Working out is something you know is good for you, but the drive, commitment, and effort to actually start consistently doing it, is something you might be having trouble with. Exercising is an all rounder. It helps to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle by keeping anxiety, depression, and stress at bay. Exercising frequently is also one the most effective ways to lower your chance of contracting any chronic illness. Of course, your diet plays a major role in the way your workouts will impact your life, so that's something to consider too. The problem that often arises for some Muslim women however, is that we use the hijab as an excuse or a scapegoat when it comes to getting the deed done. The hijab, as wonderful as it can be, can often make certain tasks a little more tedious than normal. Running, lifting weights, swimming, sweating, and burning up. A lot of Muslim women become intimidated by the prospect of working out successfully because they are unsure what to wear, what to do, and where to do it. Today, a lot of gyms offer women only areas and where those are lacking, women resort to at-home workouts.
Thanks to social media, we, as a community, are not lacking role models when it comes to the sphere of workouts and hijab. In fact, Instagram itself is saturated with hijab clad women working out, competing at all levels of competitions, encouraging home workouts, and so on. These women are from all walks of life. Some are students who have overcome eating disorders and found a healthier way of life. Some are mothers who wanted to find a balance between motherhood and taking care of oneself. Whilst some are health and fitness fanatics who want to show other Muslim women that there is nothing to fear when it comes to investing in your own health. Whatever level you are at, there is inspiration to be found everywhere. Enough in fact, to catalyze your very own journey into the world of fitness and healthy living.
1. Nour Samaha @noursfit
Samaha is a 21 year old American Muslim hailing from Michigan. Her fitness journey began in middle school when she developed an unhealthy relationship with food and developed an eating disorder. She recalls
"For many girls, this obsession with numbers eventually leads to eating disorders. That actually happened to me. It all started once I got into middle school. I was constantly comparing my body to the girls' bodies around me, and when I turned on the TV, I was bombarded with thin girls and ads telling me that I was not good enough. My mind became consumed with, “What can I do to lose one more pound?” Highschool wasn't any better. I hated my body and eventually developed an extremely unhealthy relationship with food. I became obsessed with how many calories I was eating every second of my day. This slowly developed into a binge-purge cycle and continued on for six years. I reached a breaking point and knew I needed to seek help."
With the help and support of her family and friends, Nour began her journey and discovered her love of weightlifting. She found a new love and appreciation for the power and strength that she was slowly cultivating within herself after years of hurting her body.
"After years of viewing my body in such a negative light, going into the weight room and being able to lift heavy weights made me recognize the true potential of my body. Contrary to popular belief, being both female and more specifically, Muslim hijab-wearing female, does not hinder a woman's ability to weightlift. There are so many stereotypes about women weightlifting and getting “too bulky,” and I’m here to tell you that it can't be further from the truth. Weightlifting won't make you bulky or “manly”. In fact, it'll do just the opposite: it'll tighten and tone your body, burn fat, and shape your curves. "
Now, Nour shares her personal workouts, meal plans, lifestyle and modest fashion tips, with the hope that she can inspire others to begin their own personal fitness journeys. Her positive outlook on life is inspiring Muslim women and young hijabi girls all over the world to not care what others think, and just do you.
"I love that working out in hijab helps me smash stereotypes about Muslim women. One as I was waiting for my turn at the weightlifting machine at the gym, a man jumped in front of me to cut my place in line. I could tell by his body language that he did not take me seriously – as if his workout was more important than mine. I remained unphased and went through the intense workout I had planned. As I was wrapping up, the same man approached me to apologize. It's moments like these that make me want to motivate everyone around me to push themselves to achieve what they thought was impossible, no matter where they are in their journey."
She hopes to one day become a personal trainer and compete in weightlifting competitions.
2. Elham Oskui @eot_fit
is a mother and a lover of health and fitness. Her Instagram stories range from her daily errands and mother duties to her gym workouts and hijabi friendly active wear inspiration. Her page is filled with workout demos and instructional videos as well as food inspiration and workout wear. She often tags hijab and modest wear companies in her pictures so women can get an idea of what to wear at the gym. She is often seen donning the new Nike hijab and she incorporates effortless layering in a modest and workout friendly way. Elham encourages women who wear the hijab to not be fearful of the gym. She says
, “Don’t let it hold you back and definitely do what you need to do, your health is important.”
Elham is proof that being a mother and raising a child does not have to impede on your desire to want to take care of yourself. She also gracefully shows Muslim women that wearing hijab and working out can go hand in hand, with ease and without feeling any sort of anxiety.
3. Yaz @YAZFit
is a personal trainer with more than ten years of experience in the field. What began as a love of basketball and track in her youth, turned into a full fledge obsession with all things fitness related. Today, Yaz is an avid weight trainer and enjoys yoga and long distance running. She is a wellness coach who helps women with weight management, weight loss, circuit-based training, boot camp training, endurance training, and strength training. Her Instagram is jam-packed with demos, workouts, meal preps, motivational posts, and tips for muscle recovery post-injury.
4. Zehra @zallibhai
is the woman who does it all! Not only is she a mother of two and a wife, she has successfully created an entire lifestyle movement for Muslim women all around the world who want to start on their own fitness journeys. Hailing from a family of movers and shakers, she recalls playing basketball and running around with her father who was a physical ed teacher. Her love of sports at a very young age led her to being an advocate for healthy living in her adulthood. Zehra ended up getting her Honours degree in Kinesiology and is a certified trainer and fitness instructor. At 37, she is an inspiration to not only Muslim mothers, but young Muslim women who are scared to take the leap into their fitness journeys.
Zehra's page is filled with motivating photos of her workouts, yoga positions, self care tips, meal inspirations, and most of all, family friendly fitness tips. Zehra tries to incorporate her children into her workout because she knows that for many women, having kids is a full time job and making time to work out is not realistic. Instead, she has curated workouts that include her kids so that mothers can feel good about working out and getting their kids involved. Zehra also offers a free 7-day jump start fitness guide
that includes daily workouts and a simple meal guide for 7 days. Do you really have an excuse anymore?
5. Amina Khan @amanahfitness
's remarkable story has a profound resonance with many Muslim women all over the world today. In her first ever Instagram post, Amina delves into what led her to discovering her fitness journey and the path that she is on today:
"6 years ago before losing 60 pounds I felt my life was out of control. I couldn’t control my weight, food intake or cravings. I remember lying on my bed in tears of frustration at my lack of willpower. I’d glare at the mirror & scale in guilt, wishing I could change
My journey from the “forever-fat” chubby girl with no self-confidence to losing 60 pounds, falling in love with fitness & being blessed to share my passion, education and fitness experiences with the world has changed my life. It was never about weight… I couldn’t always overfill myself & treat my body like trash & expect high performance. After hours of abusing my body, I would berate my body for not living up to expectations when I would stop in front of a mirror or scale for a few minutes. I cared to wish I looked & felt different but deep down, my actions said I just didn’t care enough to take action
Losing 60 pounds gave me permission to care all the time. To care how I was treating my body & listen closely to how it responds. To stop complaining & instead focus on small steps to better health every day. Before I knew it, a year went by & 60 pounds gone, leaving behind only faint hints of a few stretch marks as a parting reminder .
It was never about weight. This past year, I haven’t weighed myself once. I listen to how I feel, look & function daily to know I’m healthy. My body’s functionality & movement is a priority. I’ve experienced joy hiking in the mountains, biking through scenic hilltops, swimming against fierce currents with wild whales & my body can now handle it
It all started with the choice to make my health one of my top priorities. FORGETTING about the scale & just focusing on what I can DO NOW daily to move me closer to living a life that respects & nurtures this body from Allah ﷻ to the best of my ability. The journey towards better health never ends."
Amina is now a health psychologist, a weight loss specialist, and she was recently names CanFitPro's 2018 Fitness Professional of the Year. Amanah Fitness was launched to help women feel empowered and to motivate women to take control of their lives. Along with her husband, Amina has created video tutorials on home workouts that target specific muscles and regions of the body. She delves into the psychology behind working out, the excuses we tell ourselves, and the hopelessness we feel when our health deteriorates.