Gulf Today

Muslim athletes push boundaries for training in Ramadan


LONDON: Approachin­g midnight, the hard work is just beginning for Sabir Hussein.

Trains running on the elevated railway above Diesel Gym in East London’s docklands are mostly empty. Inside, a mixed martial arts session awaits.

Hussein’s 10:30 p.m. agenda: escaping front headlocks, plus perfecting single-leg takedowns.

The timing is far from ideal, but during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslim athletes around the world adjust their schedules to squeeze in workouts when they can.

Dawn-to-dusk fasting poses obstacles about the best time to exercise - if it’s an option - because it can adversely impact sleep and energy levels, something anyone who has joined the intermiten­t fasting trend might have experience­d.

“Not training at all - that’s not an option,” the 27-year-old Hussein said.

Hussein is an emerging MMA flyweight who plans to fight again in early June. He has a 4-2 amateur record and hopes to turn profession­al later this year.

“If I don’t train, I’ll fall behind in terms of my fitness. Once I start picking things up ater Ramadan - it would be a lot harder if I didn’t train throughout the month.”

The late-evening classes held every night during Ramadan are run by the nonprofit SCK Fitness Team, co-founded by Hussein and Warsame Ibrahim. The discipline­s include MMA, boxing and Muay Thai. It’s 5 pounds ($6) a session with proceeds going to charity; a women-only class is free.

By the time the three-dozen athletes - a wide range in ages and skill levels - kick off their footwear and stretch it’s been about four hours since “itar” when they’ve broken their fast, followed by prayers at their mosque.

The downside of late workouts? The resulting adrenaline can make it hard to fall asleep - and that’s no fun ahead of a 4 a.m. wakeup call for prayers and a pre-dawn meal called “suhoor.”

“If I have a hard session, I might stay up for another hour or two. I might get to bed around 2:30 (a.m.),” said Hussein, adding that ater a light session he falls asleep easily.

On a recent evening, it looked like something in between. About halfway through, Hussein hadn’t yet broken a sweat despite humid conditions that sent others searching for their water botles in the wall cubbies ater Ibrahim paused the “nasheed” Islamic hymn for a one-minute break.

The gym - home to several UK champions - includes a boxing ring, an MMA cage and the wrestling mats where most of the training takes place.

Outside of Ramadan, the Somali-born Hussein would train mid-morning, work in the aternoon as a kids’ boxing coach and personal trainer, and do MMA sessions between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bahrain