Fasting, Fencing, & Ramadan: Training for the Summer Olympics During the Holy Month

Muslim Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad trains for up to 7 hours a day with no food or water.

Ibtihaj Muhammad is a nationally ranked American fencer. She is a member of the U.S. fencing team. Come August, she will be making history by participating in the 2016 Summer Olympics as the first U.S. athlete to compete in the games wearing a hijab. In an interview given to The Huffington Post, Muhammad said that her top priority is always her faith.

Fasting, Fencing, & Ramadan: Training for the Summer Olympics During the Holy Month[/tweetthis]

In the past also she has fasted and trained during the Ramadan month. What is different this year is that her training is very intense, up to seven hours of a total workout without food or water, as she is training for the Olympics.

Sabre fencing requires its practitioners to wear head to toe protection. This is what led Muhammad to take up the sport in the first place since it solved the problem of wearing revealing sports uniforms. Once she found the sport that let her abide by the requirements of her faith, Muhammad put her heart and soul into it and excelled in the sport.

During her high-school years, she captained two championship teams. She made the “all-America” team three times while at Duke University. She won the Junior Olympic Championship in 2005. In 2009, she won a Gold medal at the U.S.A. Fencing National Championships.

Muhammad's training schedule during the Ramadan month sees her getting up before sunrise for her morning prayers and suhoor, a meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting. She starts her cross-training at 6:45, and tries to wrap up the afternoon fencing sessions by 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. Her diet during this time includes a little meat as an energy source, and a lot of vegetables, fruits, and superfoods such as flaxseed and chia.

According to Muhammad, the biggest problem is the issue of hydration. In general, it is essential for athletes to stay hydrated to prevent muscle fatigue and cramping. Muhammad's solution to the problem is taking a lot of foods with high water content, such as watermelon, during suhoor, in addition to drinking as much water as possible before the fasting starts.

According to Muhammad, fasting and training during the month of Ramadan is a balancing act. She knows when to push herself, and when to ease up.

Fasting is not easy, says Muhammad. On top of that, the prayers in the mosque can go until midnight. Then, getting up early the next morning for the training sessions can be quite a challenge. However, it is only for 30 days. Also, she knows that there are a lot of people in this world who do not have access to food and water on a daily basis. Considering that, she is very thankful.

Muhammad is also hoping that her accomplishments would encourage other girls in achieving their dreams, irrespective of their religion, race or gender.


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