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How Martial Arts Helped Coach Kirstie Gannaway Manage ADHD

fama singapore fitness instructor kirstie gannaway

FaMA Fit Instructor and professional boxer Kirstie Gannaway found boxing as a teen, and embarked on a journey that transformed her tremendously. Kirstie has told the story many times that she was overweight as a youth, and that it was boxing that helped her get in shape. However, did you know that martial arts and fitness also helped her manage ADHD?

ADHD, known as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a “neuro-developmental disorder characterised by serious and persistent difficulty in… inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity” (Institute of Mental Health). It commonly affects children and teenagers, but can also continue into adulthood.

Managing ADHD With Good Healthy Habits

fama singapore fitness instructor kirstie gannaway
A lesser known side of Kirstie when she's not coaching - matcha obsessions and silly Mug shots.

Though everyone is different, Kirstie has personally found that both diet and exercise are the two factors that influenced the way she managed ADHD. “I believe that diet goes a long way,” she shares, “I am not a doctor or scientist, but I have found that it does affect my mood and behavioural patterns.” It is no wonder Kirstie also enjoys eating well, and cooking nutritious and wholesome food for herself!

Allowing exercise to be her outlet also helped her to manage her energy. “When you have ADHD, you have so much energy, and when you don’t direct this energy somewhere, you end up acting on impulsive ideas and often get into trouble with it.”

“Training in martial arts has helped so much. Not only does it give me an outlet for my energy, but it also helps me get creative. Martial arts provides a great mix of mental and physical exercise. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, in particular, requires you to be switched on mentally, in order to progress.”

Helping Others Using Her Personal Experience

fama singapore fitness instructor kirstie gannaway

Having grown up in a family that suffers from ADHD, Kirstie has also learned to identify the traits of such a condition in other children, and this has allowed her to bring an added value to coaching young ones. “There is a difference between being hyperactive, and having ADHD,” she says, “And sometimes it is difficult to identify this when you don’t go through it yourself. Being a parent must be the hardest job in the world, because you can’t practice for that role.”

Because of her personal experience with the condition, Kirstie was able to get through to a young student who had been struggling to stay attentive in class. After repeated times calling him to sit out, Kirstie began to slow down her thoughts and approach the boy in a different way.

“I asked him what was wrong and if he didn’t want to be at class. He responded, “But I want to be here.” I then reasoned with him to try and behave in a way that was enjoyable for everyone, including himself, and helped him to see that no one was happy when he was being punished." From then on, the boy’s behaviour changed drastically as he did his level best to contribute to the class in a positive way.

"It was a learning situation for both of us,” Kirstie recalls, "All I did was be honest with him. I didn’t treat him like a baby, or discipline him without rationale. Instead, I spoke to him like I would to an adult. I didn’t know I could do that.”

Staying Compassionate and Open

fama singapore fitness instructor kirstie gannaway

As our society becomes exposed to more awareness on mental health issues, this calls for us to have the right attitude when spending time with people who are different from us, whom we might have trouble understanding or relating to.

“Keeping an open mind is important,” advises Kirstie, “Deal with every situation with humility and patience, especially with kids. If someone is being problematic, it can be as simple as sitting them down and asking, “Why are you behaving like this?” Kids are able to understand you far more than you can imagine. I used to underestimate them a lot, until I realised how smart and capable they really are.”

Whether ADHD, any mental condition, or none, we believe this is a great approach to take on every person you meet along the way!

fama singapore fitness instructor kirstie gannaway


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FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts Established in 2016, FaMA is a world-class martial arts training facility located in the heart of the Central Business District in Singapore. Walking distance from the Clarke Quay MRT station, FaMA’s main goal is to help people improve their lives through martial arts regardless of age or athletic capability. Each program is led by experts in their respective fields. Whether it is weight loss, a fun workout, camaraderie, competition training, or just to break a sweat, FaMA has something for everyone.

FaMA Fit

An all-in-one fitness class suitable for everyone, FaMA Fit incorporates moves from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Boxing and Kickboxing together with functional training to help develop flexibility, mobility, strength, balance, and stamina. For beginners who are just starting out, the FaMA Fit Fundamentals class is an entry-level program that will work the entire body. FaMA Fit and FaMA Fit Fundamentals classes are run by professional athlete Coach Kirstie Gannaway.


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