Faith and fitness combine in inclusive exercise class

Faith and fitness combine in inclusive exercise class

RUNNING an exercise class for women from all walks of life was the inspiration behind Westminster resident Zulaikha Charl’s booming fitness classes.

The 30-year-old Muslim woman, who runs women’s only The Jungle Body classes north and south of the river, had 150 students take part over two days last month.

A self-confessed fitness junkie, Ms Charl said she never felt quite comfortable working out at a regular gym and wanted to create an environment where all women could exercise safely and with no judgement.

The public health system administration worker said an advert for The Jungle Body was the first sign indicating she should give it a go.

“I think the first thing that got my eye was it was so easy to do,” she said.

“After coming to class, I had made a few friends but I was too shy to talk to the instructor Shereice Söderberg.

“Eventually I got the courage to talk to her, we struck up a friendship and she’s been my mentor ever since.”

Ms Charl said working out in a supportive environment where women encouraged each other was one reason she decided to become an instructor, while giving Muslim women and others of different faith and backgrounds the courage to work out with one another.

“I talked about the program to everybody and my workmates suggested I become an instructor but at that stage I couldn’t imagine myself up the front talking and teaching people,” she said.

“But having found it hard for me, I thought surely I wasn’t the only one.

“I spoke to others and it went from there.

“I never imagined it would have grown and the word is getting out there so more and more are turning up.”

Ms Charl said she knew society was not always kind to minority groups but hoped her story would encourage women to get out and exercise or become involved in the fitness industry if it was something they wanted.

“I encourage all women looking to get into the fitness area whether it be an instructor or participant to just jump in,” she said.

“Find places that suit you, I know it’s not always easy not just for Muslims but for any race or religion, but I encourage all women to support each other.”

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