Let me start off by saying, I love my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) clients.* They are on top of everything 100%. They give it everything they have, and they will work relentlessly until they achieve the goal they set out to accomplish, and then they fade. It’s like a switch goes off. They check off their achievement and then they are off to accomplishing another major problem in their life. There is one little problem with that mindset though…they end up having to repeat the fitness goal again in the future because the results they work so hard for also fades. Part of it is because they know they can do it again, but the other part is due to them not being able to focus on multiple goals at one time. So how do you use OCD to your advantage and keep this going for the long term?
Start Small: You are going to set a goal and accomplish it, or you won’t do it at all. I understand that, but hear me out. If your goals are too big (workout every day) you will fade quickly if you find you don’t have time to workout every single day. But if you start with a goal of working out 3 times a week and then add to it over time, you are more likely to hang in there for longer. Don’t take this as a challenge that you can’t workout every day (because I know you will just do it to show me that you can) but I am saying that it creates an unrealistic long term expectation that is just not necessary. Your weight will come off, but do this in a way that will last with you longer than the next few months.
Your Viewpoint: You just want a perfect nutrition plan to follow that will work. You will follow it perfectly and never break from it if that is what it takes. The stricter I am, the quicker this process will go and I can move on. Let’s get it done and over with.
Pracitcal: Start slow but deliberate. Changing every bad habit is overkill and will likely end in your being burned out. Instead, segment your progression. Cut off specific things in your diet and replace them from now on. So if you eat fried food, give up the fried food; only eat grilled food, and keep it that way from now on. The moment you accomplish that and check it off your list, pick something else to change.
I’ve been there before. My order a long time ago was 1) no more Dr. Pepper 2) no more fried food 3) Drink 1 gallon of water a day 4) eat complex carbs and not simple carbs, etc… I tackled one goal a month. That was 16 years ago, so I feel like I’m a fairly credible source on this. When you decide to change something, ask yourself, “Is this a realistic change that I can continue for the rest of my life?”. If the answer is “NO” think of another type of change.
Your Viewpoint: Tell me what I have to do on my workout, and I will do it. Either 1) give me a workout plan I can follow and I will do it or 2) keep me accountable because I don’t do this well on my own.
Practical: Let’s face reality, once you make up your mind to do this, you are going to finish it. You will give it all you got and work as hard as you need to in order to get the results you are after. Now if the results stop, you will probably quit. Or if you have finished accomplishing your goal, your interest will wane fairly quickly. So the real trick isn’t achieving the results as much as it is keeping them. Also, your workout needs variety. By doing the same exact activity all the time, you are more prone to injuries. (I’m talking to you tennis players, runners, etc…) You need to vary your routine to keep you injury free. Here’s how you do it.
#1) Find activities that are challenging for you and focus on those. You are more prone to keep exercising for an event than you are to meet your quota of 3 times a week in the gym. Face it, you like the challenge..the competition even. Even if you are just competing against yourself, it feels good to improve. If you like to compete against others you can focus on 5K’s, triathlons, etc…
#2) Vary your activities throughout the year – Some of you are going to hate to hear this, but it is good to focus on more than one activity. It keeps the variety so you never get bored, it’s gives your body some crosstraining work, and you will mentally enjoy. Like seeing an old friend, you will enjoy connecting with the old activity again.
#3) Uses various phases of training throughout the year – This one gets a little deep, but using periodization throughout the year is really the best way to train your body. Do not do the same exercise program all the time. The types of activities, the order of the exercises, the type of stability you do, etc…. are all important. You need variety throughout the year. If you don’t understand this, let me know and I’ll give you a more specific example based on the type of activity you are in to.
#4) Set yourself up for events in the future – I commonly sign myself up for future races. It’s great because it forces me to change my training throughout the year based on what kind of event I am doing. It’s fun, it keeps it interesting, and it pushes me to keep working hard all year long.
#5) Never go more than 2 weeks after your event before setting a new goal – After the event/race, I typically have another event waiting for me to train for. It keeps my OCD tendencies on high alert and keeps me from relaxing too much and losing all of my results. For me, it just works.
#6) Learn new activities – In the last 15 months I picked up tennis, rock climbing, ultimate frisbee, disc golf, and probably some other stuff I can’t think of at the moment. The point is, never stop learning and trying new things. It keeps it fun, it takes you out of your comfort zone, and it challenges you. Don’t stop learning new things. Learning new things is one of the many ways to keep you active for the rest of your life.
*Now I wouldn’t be able to finish this article if I didn’t say that most of us that identify as being OCD, are not severely OCD. We just have certain traits of OCD. There are very thorough psychological exams and even some online OCD tests that help you identify OCD traits. If you really do have OCD, it’s best to seek help from a professional.