At the beginning of a new year, many adults with ADHD make a resolution to get fit — perhaps by joining a health club. By March or April, however, that resolve often falters, and gym visits become fewer and farther between. Hopeless? Not at all.
You can rekindle a commitment to fitness by creating structure and developing strategies for consistency. In addition, as you focus on getting into shape, it's important to shape up your gym etiquette. We all know that there are unwritten social expectations at health clubs. For many with ADHD, it's difficult enough to understand and follow written rules — much less adhere to implicit ones.
Gym members may communicate about expected behavior with subtle looks, body language, sighs, or tone of voice. I just wish they would start writing these expectations down and give folks a better chance! In the meantime, try these tactics for both getting to the gym and fitting in when you do.
- Set up a schedule. Build set days and times for the gym into your life routine. You can ensure the success of this schedule if you link your workout to something you already do on a regular basis. For example, plan to go just before or after work or during your lunch hour to anchor club visits.
- Tie a string around your finger. In other words, use whatever reminder system you have found to be effective for getting to appointments. Some of my clients use Post-it notes, computer alarms, watches that vibrate or beep, or color-coded calendars. Some write on bathroom mirrors with dry-erase markers or even have a friend or a coach call to help them remember.
- Buddy up. Going to the club with a partner increases your likelihood of following through. It's difficult to cancel at the last minute if you have someone waiting for you. A workout partner can provide reminders, encouragement, and a healthy dose of guilt — as needed.
- Get into a routine. The staff at most clubs will help you devise a personalized workout. Use a clipboard with your routine on it to stay focused on your workout and see your progress in a concrete, measurable way. Progress is a great motivator.
- Join a class. Let the teacher call the shots, so you don't need to make decisions. Just follow along.
- Enlist a trainer. Personal trainers bring knowledge, structure, and support to your workout. Not only will they keep you motivated and on track, they can also help you understand the club environment. They cost money, but for many it's worth it.
- Learn the ropes. All facilities have their policies and procedures. If you have questions or haven't reviewed club information in a while, check out the written materials or request an orientation tour or at least a quick overview from the staff.
- Keep it clean. Remember to wipe down any equipment you use. There are usually a spray bottle and towels available for this purpose.
- Take turns. Be mindful of people waiting to use equipment. If people are between reps, it is rude to jump in. Sometimes people who are nearby don't appear to be waiting. Ask anyone in the area if they're waiting or if it's OK for you to use the apparatus.
- Chill on the chat. Don't strike up conversations with people who are exercising. Most are focusing on their workout and find disruptions annoying. Save talk for before or after workouts. If you work out at regular times and see the same people, it's appropriate to nod and smile. After a few nods, it is generally fine to strike up conversation.
- Organize your stuff. Keep your keys, water bottle, and towel close at hand and out of the way of others. A small gym bag or fanny pack works well for this, or you can keep your locker key on a wristband and stow your other items nearby.
Finally, remember that a comment like "Your thighs are jiggling less now" is not a compliment!