Exercising for people who hate delayed gratification

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      TL;DR- Exercise 4 times a week, with a different activity every day. The next week, do 4 new activities, and so on. Repeat cycle next month. Don’t train hard, don’t push, don’t try to get fit as fast as possible, just do SOME exercise. It’ll take you much longer to get fit, but you won’t get bored, you won’t be in pain, you won’t injure yourself, and if you get sick, you won’t lose progress. It’s more important to do SOMETHING than it is to be efficient.

      Exercising is HARD. You know it, I know it, we ALL know it.

      I recently had a talk with my specialist about exercise, and her advice blew me away. I started a new exercise programme four weeks ago (most I’ve exercised in about 5 years), and I wanted to share her advice with you all.

      My specialist, it turns out, has ADHD as well. She doesn’t medicate, mainly because she was diagnosed as a child, wasn’t medicated, and is able to control her life through nazi-levels of control (her words), coping mechanisms, and rigorous exercise. She has absolutely nothing against medication, because she knows that not everyone’s ADHD can be controlled in this way. But here’s how she exercises:

      She exercises four days out of every week. She swims once a week. The remaining three days, she has a massive pool of different exercise activities to choose from. She cycles through them on her exercise days as the whim strikes her. So, she has a minimum of 12 different exercise activities from which she can choose from on any of these ‘non-swimming’ exercise days. If she’d planned on going for a hike, but instead feels like doing Yoga, she’ll do the Yoga, and go hiking another day.

      To her mind, the goal of exercising when you have ADHD isn’t to get fit. It’s to, for want of a better phrase, ‘burn off your excess energy’. All the science shows that exercise benefits ADHD, as it benefits most people with most conditions. But for us, the goal shouldn’t be the most efficient route to good health. Instead, we should aim to, every week, do activity that makes us exercise without getting bored. Hence her method of 12 different activities a month.

      I further elaborated on this system, with insights from my own attempts at exercising in the past. Whenever I give up on a workout programme, it’s because either: I got bored; I got sick, and starting up again was too hard; I trained too hard, got injured, and didn’t start up again. My specialist’s exercise programme made me realise that normal exercise programmes aren’t meant for us. All the major workout programmes have you doing mostly the same things day in, day out, week in, week out, because they’re all about maximum efficiency. They push you hard three times a week, then push you harder the next week, in pursuit of getting fit as quickly as possible.

      It would take you forever to improve at any activity if you only do it once a month, like she does. My specialist made me realise that efficiency is boring. Repetition is boring. It is anathema to us who have ADHD. Novelty and Variety are what drive us. Hence, it is better to do a small amount of varied exercise daily than a massive amount of repetitive training here and there. Yes, we’ll progress slower, but we’ll still progress, and have fun doing it, which is the ultimate goal.

      I’ve created a bodyweight workout that is light enough that I can do it every day (not weekends, because you need to rest), that progresses extremely gradually – it will take me 55 weeks in total to get to my ‘end goal’. In the earlier phases, it’s light enough that you don’t need to warm up, cool down, stretch, or even worry about sweating. It is so light that I can’t injure myself. If I get sick, I won’t lose significant progression. It’s so short that I don’t have to set aside time, meaning I don’t get bored, and I don’t get muscle soreness, meaning the pain isn’t making me reluctant to train. I won’t share my workout here (if I and my guinea pigs have good results with it, I’m going to try to market it), but just find something light enough that you can do it every day, take weekends off, and improve very, very slowly. It’s a lot better than doing nothing.

      Aside from my bodyweight workout, I’m doing Yoga once every other week, and Tai Chi on the ‘off weeks’. 20 minutes each, that’s all. From next week, I’ll be cycling on Fridays, 8k, from the nearby town to the big shopping centre and back. I have an exercise bike, but I never use it, because boring. Cycling in the real world is much more fun. Once I’m used to this level, I’ll start adding more activities, probably karate once a week. My bodyweight progression is increasing regularly, the other exercises are just bonuses. It will take me forever to progress in any one of them, but it’s infinitely faster than if I waited until I had the urge to do any one of them to perfection, and my fitness will improve, just much generally, not sport-specific.

      Traditional exercise programmes are simply not built for us. They’re built for people who are able to think far into the future and work really hard now for gains off in the distance that we cannot see. They’re designed for people who don’t mind tedium, and can delay their gratification. Let them have their 8 weeks to perfect abs, their 10 weeks to 5k. We’ll go hiking, jogging, or cycling. We’ll take up martial arts classes, or Yoga, or Pilates, and go rock climbing, swimming, kayaking, whatever. And we’ll do all of these things in a month, before doing it all again. In a year, we’ll have the same results they got, but we’ll have actually had fun doing it. Focus on doing activities that you find fun, and let the fitness come second.

      This advice may seem like old hat to a lot of you, but it was a revelation for me, so I figure, if one person doesn’t realise that this is a good idea, more people won’t realise either, so it’s best to tell the people who need it most 😛

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