Does exercise help with ADHD symptoms? How important are consistency and personal accountability in exercise? How do I stay motivated to exercise as a neurodiverse person? Alli Cost, MS, OTR-L, joins the podcast to answer these questions and provide additional insight into how to live your life without pain. Whether you’re an athlete looking to improve your performance, a desk worker looking to relieve tension, or someone who simply wants to feel better in their body, you’ll want to listen to this episode!
- Alli Cost, MS, OTR-L, is an occupational therapist and a managing partner of Foundation Training, LLC. She has the drive to empower individuals & communities through simple, sustainable changes. Foundation Training is a cornerstone of how she helps others improve their quality of life. Alli serves as the Education Director for FT and continues to teach/treat as an occupational therapist with a specialty in sensory integration.
Alli Cost links: Facebook | LinkedIn | Website | FT Streaming
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Lindsay Guentzel (00:01):
Welcome back to Refocused. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and you are listening to episode 80, The Power of Movement: Identifying The Why Behind Exercise.
Alli Cost (00:10):
I don’t call it exercise, I go on a sunshine walk, for me, for my system, the warmth on my face, the brightness, that’s what I’m looking for. I’m not looking for movement. I used to say I’m sometimes going to go on an angry run.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:46):
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you’ve likely heard this before, exercise can be an incredible addition to your ADHD treatment plan. But exercise looks different for everyone and if we’re being honest, how we define exercise is going to be different. It’s why today’s guest, occupational therapist Alli Cost, doesn’t even like to use the word exercise. She prefers the term movement. Alli is the Director of Operations for Foundation Training, a program developed by Californian chiropractor and surfer Eric Goodman in 2007. The main goal of Foundation Training is to help decompress the spine and anchor the hips, using a series of body weight exercises to activate the posterior muscle chain. Think, your back, hips, glutes, and legs. Alli, who received her master’s from Columbia University, found Foundation Training through a TED Talk, and it was the program’s focus on pain prevention that pushed her to join the team.
I’m so excited to have Alli on Refocused today. She has an incredible amount of experience working with the neurodiverse community, from early intervention into adulthood, both through her time as an occupational therapist, as well as through cultural and community-based settings like her time in the Peace Corps and in-home health scenarios. One of the most important questions we dive into on today’s show is why exercise? We’ve all heard the reasons for why it’s important, but how does that relate back to each individual person? And how can you use that to develop a plan or a routine that actually works for you? This is another area of life where the one-size-fits-all mentality really trips people up, and the unfortunate reality is there’s also a lot of fear driving people towards stuff that is just never going to work for them.
Alli has learned a lot through her time working with the neurodiverse community, creative ways to make accountability stick, helping people find movement that works for them, and empowering people to feel confident and comfortable with whatever they choose for themselves. She also shares her own experience with breaking the comparison game. Something I know I’ve struggled with over the years. So to kick things off, Alli walks us through how she gets started with a client. What sort of things does she need to know? And she shares why she finds embracing a person’s hyperfocus to be a strength that shouldn’t be ignored.
I want to start by pretending I’m a new client and I have opened up and said, “I am neurodiverse, I have ADHD, exercise is a big struggle for me.” I’m wondering how you approach a client who comes in and shares something like that, because you have some roadblocks in the way already. And I’m wondering how you pitch movement and exercise to them, because I imagine that’s going to be different than if you were communicating with an extreme athlete, or somebody who’s trying to get ready for a marathon or something like that.
Alli Cost (03:48):
So two things. One is I always say, “What do you love doing right now?” Those hyperfixations, that’s not a weakness, that’s a strength. And those will change, but asking someone like, “What brings you joy? What brings you alive right now?” And seeing how can we integrate movement within that. And you’d be surprised that everything we do can integrate movement, even if they’re hyperfixated on… Let’s say I’m really into video games and doing video games, and we think of that of like, “Oh my gosh, I’m sitting.” Awesome. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to stack something with that. So it’s not going to be you have to do 50 pushups before you do this, but this idea of like, “Awesome, so let’s think of doing a warmup right before.” And integrating that in.
The other thing is really asking, “What do you feel in your body?” The way we experience our body really impacts how we interact with the world around us. So some folks can really feel their body intensely, they feel everything, and it’s just so much, so what they need is some movement to loosen that up and relax. And some people don’t feel their body, and these are the people that love the rough and tumble really hard things. So then helping them find something that gives them more input.
And I hate calling it exercise, I like to just think of it as movement, integrating movement into your life. Do we need that to increase input, or decrease input? And then turning that into something fun. I don’t call it exercise, I go on a sunshine walk, for me, for my system, the warmth on my face, the brightness, that’s what I’m looking for. I’m not looking for movement. I used to say I’m sometimes going to go on an angry run, because for my system it’s getting out that feeling, and then coming back so I… Connecting it with something that makes sense to you, and really feels authentic for what you need and want.
Lindsay Guentzel (05:38):
I’m glad you touched on the differences that people are going to see and they’re going to feel in the journey to find something that works for them. And I think what we forget sometimes is that we all came from this one-size-fits-all. It’s the phrase I just use over and over again. But I’m thinking back to gym class. I had the same gym class teacher from K through fourth grade, and so that activity style was exactly the same. Her energy was exactly the same. And I can see now, as I look back at my own journey and why certain things didn’t work, I can’t tell you how many classes I’ve walked into where the instructor’s energy, or they’re yelling, or they’re… Even the bootcamp style, I’m like, “Nope, I am out.” And that works for some people, but I think we sometimes forget we get to make life whatever we want it to be, and I think sometimes we’re so pigeonholed by this old idea of the word exercise.
Alli Cost (06:34):
I think growing up, I’m going to age myself, I’m in my forties here, this idea of exercise, or even doing a group class, was about obedience. So it’s almost like this fear-based, like you’re working out for fear you’re going to get fat, you’re working out for fear of somebody yelling at you, or you not doing enough reps, or enough weight, and I hated that. And I get that for some people that pushes them and it keys into that competitive edge, but I think for a lot of us, it just puts our sensory system into this fight or flight, which is not good. We get the best quality movement and the best quality exercise when we’re actually at a calmer state. So for some people, again what you said, of going into this class and this energy, this vibe, the people, or how they’re moving, or how it’s set up, doesn’t work for me. Don’t be afraid to walk out. It’s totally okay to be like, “This isn’t for me.”
And I think one thing that took me a while to get comfortable with is that idea of I can go into a class and be in the back, and be doing something slightly different. Yes, they say to hold the ball and do this, maybe I want to sit on the ball and bounce for a bit. That’s fine. You’re paying for the class. Nobody’s going to tell you that you have to do it that way. I think we have created sometimes these structures in our head, that we need to go to this group class and do this exact same thing. No, you’re paying to go to the group class. Go in the back and feel what feels good for your body.
The same idea with running. We’re like, yes, sometimes training on a schedule works. But here’s the thing, it’s also just as great to go out and be like, “Okay, today I’m going to sprint for one minute and then a walk for 15.” And then the next day you’re like, “I’m going to run as many miles as I can.” And the next day you’re like, “I feel like running as fast as I can.” And then two minutes later you’re like, “No, I don’t.” “Actually I do.” And then starting again. And that’s okay. Movement is supposed to adjust and adapt to us, not the other way around. We’re not supposed to adjust to what a structure is set. It’s for us. So we’re supposed to make it what we want it to be. So I always like to tell people, when you are going into a group class, like you said, try different things, try different teachers, try different times of the day, because different folks go… Morning people and evening people are very different exercise people.
So try those classes, try a different studio, try a different gym. All of these things. It’s okay to be like, “This isn’t a good fit for me.” Or. “This isn’t a good fit for me right now and it might be in a week.” So trying, and being okay with failing. I think the biggest, most exciting thing about moving your body is just enjoying sucking at something. You have to be bad at something before you’re good at something, but finding the pleasure in just being present, feeling your body, and just doing it, rather than saying, “I’m going in order to do this thing this way, because this is what everybody has told me has to be the way that I exercise, has to be the way that I run, or dance, or lift weights.” As long as you’re doing it in a way that’s not hurting your body, go for it. Find that pleasure.
Lindsay Guentzel (09:36):
I like that you touched on the idea of expecting perfection for something you’ve never done before, because that is very much something I think a lot of people with ADHD can relate to, this idea that, “Yeah, I can do that.” And then you do it and that you’re not perfect at it, so then you spiral and it’s… I look back at a lot of my hobbies or activities and there was definitely a lack of understanding of what practice meant, and why practice was important. And also I think we just as a society have such a hard time failing in front of people. For example, when I started to elevate my heights and box jumps, you’re like, “Well, what if I miss it and I fall, and all of these people look at me?” And it’s like, yeah, I tried something and I didn’t get it, and I’m going to keep trying. But we’re just so hyperfocused on this idea of failure.
Alli Cost (10:24):
I think one thing that helped me, years ago, is being proud of my failures. Typically, we see failure as a step, like practice makes perfect. No, practice is the point. I am proud of each time that I do it wrong, because that means that I put in the effort, that was the experience. If we only get joy when we get to the end point, we’re missing the whole thing. And let’s be honest, when I hyperfixate on something, I put all of my energy to get it perfect, and then once I can do it perfect, I honestly am done with it. And then I move to the next thing, because it’s not the perfection that I’m enjoying. It is the actual process of learning and changing my mind, changing my body, and getting that experience. So the failing is the actual thing to be proud of.
I am super, super clumsy. I’m embarrassed to say the number of times that I’ve just fallen while running, because I’m just clumsy. And it’s one of those things where it’s like, “Yep, I did it, so now I’m going to figure out how to do that next time, like I need to pick up my feet a little bit more. I’m clearly not doing this.” Oh, it’s not a bad thing. Failure should not be this bad thing. It should just be this part of the thing, and part of the thing that we find silly and fun. Like as kids, look at a little kid when they fall down, they’re not upset. It’s just you fell on your butt, they laugh and they get back up. Trying to find that innate thing, which I think is very human in all of us, to find pleasure in our own failing, because it’s silly, it’s funny.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:57):
It’s interesting too, with the kid analogy, is I was a nanny for a really long time and the go-to is when a kid falls is you don’t react, because they’re looking to you to see if you are concerned. And half the time if you are concerned, then they start freaking out, because they’re feeding off of you. And it starts young, the pre-programming starts very young. What have you seen in the changes in the neurodiverse community? Because I think that that plays a role too in where we are right now, is I don’t know that we fully grasp just how vast and different the neurodiverse community is. And we’re talking about people with ADHD, people who would fall onto the autism spectrum. And so many more people are getting diagnosed later in life, and we’re throwing them into the pool. And so at the same time we’re trying to change all of that stuff that we’re dealing with, to make it more accessible for everyone.
Alli Cost (12:48):
You have to think, our diagnoses is relatively new. So you have to think 50 years ago we didn’t even understand autism. And initially when it came out, got to be honest, it was based on this idea of white males. So autism, ADHD, it was very much researched, diagnosed by what we expect white males and how they typically behaved. So that did not really apply to girls, to people of other cultures, to a family of different races who just had a different cultural setup. And I think part of the reason for this late diagnosis is recognizing that yeah, we didn’t diagnose, because it presents differently. The same way when you think of heart attacks present very differently in men and women. It doesn’t mean it’s a different diagnosis. It means that everybody’s body is different.
So I think a lot of people who are getting diagnosed, ADHD, or on the autism spectrum, late in life, I feel this sort of freedom of “it makes sense. I have spent so much of my life trying to fit into this box.” Which for lack of a better term was what we expect little white males to behave like in school, to sit still, to behave, to think a certain way. And understanding that that’s not for everybody. So understanding that is also understanding that how we experience our ADHD, or our neurodiversity, is going to be different from someone else. That doesn’t make theirs right or wrong, or ours right or wrong. So what this has told me is that I don’t fit into a box, which is awesome, that actually gives you freedom. I feel like more than anything else, it lets you come off the bookshelf and be like, “I’m not a single book. I have the entire library to choose from and I can write my own book.”
I think with that, really understanding that… I look back and see, what was I told the way I should act, the way I should feel, and how is that playing into what I’m telling myself? We all have these scripts in our head and they come from things that we were told as a kid. So what is the script I’m telling myself? Is it that I should be doing this? Is I should look this way? I should move this way? I should feel this way? And then asking yourself, do I believe that? Do I feel that doesn’t match up with me? And being okay, letting it go, and saying, “No, that’s not a good fit for me.” Even though that is a good fit for, let’s say, 98% of everybody else. That’s really the freedom that gives you the ability to be healthy in your own body, in your own life.
Lindsay Guentzel (15:27):
I want to touch on the freedom side of this and this idea that we really can do whatever we want, and move our bodies however we want, and we have to cut the ties with this old narrative. And I think one of the things that’s important with the neurodiverse community is acknowledging that we all feel things differently, which you mentioned, and that means what we want out of exercise, or even what we don’t want. Some people don’t like to sweat. I’m one of those people, if I work out and I don’t sweat, I feel like, “Why? What was that? That was just a complete waste of my time.” And that’s a mental thing. I like to feel that release. What are some of the things that you help your clients identify, that would fit into that? Along the lines of not liking to sweat and then figuring out what are some of the things that would connect with that and work well for you?
Alli Cost (16:17):
Good question is why. So start with the why. Why am I working out? And oftentimes even if I have, let’s say, a female or somebody coming in saying, “I work out because I want to lose weight.” But why? What does that mean? What does it mean when you lose weight? What does it mean when you’re that person? Because the why is very rarely that immediate thing, but it’s what they feel like. Okay, so if you got to your ideal weight, what does it feel like? And then being like, “Well it feels like I can move freer in my body. I have more confidence.” Okay, that’s why you move. So let’s figure out a way to exercise, a way to move, that embraces that and finds that.
So for them that might be belly dancing. That might be covered in sweats and going for a run, and feeling every part of your body dripping in sweat because you’re able to physically feel it. The sweating thing’s a real thing in that some people really don’t like that sensation of having their body system at a very high heart rate, sweating a whole lot, very hot. Some people they’re like, “I feel it and it feels great, and it’s like I’m alive.” And other people are like, “I’m going to die. At any second, I’m going to actually die.” Here’s the thing, you don’t have to super-duper sweat or get your heart rate up to be healthy, to get the benefits of exercise and movement. It’s like, “Great, so what’s some other things that you do like?”
So again, if I want to be in touch with my body, do you want to be doing something where your body is touching things a lot? So think about in the gym when you’re rolling around, or doing something, there’s a lot of contact with your skin and your body onto things. Some people like that and some people realize that that really just makes them uncomfortable, and they’re not able to get a benefit from it. A lot of people who run, think about that, it’s only your feet touching the ground, but you can control that. For some people like jumping, getting that movement going. But playing around with it.
I think back to your question of the why, why am I moving? And helping people understand that for them they can find the movement that works best for them. And that why should change. It does change. From day to day, year to year, different parts in our life. Anyone that has kids understands that you may love things that are touching your body less, you’re doing these aerobics and you have these things, and then you have kids who are crawling all over you all day long, and you are so freaking touched out that you’re like, “I don’t want anything or anyone to touch me.” So for them, that movement that they need might completely shift to something else, and that’s okay, that’s the point, it adapts with you.
Lindsay Guentzel (18:51):
I like that you touched on why do you want to lose weight? And I think back I shared… I was always losing weight for an event, and then I would lose the weight, and I still wasn’t happier, satisfied. And it wasn’t until I started doing strength training. And gosh, how many times did I hear it or read it in a magazine, about the importance of strength training? And I just was like, “No, no, no cardio. I need to get my weight down. I need to watch what I’m eating, blah blah, blah, blah.” And then you start lifting heavy weights and then my body was the way I wanted it. Did I look at the number on the scale? No, because it didn’t matter. It’s this idea of what we think we want in the moment.
And then I like that you’re talking about what do you want your body to feel like and how do you want to feel? And for me it was realizing it was never about being skinny. I wanted to be strong. I love feeling strong. I love feeling capable. I love when someone doubts my ability to lift a couch, or move something. I’m always like, “Watch this.” I want to ask, when you’re dealing with people who fall into the neurodiverse community, consistency is a big thing. So first you’re set to figure out what works, and that’s going to take some time, and trial and error, but you also have to make sure that they keep doing it, or keep trying it, and keep coming back. And so what are some of the things that you’ve dealt with working with clients, that help them set up their own routine? Because no one wants to be babysat. It’s not fun to have to have somebody hold your hand through things, so there does have to be a part of it that falls into personal accountability.
Alli Cost (20:23):
Some of us, by default, might have an easier time with, I hate the word, but it’s discipline. Really it’s saying, “I’m going to do for tomorrow Alli, rather than today Alli. Because today Alli doesn’t want want to get out the door and do something, but tomorrow Alli will really appreciate it.” So sometimes helping them understand what you’re doing today is for the tomorrow you. Because sometimes the now me is like, “No.” But then I imagine, okay, tomorrow me will really appreciate it, and then the today me really says thank you to yesterday me. And I know this sounds silly, but really having that gratitude for what you’ve done before really helps you help the person that you are tomorrow.
Really letting folks know that consistency doesn’t mean every day. It doesn’t have to be you do it, you do it, you do it. Oh my God, you fell off the horse, you’re done. Just stop. There’s no point doing it. It’s, “Okay, I did amazing running for three weeks consistently, five days, and then one week I didn’t run at all.” Okay, that’s fine. All I’m going to do is jump back on. It’s not a critique, it’s an observation and a move on, and that’s it. And I think sometimes we put a lot of judgment and this has to mean something, when it’s like, “Nope, I didn’t work out last week and I’m just going to go back into it.” And I think most people in general are not super disciplined, because by default, discipline is uncomfortable.
The best way to put it in is two things. One is accountability. So that can be either doing something with somebody. I’ve had moments during the pandemic when I would literally turn on my Zoom and do my own workout, while my friend did her own workout, but we were both on Zoom doing our own thing. And it was just simply that accountability of that time, because if either of us bailed, we wouldn’t do it. And it was only a 20-minute thing. But for some reason that accountability of both people being present.
The other thing is it could be like a check-in or a group class, but really integrating your community. We, I think, undervalue community and connection, and how that really goes in with movement. Yes, a lot of movement is connecting to ourselves, but when you sneak that in with somebody else, or something else, or the bigger picture, it makes it more fun and you’re more likely to do it. So making sure that there is some sort of accountability. And for most people, that’s not going to be checking off your to-do list. It’s going to be with someone else, for someone else. I think those are usually the best ways to get started if you’re looking for being consistent.
Lindsay Guentzel (22:56):
I’m glad that you touched on community and connection. And I think what we’re talking about is not stuff that I think is groundbreaking. I think a lot of people who are listening to this have heard this before, and they’ve probably heard it multiple times. And I think for a lot of us, it builds up, it builds up, it builds up, and then one day we finally, hopefully, figure out how to make that jump or make that change. And I’m wondering what you see when you work with clients that is kind of that catalyst, if there’s stuff that stands out. Or we could just even offer up some ideas to people on how to go through and prioritize movement in their life, and making it something that they want to start doing. And I think a lot of times when we are trying to start something, and it’s hard for us, we just build excuse after excuse after excuse. And I think for some people the moment, the aha moment, to get started unfortunately just never comes.
Alli Cost (23:52):
One thing is we start too big. Meet yourself where you’re at. No one starts marathon training running 14 miles. They literally start by getting their pair of shoes and going for a five-minute walk. So start, literally, as small as possible. Smaller than you think, so it’s almost embarrassing. So if your goal is to get out and do some amount of exercise, say, “Okay, I’m literally going to go for a two-minute walk. Two minutes. I’m just going to put on my shoes, walk out the door, take five breaths, walk around the block, come back in.” And getting consistency, because what you want is that routine. So it’s not about the routine of, “Okay, I run every day.” And I’m using that just because it’s an easy example, but it could be anything. But just starting super, super small, so that it becomes routine. The same way that showering most days becomes part… You just want it to become routine.
When we have excuses, look at your excuses, what is it? Is it I got really busy with work? Is it all these things came up? And see what your barrier is. I think most often we’ll say health is a priority, but when you look at where you put your time, that is not what your priority is. Personally for me, what I needed was a slap in the face. So I have a piece of paper that’s my priorities, and I have literally written down on a post-it note on my door. I’m like, “Number one, health. Number two relationships. Number three is helping the world.” So that I understand in order to have number two and number three, I have to have health.
Unfortunately the catalyst for most people starting to work out is either sickness, so their body starts breaking down because they didn’t prioritize it. And if you don’t prioritize health, your body will prioritize it for you. If it doesn’t happen before you hit 30 or 40, I promise you, it will. Your body will give you signs. And oftentimes we don’t listen to the whispers, and so it gets a little louder and a little louder, and then it yells and it screams. And that’s when we sort of have that breakdown.
So starting it as being like, “Where is my body whispering to me that health needs to be a priority?” And just listening to yourself, because we ignore that, and we’re like, “Well, work is a priority.” Or, “This is a priority.” Just, “Okay, health is a priority, so I’m going to do just this one tiny thing. I’m going to park at the end of the parking lot.” So that can be your thing. It can be like, “Okay, I’m starting by parking at the farthest parking spot at Target, and I’m going to walk in.” And that little bit turns into a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more.
Lindsay Guentzel (26:27):
Let’s talk about the comparison game. We live in a society where we can see what everyone is doing at all times, and it’s always the highlight reel of what they’re doing, so it’s the best of the best. And I think that it can be a deterrent for a lot of people who see that and go, “Well, if I can’t do that, it’s not worth my time.” How do you break that mentality with people?
Alli Cost (26:47):
Two things that I’m going to say with that. One is with the good enough and the other is that comparison game. I think that good enough thing we have been fed and it’s a total freaking lie. The idea that I am good enough no matter what, irrespective of what my body looks like, my body can do, what I can do in terms of skillsets, that has nothing to do with my worth. And we so often now connect worth as a person, or worth as a partner, or in these roles that we have, understanding that my worth does not change with my body with these things. And that’s something that you have to… You’re fighting what society is telling you, but once you recognize that, you see like, “Oh my gosh, I can really enjoy life.”
Because think about the person you love the most in your life, whether that is a child, a parent, a partner, a friend, if they couldn’t run a marathon, if they couldn’t lift 50 pounds, are they worth less? No. You understand that very cognitively, innately, about someone else, but we have a really hard time understanding it about ourselves. So I think that’s one of the first things that we really have to shift. And I often just tell people, “Think about the person you love the most. Would you judge them on the thing that you’re judging yourself on right now?” And if the answer is yes, then okay, let’s have a bigger discussion.
The next thing about the comparison game is understanding that it’s fake. I know it’s cliche and everybody says this, it is fake. And someone else’s happiness is not taking away from yours. Someone else’s success does not mean there’s less for you. For me, that was a really important thing to come to realize, is when I see someone on social media, or someone on the internet, doing something amazing or showing what they’ve succeeded in, that doesn’t mean that there’s less for me. What that does is that gives me hope. So really shifting, or I’d have to tell myself, “Oh my God, I feel like crap. I’ve been doing CrossFit for so many years and I can’t do this, and this person started it two months ago and is literally doing so much more.”
And catching myself being like, “Why is their success taking away from my opportunity or my joy?” And being like, “No, I’m going to let their success inspire me. I’m going to be excited for them.” It’s like a mind shift that you have to do. I don’t know any other way, besides deeply admitting that, “Yeah, I am finding your success really frustrating for me, but that’s on me, and I’m going to make a choice a shift.” Even if that choice is a teeny tiny little shift, it makes a difference, because over time, again, that script becomes louder and louder that you’re telling yourself, “Good for them. Good for me.”
Lindsay Guentzel (29:40):
I also struggled with the same thing and realized that if those accounts were making me feel a certain way, I could unfollow them. And then all of a sudden, three months pass, six months pass and you’re like, “Oh, I don’t miss that.” And so it’s acknowledging that, again, we get to control for the most part what’s being fed to us. And it sometimes takes the moment of going, “You know what? This isn’t serving me anymore. I need to…”
Alli Cost (30:06):
Yeah, unfollow. That is okay, you should be curating everything you consume. That means everything that’s coming in visually, the things you’re reading, the news. Catch yourself when you’re like, “I don’t feel good.” Why? And think about that and be like… It doesn’t matter if this is someone you love, just mute them, so you don’t see their things. Think about when we feel like crap, it does not motivate us to do more.
Lindsay Guentzel (30:34):
You touched a little on hyperfixation and having these moments where you’re really in love with something, and then you lose interest, or you accomplish the goal and you’re like, “Okay, well I did that, and now on to the next thing.” How do you use that with people who are neurodiverse? Or I guess, I shouldn’t say how do you use that, how do you nurture that? Because I think for some of us we’ve been told, “No, don’t hyperfixate. It’s bad. You go down this rabbit hole and then you get lost.” And we’re just told all along that’s not how we’re supposed to live, but if it works for something like exercise, then why wouldn’t we embrace it?
Alli Cost (31:06):
Oh, a hundred percent. I think hyperfixation is not a negative thing at all. I think it’s this amazing ability to gain a skill, to really dive in deeper when so many people can be happy living on the surface, but you have the opportunity to dive deep, so dive deep. With that I think the most important thing is awesome, if you’re going to hyperfixate, make sure that you hyperfixate with the understanding of how can I do this sustainably? So if you want to marathon run for the rest of your life, awesome, but let’s make sure that you’re doing a lot of research, and also hyperfixating on the sustainability of it. So what do you need to do to balance that out to make sure your body doesn’t break down? How can I make sure that I’m not going to be causing injury? What are ways that other people have done this long term?
And if someone else tells you, “You really should do something else,” ask them why. If it’s bringing you joy and it’s getting your body to move, trust yourself, trust that that’s what you should be doing. I think the one point at which it really does shift, if you start getting injuries, if your body’s starting to break down. You don’t have to change your hyperfixation, all you get to do is bring in something new. Great, so now I want you to adjust that hyperfixation onto how do people recover and do this long term? And you’re just adding something in rather than having to shift out of it.
Lindsay Guentzel (32:28):
You painted an interesting picture of a studio class, you are in, you’re in the back, and everyone’s doing the move, and the instructor’s telling you what to do, and you’re like, “You know what? This doesn’t feel good to me so I’m going to do this instead.” And I think for a lot of people, we struggle with the idea that everyone is watching us. Which is never the case, no one’s ever watching. And if we could just get out of our own ways and remind ourselves every single moment of every single day that everyone else is so preoccupied with their own stuff, just like we are preoccupied with our own stuff.
And I’m kind of dealing with it right now. I’ve been doing these classes for years and I go multiple times a week, up until my diagnosis in… Well, up until I started getting sick in January, I was going, honestly, four to six times a week. And I love them, because I love the people who are there, I love the music, I love the movements. Well now I’m going back to the classes and I’m having to have the instructor make accommodations for me, and oh my God, my ego, the first couple of classes, of just feeling like I can’t do what I used to do. And I couldn’t be proud of myself for doing what I was capable of in the moment, because I was just so stuck on this idea that everyone else was doing the workout, and I had to have accommodations made for me, and everybody was watching me. And it is this mind game.
And so I’m wondering how we can empower people to look at it as go out and have your individualized moment, be confident and be comfortable going, “Yeah, I really know that I should love lunges.” And I absolutely hate lunges, and any chance I can take to get out of doing them and do something else, I’m going to take it. Even if that means the person next to me judges me. And the grand scheme of things is one, they likely have no time or energy to be paying attention to the fact that I’m not doing lunges. And two, if they are really that concerned about me not doing the lunges, my goodness, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Alli Cost (34:25):
Essentially what we think other people are thinking about us is just what we’re thinking about ourselves. Whenever we’re like, “Oh, that person is judging me.” They’re not, we’re just judging ourselves. And really taking a moment and reminding yourself, “Okay, what I think that person’s thinking about me is just simply what I’m thinking about myself. Why does it matter that I’m doing lunges or not lunges?” And usually that goes to a deeper thing of, again, this fear-based obedience model of “I’ve been told I have to do this.” But you don’t have to do lunges, you can do something else, you can modify. I’m all about scripts. So having the script in your head to be like, “I’m a fricking rock star.” I’m here even though I have this condition, even though I freaking spilled my coffee all over myself and didn’t want to come, I showed up. I showed up. That’s the most important thing, is I showed up and I’m moving my body.
And when you catch yourself in those moments of, “Oh my God, that person’s judging me.” They’re not. You’re judging yourself. And when you’re like, “What do they think of me?” I really, really go back to… I did this when I… I had stopped doing CrossFit a while ago, but when I was doing CrossFit and I was in the back, and totally modifying, even though I’ve been doing it for five years, and I still had to modify all these things, I want to be the example of the person that comes in for the first time and is like, “I want to leave because I don’t fit in.” I want to be that example for them. Anybody can do this. I’m not going to be the model for the person who is the best, and that’s okay, that’s not who I am. What I want to be the model of is the person who wants to come in and be authentic, and work in a way that works for their body, and not get hurt.
And I love CrossFit for that, is because there was such a variety of people and I was in the back modifying and doing my own thing, and I want people to come in and see people like me doing that. So that helped me shift of like, “No, I’m never going to do the full weights. And that’s okay. What I’m doing is I’m being part of a community, I’m moving my body.” So just making sure who is it that you are trying to impress? Is it the person that’s the best, why? You should just try and impress the person that you were yesterday, which is that person that came in with a little bit of insecurity and needed to know how to do this.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:40):
I want to just wrap by asking you to share a few tips for people to get started, and you offered up a ton of really great ideas, and a lot of really great mindset changes. But I think for some people the idea of, “Well, if I just put on my shoes and walk around the block, it doesn’t count.” But again, you went back to the marathon training, that’s how people do it. I have a friend, she ran her first marathon last year at 36 and she qualified for Boston, which is an incredible feat. What I want to tell you, what I am more impressed with is that she worked for a coach for almost a year and a half training for a half-marathon, and then the full marathon, in that year and a half she missed one scheduled run.
And I told her, “That consistency, I guarantee you, that coach, that you are in the top 1%.” Because that’s just like the word, again, it’s got some negative connotations to it, but that’s discipline, and she showed up for herself, and it didn’t matter the outcome. Of course, qualifying for Boston is great, but she started somewhere and kept building upon that. And I think sometimes for us, if we aren’t already physically fit and we don’t have something already planned out, just starting is so difficult.
Alli Cost (37:50):
When starting, first thing I ask, “When do you feel your best during the day? Is it in the morning? Is it the afternoon?” Your best. So find your best. And if someone says “morning”, okay, so we’re going to start this in the morning. If someone’s like “right after lunch”, after lunch. Do not plan this at a time at the end of the day, or the evening, if you are not an evening person. So you want to start with when do you feel your best, which means your highest energy and just your best mental state, which is different for all of us. You’re going to schedule in 15 minutes, that is it. We all have 15 minutes. And that 15 minutes can be, “I’m going to park my car at work and then walk and then go in.” It can be, “At the end of the day I’m going to walk.” It can be, “I’m going to go for a jog. I’m going to get to the gym and do something very quickly.” Start with 15 minutes.
If you can do it every day, great, but I get life changes. So aim for three to five times a week. And then that 15 minutes is going to go to 20 minutes, and 25. And the idea getting you put aside about 45 minutes to an hour every day for a movement. What’s great about this is when this becomes habit, you get to decide. It doesn’t mean you have to run, it doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym, but you have an hour for your health. So you can be stretching for 30 of those minutes. But if we think about the time that we sit on social media and whatnot, we have that time. So that’s the first, is start with when you feel your best schedule in 15 minutes. The second thing is add in something you like. I got to be honest, I look at TikTok when I go for walks around the park.
Lindsay Guentzel (39:27):
I was hoping you were going to say this, because it’s either podcasts if I want to run, but what got me meal prepping was I used it as my time to watch my Bravo reality TV shows. Yeah, it does help. It’s like an incentive.
Alli Cost (39:41):
It’s also just dopamine. I learn when I move, if I read a book, I will not retain it. If I listen to a book while walking, I will be able to come home and tell you every single detail about the book. So find a book you really like, watch TikTok, or look at Instagram. Doing that, that gets me excited to go out. There’s been some days where I’m not allowed to look at TikTok, unless I’m outside going for a walk. And it gets me going, and then once I get going, I’ll turn off TikTok like 15 minutes later, and finish up. But don’t be afraid to sneak that in. So again, first one is make sure that, good time of day for you, 15 minutes. And then stack it with something you love, whether that’s a book, social media, calling a friend, do it with something you enjoy. I think that’s the best way to get started if you’re looking for that capacity.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:31):
And any tips for people who maybe at some point had this all figured out, and then the pandemic happened, or they started a new job, their schedule changed? I love that you talked about when do you feel the best, because I don’t think we take into account that what works for me schedule-wise is going to be different than what works for you. But we’ve just, again, been pre-programmed that everyone’s supposed to live in this world from eight to five and do things when everyone else does, and it’s just not the best path.
Alli Cost (41:01):
I think if you’re getting back into something, erase what you thought about yourself, erase the schedule, because a lot of times we’re trying to get back into something with our old self. None of us are the person we were pre-pandemic. None of us are the person we are before we had kids. These things change who we are and that’s what’s beautiful about life. So start from this point of when you’re getting back into it, you are actually starting from scratch. So I want you to think of that, but think of that as this beautiful opportunity, rather than trying to get back to your old self. Because you’re better than your old self, you’re a whole new person. So ask yourself, again, maybe I was a morning person and now I’m not.
Personally, I was the person who would wake up at 5:00 AM and go for a run, do all of this stuff before work. I don’t know what happened during the pandemic, I wake up at 7:30-8 AM now, and that’s just who I am, and that’s okay. I’m not doing something wrong, but I shifted everything according to who I am now. And now I love midday runs, and I used to be a Sunrise run person, and that’s okay. So please, if you’re getting back into it, know that it’s for the new you, so you’re gonna make up new rules.
Lindsay Guentzel (42:12):
Alli, this has been such a pleasure, and I have to tell you, I am going to take the little section you talked about, about you getting to be the inspiration in the back of the room for somebody else to come in, and I’m going to take that energy, and bring it into class. And be proud of myself for showing up, but also showing that there are so many opportunities for people of all abilities to be in that class. And hopefully my movement gets easier, and I can see that change, but if I don’t go, I’m not going to see it.
So one, thank you for coming on and sharing your expertise with us, but two, thank you for that little nugget. I needed to hear that at this moment, as the last few nights, my partner has been like, “Are you sure you don’t want to come to the gym with me?” And I’m always, “No, I don’t want to go and be a failure.” And now it’s, “Okay. I’m not a failure. I’m showing up where I’m at right now, and that’s incredible.” Sometimes it’s hard to be kind to ourselves.
Alli Cost (43:06):
Lindsay Guentzel (43:08):
Alli Cost is an occupational therapist. She’s also the Director of Operations at Foundation Training and you can find out more about the work they do by visiting foundationtraining.com, and of course we’ll have all of the links shared in our show notes. Alli, thank you so much for coming on Refocused, I truly enjoyed this.
Alli Cost (43:24):
Yes, thank you so much.
Lindsay Guentzel (43:32):
Alli’s energy is definitely something I wish I could bottle up and carry around with me. I keep going back to the line she used, “What we think other people are thinking about us is just what we’re thinking about ourselves.” And that is so true, all of the time. The problem is how do we remind ourselves, in the moment, that that is the truth and that the stories that we’re telling ourselves are false, and they’re just stories, and they’re just our own insecurities? I also loved hearing how she gets started working with clients by simply asking them, “When do you feel your best during the day?”
This is something that I have struggled with as I navigate this new… I don’t want to say normal, because I hope it’s not the new normal, but this new life, with this autoimmune disease that’s affecting my muscles. I had a really good routine down. I loved going to a specific class at a specific time of day. And the unfortunate reality is right now that doesn’t work for me, because at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. So I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I need to adjust my schedule, that what worked for me four months ago isn’t working for me right now, and in order to get back into a routine, I’m going to have to just bite the bullet and make some changes.
And so I really just love that idea. When do you feel best during the day? When do you feel like you could move your body? Because for every single one of us, it’s going to be different. And I love that she shared that before the pandemic she was a morning runner, and now she’s a midday runner, and there’s no shame or disappointment that comes with that. Life changes, we change, and we grow, and we adapt, and the quicker we acknowledge that and get out of our own ways, the easier it’s going to be. I keep joking with the line in my head when I think about trying to make my nighttime exercise routine happen right now, it’s the mean girls, the “stop trying to make it happen. It’s not going to happen.” And again, I know that, I know what I’m working up against, but it’s very hard sometimes to just do that. So I so appreciated Alli diving into that. And remember, you can learn more about Alli and the work she’s doing with Foundation Training by heading to foundationtraining.com.
Refocused is a collaboration between me, Lindsay Guentzel and ADHD Online, a telemedicine mental healthcare company that provides affordable and accessible ADHD assessments and treatment plans, including medication management and teletherapy. To find out how they can help you on your journey, head to adhdonline.com.
A huge thanks to our coordinating producer, Phil Roderman, who does everything in his power to keep me on track. It is a monster task to ask of anyone, and I am so happy he came out of retirement to give podcast life a go. Our managing editor, Sarah Platanitis, she’s been instrumental in building these conversations for you guys, and we’re so lucky to have her on the team. Al Chaplin is our go-to for all things social media, and I love what they’ve been creating for us. Make sure to give it a like over @RefocusedPod. A big thanks to Mason Nelly over at Dexia in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for all of his help in getting our videos ready to share with you guys. Refocused couldn’t happen without my partner’s turned friends at ADHD Online, high-fives and hugs to the ones I bug the most. Keith Boswell, Claudia Gotti, Melanie Mile, Suzanne Sprewit, Trisha Merchant-Dunny, and the entire team at ADHD Online and Mentavi Health.
Our show art was created by Sissy Yee of Berlin Grey, and our music was created by Louis Inglis, a singer-songwriter from Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39. Our sound engineers are the incredible duo at EXR Sounds and Vision, Eric and Amanda Romani. And you can find links to all of the partners we work with in the show notes. To connect with the show or with me, you can find us online, @RefocusedPod, as well as @LindsayGuentzel, and you can always email the show directly, [email protected].
Thank you guys so much for showing up week after week. I hope you enjoyed our conversation with Alli Cost, I enjoyed getting to be a part of it. And I meant what I said, I’m going to take that little nugget and start playing it for myself as I’m sitting in my car afraid to go into the gym, because everyone needs a little push every once in a while. So in the meantime, between now and the next episode, please take care of yourselves, and in an effort to reduce the unbelievable amount of stress we carry around with us unnecessarily, be a little kinder to yourself this week.