“ADHD Lessons from Ultrarunning: Accept Help and Support Your Needs”

For more than 10 years, I ran trail ultramarathons of 35 to 100 miles. I was decent at it, and I loved running those distances. But I’ll tell it straight: Long runs are hard, even if you’re trained for them.

Distance runners anticipate difficulties and know to support themselves in any way possible to get to the finish line. It’s a given – they don’t think twice about it and don’t get hung up on it, either.

In our daily lives, especially as folks with ADHD, we fall into the trap of thinking we don’t need help, or that we’re wimpy if we accept help or create supportive structures for ourselves. Others don’t need this, we think.

Here’s that flawed logic applied to running: Why does the newbie runner need to stop and rest every half mile? The ultrarunner can go many miles before needing to stop. Therefore, the newbie must be a wimp, or worse, incapable.

A non-runner might assume this of a newbie, but ultrarunners know this couldn’t be farther from the truth. An early runner has needs, just as a later-stage runner does. Needs are needs.

[Read: Silence Your Harshest Critic — Yourself]

Once five miles becomes easy-peasy for the early runner, they realize they only arrived at that point because they gave themselves what they needed to be someone who can run five miles. With that experience, they’ll readily tell the next newbie runner to make sure to stop and rest the legs and heart every half mile. It’s the only way to get to five miles.

Needs are Needs: When Ultrarunning Meets Real Life

This logic – of supporting our needs to become who we want to be – applies to anything and everything. If we accept a tutor to help us, then eventually we’ll be someone who got through a class instead of one who didn’t. If we fully show up to therapy or coaching, then we eventually become someone who tackles the challenges in front of us instead of skirting them. If we externalize the content of our brains with systems, we become someone who forgets less rather than someone who continues to forget.

Guess who all these early-stage self-supporters become? People who make inroads into becoming the kind of person who has wins, and those wins beget more wins. The more support, the more wins.

I got to the point in my abilities as a runner that I would have said yes, without a second thought, if you asked me to run a 50-miler the following weekend.

When you read the prior sentence, did you picture me as someone who was so trained that I needed a lot less than an early-stage runner? I’ll let you in on a secret: I was a running diva. I had far more available at hand than an early-stage runner could imagine was possible. The more experienced I got, the more I learned how much support was out there to take for myself — and I took it.

[Read: My 25 Rules for Life — a Practical Cure for ADHD Shame and Stagnation]

I say this all the time to people: Do you think successful people have more support or less? They have far more, and it’s because they’re more likely to ask for it and give it to themselves.

Why would it be any different for us when the road to success means we’ll need to support our ADHD and account for our needs?

It wouldn’t.

The Long Haul with ADHD

Remembering to hand in work, showing up on time at work, getting out of a rabbit hole, staying on task, organizing our workspace, regulating our emotions — these are our daily five-mile runs.

Graduating from school, nabbing a promotion at work, becoming an accomplished person, becoming a person who has practiced options for staying calm in stressful situations — these are our long-distance runs.

The only way to become a champion — in anything — is to give ourselves what we need to push through. As you run your own race, take any and all support without question, without apology. That’s a champion mindset.

ADHD Life Lessons: Next Steps

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