For Muslims around the world, Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year. It’s believed to be the month when Allah revealed the first verses of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, to the prophet Muhammad. Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, Ramadan falls at a different time every year. This year, it begins on Saturday 2nd April and lasts until Sunday 1st May.
Ramadan is a period of celebration, reflection and a time to exercise discipline. During the month, observers fast during daylight hours, not consuming any food or water from dawn until dusk. As you can imagine, this can make hitting the gym a little more complicated. But many Muslims practise Ramadan while keeping active — it just takes a little planning and dedication.
To get an insight into what it’s like for athletes training during Ramadan, I spoke to Saf Syeed, AKA The Hijabi Boxer, to find out what her gameplan is for Ramadan this year.
What’s a typical day of training like for you during Ramadan?
“I can’t say every single day is the same. Sometimes I prefer training at like 2am before I close my fast, and sometimes I prefer training before I open my fast.
“So, in Ramadan, I’m more flexible to the normal routine. Because normally I’d be training every single day doing this session, that session, whereas with Ramadan I just literally work around me and how I’m feeling.
“So, I’m either going to stick to one session a day, and just give that session 100, or I can do my strength session, and then do my training in the evening after I’ve opened my fast. I’m just going to play around with it this year.
“I’m gonna sit down with my team and see what will work best because they can advise me with what’s best for my training.”
How do you make sure you keep nutrition on point throughout Ramadan?
“When I used to live at home, we’d have the usual big feast, but because I live on my own, it’s a big advantage because I don’t have all that. So I just I just tend to meal prep in Ramadan, especially with my training. I make sure I’m having my shakes between opening my fast and closing it again. Things like that are really important.”
Is Ramadan less of a challenge this year?
“It’s always a challenge, especially for your routine and training. But yeah, I’m glad that we’ve got our summers back!”
What kind of effect does fasting have on your performance?
“After the first hard few days, you just get used to it, and fasting has so many benefits in general anyway. I know some athletes that tend to fast Monday and Thursday, like two days a week.
“I have a few fasted sessions anyway. In the morning I can’t eat before I train, I can’t go to the gym with a full stomach, so I’m kind of used to that anyway.
“So it’s just about playing around with the timings and stuff, and it’s a really good vibe as well, especially. I know last year I trained a lot after I opened my fast at like 2am, so it was just a really good vibe in general.”
Ramadan is a time for reflection — do you find yourself being more focused during the month?
“100%. I’m always focused. I’m always praying, and I’m spiritually really good anyway.
“And I feel like boxing gives me discipline, which I’m really grateful for. Because obviously I’m getting up early, I’m going for my run, I’m coming back and praying, so I feel like in Ramadan, I just take the time out and give myself a bit more time to pray and do things like self-care.”
How is your sleep affected throughout Ramadan, and how do you get enough of it?!
“You know what, I really don’t know!
“I usually save my bigger training sessions for the weekend and have naps during the day. Come home from work, go to sleep for a couple of hours, wake up to cook, and then go back to sleep, then train.”
How important is your faith to you?
“It means a lot to me; I’d be nothing without it. It’s like that meditation and self-care aspect — if I miss a prayer or something, I just don’t feel right.”
What advice do you have for others celebrating Ramadan this year and hoping to keep training?
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember what this month is for and about and break your sessions up, work it around you and what works best for you.”
And finally… how will you be celebrating Eid this year?
“Hopefully if I’m not fighting, then I can go home, but if I am I’ll be in the gym!”
Take home message
If you’re celebrating Ramadan this year, you can still keep up with your training. Make sure you’re planning your sessions around what works best for you, getting plenty of naps in and eating nutritious foods when you break your fast.
To keep up with Saf, follow her Instagram @TheHijabiBoxer.