What it’s like to run during Ramadan

The month of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar is upon us – its start date changes, as the Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle and will begin following the sighting of the moon over Mecca. For 2023, Ramadan is expected to begin on the evening of Wednesday 22nd March and last for 29 or 30 days, again depending on the sighting of the moon.

During Ramadan, Muslims around the world will fast from dawn until sunset; the length of the fast each day will lengthen as the days get longer, from around 14-17 hours. This includes abstinence from food, water and supplements.

It is possible to keep running during Ramadan, but it’s often necessary to make changes to the distance and intensity of workouts. It can also take longer to recover from each run too.

We asked two Muslim women from our Run Mummy Run community, to share their experiences of running during Ramadan. They also share some top tips that they’ve learned, to help you to carry on running if you wish to.

Sakina Sidik

“I have been running in the month of Ramadhan for the past 5-6 years. Usually, I run anywhere from 5k to 55k. Having started running in 2015, I would run 11 months of the year and then hang up my running shoes for the month of Ramadhan. One year I read a blog about a Muslim runner who ran in month of Ramadan. It inspired me to try and see what I can do.

The key is to know your body and when is the best time for you to run, as it varies for individual. I like running before breaking my fast, and I know some prefer a few hours after breaking their fasts.

The first few years I would not dare to go beyond 5k, however I slowly increased and over the last 2 years I have run a half-marathon during the month of Ramadhan.

Recovery does take a bit longer, so you have to listen to your body. Also your nutrition plays a big part of it. So a samosa or two is fine, but make sure you eat the healthy, nutrient-dense food as well.

The challenge this year is to keep up with training for the London Marathon, which is a day or two after EID!”

Asma Boujnah

“I have grown up with the idea that when the month of Ramadan is here, many activities cease, like physical effort and body movement, to save the energy. However, in reality it wasn’t at all practical to just stop exercising. If I was able to carry on with the daily family and professional commitments, surely that could also be the case for any physical exercise! I discovered that it was all about shifting my own mindset and set a plan around how I could exercise and run during the month of Ramadan.

Fasting takes place from dawn to sunset every single day during the whole month and requires the abstinence from eating and drinking, including water. So, the fasting time is more than 13 hours here in the UK and that can be challenging to sustain adequate hydration and fuel while exercising. Therefore, for me it’s important to reduce the intensity and the length of the training. For example, I would schedule my run to finish around 15 minutes before the sunset as I know it’s only a short time before I can fuel and hydrate.

I have been training during Ramadan for many years and know that my body is capable of doing fasted runs. I also do shorter training sessions than usual, and would rather sustain my strength and mobility than add up new challenges. The time of runs can be scheduled at any convenient time of the day, so while a run before sunset works perfectly for me, I know many others run after breaking their fast, early morning or in late evening after night prayers.

As part of continuing to run and exercising during the month of Ramadan, it’s important to focus on a balanced and quality food consumption and hydration. For when we break our fast, I would choose vegetable soups including fibres, proteins and slow-releasing carbs. In terms of hydration, beside water consumption, I would drink isotonic drinks to replenish, particularly if I’ve run before sunset.

It’s important to remain active during the Holy month of Ramadan, and to choose working out smarter rather than harder. This year’s Ramadan is a special one for me, as at the end of it I will be running the 26 miles of the London Marathon 2023 on the 23rd April. I’m excited as it will be my first-ever marathon and at the same time, more than ever, I plan to make this month of Ramadan a memorable and productive one.”

If you’d like to share your own experiences, or chat with other runners during Ramadan for advice and support, don’t forget to join our Facebook community.

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