How to exercise — ADHD style

by Kelsey Peterson, guest blogger.  (To read more of Kelsey’s take on life with ADHD, check out her other posts in  Stories from the Edge.)

I have always been an active person; my family vacations were planned around hiking and outdoor sports. I love to move and be outside but when I started college things changed. I no longer had golf practice after school in the fall or tennis practice in the spring. I went to design school where the closest thing to a school football team was an annual fashion runway show off between our competitor school and us.

College was much more time intensive and stressful than I was prepared for. So I started working with an ADHD coach to help me stay on track of my school assignments. I had to start prioritizing my time between studying, sleep and exercise. After my first semester my grades were great but my body was not – I was sleep deprived and overweight. The sleeping, eating and exercise habits I had formed were unsustainable and I realized I had to change them if I were going to survive four years of college.

I talked to my coach about putting together a new plan for organizing my time. We came up a plan that allowed for me to study, get enough sleep and workout 3 to 4 days a week. Simply by making a detailed plan I learned that I did have time for everything.

My studying, sleep and exercise plans evolved with each semester catering to my new classes. I saw my grades improve as my health did. The more I took care of myself the more awake I was during the boring lectures and the better I could focus on what I was reading.

During my junior year I tried Bikram yoga per my doctors suggestion after I had some shoulder problems. Bikram yoga is the hot yoga you’ve probably heard about, a 90-minute class in a room that’s kept at 105 degrees 40 percent humidity. My first class was awful; I felt nauseous, light headed and HOT! I went back again to try to give it another chance because of the supposed health benefits. I started to enjoy the quiet slow moving activity. Because of the poses and the heat it required me to have absolute focus. I started to challenge myself slowly to improving my flexibility and endurance. When I was stressed about school I would go to yoga and forget about it, I would leave feeling calm and more motivated.

I have kept up with my yoga practice up ever since. I find that I function better if I allow myself that 90-minutes of meditation. When I feel very anxious about something or depressed I give myself the gift of going to yoga and letting those toxic emotions go. Because of the intense heat the session bring out whatever is going on with you and the challenge is to let it go and focus on your meditation.

Whatever exercise works for you, it’s important to find one or two or three that you enjoy! If I do the same thing every day I get bored. So I try to switch it up, I’ll do yoga 2 or 3 times a week, and other cardio things the other days. I love to go on run/walks with my best friend in Central Park.  She lives on the west side and I live on the east so we meet in the middle and do a loop around the reservoir. Living in New York City another one of my favorite things to do is walk everywhere. If I have enough time I’ll walk instead of taking the subway. I always try to do different routes to get common destinations making my walks interesting every time. Another fun social way to get exercise into your routine is taking classes. I love ballroom dancing classes; ballroom is a workout that also challenges your mind. It takes coordination and memorization and has proven benefits for brain function.

When it comes to exercise keep these tips in mind:

  • Set up a game plan with your coach to make exercise a priority in your life.
  • Try a bunch of different exercises and pick the ones that work best for you, whether that be weight training, yoga, walking, etc.
  • Switch it up! Don’t get stuck in a rut with your workout, have fun with exploring new things.
  • Making exercising a social event. Instead of going to happy hour or to a movie suggest going on a scenic walk or kickboxing class with your friends.
  • Make your commutes into exercise by walking. Make sure to switch up the routines to see new things and keep you interested.

When you have ADHD it is especially important to have exercise be part of your life. Remember that exercise boots brain function and releases endorphins, which give you the feeling of well-being.

What exercises have you found to be the best for you? How have you seen your performance at work or school change in relation to you activity level?  Please share your experience in the comments.  Or join the discussion on Facebook.

Related posts:

Reducing ADHD Symptoms with Exercise

Treating ADHD with Exercise

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