x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Exercise routine is challenging during Ramadan

It's not easy to know when is the right time for exercise during the Holy Month, what with the adverse weather and the lack of energy from fasting.

This year, I made a promise to myself: I would lead an active and healthy Ramadan.

Well, more active and healthy than last year's, at least, which mainly consisted of significant doses of daytime sleep, heavy night-time eating and absolutely no thought put into performing physical activity of any kind.

Although last year's Ramadan habits eased the difficulties of fasting during August's long and hot daytime hours, it took me months to shake off the lethargic tendencies I had developed, as well as the extra kilos that were a direct result of the lethargy.

Last year's month of apathy resulted in this year's Ramadan resolutions: not allowing my sleeping schedule to change by ensuring that I turn to siestas only as a last resort; making my meals count by eating a balanced diet and pushing myself to exercise as much as my fasting body would let me. In other words, no more 3am shawarmas ordered from the comfort of my air-conditioned car.

Staying awake, although a challenge at the beginning as I adjusted to the changed imposed by the Holy Month, has been doable, as work and studies have forced me to remain engaged and keep the drowsiness at bay.

Eating healthily has proven a little challenging, with iftar tables routinely laden with heavy dishes and sugary desserts served in eye-catching, mouth-watering, irresistibly appetising ways (can you tell this was written while fasting?).

But as with all resolutions some, if not all, will be broken. Top of my "destined to fail" list is that of regular activity.

The greatest hurdle to overcome in achieving a Ramadan exercise routine is, when to do it?

During the majority of the day is a no-go, as losing fluids from a body already dehydrated is unwise and dangerous.

Many recommend working out right before iftar as sustenance and hydration are just around the corner.

In theory, this sounds ideal, but in practice, I have found that without fuel, even low-level exercising feels like an excruciating boot camp.

Another option is exerting yourself after a light iftar. This I found to be the best option, but it must be approached with caution as extreme hunger can make it hard to control what and how much you eat after a 15-hour fast.

Not showing ample restraint on your first meal of the day could have dire digestive repercussions, as working out causes your muscles to sap the much-needed energy your stomach requires to process all that food.

The last and latest in the day option is to enjoy a significant iftar and wait for the long and slow processes of waking up from a food coma before strapping on your training gear. But trying to keep any normality in your sleeping hours goes out of the window after a late summer iftar and a much later workout.

In fact, there is no "one size fits all" to keeping fit and active during Ramadan and different levels of workouts at different times suit different people.

One thing Ramadan observers do agree on is that exercising during the month is even more challenging than normal, no matter which way you cut it.

And that is how it should be, as the Holy Month's tests are one path toward feeling the Ramadan spirit.