Ramadan 2014: How did it go?

So here we are, nearly on the eve of Eid (al-Fitr, also known as the “Sugar Feast”), the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan.

I can’t wait for Ramadan to be over, but on the other hand I can’t believe it’s been a month I wrote this post with tips for a happy Ramadan. This year, I was determined to spend the holy Muslim month in a useful and positive way. Did I succeed? Read below to find out how I did regarding diet, training, energy levels, and work.

(Pictures are taken during a trip to Al-Balad, Jeddah’s Historical Town that recently gained Unesco status, and from an iftar meal (breaking of the fast) at my mother-in-law’s)

Diet

Iftar table set at my mother-in-law

Lavish iftar table set at my mother-in-law’s

During previous Ramadan months I sometimes struggled to eat enough. A few years ago I ended up with (not wanted) weight loss and anemia. This year I paid extra attention to my diet, eating enough complex carbs, (mainly plant-based) protein, and healthy fats. I mostly ate a relatively small iftar in order to be able to do my runs later in the evening. Following my trainings I would have a meal with proteins and carbs. As planned, we ate suhoor around 1 a.m. (though this shifted to 2 a.m. as the month progressed) and went to bed between 2 and 2:30 a.m. I then woke up again some 10 minutes before the Fajr (dawn) prayer to eat yoghurt with oats and muesli and dates.

Balilah - a traditional Ramadan dish containing chickpeas, pickles, vinegar, and optional) hot sauce

Balilah – a traditional Ramadan dish containing chickpeas, pickles, vinegar, and (optional) hot sauce

The result is that my weight remained stable, so in this sense I was successful.

Training

Jeddahs Old Town Al-Balad) during Ramadan

Jeddah’s Old Town Al-Balad) during Ramadan

My goal was to take it easy on the exercise front and not run more than an hour a day four times a week. I later changed this to 45 minutes, as I also wanted to incorporate some strength training in my sessions and did not want to exceed much over one hour.

Despite my high energy levels I could stick to this, and after four weeks of following this schedule I can say that I probably maintained my fitness pretty well. This last week, however, I felt weaker than before, and so I am looking forward to build up my strength and stamina again after this month. I also got some pain in my hip, which could be due to dehydration or the extra burden on my body as it couldn’t recover that well during the day. Often, it was difficult to motivate myself, but once a week I ran outside with some running buddies, which gave me the energy to keep up my trainings.

Woman selling traditional foods in Al-Balad

Woman selling traditional foods in Al-Balad

Before Ramadan, I thought I would focus on cross-training on the days I did not run, but the truth is I haven’t done much swimming or spinning. In this sense, I failed I guess. (I did buy goggles today, so I may be more motivated to go swimming from now on. Haven’t tried them yet, though.)

Energy levels

People praying on the streets of Jeddah

People praying on the streets of Jeddah

The question is: Did my diet and training regimes help me to remain energetic and positive this month?

The first week was terrific. I felt good and although I was tired in the afternoon due to low blood sugar and dehydration, I recovered quickly after breaking the fast. I studied Arabic every day, did my runs and had to really force myself not to get carried away. I also did my work as usual.

Traditional sandals sold in Al-Balad

Traditional sandals sold in Al-Balad

The second week was already more difficult, with a major dip around the end of the week on my birthday. I found it hard to concentrate and felt lazy and sluggish. While I always struggle a bit with getting myself to write this week it was even more difficult to force myself to be productive.

The third and fourth week were even worse, and today and yesterday I spent the weekend working because I thought I didn’t do enough during the week. Feeling lazy and unproductive is a shortcut for me to be down, so I have been having a hard time to stay positive. As I said, I can’t wait for this month to be over.

Work

My husbands stepfather

My husband’s stepfather showed us around in Al-Balad

As said, though the first week I managed to do my work as usual, the weeks after I struggled to be productive. I tend to procrastinate and while on normal days I can then get a coffee and force myself to write during Ramadan my concentration went below zero. I truly believe it is the low sugar and dehydration that fogs my brain and makes it impossible to think clearly, and so I can’t wait to go back to my normal routine.

Some last thoughts  on Ramadan 2014

Sambousa - a favorite during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia

Sambousa – a favorite during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia

All in all, I think I did best on the diet and exercise front. I am less happy with how things went regarding work and energy levels/boredom. Also, I probably saw too little daylight, which affected my mood as well.

I think I also missed a good opportunity to focus on spirituality this month. The truth is I wasn’t very motivated to read about Islam or other faiths. Somehow, so little can be done on Ramadan days; so much time is spent preparing iftar and at my family-in-law’s. On the other hand, this gave me the opportunity to practice my Arabic, and although it is difficult to say whether I improved I do think I learned some important new words. In any case, I am excited to go back to taking Arabic classes in September/October, so my wish to learn Arabic did revive.

Ramadan festival in Al-Balad

Ramadan festival in Al-Balad

Lastly, I think for a person who is convinced of Islam and Ramadan being part of that it is much easier to fast a whole month. For me, it is just something I do because I happen to be married to a Saudi. I never chose to follow this faith myself, and I am not so sure about the benefits of fasting. If I saw it as an ordeal and tried to meditate and read about different faiths more this month would perhaps be easier and more beneficial. What do you think?

Ramadan2014-03

Al-Balad was recently declared a Unesco World Heritage Site…

Despite Al-Balads recent recognition as

…despite that, many buildings are still in a dire state

Happy Eid!

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