There are a lot of things that can make walking into a gym an intimidating experience for women.
Years of inactivity.
The birth of a new baby.
That stubborn twenty pounds that you keep losing and regaining.
For Muslim women, in particular, the doors to sports and fitness can seem like two-ton gates.
Historically, the obstacle between Muslim women and the sports and fitness club has often been one of traditional ideas of modesty. It is not uncommon to hear stories of parents who refused to allow their daughters to participate in sports for fear that it would damage her reputation or violate an unwritten rule about what “good girls” do. While most Muslim women in the United States and Canada don’t face those kinds of barriers, the attitudes that often discourage hijab observant women from sports and fitness have not completely gone away. The pressure of being the first or the only Muslim girl in the gym or on the team can be intimidating.
Many women shy away from co-ed spaces, convinced that there is no way to maintain their modesty while sweating and grunting profusely. Lack of women-only facilities and team sports often drive this demographic into at-home workout programs and virtual fitness groups. Unfortunately, this solution can be isolating and counterproductive.
Research has shown that people are less likely to achieve their fitness goals when they are working in isolation. Human beings are social creatures, and fitness is social too. This aspect of human behaviour has given rise to “fitness tribes”, groups of people who come together to engage in healthy behaviours (usually a certain kind of fitness program, a common goal or aesthetic). In many cases, Muslims women have been inadvertently locked out of these social spaces and find themselves on the hamster wheel of Yo-Yo dieting and fad fitness regimes.
For other Muslims women, the problem is subtler.
Strange looks from fellow gym goers and teammates and a lack of athletic clothing that is fit for purpose often keep Muslim women and girls from taking part in athletics. This can be especially difficult for teens and team sports where lack of appropriate headwear and the need to modify team uniforms can prevent girls from competing at their best.
For others, the barriers to fitness involve both times and focus. As women, we often feel guilty investing serious time and money into our own selves. We become caregivers first and often neglect our own health and wellness. For such women, investing in new running shoes, or a gym membership can seem like taking money away from much more deserving aims. The image of the self-sacrificing mother is one that is enshrined in many of our cultures and given religious sanction by millions of sermons extolling the virtues of putting your family life first.
Recognizing the untapped potential of Muslim women and girls in sports, Capsters has pioneered a series of sports-hijabs that are both affordable and stylish. They come in a range of styles and colours to suit your level of activity and personal style. Unlike the makeshift hijab solutions that many Muslim women have employed, Capsters’ hijabs are designed to keep you comfortable, cool and covered while you do what you love. While sports-hijabs won’t eradicate all of the insecurities that often keep Muslim women out of sports and fitness, it is a powerful tool for those who want to train hard and maintain their commitment to modesty.
There are a lot of reasons why the front door of your local sports club can be intimidating, but your hijab doesn’t have to one of them.
Safura Salam is a freelance writer, mother, and a part-time gym hero. She studied journalism at Penn State, and went on to work for the DNC before deciding to write full-time. Her work focuses on helping others fulfill their potential, tell their stories, and encouraging diverse voices in storytelling. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SafuraWrites