I am not a morning person, Internet. My other attempts to work out in the mornings have only ended with hitting snooze over and over until it was time to get up for work. So what's different now?
Well. A couple of things. I read this book called Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. I highly recommend that you get your hands on this book (and then read it!), particularly if you or someone you love is in the education field or has ADD, depression, anxiety, or an addiction. The book talks about the benefits of exercise that go way beyond weight loss or endorphins.
It turns out that exercise has lots of benefits for your brain. These benefits extend to learning, actually helping the brain to grow new cells and make stronger connections. It also helps your brain balance chemicals like serotonin and regulate the stress response. (Note: the author isn't touting exercise as a miracle cure - he prescribes it along with depression and anxiety meds for those who need them.) And, most germane to my particular case, it helps with focus and attention.
I was first officially diagnosed with ADD a little over two years ago. I was prescribed Adderall, which did great things for me. Thanks to Adderall, I got to experience what it's like to be able to focus without putting great effort into it. By seeing that difference, I could also recognize my own negative thought patterns when I was off the meds - the way I'd breate myself for not being able to pay attention and get things done - and work toward getting rid of those. The Adderall let me experience what it's like to have a neurotypical brain for a few hours at t time. I didn't feel like it made me a different person. It just made the things I needed to do less difficult.
Sounds good, right? So why am I talking about it in the past tense?
Adderall has some side effects. (This post on that topic remains one of my favorites ever.) I first started taking it over the summer and I was only working a few hours a week at the time. So I don't know if it affected my sleep very much because if I couldn't get to sleep at a reasonable hour, it wasn't a problem to just stay up and sleep in the next day. It did affect my appetite at first and I lost about ten pounds, but sadly, that effect wore off. As did the dry mouth. I took it on school days last year and the year before and over the summer between, while tutoring full-time.
This summer I was working for Close Up and was finding that I had an easier time of it now that I had the meds than I used to, back in the day, unmedicated. But then I got bronchitis. Except I didn't know it was brochitiis at first, so I didn't go to the doctor for a while and just took Sudafed and Mucinex instead. Due to concerns regarding my heart exploding if I took Sudafed and Adderall at the same time, I stopped taking the Adderall. By the tme I was off the Sudafed, I was finished working for the summer, so I didn't go back on the Adderall. I'd been off it for well over a month before school started.
I went back on the Adderall once school started and had the dry mouth back for a little while. But instead of appetite suppression this time around, I got difficulty sleeping. I also have an unfortunate tendency to clench my jaw, which seems to be getting worse all the time and is exacerbated by stimulants. The combination of these meant that I'd had a headache most of the time from mid-August until pretty recently. This didn't seem like a good way to live, long-term.
So, inspired by Spark, I decided to try an experiment. I'd work out before school every day for a week and see if I could skip my morning Adderall. And it turned out that I could. I also felt better all day, was in a better mood, and enjoyed the whole thing where I didn't have to work out after school because it was already done.
The morning people are always trying to sell you on that one. Still, I had always figured I'd rather have the sleep and giveup some of my evening to run. Except I wasn't sleeping anyway on my full dose of Adderall. I already knew that I slept better when I was working out, and cutting out half the Adderall seemed to do the rest of the trick.
Then I ran out of Adderall, which seemed like an opportune time to just give it up altogether. So I'm doing exercise in the morning (running, swimming, elliptical, or strength) and caffeine (cup of coffee or can of Diet Coke) for the afternoon. So far, it's working out pretty well for me.
Would I go back on meds if I felt I needed to? Absolutely. But right now, I don't. I just need to remind myself each and every morning when my alarm goes off that yes, this is worth it. Stop hitting snooze, get out of bed, and self-medicate. Now.