Empowering Muslim Women in Powerlifting: An Interview with Tahirah Ali

In the world of powerlifting, breaking stereotypes and challenging norms is about more than physical strength; it’s also about cultural empowerment and personal resilience. Tahirah Ali, a Welsh powerlifter, personifies this ethos through her journey in the sport. We caught up with Tahirah earlier this month, where she shared insights into her experiences, the cultural significance, and adjustments during Ramadan, highlighting the intersection of faith and fitness.

Early Beginnings and Highlights

Tahirah’s entry into powerlifting began at the age of 19 in 2020. Her journey has since been marked by competitions and personal growth. Highlighting the importance of competitions, she emphasises the positive impact of her coach’s support, stating, “My coach, in particular, has helped me exceed my own expectations and challenge other’s perceptions of Muslim women in powerlifting.” As a Muslim woman, Tahirah takes pride in challenging stereotypes and showcasing the strength and resilience of women like her in powerlifting.

Ramadan: Reflection and Reset

For Tahirah, Ramadan holds profound cultural and spiritual significance, being a time to reflect and reset. It’s a period to step back from daily life, which “can be challenging and sometimes feel monotonous,” focusing on family, spirituality, and personal growth. During this sacred month, Muslims worldwide engage in fasting from dawn to dusk, refraining from food, water, and certain activities. Tahirah notes the importance of “spending more time with family and increasing spiritual awareness” during Ramadan.

Adjustments During Ramadan

Navigating training during Ramadan requires careful planning and adjustments. Tahirah outlines the key changes she makes during this period, with nutrition taking centre stage. A heightened focus on balanced meals sustains energy levels during fasting hours. Training regimes shift towards “volume training (more reps) rather than strength.” Moreover, fasting entails abstaining from water and supplements like caffeine, necessitating a holistic approach to fitness and well-being. Tahirah expresses amazement at the body’s resilience, adding, “It still fascinates me every year how much the body can withstand! This only adds to my appreciation for my health. Alhamdulillah.”

Tahirah during training (photo taken by @abproductions)

Inclusive Fitness Spaces

As an advocate for inclusivity, Tahirah emphasises the importance of accommodating fasting individuals in fitness spaces, especially during Ramadan. She suggests, “What would be great to see are facilities that offer fitness classes before iftar (breaking the fast) and then provide a chance to eat and pray together.” She believes gym staff should have an understanding of fasting to ensure they are equipped with the facilities to provide the correct support for those fasting.

Closing Thoughts

Tahirah Ali’s journey is a testament to the intersection of culture, faith, and athleticism. Through powerlifting, she not only pushes her physical limits but also challenges societal norms, inspiring others to embrace diversity and inclusivity in sports.

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