Considering working out this Ramadan? Three athletes share 8 invaluable lessons they've learnt over the years

80% of young Muslims report being apprehensive about working out during their fast. 

A woman working out during Ramadan
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This month marks Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Thought to be one of the holiest Islamic months, many mark the month by fasting and worshipping.

That said, research by Sports Direct found that 80% of young Muslims struggle to navigate their workouts during their period of fasting, reporting feeling apprehensive about working out. You need energy to fuel your workouts and hit your sessions head-on, you see, and humans get their energy from food. Lack of appropriate fuelling can make endurance sports, like marathon training or HIIT, harder to complete. It seems it impacts the type of workouts those partaking in Ramadan are doing, too, with a quarter reporting that they reduce the amount of exercise they do. Think about it - if you're observing a fast, you're far more likely to enjoy a low-impact and intensity yoga or Pilates flow than an arduous ten-mile run.

Sadly, 29% of those surveyed also feel that there isn't enough information out there detailing tips for working out safely - which is where this article comes in. We spoke to three athletes who fast each year about the tips they've learnt about juggling workouts and their fast. Keep reading for their need-to-knows on training and exercising safely during Ramadan.

Working out during Ramadan: 8 invaluable lessons

1. Being flexible is key

According to Saffiyah Syeed, a boxer from Manchester and a Sports Direct Fast & Slow ambassador, flexibility is one of the best values to focus on practising during Ramadan.

“At first, I planned on training an hour before opening my fast or just after," she explains. "Some days this worked and some days it didn’t, so I learned to try different things and my move plans around."

She continues: "It was important to be flexible and change my routine depending on how I was feeling." Bottom line: when you’re fasting for a long stretch of time, it’s key to listen to your body.

2. Every workout counts

Mindful movement is key, because remember: exercise is exercise, whether it's low intensity, like walking, or a higher energy strength training session.

“Working out during Ramadan means not every workout will be a full on sweat session - and that’s okay," Syeed shares. "Every workout counts. Keeping it light or taking it slow still gets your body moving.”

Hear, hear.

3. Slowing down provides time to refine

Think of it this way: channelling your energy into perfecting your form could actually put you in a really good position for the rest of the year.

“Throughout Ramadan, I’ve worked on weights and perfecting my technique," shares Syeed. "I've grown so much in such a short time as a result - my coach and I can really see the difference between now and a month ago.

The lesson? Taking it slow while fasting meant she had the time to focus on developing her performance and refining certain parts of her workout.

4. Stay positive and do what works for you

Freestyle footballer from London and Sports Direct Fast & Slow ambassador Nafisa Ahmed reckons that staying positive was one of the best things she did when working out during Ramadan.

"Training during the fast was incredibly hard and at times felt like a battle," she explains. "A positive mindset and mental attitude really helped me."

Her advice is to listen to your body - 'when exercising and fasting, it’s important to work with your body and do what feels right for you,' she shares.

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5. Rest regularly

"I had a couple of football matches during Ramadan which involved 90 minutes of running up and down the pitch," shares Ahmed. "After the matches, I did feel fatigued and I did want to drink water, but taking a long break when I got home really helped get my energy back."

The learning from this, according to Ahmed, is to make sure you're resting regularly when fasting to restore your energy levels. "This will also help to sustain your body throughout the day," she goes on.

6. Listen to your body

Last but no means least, when working out during Ramadan, this one is important. "There is no best way to train during Ramadan - you just have to listen to your body and do what feels right for you," shares Ahmed.

She knew working out in the morning worked for her, as it's when she had to most energy. "However, if your body told me to take a break and sleep, then I would."

7. Remember it's a time for spiritual not physical gains

"Ramadan is a time for spiritual gains, not physical gains, so take it easy," advises Mohamed Abdin. "Lower the intensity and prioritise things other than performance."

Also important to remember - "you won't lose your gains in a month," he confirms.

8. Workout what works for you

Last but by no means least, Abdin advises training whenever works for you, your lifestyle, and your body. "Train whenever's most convenient to you," he advises. "There is no optimal time to train as everyone's routine and lifestyle differs."

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Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.