Fitness classes: “Why it’s OK to quit something if it doesn’t make you happy”

Posted by for Life

Martial arts teacher Khadijah Safari is one of the 50 inspirational individuals on the first Lucozade Sport’s Movers List, and she has some spot-on fitness tips for you.

Looking to be inspired by incredible women? Welcome to our new column, ‘This is what strong looks like’.

This week, Khadijah Safari – who is a martial arts expert and the founder of London’s first women-only martial arts club, Safari Kickboxing – tells Stylist Strong why it’s so important to try out and quit new fitness classes and sports until you find the one you are truly passionate about.

1. What does ‘strong’ mean to you?

Strong comes from self belief. Without self belief it’s hard to be strong in anything because you doubt yourself. Although a lot of the work that I do as a kickboxing teacher is about physical strength, the first step to getting that strength is believing in yourself. It doesn’t matter how physically strong someone is: if they don’t have a strong mind, they’re not able to use it in a positive way. 

2. What part does physical strength play in your idea of ‘strength’?

I think physical strength is secondary to mental strength. But they work hand in hand, a lot of people will come to my classes and they’ll start training and not realise how much it benefits their mental health strength. That wasn’t their initial intention, but it’s something that I’ve learned over the time of teaching. The mental strength and confidence that comes from being able to train and learn a martial art is pivotal. I’m fully aware of this, but actually a lot of people don’t know it themselves until they learn it through training.

3. What impact do you think mental strength has on your life?

I think maybe one of the biggest things that I learned a while ago was patience. Once you have patience you end up being strong and can wait for things that are right for you to come. Or find the right way to do it. You don’t cut corners anymore, you do it the right way, because you make sure you’ve got the right intentions.

I was writing something yesterday and I was saying that there’s no point doing something if there’s no good intention behind it. There needs to be a good intention. And you need to have the patience to do that by using mental and physical strength, in order to achieve it in the right way rather than cutting corners to get to your end goal.

4. How do you motivate yourself? (Not just for gym, but also in life?)

It’s changed. My motivation now, in everything that I do as a teacher, is the reward of seeing other people achieve their goals. And they’re quite often goals that they hadn’t necessarily set for themselves. So, they didn’t think they would be taking this fitness route in kick boxing. But they found that, actually, it’s something that they’re really good at.

For some women who struggle with anxiety, stepping into a class for the first time can be very tough for them and it’s a huge moment. The fact that I’ve been able to offer that opportunity for so many women to start their journey is another motivation for me. It makes it worth it.

Khadijah Safar
After failing to find a martial art class she could take without wearing her hijab, Khadijah Safari quit her job as a graphic designer and set up London’s first women-only martial arts club, Safari Kickboxing. It is a safe space for Muslim and non-Muslim women to mix, train together in self-defence and keep fit.

5. Looking at physical strength: some women feel intimidated at the gym/working out. What’s your best advice for getting through this?

To make that initial attempt at attending your first class your main goal.

Women train for all sorts of reasons: it could be weight loss, learning to defend themselves, becoming more confident, struggling with mental health, dealing with domestic violence. There are so many reasons why women train, but mostly it’s about their health and to feel good.

But a lot of people will tell a lot of excuses to themselves before first stepping into that class. They’re worried about if they’re going to let other people in the class down because they’re not going to physically be able to keep up. Or they think they need to lose weight first.

All of that stuff will go once they take that first step and book the class and go to whatever it is that they’re interested in.

6. What should we remember when looking at other people’s fitness regimes on social media? And in fact, social media in general?

This is a major point because, with social media (and I’m even guilty of it myself!), people will only show you what they want you to see. They will never show you everything that goes on with their life. With my class members, I tell people ‘don’t compare yourself to comesobdy else’.

Never make your competition somebody else; the only person that you’re trying to better is yourself. For example: if you find it impossible to do a press up, your only goal should be to do one press up. Don’t be comparing yourself with somebody you’ve seen online or someone that you see in the class. Because at one point in their life, they weren’t able to do a press up as well.

Also bear in mind that, especially on Instagram, most videos on social media are only one minute long. You don’t ever see anybody doing a one hour workout, do you? You see bits of it, so it looks like ‘wow look at everything they can do, 50 of these, or 40 of these…’. But the reality is that it is edited.

Basically: your only competition should be yourself.

7. What’s your advice for women who are looking to gain strength, both physical and mental?

Step back from everything for a minute, look at what your own goals are and what you’d like to achieve. Stop comparing to everybody else, because everybody is different. Whether it’s going to a class or learning a skill – find something in life that you are passionate about. Don’t try one thing and think ‘right well I have to carry on with this’. It doesn’t matter if you quit things as you go along until you find the right thing. Don’t be scared to try new sports until you find what you are passionate about. That’s how I found martial arts.

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The UK’s first Movers List has been compiled by Lucozade Sport to recognise 50 individuals whose volunteering, charity work or dedication to sport and exercise has inspired local communities to move more. For more information and to find local facilities and classes to move more, visit lucozadesport.com/the-movers-list

Images: Lucozade

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