Be Fit for Ramadan

By Ayesha Akhtar, MPH, CPT

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous. (Surah Al-Baqarah: Verse183)

With Ramadan approaching in just a few weeks, many of you, like myself, are wondering how to maintain a level of fitness throughout the month of Ramadan, so as not to lose endurance and muscle tone (neither are completely true). Fear not! There are several habits you can adopt throughout your day, and can maybe even enhance the spiritual aspect of fasting by giving you a little extra energy here and there. I’ve share below some of my own lessons learned. Feel free to share your own!

For my readers who are not familiar with the logistics of Ramadan, allow me to share. Fasting for 30 days during the month of Ramadan (one month on the lunar calendar) is one of the five main pillars of Islam. This year, Ramadan begins at the end of June. Physically and mentally able Muslims (there are several exemptions) will fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food, water, smoking, and sex during those times. At sunset, it is tradition to break fast with a date, which is essentially a superfood, water and the company of others. It is such a beautiful time of togetherness and camaraderie. Many faiths participate in fasting on some level. The first few days are tough, then your body gets into a groove, the last 10 days are hard, knowing the end is near. It is a time for physical cleansing, and spiritual resetting. Many will attend the Mosque for prayers more often than, others prefer to stay at home. We end the month of Ramadan with Eid ul Fitr, a celebration lasting three days, with gift giving galore!  Continue reading

Weight Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number | Shauna Harrison

Weight Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number | Shauna Harrison.

I stumbled upon this great post speaking to the need to dissociate from the numbers that often women (and men) are tethered to. Physical fitness allows us the opportunity to be stronger, more lean, more flexible, more aware, alert and mobile. Love the positive images of this girl – and she’s a public health girl, too!

Catch her on Instagram — she started the #sweataday revolution!

Race Recap: The party is over…

If you have ever been a part of planning a huge party or a wedding, then you get it. That empty feeling you have as the last guest leaves, and your heart swells up with joy and your mind is sorting through all the new memories you created. Maybe you are wondering, when will I see them again? It’s a dramatic sentiment, but it’s exactly how I am feeling now, post-triathlon. I feel like I said goodbye to a dear friend. One that I trained with for months and months. It kept me company every day and because it was new, every week was exciting. I loved the highs and lows of learning how to swim all over again. Oh, and the gear?? Buying a new swim suit after YEARS. Experimenting with goggles, paddles, flippers and buoys. Some things I never knew existed for the water before this year. The drama with my bike, wavering between, ‘will I like triathlons and if so should I buy a road bike’, or ‘Nah, I’ll just hybridize my mountain bike and deal with it’. I installed a bike computer and pedal cages which made me feel accomplished. I had the run covered, no sweat. But it was tricky learning how to successfully complete brick workouts from bike to run!

The 2014 Esprit de She Sprint Triathlon. Here’s how it went down.

The standard 4am wake up call: adrenaline woke up me and got me out of the house. I was in transition by 5:30am, set up all my gear as you can see below, and started eating my overnight oats. That was one of the smarter things I did that morning…

sweet bikes to my right and left...

sweet bikes to my right and left…

Then my fellow race pals and I decided to walk the T1 and T2 paths to familiarize ourselves with the course and stay warm. Transition would close at 6:45am, so by this point, we had about an hour. It was really great to walk around and see everyone’s transition setup, especially swoon over the elite bikes! That’s when it really hit me that my mountain bike with hybrid tires wasn’t going to cut it.

Before it all went down...

Before it all went down…

 

The 750 m Swim

Swallowed some EnergyBits tablets and it was time to head out. Grabbed my goggles and swim cap and we made our way. I had a mylar blanket to keep myself warm until my start time of 7:52 (Wave 14). In my mind I was thinking, I’ve got this! All I need to do is get into a groove and I’ll be set. I had NO IDEA what I was in for. For those of you who have done a triathlon, you know what I’m chaos I am referring to! A friend and fellow racer from my running club did warn me that it would take about 100-200m before my nerves would calm down / HR would come down. What I wish I had prepared for was that feeling of ‘HEY, is that woman trying to drown me?!?!’ Surely she is not, she is trying to do exactly the same as me, which is find some space and get into a groove. I was so anxious I had to flip on my back and swim backstroke for about a full lap. It’s simply very hard to swim well when you are constantly being kicked and smacked. No lane lines to see where you are going, you constantly have to look up. I kept trying to look out for my vista points but would lose them moments later. Maybe that’s just the beginner’s swim, and now it won’t happen again? I know I lost a LOT of time panicking and doing this. Despite the drama, my total time for the swim was 19 minutes.

T1: 4:58

Couple notes on T1. My bike was racked towards the end of the entry, so it was a long shuffle from the swim. Getting my bike off the rack – should have practiced after racking it in the morning. Lesson learned.

The 13.3 mile Bike

Got the bike off the rack, grabbed a fig bar, water bottle was already loaded but I FORGOT to add a Nuun tablet. And rushed out to mount. I had taped a Clif gel to my bike the night before so that would be my source of carbs for the ride. THE WIND WAS AWFUL. It was a double loop course so I thought I’d be safe on the way back since I was getting so much headwind, but no, not at all. Wind found me head on both ways, both times. Drank water every 5 miles, took the gel at mile 8. All I can say about the bike is that I was being passed up by mostly everyone and their mom and by the end if I heard someone say “On your left!!” one more time, I was going to S C R E A M! I made a point to pass up a few people and finished strong with a lousy 54 min.

T2: 3:37

Notes on T2. There is be no reason why this cannot be under 2-2 1/2 minutes. Especially because I was not wearing cycling shoes. Alas, I racked my bike, took off the helmet, grabbed the visor, Garmin but FORGOT my bib. I ran out, stepped on the timing belt and it wasn’t until a woman quickly called out ‘HEY you forgot your bib!!’. I ran back to transition and ran back out. So there’s my awful T2 time.

The 5k Run

The run was awesome! I got into a meditative groove right away, knowing it is my strength. However, the last race I did was the Soldier Field 10 mile and I cramped at mile 8. The cramping got me through the finish line until my legs started spasming so bad that I was wheeled into the medic tent. All I kept thinking about was thanking God for giving me the opportunity to race today, and to please keep my legs in check and let me just get through pain-free! And I did!! Also, I don’t race short distances so there was no time to complain 🙂 My average pace was 8:27 and my time was 26:15 (53/246). I will say one more thing, the finish line deceived me. There were two timing belts, placed about 20 m apart, I don’t know WHY I nearly stopped at the first one, until I heard a woman yell out to me to KEEP GOING (maybe the same one who said my bib was missing??). I have never ever done that in any race, so either fatigue set in or the race layout is all wrong 🙂

Overall

I know there was room for improvement in everything I did. And that’s the beauty of your first time, you create the framework from which to improve and make modifications. My overall time was 1:48. I planned for 1:45, mostly because it sounds like a really great number. Otherwise I have nothing to compare this to, so until I sign up for another sprint triathlon, which I will, I will happily take my beautiful medal and enjoy the fact that I set out to complete a triathlon, and now I can finally say, I’m a triathlete!!

Hopefully the first of many

Hopefully the first of many

 

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Ultimate Veggie Burger 

I really liked this recipe, and the chickpeas make a nice base. It’s also a nice change from black beans.

It makes a lot… halve the recipe for 4 good sized servings.

Recipe from 101 Cookbooks, adapted by Love and Olive Oil

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups sprouted garbanzo beans (chickpeas) OR canned garbanzos, drained and rinsed
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 onion, chopped
Grated zest of one large lemon (or omit, if you’re not a fan)
1 cup micro sprouts, chopped (try broccoli)
1 cup toasted (whole-grain) bread crumbs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

If you are using sprouted garbanzos, steam them until just tender, about 10 minutes.

Most of you will be using canned beans, so jump right in and combine the garbanzos, eggs, and salt in a food processor. Puree until the mixture is the consistency of a very thick, slightly chunky hummus. Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in the cilantro, onion, zest, and sprouts.

Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a couple of minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. The mixture should be moist enough to easily form and hold a patty shape. Add more bread crumbs a bit at a time to firm up the dough if need be. Conversely, a bit of water or more egg can be used to moisten the batter. Form mixture into 12 patties.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium low, add 4 patties, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes. Flip the patties and cook the second side for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties. Serve on buns topped with avocado, tomato, onion, and more sprouts, if desired. Alternatively, you can make extra-thick patties (1 1/2 inches), and slice them in half after cooking. Put the filling inside the patty, and you have a self-bunning-burger.

My first triathlon!

This is it!

Raceweek! The homestretch! Whatever you call it, it’s here. I’m thrilled with my training, and can’t wait until I get into the pool on Sunday. When I consider the swim alone, I’ve come SO FAR in just a few months. I have successfully overcome my traumatic near-drowning experience in Kauai a little over 4 years ago, which kept me out of the water all this time. Time is both a great healer and mentor. I have done the hard work: the laps in the pool, the miles on the road, the indoor and outdoor rides. This week I need to focus on nutrition, sleeping and stretching. I’ll get in the water once or twice, ride and run twice. Friday is REST DAY! The two days before the race I will load up on complete protein and complex carbohydrates to top off glycogen levels. Can’t forget to hydrate! For race-day endurance I plan on taking my EnergyBits before I hit the pool, and again in T1 before I get on the bike. I will load my water bottle with Nuun and have a backup ready to go. Fig bars will be the energy of choice – they are a great source of potassium, sodium and are extremely portable.

Do you have a big race coming up? What does your raceweek look like?

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My Interview with the SkinLess Project

The SkinLess Project presents:
Inspirational Woman May 2014: Ayesha Akhtar
An Interview.

I was honored to be the “Inspirational Woman” for the month of May at the SkinLess Project. To hear more about my endeavors, check out the website here.

You are passionate about advocacy for women and young girls, where does this stem from?

In college (Loyola University Chicago) I received a scholarship into a 4 year women’s leadership program. I knew I was some version of a feminist (or a proponent of the advancement of women), but had no idea about the passion the program would ignite in me by the time I graduated. Thereafter, I viewed everything from the lens as an advocate for women and girls. (Check out the Gannon Center for Women and Leadership)