This Trainer Realized Her ADHD Symptoms Actually Make Her Fitness Coaching Better

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How This Trainer Finds Strength In Her ADHDKara Nixon Photography

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I’ve always been high-achieving and ambitious, and I equated my difficulty focusing and mental hyperactivity with my personality. I always claimed I was just absent-minded. For example, when leaving the house, I’d get extremely frantic, obsessively checking that the doors were locked and the stove was off. Then I’d drive away, and drive back to make sure I actually locked the doors.

I dismissed these symptoms. I was self-gaslighting, telling myself, You’re fine because you’re high-functioning, and you’ve achieved so much. I wasn’t fine. For people around me, it was exhausting. For me, it was my normal, but not everyone goes through life feeling like every day is overwhelming.

I finally decided to get tested after a friend posted about her recent ADHD diagnosis. I made a virtual appointment with a female nurse practitioner because I felt she would take my concerns seriously. I didn’t want to be dismissed because of my gender or how my
life appeared from the outside.

I felt relief when she determined that I had ADHD. I didn’t cry. I know I should have had an emotional response, but I didn’t feel it. I thought, I’m glad I know, let’s get treated. We decided on a stimulant medication. I’m also looking for a cognitive behavioral therapist.

I see ADHD’s effect on my day-to-day clearly, and I’m now managing it by sticking to my treatment plan. My goal is to feel more present in my daily tasks. I wear noise-canceling headphones to tune out external distractions and act as a tactile cue to keep me in the zone.

My ADHD shows up in my coaching style, too. I need concrete numbers. If I can’t put a number to a performance, I don’t like the exercise. I’ve always struggled with abstract concepts, so I value the trackable ones for analyzing progress. I also give concrete cues to others—such as “bite your shirt” to keep your chin tucked in during a squat—to emphasize body awareness.

I often hear from clients that my programming is easy to understand. It’s one ADHD side effect that’s a benefit. For my other impulses, I’m learning to reroute frazzled feelings to control my attention. I’m excited that I get to share about all of this publicly. My goal is to help others understand that you can be super ambitious and successful and live a very fulfilling life even with mental health struggles.

3 Ways To Focus Better

These habits bring order to internal chaos so those with ADHD can thrive—and they also help anyone else stay on task, according to Chloe Carmichael, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety.

  • Create physical boundaries to avoid distractions. Kick yourself out of email, pop on headphones (like Sohee!), or put your phone in another room to avoid multitasking. “Set things up so you truly have no choice but to concentrate,” Carmichael says

  • Pick a work-time playlist. You can teach your brain to connect specific audio with work time. Listening to nature sounds during work hours, for example, signals that it’s time to focus and helps calm you down, per research.

  • Write out your to-do list. Write three things you want to accomplish on a sticky note and put it on your computer or refrigerator so you can’t miss them. “When you keep your physical gaze on that list, it helps constantly remind you of what you’re doing,” Carmichael says. Noted!

This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of Women’s Health.

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