As we near the end of Ramadan, the month where Muslims all over the world devote themselves to their faith through prayer, good deeds and fasting between dawn and sunset, we spoke with Evolve members Soraya Janmohamed and Fatema Hassan about how they balance this holy month with work and keeping active.
During Ramadan, it is common to have one meal (suhoor) just before sunrise, and (iftar) just after sunset for their evening meal. Like many religious holidays, Ramadan is about coming together as a family and a community – something that hasn’t been possible for much of the last year due to the global pandemic.
Fatema, a Level 1 cycling coach, added: “We’re a little more tired than usual and don’t necessarily want to exercise after a day of fasting, and you certainly don’t have the same energy as you would have usually because you don’t have the food in you, but it’s amazing how quickly your body adapts to exercising. You still get that same rush, and it makes you feel good about yourself.”
As a hospital pharmacist, Fatema has been going into to her place of work as normal but has become more in tune with her body than ever, adding:
“Ramadan is a time to connect with God and improve yourself. It’s not just about fasting but being kind and charitable too. The cycling challenge we did last year to raise money for charity made me learn more about my body as I was out riding at a time that was right for me. It wasn’t too hot, and roads were quieter, so 30 minutes was enjoyable.”
Asked for some tips their how to stay active while fasting, both Soraya and Fatema said the key was to go slow and at your own pace and stay relaxed, hydrate well the day before, to use your rides as ‘you time’ and stay on routes that are as flat as possible!
Covid-19 restrictions aside, Soraya and Fatema have been pleasantly surprised with what they’ve been able to achieve so far with Evolve.
Soraya said: “Our cycling club is still in its infancy, but our numbers have been growing because our Muslim sisters want to build their confidence by learning how to ride a bike.
“I know how they’re feeling because that was me a year ago – I’d just bought my first-ever bike before the first lockdown, so took advantage of the quiet roads to practice a mile at a time, and now I’m leading groups of women and seeing them enjoy it as much as I do.
“We all chip in at Evolve and though we’ve not got stuck in as much as we’ve wanted to because of Covid-19, we’re running BMX sessions, have hired the circuit at Hillingdon for women-only Breeze sessions and we’ve got a big event coming up to mark Eid.”
Switching off from work at the end of the day hasn’t been a problem either. When asked about their work/life balance, Soraya said:
“I’m an accountant and have been working at home since this all started last March. It’s actually been quite easy to switch off at 5pm and then go out for a walk or ride my bike to do errands. And being at home means I can be spiritual in my own space with my family.”
Now nearing the end of their 30 Days of Rahma (blessings), the group has encouraged members to get into the spirit of Ramadan by taking part in small charitable challenges like phoning their friends and family, and cooking food for those that need it, before they mark the end of Ramadan with their Eid al-Fitr celebration.
Soraya and Fatema say that beginner groups like Evolve are key to making cycling more accessible.
Fatema said: “Our focus is to attract Muslim women who don’t see themselves on a bike. You don’t need all the gear; it’s about wearing what makes you feel comfortable and keeps you safe.
“I’d absolutely encourage anyone thinking about joining a cycling club who’s a little nervous to come with a friend and then take it from there.”
Soraya added: “We post a mix of beginner and intermediate rides to meet different abilities, and whichever ride you’re in will be at the right pace for you and on a route that will make you see where you live in a new way.”
Ramadan Kareem to everyone observing Ramadan this year.