Exercise and ADHD
I’ve been exercising a lot lately. As my issues with getting the meds I need have started to seem hopeless, I began using long walks to clear my mind. It helped. I lost 10 pounds and started being able to get about 60 solid minutes of work clocked per day, which is a huge step up from a few months of being able to handle about 30 minutes (elapsed) and not enough time to actually complete anything.
I started with hiking. First a mile at a time, then two, then extending beyond the point where at least one of my dogs could keep up1. The farther I walked, the more work I could do afterward. I have the good fortune of living within walking distance of an amazing trail system in the bluffs of Southeast Minnesota. I can walk out my door and be at a trailhead in 2 minutes. I’ve gotten to know about 8 miles of single track quite well, and have plenty more to explore.
Then I was talking to my friend Luc Beaudoin (creator of MySleepButton, one of the most effective sleep aids I’ve found), and he mentioned that the key is “vigorous” exercise. So I started incorporating short sprints into my hikes. Part of what I love about hiking is observing the forests and plains around me, and trail running absolutely requires keeping your eyes on the trail in front of you (or else ankle sprain), so I only ran for the “boring” sections of trails. A few minutes of sprinting combined with 30-60 minutes of walking was still enough to break me into a full sweat and maintain a high pulse rate, and it turned out he was right. Just walking isn’t enough to help with things like ADHD.
Then I started doing Yoga. I have a good friend who teaches a class at a local wellness center, so I decided to try it. It was good for me. I felt great afterward, and the class setting worked well for keeping me going. I decided to try out some other classes, and went to a Forrest Yoga class. It was an hour and fifteen minutes of soaking my yoga mat with sweat.
After the first Forrest class, I went to a friend’s poetry reading. I was sitting there when all of the sudden my brain started working. Thoughts, ideas, and plans all started flowing the way they used to. It lasted a couple of hours. I’ve been able to replicate it since then, but it takes about an hour of exercise to get two hours of work, so it’s not a perfect solution. I have, however, lost almost 20 pounds now and am feeling better physically than I have since I was 25 (which was 12 years ago).
Yoga wasn’t easy for me to get started with. I don’t like games I can’t win, and doing a flexibility-and-core-strength workout as a fat, out-of-shape guy was awkward. My instructors were very helpful and supportive, and my classmates were all—if not 100% encouraging—absolutely not judgmental. Having pretty girls around you is great encouragement to focus and try not to look like an idiot, and having better-looking guys around brings out some kind of primal competition in me that makes me push myself further than I would just working out on my own. It’s going well.
I’ve completed the ADHD testing that was asked of me by the psychiatrist I’ve parted ways with, and it confirms an ADHD Inattentive Type diagnosis (again). I don’t know yet if that will translate to me getting back on the meds I need, but it’s a good start, and these months of desperation have led to some lifestyle changes that I absolutely needed. It will all work out in the end. It always does…
Our German Shepherd can actually do 4+ miles fine with pep in his step, unless he gets SQUIRREL… and ends up running twice as far. Our middle-aged pit bull with synthetic knees, though, can only go about two miles before I have to carry her home. ↩