ADHD: Rest and Recovery

By Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC, PCAC, CPCC, ACG – June 27, 2022

As a former athlete and competitive swimmer, I understand how important rest is for the body. After intense workouts or stressful training, the body needs time to replenish its energy stores, and your muscles need time to recover. To illustrate my point, I want to share some important lessons I learned as a triathlete. But these insights are not aimed just at those with ADHD. They truly apply to anyone who is on that track but not realizing they’re running on empty.

It’s been said that many of those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more “human doings,” not necessarily human beings. They go 100 miles an hour all the time and are absolutely exhausted. What they don’t realize it how important it is to take a break and get some rest. “Doing” is more fun than resting. But it isn’t just about going to bed early. Resting is a process. It takes time to recover.

If you’ve got ADHD and are overwhelmed, frazzled, or just plain tired and you can’t get off the treadmill, check out my video, “ADHD: Rest and Recovery,” where I share my thoughts on resting from an athlete’s perspective.


Welcome everybody to this edition of Attention Talk Video, I’m your host, ADHD and attention coach Jeff Copper, and I’m here today to pay attention to rest. Now, I do coach those with ADHD, but this show is not specifically to those with ADHD, but it’s related to those with ADHD. And I really want to talk about rest, because rest is something that I’ve studied for years, particularly as an athlete.

I’m going to tell you a little bit of a story. Swimmers, at least back when I swam and still to a certain extent today, we would go through a resting process for something big, like US Nationals or NCAAs or something like that, and it would take about three weeks.

We called it a taper. And basically what we would be doing is we’d be tapering off the amount of yards and the amount of effort we put into a workout. It was common for me to swim from 12 to 15,000 yards or meters a day. And over through a period of time, we would taper off to about 1,500 yards or meters a day, which is about 10% of what we were doing on a regular basis.

What’s interesting is that the resting process, I always remember the first week was horrific because I really felt uncomfortable. I would swim slower. As I would say, each stroke felt like something completely different. It felt awkward. And then as time would go on, it would get a little bit better.

And then by the end, I would feel great. To put this in quantitative terms, this resting process for me in 1983, I went from 53 seconds and a hundred backstroke down to 50.2 in the course of five weeks. Now, those are just numbers for you. But to put it in context, the American record at the time was a couple hundredths over 49 seconds.

During the season in dual meets, I was four seconds away. But by the time I got to NCAAs, I was within a second in the morning. Of course, it did get beat later in that day by about half a second. But the point really is, is that gives you the magnitude of how much I dropped. And my point really is, is rest isn’t just sleeping one night.

It’s a process. It takes your body a while to kind of come together and recover. And I would argue that at the end of that three or five week taper that I went through, that I was probably more rested and alert. I will have to tell you is that for me, when I was totally rested in swimming, if it looked easy, it really was as easy as it looked, because I had trained for it and I had rested for it. I was able to kind of handle it. I mean, it hurt, but not the same as you might think. Now, how’s this relate to the real world? Well, it’s kind of funny, because I got out of swimming for years and started doing triathlons and everybody would rest before a triathlon.

What they would do is they would take a day or two off before and rest. I would akin that to like if you drink coffee every day and you stop for one or two days, you feel horrible. Or if you drink alcohol every single night and you stop for a couple days, you actually feel horrible. If you exercise every day and you stop for a few days, you don’t necessarily feel that good. Resting is something that takes longer.

When I was a triathlete back in the day, I would start resting about a week out and found myself I could beat people that would beat me in training all the time, just because I knew how to rest. Again, the thing that I really wanted to highlight here is rest and, to a certain extent, pressure.

It’s not an overnight thing. It’s just not a, I’m going to go to that early one or two nights. It takes a period of time for you to truly mentally and physically kind of recover. As you sit down and say, “I’m tired, or I become recover,” please hold this in your mind. Because I think that if you take a longer term look and understand rest is not just going to bed once or twice earlier, it spans over a period of time, you might find yourself in a much better position to truly yourself rested and get yourself energized, like I did when I was swimming to perform at the highest levels that I could once I was truly rested.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this video, us paying attention to rest. I am an ADHD and attention coach. You can learn more about me by going to Please subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking on the subscribe button here on the bottom, and we hope you’ve enjoyed the show. Take care.

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