7 of the Most Common Struggles for Hijabi’s When Working Out

WRITTEN BY ZAHRAH SUROOPRAJALLY |  Updated On Thursday, November 4, 2021 ;
4 Minute Read


Now I’ll be honest with you.

I’ve never been the most athletic person – and growing up as a Hijabi who loves to dance, is difficult.

As you navigate the spheres of womanhood, being a Muslim, a feminist, figuring out your place, you’re also finding out how you feel about your body.

While I was learning about the world, I was constantly on the lookout for a role model that I could identify with. Someone who could help me to accept the way my body looked.

There were no short Brown Muslim British girls with a penchant for the 80s – anywhere, while I was growing up.

Being sporty, going to the gym for a workout, or down the road for a jog is an amazing feeling.

And it’s wonderful regardless of how easy you find it, or how many times you have to stop to regain composure and catch your breath.

blog-photo-3-run-7 of the most common struggles for hijabis when working out-www.wearemin.co

Making your body work hard – even when you don’t see results straight away, brings about a feeling of euphoric achievement.

It even makes you more productive when you go back to work after your gym post-workout shower and smoothie.

Now, being a millennial-Muslim-women is like living on the brink of two worlds.

On one hand, avocado and smoked salmon on toast is a fitness necessity, on the other – there’s just so much more we have to consider when we go for to workout…

1. Is it safe?

Every person, and definitely every woman has thought this to herself while she contemplates going for a night-time jog in through ominous looking streets.

Now women of colour, who wear religious garments that tend to aggravate members of certain groups, are playing a whole other ball game. Literally.

2. What the hell am I going to wear (Where are all the Hijab Shops at)?

Sure, you can opt for the loose jogging bottoms and a large hoodie that is GREAT for these colder winter months but become sweltering in mid-July.  

Then comes the summer sportswear, which is nearly always short-sleeved, too tight, or see-through.

Then you go for the classic leggings-and-long-top combo – the long top rides up (I MISTAKENLY chose this latter recently whilst on a zip line in Mauritius – needless to say, it was not the best choice because of the harness and was probably less than ideal. For health and safety reasons.)

7 of the most common struggles for hijabis when working out-Zipline-www.wearemin.co

3. How appropriate is this outfit for running?

This brings me to my second point – no one looks great while they exercise (see point 4) but it’s all good as long as you FEEL great. Right? You want to feel the breeze caress your skin and the sun warm you up.

Except that’s just not a reality when you’re wearing a Hijab where one of the many pins has come loose (heaven forbid) and you have to stop every few metres to almost stabbing yourself in the scalp with a sharp pointy betrayer.

It actually feels about the opposite of good.

I tend to tie my Hijab around my head (which does show my neck, and some would say goes completely against the point of wearing the Hijab – I tend to reserve judgement for other things).

One problem with it though, it always unties – maybe I’m running too passionately or I’m working out too hard in the gym? So again, I’m constantly untying and retying.

Now add some rain and curious passersby to this mix. Yeah, I’m done. I’ll just do some ab workouts at home.

4. How ridiculous do I look right now?

So usually, even when you’ve chosen something to wear, it ends up looking less than great.

Usually, the concoction of the goal of modesty and a limited choice of Muslim women gym wear, even when it’s mixed with the best of intentions lead to an unflattering wardrobe malfunction.

Now if you’re one of the empowered who doesn’t care what people think because you’re aware of your beauty and have a grasp on your inner-confidence more than most – more power to ya. I am learning to be more like that, but ‘not gonna lie’, it’s hard.

You just hope and pray that you don’t cross paths with any neighbours because you have this hijabi-boss reputation to uphold.

5. Is it even a necessity?

So usually after the mental exhaustion, you’ve exerted trying to find an outfit that looks good and feels good and is great to exercise in and covers your body as much as you need it to…

I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t feel like going out of your house at all.

You build up this idea of exercise in your head to be something easy, a normal part of the day.

And every barrier or obstacle you face just makes it harder for you to break down those lazy habits of making butter popcorn and watching series 6 of The Office.

6. Time to wash the work-out Hijab…

As a hijabi in the gym, how many times can we use it before it becomes almost unusable right? And no, you can’t fold it inside out, it just doesn’t work that way.

Also, no, don’t just spray it with Febreeze and hope it helps – because… don’t be that guy.

Also, usually, you have that one old cotton black hijab that is a timeless one for exercise – once you throw it in the wash you have to wait for it to wash and then dry – and what if you wanted to go for a quick run that night?

7. We’re not all athletic with perfectly ironed crease-free hijabs that make our faces look super slim – and that’s OK.

Instagram isn’t really you guys. It just isn’t.

Getting a perfect selfie with an angle that makes your face look slim and your Hijab on fleek is a great transferable skill – for a reason.

Because that kind of angling isn’t always available IRL.  

Yes, we have Hijabis we know that make tying a rectangular piece of cloth into an art form.

But we’re not all like that.

Most of us get by with having a BHD (bad Hijab day) at least twice a week. It’s all about the folds and creases and the way you pin.


7 of the most common struggles for hijabis when working out - Hijab-snow-wearemin.co




  • Find a time and a place that works for you (we’re not all morning people, so if you’re a night runner, make sure you have an accessible place you feel safe in).
  • Go running with a friend.
  • – Get your clothes ready the night/morning before (age-old but it’s always a great reminder).
  • – Don’t make excuses.
  • – Be a millennial – juice something in your blender (treat yourself before/after your workout with something that will bring up your energy like a berry/chia seed shake).

Exercise feels great, and this is coming from a person that needed a lot of convincing.

Asma El Badawi, a top female Muslim Basketballer, said…

“It is important to note that there are some misconceptions that Islam prohibits women in sports – on the contrary, it promotes a positive outlook towards the health and wellbeing for both genders”.

What we wear when we exercise can be a point of contention for us.

Before the Burkini became a product I could buy from the shops, my mum would purchase material and get my Aunt in Mauritius to fashion some kind of modest swimwear out of it.

(I wrote a spoken word piece following the French Ban on Burkinis in 2016 here).

That Hijabis now have a choice of where to go to buy modest swimwear is a huge step forward.

The Nike-Pro hijab, in particular, is a significant step forward because, while it isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before, Nike is an extremely powerful entity that has the power to normalize something that was previously marginalized.




What we’ve learnt from this is that there is a huge market for bespoke products for Hijabis to feel more at ease while they are working out – which should be catered for by accessible brands (not necessarily solely by the mainstream oligopolies of the sporting world).

We need sporting wear for Muslim women, preferably from Muslim women ourselves – because we know what we need more than anyone else.

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