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Exercise and Being on the Spectrum

Blog by Éric Caissie

Everyone knows exercise is important, but what does that really mean for a person on the spectrum? In general, I’m not a big sports person, playing or watching. However, I played more sports when I was younger, because of school activities and my parents enrolled me in the classics such as soccer and baseball. I am really not a competitive person, so when I play sports I don’t have that drive of wanting to win. I didn’t like the pressure of performing or being the reason that other people would be disappointed or happy. Having control of your own environment while only you are affected by your performance is much better for me being on the spectrum, so I like to exercise while having fun for myself. Like when I play tennis, I prefer to just make exchanges than play an actual game. An actual game keeps stopping all the time instead playing for fun which keeps going and going. I get a better workout out of it.

I love taking walks, I used to take walks and listen to music for around two hours every day when I was a teen up to adulthood. Sometimes during the day and sometimes after the sunset so there were less people in the streets. It helped me deal with my day to day struggles as I would daydream and reflect on my life with better focus during these walks.

Later I alternated between walks and jogging, instead of a two hour walk it would be an hour jog. Cardio helps me with stress, anxiety, sleep, alertness, and awareness. I see these benefits a lot more now than as a teen and young adult as your body needs a bit more maintenance and it gets more complicated to balance a personal and professional life.

With a busy work life and life goals, the easiest way is to go to the gym before or right after work. I always worked far from my home so I could never go by bike or walk. On and off I would have gym equipment in my home, but I never did full, rewarding workouts at home. I knew it would be good for me to go out and see other people as well. It’s so easy to restrain yourself when its your personal life, you can do whatever you want, and NOT do whatever you want, unlike work life where you have objectives to achieve in a certain time frame giving you more clarity of purpose.

Finding a gym was a whole other quest. Already being uncomfortable in crowded places, I had to find something that could suit me and be comfortable with the look, sounds, lighting, and smells. I wanted to do more than cardio, I wanted to do weights also to have a better posture and see the way it felt. First off, it had to have parking, my first gyms I lived in the suburbs where there’s parking everywhere so that was good. Secondly, they had to have a lot of machines so I wouldn’t have to wait not knowing what to do while waiting for equipment or a bench. Lastly it had to be clean and with people respecting the rules.

Having a few friends that workout a lot and putting some time into research on training, I managed to learn a few routines that I would stick too. Also, after getting used to the gym, like when I have to wait for a specific bench or equipment, it was very important to give myself options on what to do to continue my routine with different exercises that give the same outcome. Going to the gym is a really good habit and routine to have and very challenging to keep up, but the more you go, the more you’ll go. It becomes much easier when you see your first results.

Now living in downtown Montreal, the streets are more crowded, no gym parking spaces, and usually smaller spaces and the fees are higher. Yay!... I live close to Mont Royal so taking walks there, when I can, is very nice. For gyms, finding the time when it’s not “rush hour” and an easy way to access without taking the metro or too much time is a challenge. The very nice ones are way too expensive. Once we are done with our COVID-19 social distancing, I will be trying the local YMCA which seems very promising.

To conclude, exercise should be on everyone’s to do list as it makes you feel good and there are so many benefits. It takes time but it’s worth it. It is really worth it when you know what you’re doing, and your workout is made for you and your goals. Otherwise you might never have the results you want. So basically, what I am saying, is give the gym a chance, but be prepared. When done right, physical exercise always helps managing physical and mental health. Other sports I have tried that work well for me are mountain biking, indoor rock climbing, badminton, and golf. On the spectrum, you need to try a lot of different exercise options before knowing what will stick!

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