Ramadan 2022: UAE runners explain how they keep fit during the holy month – News

Athletes nationwide discuss their passion for running and how fasting plays a role in their fitness

Photos: provided

Published: Mon 18 Apr 2022, 12:06

Last update: Mon 18 Apr 2022, 2:49 PM

Running at least 10 minutes a day can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This, among several other benefits, is why people choose running as a form of exercise. While some embrace running from a young age, there are others who take up the sport late in life. Nevertheless, they end up working wonders.

One of them is Sami Anis, a 44-year-old Syrian expat who has lived in the United Arab Emirates for 19 years. “When I started running in 2010, I only wanted to complete a full 42km marathon in Dubai,” he said in a chat with City hours. “Now I have finished several races, won many podiums and I have so many reasons to keep racing.”

“I also help others achieve their goals and inspire them to become better versions of themselves,” he says. Perhaps this is how he aims to give back to the city and the community where he has resided for nearly two decades.

We chat with Sami and two other athletes, Jade Blackmore and Adeeb Zaheer, who tell us about their passion for running, their knowledge of the sport and the injuries to beware of, and how they continue even during the month of Ramadan.

Sami Anis

Occupation: IT manager

Why are you running?

Running is my therapy, it allows me to face my fears and I feel autonomous and resilient.

I like to challenge myself and achieve new goals. Each time I push a little further, I feel physically and mentally stronger.

What milestones have you achieved and are you aiming to achieve?

My biggest achievement was in Berlin last September when I managed to run a full marathon in just under 3 hours.

I have also been on the podium in many races in the United Arab Emirates. My last accomplishment was at the Expo race when I finished first out of 800 runners in my age category and ninth overall out of 3000 runners.

I can’t wait to get the six star medal from the 6 marathon world majors. I got my first star in Berlin last year and I’m chasing stars in Boston and London this year.

What is the best way to avoid injuries in this sport?

With proper preparation, stretching, and proper hydration, I didn’t suffer any serious injuries. Like any other athlete, I get aches here and there when I run long distances or when I’m over-trained.

As summer approaches, running in the heat can put me at risk of dehydration. I make sure I have proper hydration and electrolytes, especially when planning a long run.

Stretching before and after each running session is essential, as well as strengthening all the muscles of the body. The abdominal muscles, in particular, play an important role in helping to avoid injury to the lower body; knees, calves, achilles.

Getting enough rest and sleep plays a key role in recovery and preparing for the next race.

When do you get new running shoes?

I have different running shoes for various running exercises like speed sessions and daily runs. I also save a different pair for race day.

I usually get a new pair after using one for 600-800km; every 6 months.

Also, if I start to feel pain in my knees, hips, or ankles, I change my running shoes. Sometimes deals and promotions are also valid reasons for me to retire old running shoes.

How do you stay motivated when you don’t feel like running?

During the summer or on humid days, it’s not always easy to find the motivation to run or to have the rewarding feeling of running.

Being part of a ‘Run 4 A Purpose’ running club, where I am joined by friends and fellow athletes, keeps me motivated and engaged. There are also other tricks I do to counter the lack of motivation, like changing the running route or adding training to my running. However, nothing makes the motivation stronger than remembering my biggest challenge and my dream of six world marathons; it is something that, if accomplished, will make me so proud.

Do you plan to participate in races in the near future?

With summer here, we can consider the UAE racing season as a break. However, I’m very excited to be taking part in the Boston Marathon this week, it’s one of the toughest races in the world.

I also qualified for the World Marathon Majors Age Group Championships in London.

What is the impact of Ramadan on your sports routine?

During Ramadan, I limit my exercise and running time to 45-50 minutes. I avoid intense exercises or long runs that will hurt me too much, I prefer to do easy runs around 9:30 p.m.

Some days I run just before Iftar so I can break my fast after I finish my run.

During Ramadan, I also mainly focus on maintenance and recovery.

Jade Blackmore

profession: athlete, fitness instructor

Why are you running?

I started running 10 years ago to raise money for my sister’s charity after she was diagnosed with cancer (she has fully recovered). And in doing so, I realized that running had actually saved me and changed my life for the better.

What milestones have you reached?

My biggest step to date is running 50k to raise awareness for equality in 2020 (#runforequality with Underarmour). Running has taken me around the world for many races, including two major marathons, Berlin and Chicago! New York is coming this year, so there are only three left.

What milestones do you hope to achieve?

This year will be my biggest racing challenge yet. 90 km ultra in South Africa followed by the New York marathon to end the year.

What injuries are you likely to run from?

I don’t want to jinx it but I haven’t had an injury for a few years now. When I started running I suffered a bit from shin splints, but luckily nothing to report recently.

The best way to avoid injuries…

Warming up is crucial with running. The same goes for strength training and fueling your body properly. Rest is also crucial as your body repairs itself.

How do you stay motivated when you don’t feel like running?

I recently started running again after giving birth and it was a shock to the system to not be at the level I was at before pregnancy. But knowing how much running has changed my life for the better is what motivates me every time. Even on bad days, I know I’ll feel better after a race.

When do you get new running shoes?

I go through a lot of running shoes with the mileage but luckily I am sponsored by the best brand. He always keeps me stocked with the best shoes. My running shoes are also connected to map my run, so I’m notified when it’s time to replace them.

How have you invested in knowledge of the sport?

I had the chance to run with amazing athletes in different running clubs. I have invested in a running coach who has provided me with invaluable knowledge over the past few years. And I like to listen to running podcasts. It also gives me a lot of motivation.

What role does Ramadan play in your sports routine?

This is my first time fasting and it has definitely changed my running routine. I’m currently training for the Copenhagen Marathon next month so my mileage is high but I have to run in the evening rather than the morning. I filmed my workouts online on YouTube (Jade Limitless) every day before Iftar. Then, I run three evenings a week around 9 p.m. Ramadan has taught me to be even more disciplined with my running because now I have to make sure I always push myself to go late at night.

Adeb Zaheer

Profession: Key Accounts Coordinator

Why are you running?

Running has always been my passion since childhood. The reason I run is to be a better version of myself, to avoid mental stress and also for a good work-life balance.

What milestones have you achieved and are you aiming to achieve?

I have won many medals since childhood for running. Although I think it’s not in my genes, my hard work and effort helped me reach the national level in school days, which is my greatest achievement. I was also one of the fastest runners in specific events among other schools in the UAE. However, due to constraints and injuries, I was unable to reach the elite level. Now I am looking forward to running in various middle distance (road running) events like 3km and 5km and trying to reach top 10 places.

What is the best way to avoid injuries in this sport?

It depends on how you warm up. A good warm-up is the best way to avoid injury, especially in sensitive areas such as the hamstrings and knee ligaments.

When do you get new running shoes?

Usually every 8-12 months, depending on the condition and comfort of the shoes.

How do you stay motivated when you don’t feel like running?

There are days when I can’t run and the best way for me to stay motivated is to watch motivational reels. To keep my fitness level intact, I keep my body active during the day by stretching or even walking around my neighborhood.

Do you plan to participate in races in the near future?

For now, I’m not looking forward to running races. I focus more on off-season training until November. However, I am trying to get back into running (athletics).

How have you invested in knowledge of the sport?

I actually took a Level 1 Coaching Course from World Athletics which not only provides the knowledge to run but also educates me on various aspects such as anatomy, coach-student relationships, steps athlete development, injury prevention, etc.

How does Ramadan play a role in your exercise routine?

During Ramadan, I make sure to do a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity during the day. Sometimes I train before Iftar keeping in mind the intensity which can cause fatigue during my fasting hours.

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