exercise

The Ramadan workout

I’ve been Ramadaning while keeping up a workout schedule probably for the past three

This was taken about two weeks before Ramadan. But it represents the same exact swim I did last Tuesday evening while fasting. It was actually quite an enjoyable swim!

years. I can’t remember what I did while I was in Egypt. If I did work out in Egypt during Ramadan, it will definitely have been at night after I broke the fast.

Since I moved to the UK, I’ve been getting more and more serious about my training. That means that it is very inconvenient to completely stop training during the one month of the year when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. A lot of fitness can be lost in a month.

But Ramadan follows a lunar calendar, and what that means is that in the few past and coming years, it’s happening in the summer months. That’s a real issue when you live in northern Europe. According to the timetable I’m following, it means I can’t eat or drink (yes, not even water) from about 3 AM till 9:30 PM. Also, the gyms in my area all shut around 10 PM and all the group training activities are held some time during the day.

So I’ve been testing my limits with working out while fasting for the past three years. (more…)

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It’s not all about the glory but it helps

It’s not all about the glory.

But the seconds or minutes of glory that we sometimes get make all the other times bearable or even worthwhile.

Promise me you’ll do yourself a favor: Choose something that you feel is really important to accomplish. See it through to the very end no matter how hard it is. Revel in the glory of your accomplishment. Then remember that feeling when the hard times hit. You won’t regret it. I promise.

You don’t have to get gold in the Olympics or produce a number one hit single to feel the glory, by the way. Little things work too.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to make a two-tiered cake. Do it. And revel in the glory your kids will give you.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a language. Or get a degree in something. Or start a small business of your own.

Maybe you simply want to get fit and never thought for a second that you’d be able to run a whole ten kilometers. (more…)

Frozen shoulder, frozen brain, flowing emotions

Two months ago, I dislocated my shoulder after falling from my bike when my wheel got caught in a tram

The day after the fall, making our way to Amsterdam by train instead of bike.

The day after the fall, making our way to Amsterdam by train instead of bike.

track. I’ve seen very little improvement since then. In fact, yesterday things took a turn for the worse and my physiotherapist told me I have frozen shoulder. I’ve been losing range of movement in my shoulder. At first, I could move my shoulder in any direction. But movement in certain directions would cause the head of my humerus, the upper arm bone, to wobble and physically crackle within the joint. So I was told not to move my arm in any direction that would cause this. I needed to allow my soft tissue to heal properly. Doctors and physiotherapists worry about recurrence of dislocation with shoulders. Some doctors, I’ve been told, completely prevent any sort of physical activity with the arm in order to allow it to completely heal. I’ve been quite active but only doing the things that don’t cause pain or a wobbling joint.

Anyway, the things I used to be able to do after the injury, like swimming the breast stroke or putting my hair in a pony tail, I can no longer do.

My physiotherapist told me I have to wait for it to get worse before it gets better. (more…)

Life’s Lessons: Marathon Training and Doing What’s Right

I’ve done everything humanly possible to do this right. Yet it doesn’t seem to be working. Today, or tomorrow, or in the coming few days, I might have to make a very difficult decision that will leave me frustrated, to say the least. But it won’t be the end of the world.

I’ve said this now many times: I find running particularly challenging. I’ve engaged in many types of physical activity in the past few years. I go to the gym and workout. I hike. I cycle. I dive. I’ve climbed tall mountains and cycled across a continent. I’ve had to train very hard to do both. I’ve had to endure pain, cold, wet, mud, heat and disappointment in my activities as well. But for some reason, at least in my head, none of that compares to the challenge of running and trying to be good at it.

It is specifically because I find running so difficult that I decided to challenge myself and train to run a marathon. I started running about six years ago. So I’m not exactly a beginner runner. I incorporated running into my general training regime to keep fit and healthy.

But I only started trying to become a stronger runner about three years ago. My husband encouraged me to sign up for a 10km race. I had never done anything of the sort. I wasn’t sure I could even run that far. With some training, I did. Then I ran another. And another. They were all very challenging. I almost gave up on my second 10km race. I was the third or fourth from last to cross the finish line in that race. I could have given up then. Instead, I decided that I needed to figure out how to become a better and faster runner. (more…)

The Myths and Truths of “Listen to Your Body”

Foam rolling to nurse an aching leg before a run

Listen to your body.

How many times have people said that to me over the past ten years since I decided to become physically active?

But what does it mean? The implication is: If your body tells you it is tired, if your body tells you it needs a rest, then give it a rest.

But it’s not that simple, is it?

The easiest thing in the world is to use “listen to your body” as the best excuse in the world not to go to the gym, or not to go out and run, or not to get on that bike and cycle. That’s what physical activity does: it makes you feel tired. You’ll have aches and pains. You’ll get ravishingly hungry. You’ll feel hot or cold or itchy or sleepy or mentally pushed to your limit. If every single time we listened to our body when it told us we didn’t want to do something, we would hardly do anything.

I cycled across Europe last year. I know I go on and on about it. But it was one of the best experiences of my life. And I learned so much from it. On that trip I felt tired every single day for a two-month period. E V E R Y  S I N G L E  D A Y. There were times on that trip when I had cycled for more than 100 kilometers, I was lost, I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was hot… but I kept pushing myself to get to my next destination. I complained in my blog posts during that trip incessantly. I complained about how tired I was. I complained about my aches and pains. I complained about all my anxieties. It’s what I do. I express myself to get the feelings out of my head and be done with them. I got many messages from people telling me it was all right to take a break. It was all right to slow down. It was all right to give myself a rest. Yes. It would have been all right. But I didn’t need to. I could and I did keep going because I knew I had it in me despite the aches, pains, and anxieties. I knew I had the physical and mental strength to do exactly what I set out to do. And on the few rare days when I felt I really needed a break, I gave myself one as a treat.

I’ve been training for a marathon now for months. I’ve found this experience even more grueling than a two-month cycle across Europe. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 41: True to Myself

When God created what is now the Czech Republic, He made the earth roll like endless

This picture and the ones below are in Jihlava, Czech Republic.

This picture and the ones below are in Jihlava, Czech Republic.

waves in a stormy ocean.

It’s absolutely ridiculous. So ridiculous I’m not even going to complain. What’s the use? I’ll just have to suck it up, grit my teeth, and deal.

And so I’m really tired. That’s not complaining – it’s statement of fact. Every time I saw a hill today (which was every five minutes) I’d give a little sob and decide I was going to get off my bike and walk up that hill. Then I’d roll my eyes at myself and pedal my way up just this last one. That went on for 90km.

Yesterday’s cycle was actually worse because it was 130km of hills. When I got to 75km yesterday I stopped for a burger and complained to my husband. “Just take it ten kilometers at a time, darling,” he said.

That’s actually a great strategy that I’ve used on and off with various distances. Today I

Jihlava is a small town with a big McDonalds smack in its center.

Jihlava is a small town with a big McDonalds smack in its center.

used the ten kilometer strategy. I started off and told myself that 80km was actually just eight ten-kilometers. Ten kilometers is EASY for me to do; so surely I could do eight of them just as easily! I knew my total distance was actually nearer to 90km but I decided not to count the extra distance.”When you have 5-15km left in a ride, you’re basically done. So you don’t need to count the last few kilometers,” I convinced myself.

So I cycled ten kilometers and gave myself a pat on the back. “Now all you have to do, Nadia, is get to 20km,” I’d tell myself. It sounded very reasonable to me so I worked on that. And so on. I was dead tired for most of the way. But as a mental strategy it does help. I used a similar strategy while climbing Kilimanjaro a few short years ago. “Can you put your left foot down in front of you? Yes. Can you now put your right foot down in front of you? Yes.” And I just climbed, literally one small step at a time.

I don’t know how I would have managed to get this far without my husband’s support. Every single day he tells me how great I’m doing. He makes me feel like a super hero. He wasn’t always supportive when this was still in the idea stage, mind you. And I tell you this not to publicly put down my husband but to mainly ward off the evil eye from my marriage. It’s also important for people to understand that everything requires some give and take. Colin was very worried about me going on a trip like this on my own. I think it was when he realized how determined I was to go through with this and when he saw how meticulously I worked on the details that he really stepped up to pull through for me. Colin is the only person who I can show my miserable face to on our nightly Skype calls and not expect him to negatively judge me, put me down, or tell me to do anything less than I had originally planned to. He always tells me to keep going. He always tells me that I can do this. And I end up believing him.

A few people have interjected here and there when I’ve expressed exhaustion in my posts. “Slow down and enjoy yourself,” was the message. When I was at my absolute most miserable today, I briefly decided I wouldn’t write about it. “It’s not what people want to hear,” I heard myself think. I stopped myself right there. I don’t write what people want to hear. I write was IS. If people don’t like it that’s their problem.

Enjoyment is not everybody’s everyday goal. (more…)

A Race Against Myself

I have always struggled with running. It is not my sport. I usually resort to it only when I absolutely must. When I’m in

Running in Cairo with the totally awesome Cairo Runners.

Running in Cairo with the totally awesome Cairo Runners.

Egypt, my treadmill becomes one of the few means available to me for a daily workout. I stopped going to the gym in Egypt a few years ago because it took too long to get to it in Cairo’s horrendous traffic.

My problem with the treadmill is the mind-numbing monotony that comes with using it. After running for a kilometer or two my whole body feels like giving up because I am simply too bored.

I tried picking up running properly when the wonderful initiative of Cairo Runners started with weekly Friday runs. But due to my irregular participation, I was suddenly running distances that I had not properly trained for or graduated up to. My knees were unable to take the pounding from running long distances on pavement. I had to give up running completely for a few months to nurse my knee back to health. In the meantime, I focused on other forms of low-impact exercise.

Once my knee was better, I wanted to take up running again. I don’t like thinking that there is something out there that I cannot do. I find running boring, it hurts sometimes, and it requires tremendous endurance and willpower from me that I do not always have. But what all that really means is that I need to engage in a battle with myself and win it.

So I signed myself up for a 10 km race in the UK. (more…)

Nadia’s Ten Tips for Healthy Living

Anybody and everybody is writing about healthy living nowadays. Much of what is out there is common sense and you have to

My husband, a friend of ours, and I cycled from London to Paris this year. Having a short-term goal will motivate you to keep exercising.

My husband, a friend of ours, and I cycled from London to Paris this year. Having a short-term goal will motivate you to keep exercising.

wonder why someone has written a whole book about it. More of what is out there is just a load of crap. Generally, I think too many people have turned healthy living into something that is way too complicated for someone who wants to start on the road towards a healthier lifestyle.

So, since I am an anybody and I have accumulated some personal experience on this topic over the past few years, I thought I would share my own tips on how to live more healthily.

1.    Your goal should be gradually shifting into a lifestyle change and not finding a quick fix solution. One of the first things you need to do is completely remove the word diet from your vocabulary. YOU ARE NOT STARTING YET ANOTHER DIET. Your goal is not to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time. Your goal should not even be weight loss. Your goal should be to become healthy. This will inevitably result in some weight loss. But stop focusing on your weight and start focusing on changing the way you live.

2.    Lifestyle changes do not happen overnight. (more…)

My love-hate relationship with exercising

Almost every single time I start thinking about beginning my semi-daily exercise routine I feel dread. But I’ve never once regretted

Hiking in the Cinque Terre, Italy

Hiking in the Cinque Terre, Italy

exercising once I’m done.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes when I start exercising or when I go to the gym, I feel like giving up in the middle of it all. Sometimes I do the easier exercises rather than the more difficult ones. Sometimes in gym class I’ll be so tired that I do things at half the pace as everyone else. And a couple of times I’ve started an activity and I’ve just completely given up after a few minutes. But that’s only happened when I’ve chosen to do something I’m completely unprepared to do.

My journey with exercise has been just that: a long and arduous journey. It’s taken me years to understand my body, its limitations, how far I can push it, and when I just need to rest. It’s taken me years to get myself into a mindset of exercising as regularly as I can, no matter where I am, and no matter what facilities are available to me. The one thing that has convinced me most to keep pushing forward is that I want to be fit enough to enjoy my life and to do fun and exciting things. (more…)

26 Things I Learned in 2012 (and Thereabouts)

  1. Your family and your personal wellbeing always trump work.
  2. Your personal integrity is more important than a good salary.
  3. Love can be found on the tops of mountains.
  4. Never give up on the idea of finding your prince charming. He’s out there somewhere if you look hard enough.
  5. The very very hard times WILL be followed by good times so just hang in there a little bit longer. It will get better.
  6. Don’t worry too much about the details. Focus on the big picture.
  7. Sometimes your psyche and your body are yelling, “Give us a break!” Listen to them. Every now and then we need to give ourselves time to heal and to rejuvenate.
  8. Earth is such a beautiful planet. Make a point to see as much of it as you can manage.
  9. Earth is such a beautiful planet. It’s your responsibility to take care of it.
  10. Great friends are few and priceless. Hold onto them for dear life.
  11. Children are God’s greatest blessing. Treat them with respect and sensitivity.
  12. Be true to yourself. To do that you must know who you are. To do that, look within. Do not be confused by other people’s perceptions of who they think you are or who they want you to be.
  13. Value relationships with loved ones by keeping them strong. This requires lots of hard work. It’s worth it.
  14. To keep fit and healthy one must work hard and feel the pain.
  15. Don’t let the fitness of others demotivate you. If you continue to exercise, you can be as fit as they are one day.
  16. 70-year-olds who are consistent in their workout routines can be more fit than many 30-year-olds. These people deserve respect.
  17. Nothing bad will happen to you if you run in the rain or in sub-zero temperatures so just toughen up and get your jogging routine done.
  18. Live life. You only have one chance to do it.
  19. Don’t live your life through others. Decide what it is you would rather be doing and put together a plan to do it.
  20. There is nothing wrong with being 44-years-old and still not knowing what you want to be when you grow up (or wanting to be lots of different things).
  21. As you get older, your skin will droop and your hair will grow grey. Deal with it.
  22. When your country and your countrymen seem to be drowning in a sea of negativity, do what you can to be a drop of positivity in that sea.
  23. Democracy doesn’t come in 18 days. Hope and dignity do.
  24. Faith is a very personal matter. Do not let others tell you how your faith should be.
  25. Never dispose of common sense…especially when it comes to matters of faith.
  26. Do not allow others to dictate to you how your life should be lived, what you should believe, or how you should behave. They are doing what they want to do. You do what you want to do.