'There’s a misconception that life must stop in Ramadan and that Muslims should cease exercise and other hobbies', says Haroon Mota, who ran 161.5 miles during Ramadan last year, raising £55,000 for charity. Here, Mota shares his tips for runners as he launches a campaign to get people active during Ramadan.
When is Ramadan 2021?
This year, Ramadan is expected to begin on Tuesday, April 13, depending on the sighting of the moon. Lasting for 30 days, Ramadan will end on Tuesday, May 11, with the celebratory days of Eid al-Fitr starting on Wednesday, May 12, or Thursday, May 13.
How to run safely during Ramadan
'It’s important to be sensible and listen to your body' explains Mota. 'It's really important to pay attention to hydration even though it is really difficult during a standard 18-hour UK fast. With less than six hours of non-fasting time daily, from sunset it really is a race to fuel, hydrate, pray and sleep. I think it’s natural to feel hunger more than thirst, but my advice is to prioritise fluid intake from the moment the sun goes down.'
'While it’s advised to drink two litres of water daily if you’re running in Ramadan, there’s even more fluid and electrolyte loss to compensate for, so it’s probably a wise idea to run on alternate days allowing the body to rehydrate and recuperate, rather than forcing the body to become progressively dehydrated and fatigued.'
When it comes to eating, Mota advises that 'it’s paramount to think about quality rather than quantity of food.' Ensure you are fuelling the body with carbohydrates, so you are not running on empty the next day.
When is the best time of day to run?
'It’s a good idea to choose a time in the day that suits you best, rather than just following what others do', says Mota. 'In the UK, people run at all times of the day; early hours just before breakfast, before work, during their lunch break, just after work, pre-sunset, immediately after breaking the fast, or even at midnight after the night prayers. It’s OK to experiment with running at different times, as there are really no rules to running. Do what works for you.'
During his challenge, Mota opted to complete his runs in the evening, about an hour before sunset. 'This meant I’d complete my run and then, within minutes, I’d be able to break my fast and begin hydrating and eating. This made it challenging because I’d be running at the very end of my fast when I’d be at my weakest and most vulnerable. I wanted it to be challenging and it’s also an opportunity to push myself well out of my comfort zone and also learn new things about my body. I could have run earlier in the day when I was fresh and stronger but it would have meant having to wait for the entire day to be able to drink and eat again. Some people choose to exercise at night after breaking the fast, but that wouldn’t quite work for me.'
Should runners opt for easier workouts during Ramadan?
'Ramadan is not the time to be drastic and push yourself beyond normal limits' says Mota. 'This doesn’t mean you can’t work hard and get out of your comfort zone; it’s just finding the balance for what works for your body. Most people tend to use this month to slow down and keep the legs ticking for fitness maintenance, rather than sticking to their regular intensity and volume of training for gains.'
Mota recommends runners stick to easier miles when fasting, as they are less taxing on the body. On days where you don't feel up to heading outside for a run, stick to shorter home workouts and focus on building your core strength and flexibility.
Why should Muslims continue to exercise during Ramadan?
'It’s important to maintain normality and carry on doing what we enjoy and what keeps us healthy, as long as the rights and rituals of Ramadan are being fulfilled,' says Mota. 'I want to challenge that narrative and that’s also one of the reasons why I chose to run 260km last Ramadan. On the back of what I achieved, I want to inspire and encourage people to remain active during the holy month and believe that they too can carry on with their exercise and fitness regimes.'
Mota is launching the 'Ramadan Challenge 3.0', with the charity Penny Appeal. The campaign is encouraging people to run, walk, cycle and jog during the 30 days of Ramadan. 'You don’t have to be a Muslim to experience what a fasting day is like in Ramadan', says Mota, who is urging all runners to get involved and attempt a fasted run in Ramadan.
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