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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Sports in Ramadan: Boot-campers overcome thirst and heat to carry on exercising during holy month

Members of Boot Camp Fitness Solutions let neither the heat nor the lack of water get in the way of their exercise

Tireless workout at the Boot Camp Fitness Solutions during Ramadan in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
Tireless workout at the Boot Camp Fitness Solutions during Ramadan in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

While the last hours of the fasting day has most people observing Ramadan counting down the minutes, a group of Abu Dhabi residents are outside counting push-ups.

Members of Boot Camp Fitness Solutions let neither the heat nor the lack of water get in the way of their exercise. They can be seen carrying sandbags, dropping to do push ups and jogging up and down the Corniche all year – even during the holy month.

They gather three times a week an hour and a half before iftar for a series of Ramadan workouts.

At 5.30 pm, about 35 men and women, most of whom were fasting, began their boot-camp training with six rounds of side-lunges across the pavement near Nation Towers.

Next was a series of long jumps across the pavement, followed by a variation of cross sit-ups, stretches, planks and push-ups.

Should anybody protest to the number of rounds, their coach would answer with a smile saying “Ramadan kareem (is generous), we have to be generous too.”

Wincing as they switched between legs, no one complained about the heat or their thirst.

“It felt great, I wish we could extend for an hour and a half,” said Mohammed El Saraf, after the session.

The 45-year-old Egyptian banker was driven to join the boot-camp for the first time this year after learning that he could burn twice the amount of fat if he exercised while fasting.

“And I felt that I really benefited today.”

He has lost 20kg since he joined in February.

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“I also fixed my diet, and now the challenge is to a balanced diet during Ramadan.

“My target is to lose five more kilograms by the end of the month.”

The group meets every Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but Mr El Saraf said he would be willing to do it on the weekends during Ramadan too.

“Sports is a continuous ongoing practice; when you love it will love you back.

“And the goal is not to lose weight but to become fit and strong,” he said.

Mohammed Zakaria, founder of the boot-camp and its coach since 2004, said he selects specific routine to carry out before Iftar.

"While fasting when the stomach is empty, body muscles respond quicker to exercise, so we focus on abdomen and body-stretching; a ten-minute exercise while fasting is equivalent to half an hour on regular days,” he explained.

"Therefore, we do special training before iftar that focuses on abs and stretches, because the body is thirsty without water, so we do spot on training to not put too much pressure on the body."

Trainer, Mohamed Zakaria, leads tan exercise session near Nation Towers. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
Trainer, Mohamed Zakaria, leads tan exercise session near Nation Towers. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Basma Dash, a physiotherapist from Egypt, turned out for the class for the first time on Sunday.

“I was surprised that it was very easy, I expected a lot of sweat, I usually sweat so much and become really tired.”

The 25-year-old has been taking part in the boot-camp for a year and a half but skipped training during Ramadan last year.

“This year I was motivated to continue because I have an occasion in the summer and I want to lose the extra belly fat so the dress will look good!” she said.

“And I knew that boot camp while fasting reduces belly fat really quickly.

“I never did workout in Ramadan before, it used to be TV and food only to be honest. And today I did not feel thirsty at all,” she said.

Boot-camp regular, Tareq Al Shareef, first joined eight years ago. He hops between new members, offering advice and encouraging people to push harder when they feel like giving up.

He said he has always sat out the Ramadan sessions because he lives far out of the city and worried he wouldn’t make it home in time for iftar. But this year he elected to take part anyway.

“When I stop, I get tired in terms of fitness, so I decided to continue because I am already an athlete and I participate in obstacle races,” the 49-year-old Emirati said.

“It was really good today and I did not feel any fatigue, the weather was even nice.

“The exercises also helped not to cause any fatigue, because it focuses on abs and leg muscles,” the former Al Ain club football player said.

The Fitness Solutions Boot Camp is run by Lion Sports - a company that receives boasts some 2,000 new members every year.

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