One of The Most Important Pieces to Personal Training (Whether you have ADHD or not)

A lot has been added to the field of exercise science over the past few decades. New discoveries of how the body works – whether physical, neurological, or chemical – have led to a multitude of ways to train the body. The more we learn about how it functions, and the more science we apply to training, we can really tune in to what works best on an individual basis.


I have been a fitness professional for over 16 years now, and have trained hundreds of people during that time. I’ve led private coaching sessions, small groups, boot camps, Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) sessions, lectures, nutrition classes, bodybuilding posing training, online training, and more. A lot of education has gone into learning about the inner workings of the human body and how it is designed to function. And now more research is illustrating the role of exercise in helping to enhance the ADHD mind (more about the specifics of that in another post).

With all of the advanced tools, programs and techniques that have been introduced to improve the human body’s performance, there is still one thing that is so important when it comes to personal training and our role in creating a healthy body:




In all of the advances with science and it’s role in the personal training industry, just keeping people accountable seems to have become secondary to collecting data, aquiring vast amounts of knowledge, and using the latest scientific research to create the ultimate workout.

The longer that I am in this field, the more I see the importance of keeping others accountable with their health & fitness endeavors. That is a big part of why I have a career. Setting up appointments so that others can stay accountable should be at the top of the list when deciding to utilize a personal trainer. This is especially true with those who have ADHD.

As Marla Cummins states, “Of all the structures, asking for accountability to help you implement a rule is the one that may really rub you the wrong way.” That’s because we don’t necessarily want people telling us what to do, checking in on us, or keeping our feet to the fire. But why not? We have a hard enough time doing it ourselves.


I own my own fitness facility, so I am there most days of the week. I have to schedule my exercise appointments or they won’t happen…and I am right there! Not to say that you need to be in a gym – many people do well exercising at home, in the park, or just outside somewhere. But being accountable to a partner, friend or fitness professional can be just the thing we need to make strides in continuing to live a healthy and productive life.


The Sport/Health Paradox

Picture this.

A wide receiver cathes a football. He is heading down the field with would-be tacklers hot on his heels. If he scores the touchdown, the game is over and his team wins. If he doesn’t cross the goal line, his team is defeated and their season is over.

As he is running, there is a slight burning sensation in the back of his left leg. He continues to run, and the burning turns into an aching pain – which turns into a shooting pain down the entire left side of his body. With every step, it feels like his hamstrings are going to tear from their origins.

So what is a player to do?

I think most people would say that injuries and pain are just a part of sports, and in a sense I agree with that. If anyone is pushing themselves to be at the top of their game and play at an extreme level, there are going to be aches, pains, bruises etc. that just come with participating in a sport. That’s the nature of the beast – the potential for damage.

So back to our player for SCENARIO 1

If he crosses the end line and scores, but tears his hamstrings in the process, he is a hero nonetheless. Sure, he can’t walk on his own and needs to be carried off the field, but he accomplished what he set out to do and should be awarded as a top notch performer. The fact that he sacrificed himself to win for the team – he could be heralded as the performer of the year.

Hold that thought for a second, as we’ll get back to it….


The wide receiver realizes his leg is going to experience some major damage if he keeps up the pace and intensity he is currently operating at, so he lays off a bit. Unfortunately, the opposing team has caught up to him and tackled him before he reaches the end line. Game over. Other team wins.

But his hamstrings are still attached.

So we have two scenarios, both with outcomes that have positives and negatives associated with them. Here is the question…

Which scenario was the healthier one?

For the sake of this discussion, let’s keep mental health out of this post and focus solely on the physical aspects. I bring up these 2 scenarios because many times the thought is that sports = health. If you play sports your are healthy, or if you play a sport you will get healthy. From Scenario 1 above, I’d say playing the sport was detrimental to his health. Muscle tore from bone…that isn’t healthy.

If we look at the reports coming from media outlets such as ESPN and other sports programming, we see the impact that sports can have on a player’s health in the long term. Broken bones, torn ligaments, sprain, strains, concussions…they all have a negative impact on a person’s physical health both short and long term.

Many times when I am consulting with people, they bring up a sport that they are using to be/get healthy. The conversation may go something like this:

Me: What is your main goal?

Them: To get healthy

Me: What do you feel will get you to your goal?

Them: Well, I want to add some strength training into my routine because I get in cardio by playing tennis two times a week and basketball two times a week. But I’m not sure if I can add in the strength training because my knees hurt, and my back is tight, and (add your favorite injury here).

Me: Is it possible that the sports you are playing are contributing to your aches and pains?

Them: I suppose so. I never thought of that…

I can’t blame them for not having thought of that, because the majority of the time people are told sports = health. I can tell you that the majority of my injuries over the years (and believe me, I’ve had my share) have come from sports I played throughout my life. Not from progressive resistance training, not from a structured aerobic program, not yoga. They came from the hours and hours spent on the field (soccer) and on the courts (tennis and basketball).

My last post discussed my interaction with some hard gravel during rec softball. You can read it here if you missed it.

Now don’t get me wrong – there are many positive things about sports. Whether it is learning about sacrificing self for the team, character building, perseverance, the importance of practice…the list can go on and on. I’m not here to bash sports, as I love them.

My point is this: Playing sports is not the same as being healthy. Many times, we sacrifice health for the sport.

The player in Scenario 2 may not have scored the touchdown, but he just may have saved himself a lot of pain by focusing on his long term health and not short term glory.

The glory will fade. Your health lasts a lifetime.

A different view on injuries…

…or in this case, muscle strains.

My previous post explained how I went a little too far with my workout while on vacation, and my body let me know about. I have had a moderate muscle strain on the right side of my mid-back since last Wednesday, and have been dealing with it throughout my travels back home.

Think 3 days in the car and staying in hotels. Ouch.



Needless to say, I am still feeling the injury although it has subsided over the past couple of days. And though the pain still lingers, I feel it is not as bad as it could have been or would still be today. Why?

One of the main reasons, I believe, is because I took a different view of the injury when it happened. When the pain first started coming on, I could have thought “Oh crap. This is going to ruin my whole vacation and I am going to be hurting bad.”

But I didn’t. I made sure to keep myself aware of what had happened, why it may have happened, and what my view was going to be from that point on. The ADHD mind can certainly obsess on things, so it is important to have a healthy viewpoint when looking at a situation.

So I started to take steps to help the healing process as soon as I could, first of which was don’t be in positions that hurt the area. Pain is a signal – like a check engine light – that says something is wrong, and here is the signal to tell you that. If I had positions I could sit in, lay down in, or stand in that didn’t hurt, then that’s where I would be. It almost seems too easy or that it’s just common sense.

It is, and sometimes we just need to listen to our intuitions – if it hurts, don’t do it.

I also made sure to change my view from all of the negatives associated with injuries to have a positive outlook during the healing process. I began to think about some of the benefits that occur with injuries:


1) an increased awareness of the body. It will let one know when they have moved too far, bent too low, or twisted too much. The injury can signal the body’s current (and hopefully temporary) limits.

2) moving slower. The physical act of moving slower allows for not taking things at such a frantic pace.

3) deeper breathing. If not too painful, breathing deeper can allow for faster healing by expanding the rib cage (keeping up movement) and sending more oxygen and blood flow to the injured area.

4) better posture. Isn’t it amazing that many times when we have tweaked a muscle, our posture automatically becomes better? Suddenly we stand straight up and seem taller. It’s like the body knows what position it is supposed to be in and goes to it.

Really I just made sure to have a different mindset towards the injury, and that could make all of the difference towards feeling better faster. I know the injury is still there and will not ignore the situation by pushing through mindlessly – but why not focus on the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives? At least I have a choice, right?


That is how I choose to view this situation, and that alone helps me feel better – both physically ano mentally.

More isn’t always better (even with exercise) – part II

I walked out of the health club yesterday feeling energized. I had a great workout, and didn’t get overly excited walking into the workout facility, thus over-exerting myself and setting myself up for injury. I went through a “typical” routine, and felt good about everything I accomplished.

I couldn’t wait for today.

This morning came, and I had another sense of looking forward to my exercise routine at the same health club. I was more comfortable walking in, and more familiar with my surroundings. But I also knew my tendencies, so I stuck with my plan and made sure to not do too much. Just my “normal” workout.

Fast forward to the end of the workout. I’m still feeling good about my situation, although I can tell that my right side (think mid-thoracic level) is a bit tighter than normal. I do some deep breathing, and can tell there is a mild strain of the muscle(s) in that area. Jump ahead about 2 hours after a tasty breakfast, and I am lying on the floor doing some deep breathing and working on some mobility to keep the area from locking up.


How did this happen? I had been so cautious during my workouts. I had been present to what I was doing before, during and after. Did I not perform exercises properly? I focused on breathing during the movements, made sure my range of motion was safe yet challenging, and didn’t go very heavy (for me) on any resistance training exercises. What went wrong?

As I see it, I didn’t account for the other factors going into the workout:

1) I had been traveling for 2 days in a vehicle to our destination, and my right lower back was already talking to me

2) Last night’s meal was a bit off target for me, as we out at a new restaurant and I indulged a bit (and the food was oh so good)

3) I didn’t get good sleep the night before due to going to bed late and waking up most of the night to very high winds outside (which in turn created a ghostly “whooooo” through the windows).

4) I didn’t warm up as much today due to a bit more time restriction at the health club

5) I had already worked pretty hard the day before

Combine all of the above, and my body was pretty taxed. I basically surpassed my nervous system’s threshold for what it can handle, and something had to give. So my body felt the need to tighten up my right side to make up for everything else that was going on.


What was my mistake? Thinking I could do the same exercise intensity, volume, or duration without taking into account all of the above factors. So even though I felt I stayed pretty tame with my workouts and didn’t go overboard, I actually did too much for the current circumstances as previously explained. What I should have done was decrease my work load, been content with getting in a lighter workout so that I was just mobile, and not expect forward progress while on vacation. It is vacation after all…

One thing clients and I repeatedly discuss is making good decisions based on our current situation, not some preconceived notion of what we should be doing based on past experiences or high standards we set because we feel like we should be able to meet them.

Sounds like I better go over that again with myself.

More isn’t always better (even with exercise)

I get to work out at a local health club today while on vacation. This is something I usually enjoy quite a bit, as I just love a new environment to get in some exercise. Those with ADHD know the importance of getting in intense exercise on a daily basis, and how it can affect our moods and our minds (I’ll go into the neurological and biochemical reasons why in a future post).

But here is where I can get into trouble…my excitement for the workout sometimes overrides my knowledge and expertise. I’ll get right into the session – not warming up for as long as I usually do, not having a plan going into it, and not listening to or being in tune with my body. Basically going back to my former ways of training when I was a novice. No pain, no gain.


There are two problems with this:

1) I won’t experience the positive effects that go along with an appropriate workout on that day for my body (because every day and every body is different)

2) It won’t set up the rest of my day to make clearer choices in just about anything (healthy eating choices, how I’ll react to my children, am I being attentive to my spouse’s needs, am I present to what is going on around me?)

And this is where we need to realize that not all exercise is created equal. Of the little research or articles written on exercise and ADHD, much of it states that it doesn’t matter what types of exercise it is as long as it gets done. I feel we need to take it a step further and get the optimal exercise for that individual, while practicing mindfulness techniques no matter the type of exercise (intervals, yoga, weight training – again described further in a future post). Just as not all ADHD is the same, not all exercise is the same. How you do it is just as important as what you do.

Think of it this way…when doctors prescribe medicine, they provide a dosage that is going to help manage or eliminate the cause/symptoms appropriately and effectively. Too little and you’re looking at an ineffective dose and possibly longer recovery period. Too much and it may be fatal.

The same applies to exercise dosage. Too little and you won’t get the stimulus necessary to have the body adapt. Too much, and you may override the brain’s ability to keep you safe (muscle pulls, connective tissue tears, etc.).


There especially needs to be a proper balance of exercise when it comes to ADHD. Exercise (especially intense exercise) can help with improved concentration, uplifted mood, and being present. But going beyond what our bodies can handle when exercising (more, more! MORE!) also means a greater chance for increased wear and tear on the body, or worse. This can lead to time off from workouts, which translates to all of the negatives of not getting in the necessary physical exertion that stimulates the ADHD mind in such a positive manner.

So as I head to the local health club, I will:

1) have a plan for my workout

2) warm up thoroughly

3) be completely “in it” during every exercise

4) be thankful I get the opportunity to do it

And I will know that I have set up my day to be better with the appropriate challenge for my body on this day.

No pain, all gain.



Routine on Spring Break (and any other trip)

Vacation, for me, tends to mean a break from schedules and the every day tasks that make up my daily existence. Sure there may be plans during trips I take, but otherwise it is a break from routine.

And that can be a dangerous thing.

I have had a sense of well-being, productivity, and all around clarity with some of the new habits I have brought into my life lately. Things like:

  1. My daily ritual of meditation
  2. My daily lemon water with Braggs apple cider vinegar in the morning before breakfast and 1 hour before bed at night.
  3. My daily workout (yes, even us personal trainers can get bogged down with life and not make time to exercise as much as we should)
  4. My daily use of essential oils at work and before going to bed
  5. Multiple alarms as reminders (take vitamins, work duties, pick up the kids, etc.)

Notice the common denominator: DAILY. When these things are in place and part of my day-to-day routine, I notice it. And my brain notices it.

I can think clearer, I have more energy, I don’t forget things (as much), and I am just a nicer person to be around. If I am on my schedule and not worrying about all of the things floating around in my head, I am more patient and generally more pleasant.

So what to do? Keep on my schedule as best as possible. This morning, I was up at 6am before everyone else, made my lemon water, and proceeded to do a 10 minute morning meditation with my insight-timer app.

I feel better, and feel like the day is going to be a good one. This is because I have prepared my mind for what is to come, and put a bit of my daily rituals into practice on vacation.

I will say, it is nice not having all of my alarms set.

Now where did I put those vitamins?…