ADHD · fitness

Clear, Specific Instructions For The Win

Sometimes I have trouble following instructions.*

That goes double for exercise instructions.

I feel like I spend way too much time in uncertainty, wondering if I actually grasped the instructions and trying to figure out if I am actually doing the exercise properly. (Yes, this a whole other thing, I’ll get into that in another post.)

My challenges with instructions stem from a variety of things.

Often, I think that I understand what I’m supposed to do but when I actually go to do it it turns out I haven’t made all the connections and I actually have no idea where to start.

Other times, my ADHD brain spins out into so many possible interpretations of the instructions that I’m not sure which one was meant.

A GIF of a small brown dog with floppy ears chasing its tail
How my brain feels when trying to interpret some instructions. Overthinking is one of my superpowers. Image description: a GIF of a small brown dog with floppy ears moving in rapid circles while chasing its tail,

In some cases, my brain understands what to do but I can’t quite translate it into action.

And, of course, sometimes the instructions are not completely clear.

So, I am always intrigued, interested, and grateful to receive instructions that my brain and body instantly understand.

The first time I heard a yoga instructor (in a video) tell me to ‘hinge at the hips’ it was like a light bulb came on in my brain. I had heard all kinds of instructions about what not to do with my lower back and I had battled my way through those the best way I could but I still wasn’t feeling the benefits of the seated forward fold. Being told to hinge at the hips made all the difference.

A GIF of a large grey hinge
Imagining a pivot point at my hips made all the difference. Image description: a GIF of a large grey hinge (or something similar), well, hinging.

When I was struggling with the choreography for a certain kick for my 3rd degree black belt test, I was grateful for all the advice I received about how to improve but it was only when Mr. Dyer told me to ‘throw my right hip toward the wall’ at one point in the kicking process that I could put it all together properly.

Even though it happens fairly regularly, receiving clear, specific instructions like that is a huge relief to me and I thoroughly enjoy the small blast of mastery they bring.

My most recent example of blissfully clear instructions came from this video about neck mobility from Mark Wildman.

At one point, he advises the viewer to point their ear at the ceiling for a given stretch. It was so clear and so useful. And it eliminated the aforementioned perpetual fear that I wasn’t doing a given exercise ‘right.’ (By the way, that fear is about not about perfectionism, it’s about my concern with accidentally wasting time.)

The fact that the stretch felt great and really helped was practically just a bonus at that point. 

I know that I am not alone in enjoying clear instructions, so let’s gather some more examples.

What exercise instructions have you received that have really hit the nail on the head for you?

*Anyone who knows me well it’s probably snickering right now thinking that I just object to being told what to do. That’s not untrue, but this post is about something different.

One thought on “Clear, Specific Instructions For The Win

  1. I’m not solid on left/right and always appreciate instructions that use alternative wording like “free hand” or “passenger side”. Doubly true for activities upside down where my sense of place in space is already wonky. I have a notebook of personal instructions that include notes like “Fonzie my hands” and “slap my butt” that make excellent sense, but only in context 🙂

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