Fast Friends: How a Muslim fitness trainer and Catholic gym member bond over Ramadan
Breaking bread after breaking a sweat
Surria Fadel leads a high-intensity body pump class at GoodLife Fitness in east Windsor, but for one month every year she does so with an extra caveat — not eating or drinking for the entire day.
It's a grueling workout at the best of times, but even tougher when fasting. Fadel is observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which means she fasts from dawn to dusk.
"It's definitely not easy, but it's doable," Fadel tells CBC. "Usually during Ramadan, instead of going 100 percent, I'll just go maybe 70-80 percent."
Fadel leads multiple fitness classes five days a week. She always lets her classes know when Ramadan approaches in case anyone wonders why she's not drinking water or working out with the same intensity.
"It's important to maintain your routine during Ramadan," she explained. "It is difficult, especially in the afternoons, so a power nap is okay but to just stop your normal activities, especially physical fitness I think it's important to maintain that."
'You feel better inside'
For the past three years, Fadel has been joined by an unlikely fasting buddy — a gym member.
"It's like a cleansing for me," said Cathie Russo, who says her husband supports her fasting.
"Because you're not eating, you feel better inside, you feel cleansed," she said. "I'm Catholic too, so it's a different kind of thing but for me I just feel fantastic with it."
Her dedication is not lost on her instructor.
"I'm so inspired by her and I've brought her to dinners to introduce her to some of my friends and family and everybody is so amazed that she's taken on this challenge and just continues to do it," said Fadel.
The fitness trainer may not be going 100 per-cent, but try telling that to her clients.
"You can't tell at all," said Melissa Weller, who has been training with Fadel for the past six years. "She has great energy, she pushes me. Sometimes I feel like she pushes us harder or maybe it's because I know that she's fasting so if she can teach the class while fasting, then I better push myself harder."
In turn, Fadel is appreciative of the support and encouragement she's received.
"Overall, there's so much solidarity in the community that we have here."