Establishing a workout routine: Part 1

In General Posts on August 24, 2009 by Suhaila

One of the hardest parts of working out is doing it consistently. For Muslims, Ramadan is like our New Years, in that we come up with endless lists of goals for what we want to achieve, many of them involving nutrition and exercise, but unfortunately the vast majority of these goals fall to the wayside within weeks. So I’m planning a two-part article about what worked for me. I’ll admit, at first I hated to exercise. I liked certain sports (ok, only tennis…), but couldn’t stand anything else. Especially exercise for the sake of exercise. (Running? What am I running from/to? Nothing? Are you insane?) But over the course of about a month, I fell in love with exercise, and now I don’t skip going to the gym unless I’m (a) really sick, in that I can’t physically do anything without being in pain, or (b) out of town for a good reason for the entire time the gym is open (but usually I end up going for a run or something those days).

There are two main aspects to establishing this sort of routine. The first is the motivation (today), and the second is the enforcement/discipline (tomorrow).

Why I work out (and you should, too!):

  1. Because the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Your body has a right over you.” (Bukhari/Muslim; see full hadith with reference at end of post.) Our bodies are a gift from Allah, just like the Earth and everything else in the universe, so we should take care of it and not let it wither away.
  2. Because it helps me succeed in other areas of my life. When I work out, I feel better about myself. I realize that I can do things that I didn’t think were possible. That confidence carries over to every other aspect of my life. I’m more assertive, I can stand up for myself if I’m being wronged. I have to tell you guys about the time last week when I tried to buy a burrito without the tortilla, and they tried to charge me $2 more! I finally got them to fix the price after about 15 minutes of arguing. This time last year, I would probably have politely accepted the outrageous price, and made a mental note to stick to ordering the burrito with the tortilla (and remove the tortilla myself for free). It helps to imagine that I can probably deadlift the person, if they lay down really straight…
  3. Because people expect me to quit. It may sound harsh but it’s true. And it’s pretty common from what I hear. When I’m at work and I mention anything about the gym, I have to mentally shut down for about 20 minutes because it kicks off a huge group conversation about how small I am and how I won’t be able to handle it much longer. I am 90-95% sure there is a pool going for when I’m going to quit. At home as well, my parents treat working out as a phase that I’ll grow out of. These things would be discouraging, if I were to take them seriously. But I know that I can do it (see point #2), so I set out to prove them wrong. Sometimes proving people wrong is all the motivation you need.
  4. Because it’s fun. I never know what I’m going to do until the morning of the workout! It’s awesome. Then I spend the entire day thinking about the workout, and how much fun it will be. It helps that I love to lift things… although I’m not strong enough to lift a lot of weight yet. I find myself watching Olympic weightlifting on Youtube in my spare time. So really, working out is just playing for me. If you find something you love to do, you don’t need to motivate yourself to do it.
  5. Because I’m a ninja. That’s right. You have no idea what terrible power lies behind this tiny exterior.
  6. Because of tomorrow. I have no idea what tomorrow has in store for me, but I do want to be sure that, whatever happens, I did things to the best of my ability. If something happens tomorrow, and I can’t save myself or someone I love, then I at least want to know that I did the absolute best I could, and that involves training to reach that level.

Those are my main reasons for working out. What are yours? Feel free to add more in the comments for everyone’s benefit!

The full hadith from #1:
‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-‘Aas said,

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said to me, “O ‘Abd-Allah, have I not heard that you fast all day and pray all night?”
I said, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.”
He said, “Do not do that. Fast and break your fast, pray qiyaam (night prayer), and sleep, for your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, your wife has a right over you, and your visitors have a right over you. It is sufficient for you to fast three days of every month. For every good deed, you will be rewarded tenfold, so that will be like fasting for an entire lifetime.”
But I went to extremes and made things hard for myself. I said, “O Messenger of Allah, I can do more than that.”
He said, “Then observe the fast of the Prophet Dawud [David] (pbuh), and no more.”
I said, “What is the fast of the Prophet Dawud (pbuh)?”
He said, “Half a lifetime (i.e. every other day).”

After he grew old, ‘Abd-Allah used to say, “I wish that I had taken the easier option which the Prophet (pbuh) offered me.”
[Narrated by al-Bukhari, 1874; Muslim, 1159]

3 Responses to “Establishing a workout routine: Part 1”

  1. good post. I also remember Sh Yasir Birjas mentioning (as well as the other shaikhs) that we as a community are really lazy and need to exercise for all the reasons we know why we need to (health etc.). I think culturally it is not considered a big thing.

    Then there is the stereotypes about women, their abilities and what is considered acceptable. I hate hearing the misconception that a woman will get bigger because she is lifting something.. It is difficult to gain muscle, I wish I could get big, I tell them, and if I was going to get “big” I would have by now.

    Sahabaat (female) participated in war fighting, and also defended themselves, so we know they were not delicate butterflies, and this was over 1400 years ago.

    I know you are not going to quit, because you enjoy it and have motivation. You also know the truth and your abilities. And you are going to make progress and get stronger for sure inshAllah.

    #6 I agree, I want to be the best that I can be.

    I work out because I want to be healthy and strong. I used to do martial arts then graduated from college. I got information from (shes also in Toronto) and wanted to get into Olympic Lifting, then I found out about Crossfit and here I am.

  2. Oh yeah, I remember that lecture by Shaykh Yasir, I haven’t listened to it in so long. I’ll go back and revisit it when I get a chance. For anyone interested, it’s online here:, and as part of a podcast here: (note one of the comments recommends CrossFit! lol)

    And I agree, the sahabaat were anything but delicate butterflies.

  3. I’m not sure why, but WordPress thinks that a Mitsubishi Starion on eBay is related to this post… I wish my Civic was a Starion…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: