitness is truly a lifestyle, so let’s make it a lifestyle that we love! Since I began wearing hijab, which was almost 1 year ago, I’ve stepped on the scale maybe 2 or 3 times. I’ve lost interest in how much I weigh. I focus on how I feel, I focus on doing workouts I love, and I focus on keeping my inner body healthy for the sake of pleasing Allah.

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Most importantly, I can truly say that I love my body. It’s the same body that I had before I covered, it has the same flaws it has always had, but I’ve somehow managed to appreciate even those. I love it because it’s no longer subjected to society’s harsh beauty standards. I no longer allow my body to be seen, thus judged, by anyone other than myself. I no longer base my workouts on how many calories I can burn. I no longer avoid the foods I love in order to look like the women on magazine covers. People can no longer call me too thin, too muscular, or too much of whatever they see. For once, I am my only judge.

I fell in love with Nashata sportswear because their products allow for modesty, but show sportiness at the same time. I feel beautiful and liberated when I put on my modest workout clothes. Many people think covering up makes for more obstacles, or that it forces one to give upon certain aspects of life, like working out. But in fact I’ve found it is quite the opposite. Hijab has renewed the passion within me, the passion to inspire women through my experiences with health and fitness. It has allowed me to dig into my inner self and develop a complete and balanced sense of fitness. I’ve found a spiritual nature to my workouts and I am able to interconnect a healthy lifestyle with my faith. Hijab has allowed me to attach fitness to something higher than myself. I now keep my body healthy for myself and for the sake of Allah, and no one else.

Women and Weights Part 4: Putting It All Together

So far we have examined the myths of weight lifting for women, the benefits of weight lifting on the mind and body, and how weight lifting can aid in athletic performance. To close out this series I would like to discuss how to put it all together and actually incorporate strength training into your weekly routine. Here is everything you need to put together the optimal weight training program!

 

Goals

In order to successfully create a weight training routine you need to first assess your goals. What is the main objective you want to achieve? Of course, this can vary greatly depending on the individual. For this reason we can combine goals into two categories: looks and performance. People who fall under the category of looks have some type of goal pertaining to the way their body looks; building muscle, losing fat, getting a six-pack, toning up their arms, etc. People who fall under the category of performance have some type of goal pertaining to the way their body performs; improving running speed, jumping higher, building strength, etc. Your training routine will be based upon your individual goal.

 

Muscle Groups

It’s important to have a general and basic understanding of the major muscle groups in the body when training with weights. This knowledge will help you to understand which exercises work which muscle group, as well as how many times per week each muscle group should be worked…which we will be getting to next. The major muscle groups to consider while resistance training are the shoulders, back, chest, biceps, triceps, abdominals, and legs (including calves). Now let’s take a look at how many times we should work each of these muscles per week.

 

Training Frequency

Training frequency is the amount of times each muscle group is worked each week. There are three types of training frequencies. A once per week training frequency is when each muscle gro

up is worked once per week.This is ideal for people who want to maintain their current fitness level, without any goals of

photo build muscle, strength, or changing their appearance. A twice per week training frequency is when each muscle group is worked twice per week. This is ideal for intermediate and advanced trainees with any type of goal. A three times per week training frequency is when each muscle group is worked three times per week and is ideal for beginners with any type of goal.

Types of Resistance Training

There are three different types of resistance training exercises one may engage in: free weight exercises, body weight exercises, and machine exercises. Free weight and bodyweight exercises both allow you to engage in completely natural movements, as well as works the abdominals, other muscles, and is ideal for gym and home use. Machine exercises on the other hand, are known as isolation exercises, as they target the specific muscle being worked. They are not, however, a functional type of exercise so other muscles aren’t engaged, nor are the movement patterns natural. So, how do you know which type of exercise is right for you?

If your goal is performance related (e.g., building strength, improving speed, etc.) then your routine should consist mostly of free weight and body weight exercise, with machines kept to a very minimum and possibly none. If your goal is looks related (e.g., improve body composition, get ‘toned,’ lose fat, etc.) all three types of exercises work, but again, the best bet is to use free weights and body weights as the majority of the workout, but machines are a completely fine alternative.

 

Now, with all of this information in front of you, you’re ready to go out and train those muscles. I hope, through this series, that I was able to inspire some of you to add strength training into your routine in order to experience the amazing benefits it will bring you, inshallah.

 

 

Tricks for Battling Your Sweet Tooth

Sugar cravings are something we are all too familiar with. Sweets tend to be the biggest intercessor when it comes to sticking to a diet. There are many reasons for this. People generally crave junk food more than anything else; it is even the first taste humans prefer at birth! Because of its pleasing nature, people usually reward themselves with sweet foods, causing a further psychological attachment to it. However, the problem doesn’t lie in the sweet foods themselves, rather, it lies in our inability to control how much of it we are putting into our mouths. Indulging in sweets every so often is perfectly fine, after all we need to have a little fun right? The trick is learning how to stop after a few bites rather than allowing a binge. Here are some simple tricks to controlling your sweet tooth.

 

Have some fun.

If you truly enjoy those sugary foods, allow yourself to give into them a little. Granted there are some people who simply can’t control themselves when it comes to sweets and might be better off quitting them cold turkey, but for the most part this is not necessary. Many times this leads to the person giving in at some point down the road and going on a junk-food-binge. Treat yourself here and there, just practice control.

 

Know the difference between hunger and cravings.

Hunger and cravings are two completely different things. Hunger is physical; it is the body’s biological need for food. Cravings, on the other hand, are psychological; it is the brain’s desire for a reward. Try to be mindful of how you feel when you are experiencing one of these two feelings and decide whether you are actually hungry or if you are simple craving food. If you are truly hungry, try eating a meal to satisfy your body, rather than turning to sweets.

 

Mix sweets with healthy options.  

Combining healthy foods with the craving can be a really great way to tame that sweet-tooth. Try dipping a banana in some chocolate sauce, drizzle some caramel on top of an apple, add chocolate chips to your yogurt, or mix some Eminem’s with nuts. This not only limits the amount of sweets you are consuming in a given time, but it will satisfy your craving while adding in the nutritious benefits of healthy items!

 

Keep individually portioned bars in the freezer. 

Switch out the ice cream cartons for individually portioned bars such as fudge bars, creamsicles, or pops. These single-wrapped desserts typically only have between 25-70 calories. Instead of filling your bowl with too much ice cream, this trick gives you just the right amount to be satisfied and free of guilt.

 

Substitute your ice cream.

There are many healthier options to substitute in for ice cream such as sherberts, sorbets, frozen yogurt, gelato, and custards. These contain significantly less calories than ice cream and are much better for you. The best types of substitutes are those that contain natural ingredients. You may also buy these in pre-portioned containers that way you force yourself not to eat too much. Look for items that contain 100 calories or less.

 

Go for ‘better’ sweets.

Choose healthier sweets, such as fruits, smoothies, flavored yogurt, oatmeal cookies, or dark chocolate. These are great ways to satisfy your sweet-tooth with less calories and more nutrition! To satisfy night cravings, try a bed-time tea. I’ve seen bedtime teas carried in so many delicious flavors such as apple cinnamon and sugar cookie! Check your local supermarket to see what flavors they offer.

 

Make your own desserts.

 

Nowadays you can find almost an infinite amount of healthy dessert recipes online (pinterest is my secret!). Start having fun in the kitchen and bake healthy desserts. You can even follow normal dessert recipes and add your own healthy twist by substituting wheat flour for white flour, honey or agave for sugar, unsweetened apple sauce for oil, etc. Get creative and start having fun.

 

Do something else.

If you really feel like staying away from sweets but are having a hard time, try occupying yourself. Go out and walk, read a book, or do something else that you really enjoy. This will help take your mind off of the craving.

 

Eat periodically throughout the day.

Sometimes, waiting too long to before eating your next meal can really highlight those sugar cravings. When people get very hungry their body will start craving fats and sugars. So, in general try to eat between 3-6 meals per day to keep yourself satisfied.

 

Sweets do not have to be scary, nor do they have to control your life. The most important aspect of any eating regimen is balance, moderation, and enjoyment!