For the last 15 years, I have worked in the fitness industry in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Throughout the years, I have experienced Ramadan every year and it has always been a very special month for all of us.
In Saudi Arabia, the work schedule completely changes in the fitness industry. The gyms are open from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and then reopen from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. The working hours are adapted to the period of fasting. The gyms are decorated, and they also prepare a special seating environment to allow people to be together and share Arabic coffee and dates in the evening. It is a more relaxing atmosphere and people are very social.
In the afternoon, I was training mainly clients who wanted to train just before Iftar (the meal just after sunset) so they could bare and tolerate the thirst until the meal. At the beginning, their level of energy was very low, and they used to experience headaches. For my clients who used to train very hard, I would start their holy month with a fusion class of stretching, Pilates, and yoga joined together using mainly body weight as resistance. As the days and weeks passed, their capacity increased and we would include more strength workouts using weights, TRX, and machines. I was avoiding any type of HIIT training and using this period as a recovery and maintenance phase. We are talking about private training or semi-private training with less than 10 people. Pilates, yoga, and Reformer classes were in demand during these hours.
At night, it was a completely different story, and the schedule reflected a regular gym program with all kinds of classes. For me, personally, not fasting during the day, it was an adaptation physically to be able to deliver classes from 9:00 p.m. to midnight.
Ramadan is a month to reflect, pray, and cleanse your mind and body. I have so much admiration for all the people who are doing Ramadan, no water and food from sunrise to sunset and keeping up with work, duties, and family obligations. There are a lot of social gatherings, family meals and sometimes the abundance of occasion for food and sweets are competing with the initial values of this special month.
I encouraged my clients to put a lot of attention on their water consumption from the time they start eating until they go to sleep. It is important to optimize the consumption of water even if they don’t feel it. Soups are an excellent way to break the fasting period and especially if you are planning to exercise just after Iftar. In my opinion, the exercise program should be used for recovery and maintenance. I would not suggest starting new activities that involve too much effort during this time.