Amna Al Haddad is a 22-year-old media professional who has been weight lifting for the last two and a half years. She made history in May by being the first Emirati to participate in the Reebok Crossfit Asia Regional in Seoul. Following a strict training regime, the young fitness fanatic has to make several adjustments during the month of fasting but, she says, it is not as hard as people think.
‘I am often asked about how Ramadan affects my training. For the past two years, I was able to find a balance between my religious duties and my training. Not eating or drinking any fluids all day long – contrary to belief – didn’t affect my strength or body composition level to a large extent. If anything, in the past two years, I have set many personal records during to Ramadan in my training. I often don’t change the type of foods I consume or change my training regime much which often results in maintaining or gaining strength or gaining little to no weight during Ramadan.’
However, she elaborates that this year her eating habits have changed quite dramatically due to food intolerances to dairy and gluten. ‘I am quite interested in finding out how cutting off such foods during Ramadan will affect my energy levels, body composition and strength levels. My diet is going to be high protein and high fat with carb sources coming from fruits and vegetables & some rice.’
According to Al Haddad, the best times to exercise during Ramadan are just before iftar so you can immediately replenish your body with nutrients and two hours after when you will have the right energy and hydration level. ‘The option you choose depends on your goal – either losing body fat or maintaining muscle mass. However, personally I have had success training two hours after iftar and plan to continue this habit this upcoming Ramadan,’
Al Haddad also says that as well as her intensive exercise routine she will naturally find time for increased worship and to share with friends and family.
‘I always look forward to Ramadan because it’s a special month for us Muslims and it’s one of the five pillars of Islam. Ramadan is a time for us to reflect on ourselves and behaviours, but also feel for those less fortunate. Ramadan is a month of praying, giving, and forgiving. Each Ramadan, I hope to retain a good habit – whether it is watching less TV, reading more Quran on daily basis or eating healthier. Sometimes people forget what Ramadan is all about, they often overeat, watch too many TV shows – unfortunately Ramadan has become commercial and that saddens me.
‘One thing I do enjoy about Ramadan is, no matter how busy we are as individuals in our household all year long with work, university or school – during Ramadan we all sit together for iftar. Especially with how Dubai has changed in the past few years due to the nature of the lifestyle with a “go go” attitude – Ramadan gives us that moment to slow down and take a moment.’
Finally, Al Haddad is nostalgic about a time when community spirit was still alive. ‘Neighbours and families still share food among one another, but I think the community spirit is slowly drifting apart due to how busy everyone is. Technology has made it is easier for people to send a tweet, write on facebook, BBM or sent a text message – instead of visiting and wishing family members and friends a blessed month. No matter what, any form of online communication cannot replace the face-to-face interaction.’
Photographer: Shereena Lootah