It’s the beginning of the year which means it’s time for resolutions and recommitting to a spiritual practice. Most of us are spending some time reconnecting with God by embarking on programs that involve praying, fasting, and sharing with our fellow man. Regardless of your religion or spiritual practice, committing on this level is probably a part of who you are. Bigger, even, than the health goals you have for yourself. But if you’ve also been a committed exerciser or if you’ve resolved to pick up an exercise habit in the new year, does this mean that you have to wait till your fasting is over? Not if you don’t want it to.
I’ve had clients work with me even through their spiritual fasting commitments and I’m going to share some of the things my clients and I think of, and do, to ensure that they can keep their exercise appointment without compromising their desire to commit to their religious practice.
Focus on what’s important
While you have the desire to keep exercising while fasting, you need to focus on what’s important. Focusing on what’s important means understanding that the intensity of your workouts when you’re fasting needs to be modified. I’ll discuss modification ideas next, but for now let me explain why you need to modify to help you understand what’s important.
Depending on how long you fast and how much you eat when you break your fast, your body won’t be getting enough calories to sustain intense exercise during your fasting period. When this happens, your body taps into reserves for energy . But unfortunately, your body will burn both fat and muscle in its quest to keep you alive. Your focus, if you choose to exercise, should be to preserve your body’s current lean muscle mass.
This means that you don’t have to run long distances while fasting, to maintain your fitness. You just need to challenge your muscles enough by doing things like body weight exercises, yoga, or Pilates.
Throttle Back On the Intensity
One of the reason why I didn’t mention High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in the previous section on shifting your focus to what’s important is that it takes a lot of energy to do such exercises. HIIT is a fantastic way to preserve and build lean muscle, but it requires a lot of energy and burns energy long after your workout is done. If you’re trying to lose weight on a normal day, this is amazing. But if you’re fasting, this will eventually wear you down because you’re not eating for performance. This is what I meant when I mentioned earlier that you’ll need to modify the intensity of your workouts.
The exercise recommendations I made earlier are not as intense as HIIT, but they’ll still challenge your muscles enough to get the job done. They also happen to be exercises that you can do at home, so that you don’t have to hustle to the gym on top of your work, family, and church commitments. If you want to try Yoga at home during this fasting period, sign up for my newsletter here to get access to one of my premium Yoga videos that’s just the right intensity for what you’re trying to achieve.
Find Another Way to Ramp Things Up
One final strategy I’ve employed with my clients is shifting away from structured exercise altogether and focusing on walking and counting steps instead. With this, they maintain some physical activity but build it into their lives so that they don’t feel overwhelmed with one more thing on their to do list as they try to focus on their spiritual assignments.
To effectively use this strategy, it is best if you’ve been tracking your steps up to this point, as it helps you establish a baseline. Your baseline should be the daily average number of steps you were walking before fasting began and you can ramp it up by adding between 500 – 1,000 steps each week. If you didn’t track before, you can start at 5,000 steps and ramp up the same way and you’ll need an activity tracker to tell how many steps you’ve been doing. I’ve written a post to help make the tracker selection easier for you and you can access that here.
To put this strategy into action, you can choose to set aside time to go for a walk to hit your step goals so you’re still having to keep an exercise appointment at a fixed time. Doing this will help make the transition back to structured workouts easier because you kept up the habit of setting aside the time for exercise.
Now that I’ve laid out what you should be thinking about when you’re considering exercise while fasting, it’s your turn to choose how you proceed. You can choose to use walking as your primary activity or challenge your muscles with Pilates, yoga, or body weight exercises.
Remember that by signing up for my [TEAM] Newsletter you get access to one of my premium Yoga videos to help you get started if you choose to go that route.