There is something oddly satisfying in knowing and understanding my physical strength. But what surpasses this satisfaction is being able to pinpoint milestones, review transformations and apply determination and focus through everything I do. Who knew this getting fit business would have cascading benefits across all other dimensions of my life? I thought I was just going to get some iron therapy, but as it turns out I’ve gained focus and confidence to last me all day. Here is a solid confirmation that changing your physique is possible. Not from an Instagram model or celebrity or a crossfire expert, take it from a real person with no previous sporting experience (me!). Coming from a basic Asian childhood with basic parents who basically ignored all kinds of sports and physical fitness (sorry Mom, I’m not bad mouthing you), I grew up to basically be overweight, suffer from regular asthma, suffer from random rashes and worst of all ignoring the true causes of it. So when I finally hit a milestone in my fitness journey, you could only imagine the frantic rush of adrenaline when I lifted my 200 pound husband on my back and walked around the house. Soon I realised it wasn’t just about lowering the number on the scale, it was actually about getting stronger and practicing control over my life. It was a change in mindset which ushered great changes in my life.
How I got started and kept going
At first it was the vehement disgust at my spare tire (aka love handles) and pancake butt that woke me up. Joining the gym was an immediate result, and my husband’s guidance was a true blessing. Well, not every sister has a permanent fitness coach in the form of a husband, but this should never deter you from setting and smashing your fitness goals. As strong Muslimahs we don’t make excuses to block strength, even when it comes to our health. Baby steps is the key. Once I learned the basics (this requires a bit of research and study) I was better off training and looking after myself. Ever heard the phrase “Nothing good comes easy”? Yeah, well this is the mantra I kept repeating. The first few months were brutal because I was always disappointed. I mixed cardio with strength training. This is when my lungs started to get stronger. Eventually I didn’t need to have my inhaler with me all the time.
Focus and determination didn’t really happen until I was a few months into my training. And by few I mean more than six months. By then I had seen tiny changes which inspired me to keep going. I would say this is the key when it comes to inspiration. Once you see those little changes, you will truly be motivated and determined to keep going. But this doesn’t come without being a little persistent at first. Most people lack the motivation to stick to their fitness routine because they have not seen the changes they thought they would see. No wonder so many are looking for crash diets and quick fixes. Unfortunately those lead to nothing but a quick crash into failure. Changes in the body happen as a result of training your body (gym or home) then feeding it the fuel it needs to make those changes happen.
They say women should stay away from weights. They say it makes women bulky and slowly turns them into men. What’s up with all these misconceptions? Weight training requires the use of muscles which women have. Due to the hormone balance in women’s bodies, lifting weights does not cause bulking up in muscles like it does for men. Natural weight lifters, such as myself and countless other women, have toned their body using the basic principles of muscle hypertrophy. Lifting causes micro tears in the muscle fibres. Upon repairing it causes the muscle to get stronger and slightly larger. Continue this on a large scale and you have stronger muscles which require more calories to sustain even when you are resting. More calorie burn during working out ultimately improves your metabolism, appetite, mental clarity and of course burns a lot of calories.
Knowledge is power
I would say that more than physical strength, my mental strength helped me to be able to lift. Knowledge is such an integral part of who we are as Muslims that the lack of which directly affects us mentally and physically. I mean, ignorance of the body definitely causes sickness and weakness. Gaining a bit of education in today’s world is super easy, prioritising is the hard part. The human body is balanced and in that balance is simplicity. It did me a great deal of good to understand the basics of nutrition, the musculoskeletal system, and how to tie it all together. Subhan Allah, the human body! It is more under our control than we think. Alhamdulilah, me revisiting high school biology was more fun now than it was back in school! This truly helped me to get an insider’s view of what is happening within me. Plus it was a win-win situation, gaining knowledge teaches me about the body which helps me to appreciate Allah’s (SWT) creation. Hello fit body and barakah!
Food is more important than you think
Nutrition aka food is the fuel of the body. It fuels, repairs, maintains and keeps you strong and healthy. The lack of good nutrition results in all types of chronic illness and diseases. My asthma, that I had for 18 years, was an immediate result of my weak lungs and poor gut health. Once I made changes to my diet, my physical health and emotional health quickly improved. It is very important for us to understand the relation our gut has with our brain. Both work together to create a healthy body, and positive emotions. When I ate nutritionally poor foods, my health was weak. When I included nutritionally dense and whole foods, I felt stronger, satisfied and had mental capacity to smash career and personal goals. It was like the circle of life. Eat good to feel good to accomplish good then get hungry so I eat good to feel good and accomplish more tasks. As simple as it may be, it nonetheless blew my mind. Food was such an integral part of my transformation, subhan Allah. Allah (SWT) has provided us with the tools we need to create a better version of ourselves. We just need to acquire the knowledge of how to do so.
Consistency is a very important discipline
As in everything Islam has taught us, consistency should govern all our work. Don’t forget fitness too. Remember the circle of life? Well it applies here too. Hard work shows results which motivate you to keep working hard. I had a few troubled days in the beginning but who doesn’t? It’s almost a milestone in itself. The moment where you stop slacking and actually decide to never miss an item on your exercise routine, is the moment to rejoice and give yourself a gift because you surely earned it. This is the same point where so many others quit. The constant slacking off gets bigger until fitness routines are no longer in the schedule. If you keep consistent in working out then you can translate this energy into salah, reading Qur’an and continuous good deeds.
Fitness is more than just aesthetics
An important part of strength training is focus. I needed to be focused in my workout routines. Every lift requires concentration, controlled breathing, activating core muscles and completing the rep with proper form. With so much to get right, it automatically forced my nervous system to concentrate on one task and do it right. Repeat this for one hour every day for more than a year and my nervous system along with my mental focus dramatically improved. The attentiveness I learned while lifting became a part of my personality. It helped me to apply this tunnel vision talent throughout my other tasks. If you are looking to develop the art of single tasking successfully, then I would definitely suggest iron therapy. As with the sunnah way of not multitasking, strength training helped to develop the art of completing one task before moving on to another. After all fitness is more than just aesthetics. We are creating a fitter version of who we are. Looking better is a by-product but not the sole gain.
So Get Strong Muslimahs
Building strength isn’t something alien to women. Are we supposed to be that frail damsel in distress? No way. Physical strength ultimately translates into good health and overall wellbeing. How much you can lift depends on how long you have been lifting. That’s irrelevant, but getting started and keeping that change constant proves you to be a true fighter. How I learned to lift my husband was a direct result of keeping a constant healthy change in my lifestyle, alhamdulillah. Thinking back to the time when I had to keep the inhaler in my pocket, the best therapy I received was clanging and banging with weights. My husband weighs 200 pounds. I weigh 140 pounds. While being absolutely as humble as I can, I tell you that I can lift my husband. And if you want that kind of physical strength I’ll give you a warning. This kind of determination comes with mental strength, confidence and the power to transform you into the best you can be. Women, the foundation of society, we must realise our strengths and even once in a while lift our husbands!
Marina Farook is an aircraft maintenance engineer, lifter and health coach from St. Pete, Florida. A strong believer in prophetic healing and naturopathic medicine, Marina “WonderMama” Farook is a health coach who believes on increasing the strength of an individual. She advocates strength in mind, body and spirit through exercise and proper nutrition. Please follow her on https://www.instagram.com/w0ndermama/