At this time of the Islamic year, just days into the most blessed month on our lunar calendar, life should have slowed down significantly for all of us, all our social activities put on hold and we should be happily settling into a different kind of routine.One where our focus is more geared toward ibaadah and gaining taqwa and closeness to Allah (SWT). However, as women in the 21st century, this is something most of us can only dream of.
Realistically speaking, all the preparations for Ramadhaan, particularly the post-iftar activities, take up a considerable amount of time and energy.This is without even taking into account the hectic schedule between sunrise and sunset, especially for those women with kiddies. Far from ideal,this leavesprecious little or no time for us to focus on ourselves. For a little explanation on what I mean when I say this, take some time to read this hilariously accurate description by Azhar Vadi of CII on just what “Ramadhaan preparations” actually mean for us women in today’s times.
Suffice to say, we find ourselves living in a society of excess; where simply being content with having enough is just not good enough. The result is that for women,Ramadhaan brings with it an increased strain on our daily schedules, having to manage the physical and spiritual aspects of this month as individuals, while at the same time managing the schedules of our husbands, kids, etc. trying to free up as much time for them as we possibly can, to ensure everyone is able to reap the maximum benefit from this month. For those of us who work outside the home, even more so. Regardless of where we spend our waking hours: inside the home as homemakers, or in the office as career women; juggling work, home life and everything else, particularly in Ramadhaan, is by no means a simple feat.
Putting this into perspective, it is easy to see how physical exercise, although equally important, is very easily sacrificed during this month. However, with a little proper planning and time management, there is no reason why we cannot continue to exercise, or at the very least, try to maintain our current level of fitness throughout Ramadhaan.
In another article we establish that exercise falls into one of 4 main categories, viz. strength/resistance training, aerobic/cardiovascular/endurance training, flexibility training and functional or core training.We have also established that a strong core and supple muscles form the foundation upon which optimum overall fitness is built.
Following the few guidelines below, should simplify the task of implementing some form of exercise in your day for the duration of this month, Insha-Allah:
Aim for improvement in the areas of core and flexibility and maintenance with regards to your strength and cardio fitness:
With Ramadhaan requiring a rather conservative approach to energy expenditure, this is the perfect time to swap the focus of your training around. Since core and flexibility training are so often neglected during the rest of the year, and not being as intense and energy-demanding as the aerobic (cardio) and resistance aspects of training, it makes sense to turn your attention to reinforcing the foundation of your physical being (as you are your spiritual being) for this month.
Keep it simple – go back to basics, even if just for a month:
There are always new “miracle workouts” being thrown at us almost daily promising to be the ultimate solution to your health and fitness woes. My advice to you is to discard all the trimmings and stick with the basics. Use simple, tried and tested exercises that have time and again proven to be effective. To maximise your time,go for the uncomplicated exercises that work multiple muscles rather than those that target 1 or 2 specific muscles.
Choose a few types of exercises and go for quality:
If you’re following a workout routine, keep it simple and uncluttered with only a few effective exercises per session and do 3 or 4 sets of each one. Trying to cram too many exercises into a workout session of 30 – 45 minutes will compromise the quality and effectiveness of your workout.
Work smart not hard:
In a situation where energy preservation is of paramount importance, it is best to work smart rather than hard if any gains are to be made. What this means is to focus more on the low- or non-impact, ‘passively intense’ types of exercises, more characteristic of the Pilates and yoga type movements. These will help you to get the blood flowing and work up a sweat without rendering you breathless.
To save time, combine your resistanceand cardio training in a circuit workout:
Circuits can be defined as a group of exercises performed in quick succession with little or no break in between sets. One set of each exercise is performed immediately after the other until all have been completed, and then resume the next circuit with the first exercise, with a rest in between each circuit. Alternate cardio and resistance type exerciseswithin one circuit. Circuit training has been proven to burn more calories and be more effective at burning fat than a resistance workout alone and isbest left for the hours after iftar or before suhoor.
Improvise where you can – work out without working out:
My personal favourite: strap a set of wrist weights and/or ankle weights to your wrists/ankles while you’re busy around the house.This is an excellent way to work those arm and leg muscles without much effort required. It will be quite difficult and awkward to work with at first, but start off slow, wear them for only a few minutes at a time and as you get stronger,increase the amount of time that you wear them. These weights can be bought at a reasonable price from any store that stocks sports and exercise equipment. If done consistently, in just a few days you will notice a marked difference in the tone, definition and strength of the muscles in these areas, Insha-Allah.
Perhaps the most important tip of all, not only applicable to Ramadhaan, and not only applicable to the world of fitness, is to be consistent. It is narrated that theProphet (SAW) has said: The noblest action in the eyes of Allah is the one performed with consistency even if it be small ~~ Al-Bukhari.Taking a lesson from this hadeeth, the key here is, regardless of what you are doing to keep fit, keep moving and keep at it.
Remember, Ramadhaan is a time of increased spirituality and the ideal opportunity to re-establish and/or strengthen the bond with your Creator and to learn and master the art of discipline and self-restraint. This essentially serves as the foundation of our spiritual lives here on earth. Establishing and cementing that foundation in Ramadhaan, and then building on it throughout the rest of the year, will ensure our success in this world and in the Aakhirah, Insha-Allah.
Similarly, using Ramadhaan to work on and strengthen your physical foundation (your core and flexibility) ensures that you are better prepared for building on that base after Ramadhaan. This in turn,will make it easier to reach and surpass your long term fitness goals.
In short, regardless of what activity you choose, try to remain physically active throughout Ramadhaan, without allowing it to take too much time out of your day. Find a timeslot that works for you; find a good balance and be consistent. Choose exercises that will benefit you without causing excessive fatigue. Looking after yourself and your health will automatically enable you to better handle the increased demands on your time, energy and attention in this mubarak month. Maintaining our physical health is in itself an act of Ibaadah and will contribute in its own way to attaining our main goal of gaining closeness to our Rabb, Insha-Allah.
Please see my article here on simple and practical ways to maintain healthy nutritional habits during Ramadhaan.
Written by: Sister Fiyona Valli for Idealwoman.org