How It Feels to Be Neurodivergent in the Fitness Community

Published: 12/08/2021

By Shabana Waheed

Hello, my name is Shabana, I am a NASM certified personal trainer and NASM certified nutrition coach and I am neurodivergent. What does it mean to be neurodivergent? It can mean many things. It is an umbrella term that covers a broad spectrum of diversities like ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia, and some mental health diversities. By definition, it is, “differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal.”

beautiful woman wearing tank top and looking away from camera
NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Shabana Waheed

As a child growing up, I always knew I learned differently than other children. I processed information differently: I was Hypersensitive and certain sounds bothered me a lot. I needed things explained to me in different ways and reading was extremely hard for me. Math was impossible. I still have issues with loud sounds and vibrations. All these things were not really known to me as a child but have come to light now as an adult and being diagnosed in my late 30s.

Being in a gym as someone with sensory issues can be … overwhelming to say the least. You want to get in and out as quickly as possible or may not even want to enter a gym at all because it can be quite overpowering The following are things that I have found have worked for me to help me not get overstimulated and maintain my focus when I am there. These won’t work for everyone, as all neurodivergent people are different.

1. Noise-Canceling Headphones

woman laying on a yoga mat wearing wireless headphones and playing on phone
Photo Courtesy of Cottonbro on Pexels

I use the Power Beat Pro Wireless Earbuds. No wires = less stress and exceptional sound = my own amazing music in my ears to cancel out the annoying sounds of the gym that I do not want to hear! Nothing worse than hearing gym bro grunting and heavy breathing through his workout. Hard pass!

2. Workout Apps

Ones like NASM Edge or My Accountability where your trainer builds your workouts for you or an app where you can build your own workouts and have videos for each exercise is amazing. Even as a personal trainer, I still need videos sometimes to show me what an exercise is because my brain does not retain certain information. That’s ok, because we have our handy phones with a video right there to show us immediately. No need to Google or feel like you’re out of place at the gym. You got this!

3. Going When The Crowd is Small

rows of free weights with a woman working out in the background
Photo Courtesy of Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash

Going to the gym when I know there aren’t going to be a lot of people is ideal. I know this isn’t always a possibility for people but when I am able to, I go to the gym when I know it is going to be dead! There is nothing more beautiful to me than walking into my small gym and seeing no one else! Not having to worry about getting in anyone’s way or waiting for machines is gold! Planning your gym workout ahead of time is key. Knowing what you will have to deal with when you get there always helps. If you know it will be a bit busy, at least you will be prepared. Plan ahead. I do pay a bit extra to go to a smaller gym that isn’t a big box gym and to me, it’s worth it to not have to deal with such large crowds.

These are just a few things that work for me personally but I know there are so many other things that help others out there. This is such a broad spectrum that needs to be talked about more in the fitness community. My hope is that, in opening up and talking about it that I can help bring awareness to the topic and let others feel free to talk about their own Neurodiversities.

What are some things you do in your space to make exercising more manageable?

If you have any questions or you would like to be a guest blogger, please email us at hello@liftingthedream.com

Bee Tee Dubs (BTW). 

CROSSFIT, INC DOES NOT ENDORSE, SANCTION, APPROVE OF, OR SUPPORT THIS WORK OR ANY OPINION EXPRESSED HEREIN.

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