Every year as Ramadan approaches, fitness coaches, clients, and enthusiasts alike prepare for a month of daily fasting.
Coaches wonder how they will adapt their training programs, and clients are worried about their progress regressing.
But the good news is, if you set the right intention, understand your client’s abilities, and schedule their training times appropriately, they can still exercise during this time.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar that commemorates Muhammad’s first revelation. It’s a time of spiritual growth, where Muslims worldwide feel the struggle of those without adequate resources.
What makes Ramadan unique is that participants must fast from sunrise to sunset for the month. One only consumes food and water once the sunsets.
This brings with it a new set of variables you need to consider when creating an exercise plan.
A Guide to Working Out Ramadan
- Set the Intention
- Assess Your Client
- Write an Exercise Program
- The Best Time to Workout During Ramadan
Set the Intention
Before you write or discuss any exercise and nutrition program with your client, make sure your intentions are aligned.
Ramadan is a special time, and the practice of fasting will affect how your client can exercise and the results of that exercise.
Exercise for the Experience
Set the intention that, for this month, they are exercising for the experience. Remind your client that Ramadan is the focus, not performance in the gym, but that there are still some great ways they can enjoy exercise and daily movement during this time.
Create Consistency and Maintain
For the coach, the goal for this month is to develop consistency and maintenance. You want your client coming out of Ramadan as healthy as possible, not beaten down, and in need of recovery.
This means you are not trying to help the client lose any fat or achieve any performance goals. You are giving them exercises that they can easily complete and that don’t require much fuel.
Assess How Your Client Will React
With the intention set, now assess how resilient your client is, perhaps by learning a bit about their past experiences around Ramadan.
Run your client through an assessment before the fasting begins. You want to figure out what type of exercise is within their current capabilities. Take note, and then only prescribe what they are capable of during the fast. Learn our method of assessment here.
Now assess their experience with Ramadan.
- How many Ramadans have they participated in, and how did they feel?
- Did they exercise?
- If so, what was their schedule?
- What do they hope to gain from this experience?
- What responsibilities do they have during the day?
Ask questions and listen. The more you understand their experience with Ramadan and what they want to get from it, the better you can support them.
Write an Exercise and Nutrition Program
After setting the intention and assessing your client, it’s time to create a program for them.
Three Principles of Exercise During Ramadan
Three principles apply to any exercise plan during Ramadan.
- Avoid high-intensity exercise that spikes cortisol levels.
- When the fast ends, hydrate. Drink water with electrolytes as soon as the sun goes down.
- Don’t exercise in the midst or at the end of the fast. This is when the client is the most fuel deprived.
Now the other specifics of the training program depend on your client.
With beginner clients, do full-body training one day and then sustainable aerobic training the next. Alternate between these training sessions for a total of four to six sessions a week, depending on experience. Continue to give these clients a lot of variation. They adapt quickly.
(Coach’s Resource: Learn more about training age and rate of adaptation here.)
Beginners will need more guidance during this time, so make sure they understand how to reach you.
With more advanced clients, use a more specific training split that includes aerobic training. You may split training into upper and lower body, or you may isolate sessions to specific movement patterns. Keep the training program consistent throughout the month.
The Best TIme to Workout During Ramadan
Whatever your client’s training age might be, we have found that these three training schedules tend to work best during Ramadan. These schedules are ideal because it gives the client time to eat food and drink water around their workout.
Option 1) Exercise First Thing in The Morning
- Wake up
- Eat a meal before the sun comes up
- Eat two meals once the sun sets
Option 2) In the Morning, Eat then Exercise
- Wake up
- Eat two meals once the sun sets
Option 3) In the Evening, Eat then Exercise
- Wake up
- Eat a small meal once the sun sets
- Eat another meal
For the Best Results, Personalize
Ramadan is a special time for those who participate.
To support your clients, you must align your fitness program with their intentions. Ramadan comes first, and then exercise fits in where it can.
Then, personalize the program around their abilities and always err on the side of doing too little.
Are You a Fitness Coach or Interested in Becoming One?
Are you a fitness coach or interested in becoming one?
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It is also a skill that can be learned.
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