What exercise means to your life
This is a reflection on how exercise has changed my life and how it could change yours. Until I had children, it never occurred to me that exercise was a necessity. I was no athlete by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the thought of even going to the gym was ridiculous to me. Let me now temper this and set a stage for your understanding. I grew up in an era when you walked most places or took public transportation, a bus. Most often my sister and I walked to the grocery store which was about a mile away and carried at least pounds of groceries back home each. My father took long morning walks with us, about four to six miles round trip. When we returned we stretched and did basic calisthenics, to relax our muscles then showered and had a high protein full breakfast. It included turkey bacon, eggs with parsley and spices like cumin, whole wheat bread, grapefruit and grapes sometimes pomegranate, tea and of course water. My father encouraged us by example to exercise often by doing push- ups and sit ups, jumping jacks, etc. My father showed us by example at the age of seventy while looking about forty. He also taught us how to play tennis at his advanced aged. In fact, exercise was such an integral part of my life that I accepted it like breathing.
As an adult, I stopped walking and started driving long distances for work. Living in the suburbs, there are few sidewalks of course except for the ones within your neighborhood. These days those sidewalks are rarely used as no one really knows their neighbors. You may have the occasional runner or dog walker. Then I had a child and another one. Despite being raised in a home where we had good wholesome food and had a balanced diet, I was not informed enough about nutrition specific to a woman’s needs to prevent excess weight gain with my second pregnancy. During this pregnancy, I was also placed on bed rest complicating my weight control. For the first time in my life I was actually inactive! I actively sought physical activity following my second pregnancy in a way that was unnecessary after my first. After my first pregnancy, I simply walked the nine flights of stairs everyday to my office instead of taking the elevator and within six weeks was back to normal. Now I bought exercise DVDs by Denise Austin to "Shrink my Fat zones". Eventually I found what worked best for me, a combination of Pilates and weight training.
Strength training in general comes highly recommended from some of the top personal trainers today. See article here by Fitmuslimah.com. Even now in Ramadan, I maintain my exercise routine twice a day. Since I have the most energy earlier in the day, I use weights before fajr to get my blood flowing and wake up to make suhoor. Just before iftar I work more on pilates and stretching type exercises. Other than Fit Muslimah, the other articles I have found are geared towards men. However Azeem Khan does have many recommendations in line with my experiences. Note the Azeem Khan recommends a much longer workout than I ever do. As a mother of five, I live by the mantra less is more. When it comes to exercise that means 5 - 8 minutes tops before each of the five daily prayers or during Ramadan 5 - 8 minutes just before suhoor and iftar. Post workout I drink up to five glasses of water and eat a protein dense meal followed by calcium magnesium zinc supplement to feed my muscles. All within the comfort of my own home, I set a good example for my children and maintain my sanity.
Now ten years later, I have maintained a healthy weight, mental state and learned to better understand the things my father tried to implement in our diets. At a recent event, I saw someone who had not seen me in over ten years and was told that I have not changed. Embrace a routine of exercise in your daily life, it can stop the effects of aging whilst giving you a positive outlook on life.
What exercise means in your life is that you can in sha Allah live a little happier, longer and healthier.