With the sacred month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr festivities behind us, we take a look at how the body and mind recover while easing back into a regular health and fitness regime.
Restructuring eating patterns
Ramadan is a great opportunity to eliminate unhealthy eating patterns and give overburdened digestive systems a much-needed break.
As you transition back into a consistent eating schedule, you may find it helpful to start with fluid-rich foods such as soups, as well as beverages like milk, juices and freshly-blended fruit and vegetable smoothies. These are a gentle way to get nutrition into your body without overloading the digestive process. Also try avoiding fat and sugar-heavy foods that will put your body under strain.
The ritual of fasting allows you to consciously recognise your body’s hunger and satiation signals. Tracking hunger levels is a great benefit to take with you moving forward, especially to combat mindless eating habits and overeating.
Easing back into exercise
For most people, Ramadan is a time of decreased physical activity, and because of that, it’s important to realise that you’re not going to be as fit as you were before – and that’s OK!
Take the time to gradually return to your normal fitness regime. The biggest mistake you can make at the start is trying to do too much too quickly and risk injuring yourself. As your body is still recovering from the periods of fasting and reduced exercise, you may feel generally fatigued when you begin to burn more calories again.
Go at your own pace and listen to what your body is telling you. After a week or two, increase your intensity as the body adapts to the level of stress on the muscles and tissues.
Muscles that haven’t been exposed to strenuous activity for some time will experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which means you may feel muscle ache for around 24-72 hours post-workout. A proper cool down will help to ease this, and you should never underestimate the power of a good warm-up!
Of course, this is only relevant if you’re feeling motivated enough to get back into your fitness in the first place. Quite often, a break from exercise can affect your enthusiasm to get going again. It can be disheartening to notice how much more challenging each exercise is in comparison to how it felt before.
One great way to kickstart your fitness motivation is to find someone else to workout with. This could simply mean asking a friend to go for a walk or jog once a week, or finding a group fitness class to take part in.
Maintaining mental health benefits and keeping up good habits
Ramadan is about so much more than just abstaining from eating and drinking. The rituals of daily prayer can have an undeniable transformational effect on your well-being. It’s a time when you can remove the distractions in your life, and gain some much-welcomed clarity.
Keep up the mental contentment by continuing to make time for yourself. Whether that’s continued prayer, guided meditation or simply reducing your time spent on electronic devices.
Fasting also helps with impulse control and self-discipline, so if you used Ramadan as an opportunity to cut down or quit smoking, then there’s no time like the present to keep up the good work!