By: Martianne Stanger
One of my children has the “gift of ADHD”, and, let me tell you: it does not always seem like a gift. Some days, ADHD wreaks havoc in our home. In fact, last month, we had a string of such days, which resulted in me considering medication.
My husband was surprised, and, in truth, I was, too. Both of us have long been opposed to medicating our son, considering meds a last, if ever, resort for our child’s invisible special needs.
He recognized just how crazy and emotionally-draining the days that we had been experiencing at home were, and he also understood why I felt like something needed to be done. For our home atmosphere was becoming the antithesis of what we desire it to be. Keying into big-picture, long-term desires we have for our family – as well as the obvious detail that something needed to be done to help our then-present situation – my husband and I talked and came up with a strategy: not meds, but marching.
Ruck marching to be more precise.
Yes, you read that correctly. Our current solution to our son’s less-desirable behaviors due to ADHD and coexisting conditions is ruck marching.
Almost every night, our son loads a backpack with weights that he has wrapped in a blanket, heaves it onto his shoulders, and happily heads out for a starlit ruck march with Dad.
This may sound crazy to some, but, for us, it’s a win-win-win situation.
My husband has been needing more physical activity; our son can always use extra Dad-and-me time; and, research proves that exercise can be as effective as medicine for ADHD.
So far, so successful.
Dad’s working his muscles in the fresh air after a sedentary work day; Son’s relishing time alone with Dad; and brains and bodies are regulating as a result of weight-bearing aerobic activity.
Indeed, when my husband and our son walk, their brains release several important chemicals. Among these are hormone-like compounds called endorphins which regulate mood, pleasure, and pain. Their activity also promotes elevated levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which are brain chemicals that are often in short supply in those with ADHD. Thus, in essence, my husband and son’s ruck marches change the landscape of their brains and work towards increasing our son’s ability to maintain a regular and consistent attention system.
More importantly, the ruck marches allow my husband and son to have dedicated time to talk. Sometimes, they use this time problem solve issues. Other times, they talk about whatever pops into their minds. All the time, they build their sense of connectedness, and, that, I believe, is a key benefit to our current alternative to meds.
Indeed, I have long believed that it is vital to connect before you correct. Undoubtedly, as my son and husband faithfully pack up and hoof along local roads almost every evening, they are connecting.
The Dad-son connection. The body-brain connection. The human-nature connection. It is all there. What is not there is the same high incidence of difficult days we were facing before the ruck marches started.
Now, I am not saying everything is perfect. (It never is.) I am also not saying ruck marching is a magic bullet that can ameliorate the more difficult parts of living with ADHD. What I am saying is that, for right now, ruck is working as a not-so-conventional solution for us. The string of stressful days has been broken and no meds have been needed, just marching through the evening to a better days ahead.