Variety Vs. Consistency

It is a constant in life that opposites always go hand in hand. In that statement there is alignment, which is a contradiction in itself (how can opposites be aligned?). The foundation of the universe is opposites, polarities. There is no universe in unity, only eternity. Eternity is beyond the universe. For the universe to exist there needs to be contrast, chaos. You may think that this is way too far fetched or philosophical, but what is life if one doesn’t think? I think, therefore I am – someone said 🙂

There are two contradictory truths that apply to all aspects of life (in our case specifically applied to Fitness and Singing):

– In order to get better at something you need consistency, repetition.

– In order to get better at something you need change, variety (to avoid plateau).

Now, you would think that you either belong to one side or the other, or that you apply one thing or the other, or one after the other. While that is valid, let me tell you that you can actually be consistent within variety, or rather, keep your variety consistent. I shall explain.

“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”

John C. Maxwell

The end goal is always to get better, to improve, to thrive. It is safe to say that in the first stages of the learning of any skill one needs to practise until the body (nervous, skeletal, muscular and hormonal systems) – or the mind, depending – has adapted to such task to the point that it becomes an effortless maneuver. But it comes a time when the stimulus needs to change, providing a challenge, in order for the system to recruit more fibres/energy that makes the drill worthy of adaptations that will lead to improvement. Apply this to lifting weights, or to singing a higher note and sustaining it for a long period of time. Now, when does this end? Is there a limit? Yes, there is – and there isn’t, really. The boundary is your own vessel. And, ultimately, your own mind. Once it reaches a certain perceived peak – which you yourself define, set – it gradually falls again, and that’s when you embrace the resting phase (“deloading” in fitness), paramount for real progress, and if appropriately programmed, designed to reach taller and better heights the next time, and that’s when your initial boundary will have increased a notch. Then growth happens.

So, if you were to repeat over and over again the same exercise forever, in the beginning you would feel the improvement, but after a certain time you would stay stuck and feel no progress at all. That’s why you need variety, and repetition of such variety for a while. Examples:

a) Fitness: Lateral raises, with 2x3kg dumbbells, 8 repetitions, 3 sets, with a 30s rest in between sets, 4 days a week. If you are a person with no particular experience in exercising, in the beginning this would feel somehow tough, you would have muscular pain in the first few days and even see your shoulders toning up a notch, but after 2-3 weeks you would feel so comfortable doing these that you would feel no improvement, no benefit (and now it is the right time for you to agree with me that improvement comes from pain, effort, not from comfort 😏). The load or repetitions would have to increase, or/and decrease the resting time.

b) Singing: For a person who has never sung before, sustaining a middle C with no fluctuations in the vowel “oo” for 5 seconds can portray quite a challenge, as easy as it may sound. Now, practice this for 4 consecutive days and, after lots of existential questions about the origin of life and the universe (that’s what exploring your voice does to you, lol!), on the 5th day you will find, with the appropriate training, that you even begin to like the sound of your voice, control your breathing, and may actually be able to extend it to 6 seconds. Wonders of nature. Now, imagine what other miracles you can perform with patience and repetition. But. If you were to repeat the same note for 5 seconds for 4 weeks in a row, every day, you will not only perfect it with your eyes closed on a handstand, but you will be so bored that you will want to change the parameters in order to improve.

c) Life: You love artichokes. All your life you have loved artichokes, in every form, not only as a food, but you have them everywhere, as decoration in your home, as a travel destination where artichokes grow, as a scent of your favourite perfum, and everyone knows you for your love for artichokes. Your relationships are built around artichokes. All of a sudden you change and you decide that artichokes are no longer a part of your life, you have outgrown them. But. Because all your life is built around them and all your relationships too, you continue to have them in your life. Your habit is no longer serving you, it yields no progress anymore, it has reached a plateau. You need to introduce a variable, a new challenge. So while you’ve been consistent and artichokes are in your blood, variety is needed in order for your life to become richer and progress further. [Note: Okay, artichokes were more an example of a fixation😅. But apply this replacing artichokes for a person, a dream, or a profession.]

So it is easy to conclude that there must be consistency for a while but variety needs to occur. Let’s say that we must keep our variety consistent. Never stay in the same place for too long. Leave before you are no longer able to give anything else where you are. Everyone around you will thank you, but most importantly, you will grow.

Related links:

Variety makes Consistency possible

The Consistency of Variety

Variety Vs. Consistency in Fitness

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