Episode 42 Fitness, Mental Health and building a platform for those who need it with coach Ola (befit4akhirah)


Episode 42 Show Notes

Coach Ola is a ACE certified personal trainer and fitness specialist. Ola shares with how she went through hard times and got through mental health problems while trying to fit in to the community starting when she moved from Syria to the US. She explains how she overcame those issues and shares valuable tips on self help, exercise and talks to us about her  fitness program that helps bring purpose to life. She also touches on her Ramadan Challenge.

Coach Ola is graduated from George Mason University with B.S in Biology and Health Promotion minor. She is a host of her podcast show Purposeful Fitness with Coach Ola. She started BeFit4Akhirah as an initiative in 2014 and officially launched her first ever program in 2018 with Ramadan Prep package. She is passionate about bridging the gap between faith and fitness from an Islamic perspective, and she is looking to bring more awareness on how we can be fit for akhirah through fitness and living a healthy lifestyle with a purpose! Her favorite hobbies and workouts are swimming and being outdoors. She has coached soccer to the youth in the past, and she hopes she can continue in helping youth and teenagers stay strong in faith through sports and fitness. 

  • Ola’s difficult time fitting in when she moved to the US from Syria and how she changed her mind set.

  • Ola shares her Mental Health journey and how caused downhill in her life and how she Found strength and the importance of sharing and talking about mental health issues

  • Ola’s way of dealing with depression and anxiety with healthy eating and working out

  • Finding what you enjoy doing and work through to make you feel better Simple things that can keep us active and working out

  • Ola’s platform BeFit4Akhira to help Muslim and non Muslim people to see a purpose through fitness and training

  • Ola’s podcast Ola: Purposeful Fitness With Coach Ola

  • The 4 week Ramadan Challenge

  • Ola Shares her Ramadan Exercise and Eating habits

Contact Ola

Podcast - https://purposefulfitness.podbean.com/

Website - https://www.befit4akhirah.com/

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/BeFit4Akhirah/

Twitter - https://twitter.com/befit4akhirah

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/befit4akhirah/

Naptime Is Sacred Podcast Ep 42 Transcription

Fousia: Asalaamu Alaykum and welcome to the Naptime Is Sacred Podcast where we share stories of Muslim women doing amazing work. I'm your host Fousia Abdullahi. Guys before we get into today's episode I want to share a little disclaimer with you. Some parts of this podcast are going to deal with sensitive mental health subjects. If you are in a crisis or you think you may have an emergency please call 911. If you're having suicidal thoughts please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 800 273 8255. You can do that or you can reach out to someone and chat with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health care providers with any questions you have regarding any conditions that you might have. Anything that we discuss on this episode is not a substitute for seeking medical attention from a doctor. If you're located outside of the United States please call your local emergency line for help if you need it. I hope you guys find this episode beneficial. Let's get right into it. Today's guest is Ola from Bee Fit4Akhira. Ola is an A certified personal trainer. She specializes in strength and endurance training, weight loss, sports performance and circuit training. She's lived a healthy lifestyle since the age of six when she learned to swim. She was part of a track and field team in high school for two years and she's currently a soccer coach. Through all of this Ola has been brave enough to share her personal story of going through an eating disorder and depression and in parts of this episode we're going to be talking about those topics. Ola Asalaamu Alaykum.!

Ola:  Walikum Salaamhow are you?

Fousia: Doing good Alhamdulilah So for those of you guys who don't know Ola. She has an Instagram and a website called BeFit4Akhira.Tell us a little bit about yourself and your platform.

Ola: Sure. So I am an A certified personal trainer and a functional fences specialist. I graduated from George Mason University with A B.S. in biology and health promotion minor. I started my fitness journey I guess at age six years old and my platform was created in 2014 and then last year in 2018 I launched as a business owner. So the journey of creating BeFit4Achira will be about five years in September 2019.

Fousia: It's funny how time flies online right.

Ola: Yeah yeah.

Fousia: It just goes by. So tell us a little bit about what's motivated you to start your own healthy lifestyle with exercise and healthy eating but also to create a platform around that for Muslim people.

Ola: Sure so at age 6 I started learning how to swim in my country in Syria and then when I came here to the United States at age 11 2001 I really struggle like I want to fit in with the crowd. So I was 5.4. So imagine a short little girl building of a little fat around her, looks a little chubby.... I'm like "Yeah I want to lose weight I wanna look good" and you know like I'm not a huge makeup either so I wanted to make a quick fix for weight loss and one of my friends at that time introduced to me the concept of believe me and I know this sounds so bad to say but I talked about it in details on my podcast. So just to summarize it that in high school I got really into struggle eating disorders and then I tried out for food sports theme. I didn't make it into law but in high school and then I wanted to try for tennis and I didn't make it. Then track and field everyone makes a team. I wasn't wearing a hijab back then either. So my practice with them was like in between like not that much. And then after finishing high school I went to community college. At college I met two friends when the who got me back to prayers and other friend getting back into weightlifting and then with weightlifting I gained strength believing in myself I can do this. The mindset changed my body started forming better and then slowly the bulimia episodes started disappear. Then I put a Facebook page.. a group excuse me to share tips and tricks to meal prepping and eating healthy working out. I really found joy in it. Then I transferred from now one of the hijab that I went to George Mason and then at George Mason I experienced anxiety depression suicidal thought you know the attempts and all that like downhill look my life went downhill right. I lost purpose I do not do with my life anymore because my feelings were hard got hard I.. and I was almost done with college but then I couldn't find a way to finish it and then in 2014 my grandma got sick in Syria and then I finally took lectures that talked about prophetic dynasty. So when she passed away it all click through my head and it was a huge wake up call and then the concept of Akhira came back to me and I thought oh my gosh what am I doing with my life. I have to do something my body you know like is going to speak for me and I have to take care of it. And that's the summary of how BeFit4Akhira came about.

Fousia: It seems like a long and hard journey. I'm glad that you're doing better now and that you're able to help other people who might feel the same way that you do and it is amazing for someone who's been through so much that you're able to talk about it openly. As to your comfort level and be able to share that story with other people who might you know have had the same struggles in life. When it comes to like the things that you share. What is some of the feedback that you've gotten from other Muslim women and I think guys have these struggles in life as well even though they might not share. So have you gotten any like feedback or any words of encouragement from people who consume your content online?

Ola: You know what. I'm so glad that you brought the men to because it is so true and that's what I'm passionate about as well. So yes it is hard to speak about it for sure and it is still a stigma topic within our communities. So in high school I struggled with bulimia. It was a secret first that my mom found out. And then I had to confess I felt the need to tell my math teacher. So my math teacher told my counselor I was so mad to be called to her office and to be told things like you know get help and what not. And I thought like what kind of help? I hear what happens at home should stay at home I don't need professional help quote unquote right? And then at senior high school my lips became super sharp. Then I had to go to the family doctor and this nightmare is so embedded... Our doctor at that time was a Pakistani American doctor. And so when the results came out obviously I was in so many minerals I told him on an Arabic like hey I actually was doing it you know. And so when we told the doctors she gave me this really uncomfortable look and I was so mad and she said that I need to see a psychologist because I had it in my diary and I said I don't need a psychologist what is she talking about. And then I was actually forced to see a psychiatrist in 2013 that timeframe. So with Instagram going back to your question they had the five facts about me. So when I share that five facts about me I was a bit hesitant to talk about the suicide attempts right because my mom and I or my parents I said we're never going to talk about this is like no one needs to know about it even my family and obviously overseas I don't know how much they knew about what I was going through. But obviously the close family members knew about it.. the struggles so when I did show that back on Instagram and Snapchat I had views this as rich as me telling me like oh my gosh. Ola I actually went through it too and I was I attempted it too and I was so close and that shook me so much. I was in shock that obviously I'm not alone. And all of us are never alone. You know we all have similar struggles one way or other. So from the sister side I was reached and I was told like they were related to me one person told me a story of boys seeing to talk about it more if you ever need a thing tell us. From the men's side.. I haven't really had many retouching me. However those whom I talk about a lot that I also want to help the guys to stay strong because I have a phone number myself cousin who is you know not similar situations but I see it as a need for guys to stay strong because mental health does it like segregate genders obviously. Sure yeah. And it's just really hard for him because no one wants to talk about it. Yeah.

Fousia: I'm so glad that you're able to give people hope and talk to them and make them feel less alone than they do because as we all know mental health can be very lonely especially for younger people teenagers young adults who don't know how to voice what's going on necessarily to someone else who feel shame or stigma or fear of even talking about it. So I'm glad that you've been able to give this platform. Thinking a little bit towards how fitness and healthy eating has helped you. What are some of your tips and advice for other people who want to distress maybe be less anxious as you know all the doctors. That's the first thing that I recommend when someone's having a hard time is to get some fresh air or get some sunlight do some light exercises just to get them going a little bit and that can be a little bit hard because when you are in the deep part of depression or anxiety you kind of don't want to leave the house or do anything anyway. So what kind of tips do you have for people who you think can benefit from fitness and healthy eating.

Ola: I think it's a little hard to reply because it is really hard. I so I'm going to share my own experience first in terms of fitness and working out. So when I was in high school I joined track and field with intentions to be part of supportive groups that would be motivation to work out. So even that was like the slowest person on the team. It still helps to be active. Like being active helps out replace the eating. And just to keep my body moving.. when I went to the weightlifting community college started like getting cleaner and not caring about what people think when they're watching me because obviously I also had fears from the gym early days too. So the mindset shifted from weightlifting and then when I went through the anxiety depression stage yes it was really hard to get back on track with working out. Even my my parents would like come and go out for a walk like you used to work out what happened. And my dad would take me for a walk and it's just.. I look at the sun I look at the outside like you said there is no single joy and like I had to drag myself to walk and it was the hardest feeling and action to do so my tips for people is want to find a support group and look into yourself and look what you enjoy. Don't give up on your activities that you enjoy so that's why I'm a huge fan of General therapy, Art therapy for example so like when you're super sad and super low and you want to work out but you can't find that motivation to work out. Then ask yourself what are your feeling about and then maybe you write it down. Job it out. Talk to a friend talk to someone close a friend member and then maybe you can play music. But for me music it also helps me stay active and they think for example so yeah that's the biggest takeaway is you have to work on your feelings and then find joy in the working out so find what you enjoy. But that's not the easy part.

Fousia: Yeah it takes a lot of work and persistence. Yeah. Tell us for you someone who is active. What are some of your tips for someone who wants to start incorporating. I know you like you know turn on music and start small. What are some daily exercises that you think across the board everyone should try to incorporate so they're not living such a stagnant lifestyle like we are all like on our computers and TV's and sitting in cars all day.

Ola: Okay great question too. So first of all park as far as you can and when you go shopping and then you can walk more.. try take the stairs instead of the elevator walking obviously is like the number one. However try to start with jogging if you're not a walker or outside then at the gym you can pick a resistance stand they can work on or even a machine.. cardio machine but I would recommend to try running for example if you're sitting all day which a lot of us are. I would recommend to stand up to the dynamic stretching and static stretching so a dynamic stretching is stretches that you do in a motion. So instead of holding it for 30 seconds you're moving for 30 seconds for example and then static swishing is important especially at the end of the day to keep the muscles flexible to help relieve the tension and then I also would recommend foam rolling like a massage. Even if you do it yourself if you don't have the foam roller ball or the whole roll you know you can still massage your feet your arms your shoulder your legs just to help relieve the tensions around the this tissue to keep it fluid so no one is to park as far as you can take elevators and take something small.

Fousia: So that's all really great advice mashaAllah. So recently you started podcasting. So tell me about your podcast and what you like about it and what it's all about.

Ola: Sure. So it's really funny. So we would try to of course episode a year ago and it didn't work out. And then finally started my podcast and obviously Allah's plan is always best. So this podcast got launched in January 2019 it's called Purposeful Fitness With Coach Ola and the reason I created it because I did some research to see if there's any fitness related podcasts out there that brings in Islam to it. There's so many wellness shows out there health shows that talk about you know mind body part of the mind body and soul but from a Christian perspective and I didn't release that many from the Muslim perspective like obviously there are shows that talk about Islam and you know prayers lifestyle all of that but nothing that was health related. So I wanted to be that trainer that brings people to see fitness from a different perspective in like how our faith promotes being active. And those are why did BeFit4Akhira because I wanted to you know help other people see a purpose through fitness. So even if a non-Muslim comes to to hear the show if they see a different perspective into it.

Fousia: I love that you did your research about it to see where you could fill a gap that our community needs and that you were able to do that mashaAllah. So tell us real quick. One thing you love about podcasting and one thing you don't see not so much.

Ola: What I love about it is obviously the recording maybe but I don't love the editing part as I'm sure you can relate.

Fousia: Yeah that's the hardest part right.

Ola: Yes. And obviously finding guests because you always get a NO as they say a thousand No to get that one yes. And then being consistent is probably one of the hardest thing at the moment because my early days I had someone who said yes I'll come on your show and then like last minute I got calculation and I was freaking out because just like you everyone in the new episode comes out and then yeah. And then all of that... But it is fun to talk to people to network to build connections and make new friends. But the hardest part is probably the immediate content and the editing part.

Fousia: For sure. I feel like that's like the podcast version of everything that people would have a hard time with on blogging or YouTube. It's fun to create the content but the back and the like the not so glitzy and glamorous part of it is the difficult part but I'm so glad that you have this podcast. So tell us the name one more time so everyone can hear and they can go and subscribe Insha'Allah.

Ola: So it's called Purposeful Fitness With Coach Ola.

Fousia: Awesome. So you guys at the end of the episode check out the show notes as well as on Naptime Is Sacred. The link for Ola's podcasts will be there. Don't forget to go and subscribe inshallah and show your support and benefit from her knowledge and that of her guests inshallah. So Ola tell us a little bit about what you have coming up in terms of projects for Ramadan.

Ola: Sure. So this year a new project is coming out and it just got launched. It's called Ramadan challenge instead of a program and there is what is called a challenge because I realize technically I am a personal trainer right. And I'm trying to find my voice in the industry and then stand out from it. So I thought OK in the fitness industry a lot of programs out there services are taking on challenges like the summer body better get ready, lose fat, get fit or shredded all of that. So I thought OK why not create a fitness challenge that's for Ramadan purpose and instead of saying you know it's like the Ramadan mind soul and body way. And so this change the four week it's week one we we focus on how to regain our flexibility mobility and on weak two be below the resistance. Week three we gain strength and then week four we build the body for diet. So with this challenge there will be a workout with it but also an assessment and consultation just to make sure like what your goals are to get to know me more better to get to know you better. And this year I'm adding a more support to it so does is Facebook support group. But if someone doesn't have Facebook I still also make a way for you and then it also comes with a guide and workbook bundle and last see you. And I launched my business I launched with a Ramadan prep package and that package last year came with a nine day workout permanent e-book. I realized that a lot of women found it to be too much. Some of those workout plan so I took the same concept but in the four weeks to prepare for Ramadan and then do Ramadan because it is hard to work out I'll still give you the support for your all fitness journey and see how you can adjust to all needs. That's pretty much the summary of it.

Fousia: That's really great. I'm glad that you have this program Ramadan can be difficult if you are already like kind of not in the best of shape and then on top of that we're eating all this kind of like really insanely greasy and sometimes very sweet foods as well. So tell us some of your personal habits during Ramadan that inshaAllah maybe you'll share some of those tips and advice on your challenge.

Ola: Sure. And if you don't mind I'm going to go back just for one second. Going back to the challenge that those are the e-book in the guide book because I realized that when it comes to Ramadan we focus so much on how to eat what to eat how to work out but then I feel like it's also important to find a plan and get our do out list for example our goals like that first 10 days they can 10 days and then the last 10 days and that's why I'm so passionate about it because it's not just like you get to work on it or you get to meal plan that's it. But you actually get to plan a whole month inshaAllah. And so for my tips in terms of eating healthy working out I'm a huge fan of resists training because I'm used to it myself to work out during the month of Ramadan. I stay consistent so with my cardio I am able to do like 30 minutes but I might sometimes do obviously less. And so I replace the cardio with resistance bands light weight training more stretching and less impactful exercises just to keep the momentum going and then for eating wise I did have tried to make smoothies before protein shakes smoothies for example the chocolate was in powder with strawberries. They keep it super simple with coconut water. It was very helpful and yeah just like the area food.

Fousia: That's good. Everything in moderation right.?

Ola: Yes. And you know it's interesting that that's what I promote and that's what I promote in my ebook classes as well. Because Islam is about moderation. But then you know when you see the word moderation and when it comes to nutrition a lot of people are like Yeah. But that term is broad and it's hard and it's in that. And so it goes back to what you're able to control yourself and what you're able to eat and not eat. So yes I am a fan in moderation. But then it is hard for some people.

Fousia: So one of the things that I noticed about your social media presence is that you don't put yourself just in one kind of box when it comes to working out. You sometimes you're at the gym and being a trainer you know you got to train people. But in your own personal life a lot of times I've noticed that you do outdoor activities you.. anytime you can get a chance you work out outside. What are some of your tips and advice for sisters in this climate that are not fully confident to be able to go out and work out what are some things that you do that they might find simple and easy to also do and how do you get them to kind of overcome that fear of working out in public a little bit. I know it's not. Sometimes it's fear and sometimes it's kind of feeling people are going to be what they're wearing it's like they're self-conscious because they're wearing a hijab or because they're dressed like differently than everyone else who would be working out. So what are some of your tips and advice.

Ola: Great question. Yes I'm such a huge outdoor workout fan so like I said for me I had to build a confidence in being in public number one. So the gym lifestyle actually helped me build that confidence because at the gym I used to be very shy around being on guys. Oh my gosh they're watching me and like this and that my hijab days. And then when I wear the hijab I started getting more conscious the more I start practicing like oh my gosh how was it. And this and that. And so I did disappear from the gym lifestyle. There was so much coed. And that's when I became depressed. That's what I found like. OK. The gym is not a right place to be it's had on safety there. And then slowly when I got back on track that's when I got back into being outside. And so build the confidence wherever you are as small so maybe a bike ride maybe you go out for a walk. So going back to the baby steps you saw with walking if you are already you workout on regular basis then you can add use the benches to do dips.  You can even bring with you a resistance band and exercise outside. So it really goes back to you shouldn't care who is watching you. And then also it is true that in some places around the world it's not as safe as other places. So alhamdullah I am in a good place where it's like because I'm trying to imagine myself being in a different state or city or town.

Fousia: It has to be kind of like you have to use common sense of the surroundings a little bit just the same way we do when we're shopping and to be aware of our surroundings and parking lots and all that kind of stuff. I would rather work out before it gets too dark outside you know or a safe environment like this too much going on. Where it's well populated Well lit you know. Make sure you have your phone with you and your keys handy if you need. And one other thing is if you can have someone with you like a workout buddy that's also great. Or like you know take your mom to go with you or just something so if you're not too sure about a new area or something at least you have someone there with you. But we always promote like common sense and safety on this podcast. I hope all of our sisters can stay safe out there and you know we're keeping everyone who has a struggle with the community that they're in in our prayers. What other things are you working on. And your podcast.

Ola: Ok. So in April 21st and 28th I'm co-hosting two hikes again nature therapy to promote nature therapy and the hikes are called Spring In To Ramadan and that's pre Ramadan. Post Ramadan I am hoping to do you know few things I kind of want keep it low key.

Fousia: You guys are going to have to go on her social media and website inshaAllah to find those out essential. Tell us your social media handles and like you know if you have things like lives and all that stuff if you have a regular live and all that kind of good stuff so people can find you through the show notes.

Ola: Inshallah at BeFit4Akhira. Facebook Twitter Instagram I deactivated Snapchat.

Fousia: So out with the Snapchat but on Facebook Twitter Instagram and then your podcast inshaAllah that will all be in the show notes as well. Ola thank you so much for coming on today's Episode I appreciate you taking the time. I'm glad that we were finally able to record an episode after a year. But you know everything is in Allah's time he's the best of planners.

Ola: Thank you so much.