A Faster's Guide E to Workout Success; FITNESS Food May Be off the Menu but Hitting the Gym Need Not Be. Katie Strick Meets the Personal Trainer Coaching Women through Ramadan

The Evening Standard (London, England), May 20, 2019 | Go to article overview

A Faster's Guide E to Workout Success; FITNESS Food May Be off the Menu but Hitting the Gym Need Not Be. Katie Strick Meets the Personal Trainer Coaching Women through Ramadan


EVERY night at midnight, Nazia Khatun logs onto Facebook and streams her workout live across the world. It's only a 20-minute blast -- burpees, high knees, squat jumps, some stretching -- but Muslim women of all ages tune in.

Which may be surprising, given that it's Ramadan, which means abstaining from eating and drinking during sunlight hours. But Khatun insists that fasting is no excuse to quit training: in fact, getting in the gym is just the energy boost needed to get through the holy month.

"It's all about teaching people to feel good," says Khatun, 35. The Newhamborn boxer turned personal trainer has spent the past three years fine-tuning what she says is a revolutionary programme, Fitness Reborn, to help women keep their spirits and fitness levels up over the 30-day period.

It's one part fitness, one part neuroscience, and designed to help busy Londoners balance fasting with a fastpaced working culture: Google, EY and KMPG have all had her down for a session.

"Ramadan is a weird time for Muslim people because we tend to overeat," says Khatun, who struggled with depression and eating disorders throughout her twenties. "Everyone starves for 20 hours, then they see food and they go over-the-top, which prevents them from praying later on and doing a better fast the next day. They're full of headaches."

The key, she says, is to treat exercise like food or water and fit it into the sixhour period after dark. "If I don't train, it's like taking away water and food for survival," says Khatun. "Just as we need air to breathe, we need food to survive and water to replenish us, the body also needs exercise" -- you just have to be smart about it.

Rather than the normal hour she spends in the gym, Ramadan workouts are just 20 minutes because the body is tired. Khatun explains: "It's about taking the intensity down, lowering it, and getting maximum output in the shortest time."

She mixes up her Facebook Live workout every night and regularly posts videos on Instagram, whether it's sprints, HIIT or Tabata (eight rounds of exercises in 20-second intervals).

Even if you only have time for five minutes "that's enough", Khatun insists -- burpees, high knees and squat jumps are her wonder moves.

Timing is crucial. Training while fasting increases risk of injury so schedule your gym session after dark and, importantly, after eating. She recommends slow-release energy foods -- yesterday, Khatun had a "proper Christmas roast chicken dinner" and the day before it was fish with couscous and potatoes, plus "lots of porridge".

"Eat the protein first so the muscle clenches, and eat slowly so you don't get bloated," then snack throughout the six hours before a final meal at the end. …

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