3 Tips to Deal with Exercise ADD

By , Jessica Smith, Certified Personal Trainer
I see it happen all the time on exercise forums or via my friend Facebook: Exercisers (from enthusiasts to newbies) get so pumped up about a particular workout that it's all they can do, talk about or think about...for a while anyway.

After a few days (or a couple weeks if they're lucky), these people are already gung ho for something else. While their enthusiasm and consistency for working out is a very good thing, they ultimately end up complaining for not getting results.

But wait: Isn't a good thing to try new workouts to create that "muscle confusion" or get better results?
Yes—to a point. But if you're dipping your toe in too many different workout "waters" without ever fully diving in, it can be a recipe for frustration!
Yes, its great to mix up your workouts, try new things to keep from getting bored, and to continue challenging yourself. However, if you don’t give your body time to progress or a chance to master certain movements, you may never see results! A little repetition in your workouts is a good thing; it will make you stronger and more efficient, build cardiovascular stamina and muscle strength, and improve your coordination and skill thanks to practice and repetition over time.
Think about it this way: You didn’t learn to swim the first time you jumped in the water, did you? And you didn’t simply try to swim one day, then move on to a one-day stint of learning to ride a bike or to play basketball, did you? No (at least I hope not!). You kept practicing and learning new skills like how to hold your breath underwater, how to tread water, how to perform different strokes. Over time, you got better and better at it, and were able to swim better, faster, more efficiently. Mastering your workouts should be similar.
If you do happen to find yourself suffering from a little "exercise attention deficit disorder," where you can't commit to any one program or workout for very long, keep these tips in mind when creating your own personal workout program:
1. Try to stick with the same weekly routine for about 4-6 weeks.
While everybody is different, adaptations to exercise (like strength gains, cardiovascular improvements, etc.) usually occur around 4 to 6 weeks. That means in order to actually feel, see or notice some changes from your workouts, you’ll need to be consistent with your plan for at least a good month. I’ve seen too many folks quit after two weeks into a plan because they weren’t losing weight. Focus on how you feel (like feeling stronger or moving more easily during the workout)—not how you look—and the rest will take care of itself over time. If sticking to one workout plan is driving you crazy, create a simple calendar. List your workouts for each day, then try to find satisfaction in completing the full plan of 4-6 weeks of that strength-training program.
2. Vary your workouts on a weekly basis.
Sticking with the same plan doesn’t have to equal boredom! Mixing things up on a day-to-day basis fights exercise ennui and helps to balance out your program. A weekly routine should include a mix of cardio, strength and flexibility work at both high and low intensity levels; the only repetition should be within workout categories. So do the same strength-training class/exercises/DVD twice in a week, and maybe the same cardio workout (running, Spinning, Zumba, etc.) so that you can build the routine and see improvements. Leave a day or two for "whatever you want" workouts to mix things up and keep your week exciting.
3. Focus on fun first, fitness second.
One of the biggest reasons I think it’s easy to get pulled into the "short attention span" trap is that it’s so easy to be persuaded to try that latest and greatest exercise program, gadget or trendy routine (it looks so great on that infomercial!). And when we try it, its nothing like the commercial said it would be. In fact, it’s usually a) boring, b) too hard, c) exhausting, or d) all of the above. So instead of looking to advertisements to tell you what your workout should be, ask yourself first: What type of movement do I enjoy? If you’ve always loved moving to music, how about starting with a music-based workout plan? Try some Zumba DVDs, or take that hip hop dance class, or make an awesome workout playlist to walk to.  If you prefer the stress-reducing effects of exercise, try mind-body techniques like yoga, Pilates, or zone out in the quiet, repetitive nature of swimming. Finding ways to incorporate what you love into your own special workout program can help you look forward to your workouts and make you more likely to stick with long term.
And while it is important to be consistent with a program in order to get results, it doesn’t mean that you should feel obliged to stick with a workout or plan that you simply don’t like or one that doesn’t work for your body or fitness level. As you experiment with finding what works best for you and what you enjoy most, be sure to listen to your body, and create a rotation with your workouts that allows for both mastery and variety. You may find yourself feeling better, stronger and even more inspired to keep on sweating!
Be honest: Do you have exercise A.D.D.? How do you deal with it? What are your tips for finding and sticking to a workout routine long enough to get the results you want?
About the Author

As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, and now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit jessicasmithtv.com/shop to learn more about her fun, results driven programs for all levels of exercisers.

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I have periods of exercise A.D.D.. I get excited and pumped up about losing weight and getting fit. Pretty soon, I find myself not working out for a longer period than I actually spent working out! Now things are better since I've added variety. Most of the workouts that I do are pretty much some form of dancing to music, e.g. Zumba and Step. Report
I have the opposite problem... not enough variety in my workouts. For instance, in learning how to run, I put all my time and effort into running, then had to deal with flexibility issues and some injuries from overworking some areas.
I'm having the opposite problem to this article... just trying to find some variety that I enjoy and can stick with! Report
I would consider a plan that only works for about 4-6 weeks to be largely ineffective. Everything works for about that long. HIIT + compound loaded movements = lifetime of progression. Report
@Dawn, I also have Comcast and I get a ton of fitness workouts on On Demand. Go under Sports & Fitness, then Fitness Workouts. They're all there - cardio, kickboxing, dance, yoga, pilates, sculpting, etc. Report
I definitely would say I don't have Exercise ADD. I have a set of dvd's that I have been doing for weeks now, but eventually I move onto other stuff. That is why I miss the exercise program they had on Demand with Comcast. There were all kinds of different exercise workouts and it kept you motivated, but they took it off the air. I was so sad. I do agree that you need to give your body time to adjust to a workout. Especially if you get one that is at a difficult level where you have to get a "little uncomfortable". I wish everyone the best with their exercise! Report
I found that after 7 weeks of doing a basic weekly workout schedule, I got a bit bored too. So all I did was add one day where I could do whatever strength training I felt like at the time and I decided to work towards a 5km fun run.

You don't always have to alter your entire workout to feel a change and challenge. Just change one or two small things and it will also make a difference. I'm totally pumped for my workouts again and I think the 5km challenge has definitely done it for me. Report
Thanks for the article! Report
I stumbled across a Zumba class by mistake..it was suppose to be cardio hi/lo but it got changed..the instructor ask me to keep an open mind and give it a try...well I love it...I stuck with the 10 weeks and just started my 2nd 10 week session- this is once a week, plus I take a muscle conditioning class (strength training)one night a week and I do my own cardio (treadmill) at home at least 4 times a week.
What I've discovered after so many years of exercising off and on is that I really enjoy group fitness-
It's fun and gives me a social network which I look forward to. Report
I go to Planet fitness. I have to go right from work.. if I go home I will end up not going.
I go for one hour. I started up again 4 weeks ago and I added dumbbell session now.
I add a few minutes for each week.. ie 10 minutes the first week, 12 minutes the second and etc.. this week I am up to 18 minutes. so I start with the dumbbells , then the machines, then the bike then the trendmill and then the stairmaster thingee. (not called that but cant think of the name at the moment..) the next day I do go I start with the dumbbells and then reverse the order... On the machines (trend and stair thingee) they have different programs.. (fat burning, Hills, carido, etc) my goals is to get up to 30 minutes for each and then start over again with a new program... I find that Im enjoying it a little better now and I feel it has made a difference.... I havent weighted myself yet this week... but I did put a pair of jeans on that were tight a few weeks ago and now they seem to fit good... Report
A friend and I were just talking about this last week. Great advice! Report
I get bored so easily with my workout dvds. I have a ton of them and unfortunately keep buying more. I always say that I will stick with this new one and never do. But I do mix and match between the ones I have frequently. Report
I is true exercise videos can be boring so I have collected various videos and bookmarks various videos online too. And so far working. Report
My ADD is so bad I can barely commit to one activity for 20 minutes, let alone one activity for 6 weeks! Report
This ADD can be a good thing. If mixing it up keeps you moving..go for it Report
This article has helped me a lot. I had been mixing up my activities on a regular basis and was becoming discouraged with the results. Report
I love the advice to focus on fun first, fitness second. I don't have nearly enough fun in my life. Report
Need motivation or ADD cure? 1) Remember that First Lady Michelle Obama stated she hates to exercise but forces herself on the treadmill every morning. If she hates exercising as much as you do, just keep thinking if she has to do it, so can you. 2) Delegate some tasks to others which leaves you time to exercise 3) Try watching TV or use some other distraction while exercising. Distraction helps keep your mind off exercising. 4) Park your car at end of parking lots which leaves you to walk a distance to front door of stores, doctors offices, etc. Even park at neighboring lots = more walking distance. Report
Exercise ADD? I used to change routines every few weeks whenever I read something that told me the routine I was using wouldn't do what I wanted. A few weeks ago I settled into the routine I'm in now: weights and Tabata on alternate days, except Sunday. I know what you're thinking: I'm into this routine a few weeks so I must be due for another change. No, because I stopped looking at new routines! Besides, I feel I'm actually making progress on this one! Uh, I almost forgot about "fun." It is not fun. But it's a challenge and I go for challenges. I will defy age. Report
It's OK to have exercise ADD--IF that ADD is born out of disgust. Like, if you don't get to go for a walk anymore (but you do lots of slow-flow vinyasa yoga at home); and then you find a little shortness of breath climbing stairs returning (in the course of a workday). So then, I signed up for a 5 Rhythms workshop, started learning Bollywood dance, belly dance, ballroom dance-aerobics, and mat pilates. In that order.

I'm not a gym-goer and I don't play sports or own a bike. And I don't have time to hit a pool anymore (no decent pool nearby). So at the level I pursue these (remaining) activities--with two bad feet and a bad knee--a little ADD does not hurt.

If you have a fully able body, go and concentrate on one sport.

Otherwise, just go for the cardiovascular activities (any of them) the best. Report
Sometimes I have to force myself to do the workout but I always feel great afterwards. So... I ignore myself and do it anyway! Report
I really HATE to work out but a morning is not complete until it is done.....I feel so much better mentaly for it. Report
I have trouble about the fun part of it... Report
I'm the opposite: i find something I like and never waver. I bought Zumba core for the wii yesterday, hoping to break things up a bit and provide a workout on days the gym won't fit into my schedule. Report
This is so true for me. I get frustrated when I am unable to do the moves at first, but it comes around after some "practice". Why is this so hard for us? I see it in kids and adults - giving up before really practicing at it. We want to be instantly "great" at everything without putting the work into it to become great or in my case awesome. :-) Good things to keep in mind for me... thanks Report
I used to have a good routine, but after a 3-month break due to some minor surgery, I am having a tough time getting back. I laughed when I saw the title of this article, and I said, "That's me, for sure." For February, I set myself a very simple schedule that is almost working: Every day a 15-minute walk DVD, and then one other 15-minute activity, which can be weights, swimming, yoga, or a walk outside. I am also taking ballroom dance lessons, and that means 15 to 30 minutes of practice a day. My goal right now is consistency. It's a good week if I meet my goal 4 times. I'm working towards six. I always take one day a week completely off. Report
Guilty as charge. In my defence, I do a lot of DVD workoputs and the minute a routine gets too familiar or starts feeling too easy I tend to get bored and then if I'm bored I don't want to exercise.
Lately I've been rotating a few kickboxing DVDs so at least I'm sticking in the same family. With strength workouts I tend to go with whatever I feel like from the choice available to me and how hard I feel like working and how much time I've got available. Report
Ok so I do have ADD. but I am still confussed should I or should I not do what I am doing which is 3x a week I get on the treadmill walk./job 30 min. then rowing 15, then elip 15.. then I go to strenth traning the other 2 days a week I do a 40 min spinning session that is my typical work out.. I am seeing results.. I do through something new stuff in there such as swimming or a diffrent machine or two..
I believe I am searching for just the right come. I have tried many different thing in the last couple of week. I think I need to narrow it down a bit. Report
I kind of have exercise ADD. I handle it by consistently doing a variety of things. Every week I do at least one sessions of running, one of biking, one of swimming and two strength training sessions along with one "free choice" day. So if I do that same variety every week for a couple months, I figure I'll see results without getting bored. Report
Yes, I do have exercise ADD. I always seem to be the most consistent at walking, which I really enjoy. I let that be the base of my plan and have enjoyed walking a "virtual route" from my hometown to Denver to keep me going. I make up a chart for a work out over twenty sessions, about 10 weeks. That gives me a goal and keeps me going. I do like to mix things up a little. I also like dancing and moving to music, so I use these things for variety too. Report
I do step aerobics on Mondays and Fridays, PiYo on Wednesday, and Zumba on Saturdays. Is this enough variety? Or too much repetition week after week? I'm never sure. :)

PiYo uses body strength and is very tough! I know I should do real weight workouts, but I'm intimidated to do it at the gym. I occasionally do a weight workout from a DVD, but not often enough. Report
Is it bad that I don't have a set "Routine"? I kind of just do whatever feels right that day. If I feel like running, I'll run. If I feel like biking, then I'll do that. And if I want to go to a class, or play basketball - it depends wholly on my mood. I feel like that's a better fit for me. If I plan to run 5 days a week, and one day it just sounds like the worst possible idea, then odds are I won't do anything *at all*, which is obviously worse than switching it up to something that actually sounds fun. Report
I really like George St. Pierre's Rushfit workouts. I bought the set of 6 or 7 different workouts DVDa so it comes with a 2 month training schedule. It offers lots of variety and even throws in days where it says to just do cardio, I usually do the elliptical or Spinning bike. Report
I guess I got some what lucky to get out of the "trap" when I started my new job and joined their gym for associates, at no cost. They have different fitness classes everyday of the week, and repeat every week of the month. I usually stick to running, but cross-train or join some of the weekly fitness classes (yoga, spinning) to mix it up a bit.
So now, no more exercise ADD and I am actually looking forward to and enjoying my workouts - so much now I've even gotten some exercise over the weekend. Stick to the things you enjoy. Report
Variety is the spice of life and I found that training for a Sprint Triathlon gives me all the variety I need. Currently training 4 days a week at the gym, switching between running, swimming and cycling. Then I throw in some core work, yoga and weight training. Even within the core disciplines I add variety (Drills, Endurance and Recovery). I find having a schedule really helps keep the mix going. Report
I recently discovered Leslie Sansone walking videos and I have accumulated 5 videos to date [plus one that I do at church once a week!] I use them 3 times a week but don't necessarily repeat a video during the week.
I also like to use the treadmill at least 2-3 x's a week but I vary the incline and speed throughout the workout to give me a little variety. Report
I rotate my exercises daily. Day 1 is yoga, day 2 is strength, and day is 3 cardio - all three days also include a one mile walk. After day 3 cardio I go back to yoga and rotate through. Report
I Jazzercise at least four times a week , this class combines budy sculpting with weights. I also speed walk on my treadmill everyday to preapre for 5k's . I also mix in some Cycling when the weather permits. I like to stay witha routine with my exercise except when I cycle , I like to cycle to a different destination. What ever works! Report
I really enjoy doing cardio dance DVDs at home, but after my first couple of months on sparkpeople, I started getting bored with them. So I picked up a few more, and rotate them. This way it takes several weeks for me to repeat a workout, and I don't get bored with them. Report