Exercise is the best natural way to produce both dopamine and serotonin. Translation: vigorous exercise directly improves attention and mood. Developing and maintaining an exercise routine is a topic that comes up with my coaching clients very often. Recently it has come up even more often. Perhaps it is our reaction to the horrendous winter we had here in Boston? Maybe it is just a general spring thing. But, everyone wants to get back to exercising.
I am a person who doesn’t not do well without exercise. Even though my hyperactivity is not as prominent as it was when I was younger, I still need to move. I have a hard time articulating the substantial benefits I get from working out 5-6 times a week. It can be difficult to quantify them. But, I will say this: If I can work out before I take the kids food shopping on Saturday mornings, the whole day goes better. The kids actually behave better. Why? Probably because I’m more focused, more patient, more flexible, more fun, and more centered. All from 30 min on the spin bike.
So, here are a few quick tips on how to establish a work out routine and maintain it. (Unedited and in no particular order…)
1. Don’t focus on the length of the work out at first. Just focus on doing it as often as you can. Once you take 2 days off… day 3 is really easy to skip. Even if it’s only 10 minutes a day, try to establish a routine of at least 5 days a week.
2. Recognize your progress. This might seem like I’m say the opposite as no. 1, but… If you aren’t working out now, even 2 days a week is a victory.
3. Really connect with why you are woking in. We tend not to do anything if we can’t articulate and really believe it is worth it. So, what are you getting out of it?
- Better focus.
- Better mood/ lessened anxiety.
- Better health.
- Better sleep.
- Maybe some weight loss.
- Possibly more self confidence.
- Might end up looking better.
For only 20 – 40 minutes a day you can have all of those things. That is a pretty great cost/benefit ratio. So, remind yourself out loud. “I will feel better and have better attention if I work out today.”
4. Trust that you will work through the part that suck and makes you tired. If you can make it a routine, soon enough the work out will give you more energy and actually feel good.
5. Pick exercises that you want to do. Rock climbing, dancing, fencing, ultimate frisbee are all exercise. It doesn’t have to be alone in an impersonal gym surrounded by meat heads.
6. Variety is the spice of life… and the best for your body. Mix it up. Keep the ADHD brain and the human body interested.
7. Stop when your body/mind tells you to. Don’t push so hard that you leave your work out with a bad taste in your mouth. 30 minutes and a good feeling is better than 40 minutes and hating life. The former means you are more likely to go back tomorrow.
8. Just start and you’ll be fine. Don’t say, “I have to do 40 minutes or it’s not worth it.” That’s a recipe for not working out at all. Just commit to 10 minutes. You’ll probably do more. But, if you don’t, it’s still better than nothing, right?
9. Keep visual track of your progress. I like to keep a work out calendar. When I was first getting back into working out after years of being a miserable, overworked chef I would just put a big red X on a calendar on days I worked out. The X’s really stand out and give you a sense of accomplishment. Helps build positive momentum.