Teaching Pilates To Clients with Attention Deficit Disorder

by | Apr 23, 2009 | Exercise and Fitness, Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips | 0 comments

“I have a question about a client with Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD.  She takes medication for it and sometimes it works better than others.  I try to minimize distractions in and around the studio and I try to be very clear with my queing.   Is there something I could be doing to focus her? Your thoughts on that would be very helpful.”  — Susan


Great question!  Personally, I haven’t worked with a client who’s told me she’s ADD and on meds, but I’ve had numerous clients with distraction issues – whether it’s from chronic pain, emotional, work-related, or they just have that personality of wanting to be doing anything but exercise!

In my experience, doing a consistent Pilates program should help improve her focus over time, but there are definitely some things you can do to assist.

Get a routine established for her, and then throughout her workout “quiz” her on the following:

  • What is the next exercise?
  • How many repetitions should you do for this exercise?
  • What is the correct equipment is set up – headpiece, foot bar, springs, pads, ect…
  • What is your breathing pattern for this exercise? When do you inhale, when do you exhale?
  • Why is this exercise important for your health & fitness?
  • What’s the most important thing to focus on and pay attention to during this exercise?

Asking these questions during her workout – should help to keep her engaged with what she’s doing, and will continue to draw her back to her body when she get’s distracted.

Find good visual images that she can associate with for the movements and exercises, or relate one exercise to another.

Examples of Visual Images:

  • For Stomach Massage Round you are in the same basic body position as Rolling Like a Ball in Matwork.
  • The Stomach Massage Series, and the Short Box Series both start with the body in a round, C-curve position, then move to a tall, good posture position.
  • Pretend like you are Queen for a Day – your crown is suspended from the ceiling – sit up tall and reach the top of your head to your beautiful, jeweled crown.

Once you’ve planted the image – you can refresh it quickly – and say, “remember…Queen for a Day!”  Or, “What does the first exercise in the Stomach Massage Series, and Rolling Like a Ball have in common?”

Cross-patterning exercises are also helpful to assist the brain with sequencing, and focus.

You might consider incorporating more of these types of exercises throughout her program from beginning to end.

Examples of cross-patterning exercises would be:

  • Pilates Matwork: Single Bent Leg Stretch, Swimming, Criss-Cross.
  • Play “Patty-Cake” – Right, Left, Both – Left, Right Both,
  • Marching & tapping the opposite knee with the hand,
  • Standing – alternate Hamstring curls and touching the opposite foot with the hand
  • Other:  Take the “Patty-Cake” pattern and incorporate it into her workout with any arm &/or leg exercises.

Be prepared to have more exercises in her program than you might for someone who can really focus!

It’s better to only do 3-4 good well-focused repetitions of an exercises with the proper form and feeling, and then moving quickly to something else.  Over time – you’ll find that you’ll be able to increase repetitions and keep her engaged with what she’s doing.

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.


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