“I always remind women that we’re women – our biology is unpredictable in comparison to men.” Amal Murad is setting out to empower women to better understand and listen to their bodies and cycles as they focus on fitness.
“During the menstrual cycle, each week is different. Your hormones affect your blood glucose which affects your hunger and how your body stores fat, and it affects your mood,” says Amal. The 28-year-old is a personal trainer who became the first Emirati woman to practice in the male-dominated space of parkour.
She chose the sport for its great mental and physical discipline. “Parkour needs time, practice, and it needs getting your ego out of the way. I think that’s why training is very vulnerable. You have to understand what your weaknesses are and accept them before you can actually work on strengthening them.”
As a result of girls being raised with a much deeper caution than young boys, women find themselves carrying a sense of fear with them, and Amal believes it is something that can be overcome with sports such as parkour.
Women of reproductive age experience hormonal changes in their bodies throughout their menstrual cycle, and our well-being and performance depend on it. Despite this, women are not equipped with enough information about how this can affect their overall health.
While pregnant with her daughter, Amal realized just how unprepared she and most other women are for the changes that take place in their bodies. As an athlete and personal trainer, she herself did not have the right information on how to train the pregnant body. “Basically, we are taught to train the white male body,” she says.
Since then, athleticism and coaching have taken on a new meaning, encouraging her to dig deeper and learn more so that she can impart correct information and offer postpartum training.
“You have to remind yourself that pregnancy is just nine months of your life. You are growing a baby, whoever tells you this isn’t an excuse needs to take a step back because if growing a baby isn’t an excuse, I don’t know what the hell is. I can’t tell you how bad and toxic that concept is that we have to always prove that we’re capable as women.”
This mindset creates an environment where women are forced to conform to ego-driven societal ideals other than their natural instincts to nurture themselves by giving their bodies what it actually needs.
After giving birth to her daughter, Amal’s intrigue and perspective on women’s health changed even further. She is now training for herself and her longevity rather than to prove that she can. “I’m training to be a strong mom. It isn’t just about the cool tricks and the acrobatics part of things. It’s really about long-term health.”
Amal aims to educate women on aligning with the biology of their body rather than working against it. Teaching them that there are phases of the cycle when you will benefit from high-intensity workouts, and times when your nervous system may only be able to handle activities such as mobility or flexibility training.
“We need to remember that our body uses different sources of food at different times of the month. For example, during the follicular phase, which is the first 14 days of the menstrual cycle, is the best time to build muscle,” says Amal, who explains that when women are not aware of these changes, they proceed to overtrain and undereat because they aren’t seeing the same results.
To combat this, she encourages women to understand their cycle and learn when is the best time to measure themselves. “If you keep looking week by week, you’re kind of going to get depressed. In reality, you might be eating and training the same way, it’s not your fault. If the second week of your cycle is when you’re the best, then measure only the second week of your cycle.”
While we all want to do the most effective type of training, Amal explains that the type of training must change too so that consistency can be maintained to avoid burnout, which is detrimental to mental and physical health.
“It’s about setting realistic expectations. There are days where I don’t feel well, and I don’t want to go to the gym. So I say let’s change the pace of training, let’s work on mobility or flexibility. It’s learning how to schedule your workouts, to have some de-load weeks where it isn’t about heavyweight or HIIT.”
Casting a wider net, she’s hoping that the processes of training, such as training during postpartum are made clearer to women. She encourages women to not solely depend on just their doctor or personal trainer but to consult a physiotherapist or a pelvic floor specialist who can help them further understand their bodies more.
“Your core hasn’t healed yet. Your body needs to take the time and progress as if you had an injury. Your pregnancy is a gradual nine-month process. Postpartum happens in one day, literally so going from pregnant to non-pregnant is a big shock to the body. We need a team, it’s not a one man job.”
By raising awareness on these important issues and allowing people to tailor their training experiences, Amal’s goal is to help women of all ages begin their fitness journeys and stay on it. “I’m really working on reaching a point where I can help women in all phases of their lives. Whether it’s puberty, whether it’s pregnancy, postpartum, whether it’s menopause.”
Follow Amal on Instagram: @leap.of.hope