For those familiar with fashion lingo, MFW started out life as an acronym for Milan Fashion Week, followed by one for Modest Fashion Week, shows of which have taken place in Dubai, Jakarta, Istanbul, London and Miami.
But there’s a different MFW launching next week: Modest Fitness Week, which will take place online from Monday to Friday, December 14 to 18.
Modest Fitness Week is the brainchild of Abdiya Iman Meddings, founder of Moowda, a social network for modest fashion launching in 2021.
"We're focusing on a part of society that is often overlooked [in the fitness arena], and tailoring an event for them, by them," Meddings, who lives in Spain, tells The National. "We're a community of Muslim women, a community of modest women, and we're creating a platform to advance others on their health journeys."
Online workouts with female Muslim instructors
Upon registering and paying a fee of $18 on modestfitnessweek.com, women can book digital sessions and workshops hosted by female Muslim fitness instructors from across the globe, in yoga, Pilates, HIIT, flexibility, core strengthening, mediation and more. Live sessions will be held in all time zones, and if users miss one, they can replay the video later through the website, says Meddings.
Amina Naush Ansari, a personal trainer and nutrition coach in Toronto who specialises in circuit training, strength training and callisthenics, will host body weight workouts during Modest Fitness Week. She explains that such an event can help motivate Muslim women who may have previously been on the fence about working out, especially publicly, because of modesty concerns. Ladies-only gyms, after all, are few and far between.
"I strongly feel that there is a need to create a safe space for hijab-wearing women, especially beginners, who get intimidated going to co-ed gyms and feel overwhelmed at the very thought of exercise," she tells The National.
“In the conservative world, women are sometimes intimidated and don’t know how to start their fitness journey or what path to take,” adds holistic fitness trainer Seyma Saricimen from Bahrain, who will offer Pilates, and pre and postnatal fitness sessions during MFW, as well as host a panel discussion about women’s health.
“This gives all women inclusivity, and the platform and the space to feel comfortable wherever they are and whatever they’re wearing. It allows modest women to explore what works for them, whether they are starting out or have been active for years.”
Modest fitness clothing
Another impediment for Muslim women is that mainstream workout clothing hasn’t quite catered to the needs of modesty-seeking consumers.
“Until recently, there has been a real lack of modest activewear. As a result, women were resorting to layering up, which restricts movement, and can make you feel out of place and self-conscious,” says Aneesa Zaman, co-founder of modest swimwear brand Sei Sorelle, which will be showcasing its designs digitally at Modest Fitness Week on Thursday, December 17.
UK label Lyra Swim and Toronto label Floral Swimwear are the other modest swimwear brands presenting, along with activewear brands such as Montreal's Dignitti and Belgium's Mumine.
Modest swimwear and activewear have proven popular among some non-Muslim women, too, particularly for the sun protection and comfort they provide. While Modest Fitness Week is geared towards the Islamic community, Meddings emphasises that the event is open to non-Muslims too.
“All women can join, and many have already registered. It is great to see them supporting Muslim [instructors] in the fitness industry,” she says.
Promoting physical and mental health
Meddings adds she is most looking forward to the discussion on intermittent fasting, and the sessions on fertility and pelvic health, which promise to tackle some culturally taboo topics.
“Things are evolving; there is an increasing number of Muslim women ambassadors on the international stage and personal trainers on platforms such as Instagram,” says Zaman. “Through this event we hope to encourage a collective movement to promote and normalise exercise and sports.”
Meddings believes the timing is ideal. “It has been an awful year, and it’s time for New Year’s resolutions and a bit of positivity, to come together and celebrate ourselves,” she says.
Plus, with many women wary of visiting gyms during the pandemic or stuck at home owing to lockdowns or children's school breaks, an event that can be streamed from home is convenient.
“I’m excited to see the community come together and have fun while building each other up,” says Saricimen. “At a time where there has been so much isolation, this will be great for both physical and mental health.”