Ramadan Training & Racing (by Mohamed Lahna)
Ramadan is my favourite month of the year. Growing up, it was such a special time of family, reflection, and spirituality. We take a break from our daily lives and shift schedules, fasting during the daylight hours. Yes, this also means not drinking water. While this seems crazy, especially for an athlete, it is something I've grown up with and actually look forward to. Families gather before breaking fast and there is such a wonderful feeling of unity and happiness. We spend the day not acting on our usual impulses, but, instead, reflect on how grateful we are for what we have.
It is a part of the year that can be challenging physically and mentally. I have managed to make adaptions, especially with my training schedule. For a triathlete, it can be somewhat demanding to fulfil the month of Ramadan, balancing work/school, family and getting your training done. Everyone has a different schedule, but here are a few tips that have worked for me. I would highly recommend talking to your coach beforehand and try to have a special training plan designed to maintain your fitness during Ramadan without causing excessive stress to your body.
For me, I can swim any time during the day, especially if it is an indoor pool. If you have only access to an outdoor pool, I recommend going during early hours or just before sunset. If the pool is covered, you may be able to feel less exhausted swimming during the day, but I generally avoid it. If you have trouble with accidentally swallowing water while swimming, I’ve found that using a snorkel helps greatly with this.
This year, I have tried doing my bike workouts just an hour and half after Sohour. It’s a good option if you have a short and high intensity session. You might feel a little thirsty the rest of the day, but I find that I have more energy to get a good workout in, given that I have just eaten.
For longer workouts, I will try to get it done before Sohour during a weekend, i.e. an overnight session. It’s best to do this if you have the flexibility to take a nap during the day to catch up on sleep.
You can also ride right before Iftar if it’s an easy 1 hour ride, for example. Indoor cycling seems to work best for me, but if not possible, try to do the workout with someone and take a bottle of water and something sweet just in case the ride goes longer than expected or if a mechanical problem arises.
Somehow, running just before Iftar works best for me, especially if it’s no longer than an hour endurance run. It’s very rewarding to finish 10 minutes before Iftar time, take a quick shower, and then hit the table for some good food :).
If you have speed work, 3 hours after Sohour is my favourite time to do it. This gives me enough time to digest the food I ate and not feel weighed down for the run.
Racing a Sprint or Olympic distance competition while fasting is possible but not necessarily good for your body. I have competed at a couple triathlons while fasting and I barely finished the day. It’s so much stress on your body and it takes much longer to recover that it’s not worth taking the risk.
Above all, I think the most important thing is to listen to your body. Everybody’s abilities are different from each other. If your body is not responding to a workout, call it a day. Missing a workout or 2 per week during Ramadan will not affect your performance. Take advantage of this special month to honour it the way we should, even if it means sacrifices here and there for our training. We are already half way through this year’s Ramadan. Good luck everybody!