Ramadan is coming…RUN!
By Mubarakah Ibrahim
As a health and fitness coach one of my biggest concern for Muslims during Ramadan is dehydration. Because Ramadan will occur during the longest and hottest days of year it is inevitable that every fasting person will become dehydrated at some point in the month. It only takes one night of falling to sleep early or over sleeping for Sahoor and you’ll miss a critical window to get your water in.
When we are dehydrated the blood becomes thicker and the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the body. As a result of additional cardiovascular work we expend much more energy to do our normal activity and come fatigued more quickly. When our bodies are expending more energy to pump blood through our bodies it has less energy to do other things, which is one of the reasons why fatigue sets in even when you are doing the most mundane task like folding clothes or washing dishes. However, if you have a “good” level of cardiovascular endurance than when your heart is slightly raised the last hour or two before breaking fast it won’t feel harder than a good brisk walk.
Normally I am singing the praises of strength training and standing on the pulpit telling everyone why the need muscle, however because the purpose of fitness is to enhance our lifestyle, we have to consider the purpose of each type of workout we choose as how it does that. For the practicing Muslim fasting is part of our lifestyle so pre-Ramadan we need to choose workouts that will improve our fasting and make physical fitness a key tool in enhancing our spiritual wellness. This is why this time of year I sing a different tune and tout the praises of cardio. Having “good” cardio vascular endurance will help our bodies deal with the effects of dehydration better.
So let me define “cardio”. Cardiovascular exercise is any activity that raises your heart rate greater than 55% of your heart rate max for 20 minutes or more. [Find your heart rate max here: http://tinyurl.com/c8h23zl] Although any and every active minute counts you need to maintain a raised heart rate for 20 minutes or more to reap the benefits of endurance. The most natural form of cardio is walking/running. It’s what human beings were born to do. But if that’s not your thing don’t let that stop you, Zumba, spin class, jump rope or a game of basketball or soccer will all do the job.
Ideally starting a cardio program about 12 weeks before Ramadan begins will give you measurable benefits by the start of the month. But truth is every little bit helps. So no matter when you are reading this, know EVERY SINGLE cardio session counts. Every single minute improves your endurance and heart strength. So do something now. Developing strong cardiovascular endurance before Ramadan begins will decrease your level of fatigue during Ramadan.
[This article is the first of a series of health and fitness articles to help Muslims meet the challenge of fasting during the summer months. For the weekly series visit www.FitMuslimah.com or Get THE RAMADAN SURVIVAL GUIDE at www.RamadanSurvivalGuide.com ]
Next article in this series – Ramadan Survival: Stave Off Hunger
Mubarakah Ibrahim is the owner of BALANCE Fitness Studio for Women in New Haven, CT. She is an AFAA Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Counselor and Authorized Oasis in the Overwhelm® Trainer. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show “Thirty-something in America”, is a contributing expert to Prevention Magazine on fitness for women over 40, appeared on the covers of the Hartford Current, New Haven Advocate and Chicago Tribune. Mubarakah lectures, promotes and conducts workshops on alternative health, fitness and healthy living throughout the World.