I have two great passions in my life (besides my husband, and sometimes, my children); fitness and knitting. At first glance, they seem to be rather incompatible past times.
One involves vigorous whole body movement, the other sitting on the couch, barely flicking one’s fingers for hours at a time. There are special clothes for exercise. Not so much for knitting. You can knit and drink a glass of wine and watch TV simultaneously. No wine at the gym, last time I checked. Exercise is about challenge and progress and setbacks and all out effort. And knitting? Turns out that fitness and knitting are more alike that one might think. There are many similarities between exercise and knitting.
In fact, all I need to know about exercise I learned from knitting.
Keep the goal in sight, but enjoy the process. When one spends hours making thousands of tiny stitches with small wooden sticks, thoughts of the finished object are unavoidable. But, focusing on the end of the project makes it feel more like work than an enjoyable way of spending your time. Concentrate on how the yarn feels running through your fingers. Stop to admire the evenness of your stitches. In the gym, listen to the beat of your heart. Note how it increases and decreases with your effort. Enjoy the feeling of your muscles as they work to press that weight over your head. The long-term goal is still a ways away; revel in the moment.
- Sometimes you have to go backwards before you can move forward. Knitters call this ‘TINKing’ (that’s KNIT spelled backwards). It happens when you don’t read instructions (I can vouch for this one personally), or when you’re not truly paying attention to what you’re doing. Similarly, injuries happen during exercise when we try to advance ourselves too quickly or are distracted in the gym. Setbacks happen and strength must be regained before we can once again move forward.
- Always take detailed notes. If you want to remember what you did on the first sleeve so you can knit the second to match, take notes, lots of notes. Don’t count on yourself to remember the specifics or the details of your last workout. When you’re getting results in the gym, it’s much easier to figure out why (and keep progressing) if you know where you’re coming from. Journalling is a truly effective way to measure progress.
- Be selfish; no one else appreciates your efforts as much as you do. I am a selfish knitter. I knit primarily for myself. I know that I will love what I’ve knit and will wear it with pride. Knits that I have gifted have not always been so obviously appreciated. Exercise for you and you alone. Don’t do it because someone else wants you to. Don’t do it because you think you should. Do it because you love how it makes you feel and look.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. For a long time I stuck to basic knitting projects. Things that I knew I could do well. If a pattern required a technique that I was unfamiliar with, I knit something else. Over the last few years, I’ve become more adventurous in my knitting. What’s the worst that could happen? I might screw it up. I might not like it. I might have to rip it out. Or, maybe, just maybe, I might find something else that I’m really good at! There are lots of fitness options out there. Weight rooms not your thing? Try Zumba. Can’t stand running? Hop on a spin bike. The options are nearly endless and there are new tools and techniques to tackle almost weekly.
Know when tackling a challenge is a bad idea. I don’t knit complex lace at night. My attention is not focused and my eyes don’t work as well in the dark as they used to. Similarly, increasing my loads in the weight room is best left for when I’m feeling healthy and well, not when a cold is looming or I’m tired from a late night out. Challenge is good, but not all the time.
- Variety is a great motivator. I always have 3 or 4 projects on the needles (a simple sock in my purse, something complex for afternoons without the children). When I tire of one, I simply move on to another. Same thing with fitness. Bored with your current routine? If it’s a good one and you’ve seen results, switch it up for a week or two until you again need a change. I like to intersperse heaving weight training days with spinning days (love those cardio intervals!). Over the longer term, I might stick with a whole body training program for a month or two, then switch to body part training (one or two body parts a day) for a few weeks. Rather than do nothing, do something else!
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. Before I found Ravelry (an awesome online community of fiber artists; think Facebook for knitters), I had very few people to share my knitting obsession with. Now, I check in with my on-line knitting buddies daily for a dose of inspiration and support. I’ve learned a ton from these women and am continually motivated to try new techniques and patterns. Seek out friends and acquaintances who are as committed to exercise as you are. Motivate each other to do more and better.
Always choose the right tool for the job. The knitter’s primary tool is a needle. But needles come in many different styles (single point, double point, circular, cable), sizes (from 1 mm all the way up to 20 mm and beyond) and weights (stainless steel, wood, laminate, bamboo). Different projects (and yarns) require different needles. If you use the wrong needle for the job, you’re bound to be unhappy with the final result. Same things goes with exercise. You need to match the tool to your goals. Want to put on muscle and gain strength? Forego the fixed machines and light weights. Pick up a kettlebell, some dumbbells, a barbell. Approach the squat machine with confidence. Get face to face with the chin up bar.
- Make time for it every day! In order to get better at something and actually see the results of your labors, you need to do it frequently. I’ve been to the gym and knit half a sleeve today… and it’s not even dinner time yet!
There! My top 10 list of similarities between exercise and knitting!
Do you exercise? Do you knit?
What are YOUR favourite similarities between exercise and knitting?