Ramla Ali: 'It's important that I can talk to someone about how I feel'
Somali boxer Ramla Ali, who appeared on the cover of British Vogue recently, tells Prudence Wade why it's so important to be candid about your mental health
Ramla Ali has certainly had a busy year. She became the first Somali boxer to win gold at a major boxing championships, appeared on the cover of British Vogue, became an ambassador for Pantene and still managed to find time to teach boxing to women who wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to learn.
Throughout it all, Ali has been training hard. Despite a gruelling schedule, injuries and other disappointments, her love of boxing is going strong, and her career from strength to strength.
But how did she first fall for boxing, and what does she do outside of the ring to keep herself fit - both mentally and physically?
On why she loves boxing...
"Teenagers now are really lucky they have Instagram to tell them the workout of the day - back then, there was no Instagram, and I liked the fact a coach was telling me what to do, and I didn't have to think for myself," remembers Ali.
"That's why I fell in love with boxing - I loved that someone was telling me what to do and how to train."
On making it her career...
"I actually never thought it would be a career - I went to uni and surprisingly got a law degree to keep my parents happy. It was only a few years ago when I met my husband [Ali's coach Richard Moore] that I thought: 'You know what, I can actually make it'. He made me believe that I could."
On supplementing her training with hot yoga...
"In boxing, sometimes you're in such a rush to leave the gym that you neglect stretching and mobility. Doing yoga focuses it all in one session, so you're not so neglectful of your body and how hard you've trained," explains Ali.
"It's fun and enjoyable - it's not mundane and repetitive. You go to different classes and there's always something new to learn, which is what I love about it."
On talking about mental health...
"For athletes, I think it's really important to talk about your mental health. I see a sports psychologist, and for me it's really important, because growing up in an African family we never spoke about mental health, bullying or how you're feeling - it was always a taboo subject.
"Now, it's really important that I can speak to someone about how I'm feeling, and if I'm ever feeling pressured to succeed. I'm not ashamed to admit that I see a sports psychologist, it has helped me over the years and I feel like it's only going to improve me and make me better for many years to come."
On teaching women to box...
"I don't really post about it because I'm not doing it for the internet - it's just something I want to do to give back," says Ali.
"I [teach boxing] once a week for women who don't necessarily have spaces to train around London - it's a really nice, safe space to be taught by a woman in a gym that is completely locked off from men, and they feel like they can express themselves."
"I get loads of women that turn up, from people that have been attacked on the streets and people that have had things happen to them," she adds. "I started doing this in January 2018, and since then I've seen some of these women completely pick up all the amazing techniques of boxing and learn how to do it properly.
"It's not just a 'boxercise' class to keep fit, I'm teaching them how to box and defend themselves properly, and that's what they've said has helped increase their confidence."
Ramla Ali is a Pantene UK Power of Hair ambassador. The Pantene Gold Series range is available at Superdrug.co.uk