Consistency is defined by Webster’s New World College Dictionary as “conformity with previous practice.”  The dictionary also provides some synonyms: “steadiness, persistence, sameness.”  For an exercise (or weight loss, for that matter) program to work, you must be consistent. Not my forte.

Consistency meant a lot of things to me that the dictionary doesn’t cover. I’d have subconsciously defined it more as “boring” or “inflexible” for most of my life, which tells you more about me than about the word. I would not have said, if asked, that  consistency had negative connotations, but I have treated its existence in my life as largely a bad thing.

I can come up with lots of reasons for why I have felt that way, but they do not excuse the lack of consistency in many areas of my life. One is that I was a military brat; the reality of that life, even more in my childhood than now, was constant change. No one stays; everyone moves. The parent serving in the military is often gone. It was just the way it was, and shaped my view of reality. Even now, some 37 years after the last time I moved (with the exception of two academic years at Baylor University), I still get an itch to change locations about every three years.

I also hate, with a purple passion, the merest shadow of something external controlling me. My mother often tells the story that the first time I went to school, when she tried to walk me in, I refused her assistance, saying “I can do it by myself.” So it’s a deeply entrenched, possibly genetic, tendency. I was almost always late to everything in my life until about 10 years ago, when my shrink explained to me that tardiness was a metamessage to others that their time wasn’t important. That was an eye-opener; it may seem obvious to anyone else, but I just never looked at it that way before. My feeling was “I won’t get worked up if they don’t show up on the dot, why do they?”

But, in a way, I suppose that was not far from the underlying message I was trying to give: “You can’t control me.” Or “The clock can’t control me.” Don’t tie me down, damn it.

I’m also a bit (okay, a lot) ADD (I know, ADHD is the more commonly used term, but I’m not particularly hyperactive, and I prefer the in-between version which is more inclusive), and, therefore, easily distractable unless it’s something I am engrossed in, and then I get into hyperfocus mode. At that point, a tornado could sweep within 10 feet of me and I’d probably not notice.

But if it’s something I’m not particularly interested in,  I tend to be in the middle of some task and then notice “Oooh, shiny,”  and leave the task unfinished to pursue the new and attractive. And then abandon it for the next cool thing that crosses my path.

Or there’s simply the “bored now” response, as in vampire Willow.

So I resisted routine. Over and over again. “How’s that working for you?” “Not so hot, actually.”

Now I’ve finally figured out that routines, the key to consistency, are the key to getting better. First, it was just taking meds regularly. I’d forget and miss dosages (probably how my son came into being) of pretty much anything ever prescribed until a little over 10 years ago, when the consequences of missing a dose of whatever became immediately apparent and painful. And then I added taking Metamucil to the repertoire of daily routine — easy enough, just take drugs with the orange goo.

But that wasn’t enough for me to consider consistency in my overall day: my sleep patterns changed from day to day, eating at odd times, and exercise? Puh-leeze.

Now I find that, gee whiz, the experts might have a point. Sleep problems are associated with various health issues, notably fibromyalgia and migraines, and they all recommend a consistent sleep/wake pattern. What? Naw, they can’t mean me. Studies on weight loss have suggested that people who regularly track what they eat will begin to cut back on their eating simply because they’re paying attention.

And, of course, exercise. One of the posts on CrossFit’s website posed the question to coaches: What do you tell your overweight clients? The best tip, and something my husband emphasized as well, was “encourage them to be consistent.” That’s an overall concept CrossFit has preached, but it is particularly important with someone like me, whose obesity puts them at an increased risk of injury. Gary, the hubby, has also emphasized keeping a log of my exercise to track my progress — another thing requiring the dreaded consistency.

I’m not going to even begin to talk about my housekeeping, or, rather, the lack thereof.

So I’m finally seeing consistency not as boring, but as a foundation for variations. Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert cannot be charged with being uncreative, yet they each wrote variations on their own or other’s work. I think I can live with aspiring to be like them.

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