Ramzan is a time for Muslims across the world to follow a strict fast for a month. Often, exercise during this time can take a back seat. Trainer Fareed Majeed shares his tips on working out during the holy month.
Exercising during Ramzan
It’s been 20 or so days of fasting on the day this article was penned down, and as most people observing fast know – it’s that time of the month again – when you’ve pulled down a couple of kilos because of caloric restrictions, when fasts start taking a slight toll on your mental focus and sleep patterns, when your training starts getting a little slow and maintaining your performance becomes slightly more taxing than usual.
Tips to work out during Ramzan
Here are a few training tips to push you through the last 10 days of fasting, and to make sure that the end of this month sees you as healthy and fit as when you started!
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! When you break your fast, do so with the traditional dates and water, but make sure you add a packet of Electral or any other ORS to your liquid. Cold water gets absorbed quicker, so throw a few ice cubes in there for effect!
How dehydrated you are will also determine the quality of your workout. Make sure you always carry water with you to train, and make sure you consume another ORS laced litre or half litre of water after your session.
2. Don’t train to failure. Do not, under any circumstances, train to failure (repeating an exercise to the point of momentary muscular failure). Strength coaches around the world maintain that the number one reason people fail to break personal records (PRs) and get stronger is because they train to failure on every, single, repetition.
Do this: Train with a weight that is about 70% of your 1 repetition. For example, if you can deadlift 100 kgs for one, slow, hard, repetition; drop the weight to 70 kgs and knock out 2 or 3 repetitions instead. Again, stay clear of failure.
3. Watch your heart rate! Avoid metabolic conditioning workouts (METCONs) or hard conditioning, like trying to knock out 100 burpees (an exercise similar to a squat thrust) as quickly as possible. Your body is already under stress because of all those days of fasting and the limited water intake, so focus on staying strong, healthy and supple.
Do this: Drop the intense, lung scathing cardio. You are going to lose a decent amount of fat and some muscle anyway this month, so stay focussed and train smart. You can still run or swim, but skip very long runs or 2-hour pool sessions. Try some easy yoga instead.
4. Train to keep intensity and not volume. Don’t drop the number of repetitions you perform on each set – instead try and drop the total number of sets. For e.g., do 3 to 4 sets of 8 pull-ups instead of 6 to 8 sets. You’ll keep your strength up and will be able to catch up quick on muscle endurance after your month of fasting.
5. Do not aim for PRs. There are those genetically gifted athletes that can maybe even compete in the Olympics while fasting, but you and I may not quite fit the bill.
Do this: Maintenance should be the name of the game. Aim at keeping what you’ve worked hard for – all those months prior to this one.
6. Perform more bodyweight/callisthenic style training. You’ll drop a few kilos because of all the fasting opening up a variety of body weight moves you will be able to do now. Use this loss of mass to your advantage.
7. Manage intake of calories. With a little discipline, you can still get your calories in. Many people have a problem ingesting large amounts of food early in the morning before fasting, so investing in a good protein shake and some BCAA mix (branched chain amino acids) will go a long way in helping you repair your body. Also make sure you have a well-balanced, calorie dense dinner.
Fasting is an intense spiritual experience for those who do it. Through the ages, it has been used by people of various faiths to discipline the mind and attain mental clarity.
Don’t let fasting slow you down, harness its power and watch your health and fitness improve!
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