In less than 3 days, the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Insha Allah (God willing) with begin. This is a time that most Muslims look forward to and consists of equal part sacrifice and great reward. My days will consist of awakening at 3:00 AM (US Central Time) in order to eat a small, healthy meal, drink water and pray followed by up to 17 hours of abstention from food, water and intercourse. I thought about titling this blog post “Ramada Survival Plan” but goal is to do more than just “survive”, I want to thrive during this beautiful and holy month.
Abstaining from food and water is certainly a sacrifice but each year it also proves to be a great reward. While the reward from our Creator is the ultimate benefit from fasting, I have also been blessed with increased mental clarity, additional time (you wouldn’t believe how much time I spend eating, thinking about eating and preparing food!) and a general feeling of peace. These rewards are all good for my soul and sense of well-being; however, I have also experienced benefits in aerobic fitness, running speed and fat loss (not just the expected weight-loss). This is also due to the fact that I do not stop training during the month of Ramadan. I don’t even slow down my training; however, I do train differently.
Training during Ramadan requires a greater level of planning and detail. Since I am unable to drink anything during training, I plan my training around the two times that I either can eat and drink (after sunset) or the times right after I eat and drink (post sunrise) or an hour or two before I eat or drink (6 or 7 PM). Weightlifting and biking are done before sunset. Running is done after daybreak on the weekends, at lunch time during the week (indoors) or prior to sunset. Swimming is done during lunch time, in the mornings or before sunset. Swimming and running both feel pretty awful to me after I eat past sunset so I just don’t do it then. I don’t enjoy the feeling of heaviness on foot or in the water. However, post-meal is a great time to lift heavy weights if you have the time! the best formula for me is to lift weights 1 hour prior to iftar (time of breaking fast) and have my first meal be a high protein shake (date shake) and amino acid/post-workout drink or supplements.
Without water, you will need to really keep a close watch on your perspiration. I don’t workout outdoors with the exception of swimming, during Ramadan. I place my bike on a trainer and ride in my cool basement “pain cave” or ride a spin bike in a class with lots of fans and air conditioning. Running on the treadmill is preferable to running outside, however, I do run outside right after Fajr (pre-dawn prayer) if the temperature and humidity level are comfortable enough.
The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and this year Ramadan falls almost perfectly in the middle of the months of May and June. This does not eliminate racing, however these races will be training races and not my goal races for the season. My physical goals during the month are to reduce my bodyfat, increase my strength and speed on the bike and running. Long endurance training just really won’t be feasible for me, so I will get the most out of shorter workouts by working on speed and interval training. Weight training will also be increased so that there will be no muscle loss during this reduction in endurance training. Additionally, I will ensure that I eat only nutrient dense foods to sufficiently fuel these tough workouts.
Ramadan isn’t an excuse to be lazy but it’s also not a weight-loss plan. To think of it as either, is completely missing the point and benefits of this month. Taking care of my body is in itself an act of worship as I am caring for the blessings that the Almighty has bestowed upon me. I look forward to this time of sacrifice and the increases in reward, prayer, charity and training.
I wish you all a blessed and prosperous Ramadan! If you don’t celebrate or recognize Ramadan, I wish you all the best and may you reach you all of your goals.
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