MUBARAKAH IBRAHIM has to work a bit harder than most personal trainers to convince her clients that she’s serious about exercise.

“When they see my assistant, Leanora Harper, they think fitness. She wears tight clothes, she’s toned,” said Ibrahim, the owner of Balance Fitness in New Haven. “I have to prove myself.”

The contours of Ibrahim’s body aren’t as readily apparent: She leads her exercise classes clad in a headscarf, a long-sleeved tunic that falls to her knees and long black pants — traditional Muslim attire.

In March 2006, after spending four years coaching clients in their homes, Ibrahim opened a personal training studio that caters exclusively to women.

“A lot of people think that Muslim women stay home and stay to themselves. We are out there doing just about everything, which includes owning our own businesses,” Ibrahim said. (MORE)


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