Finding and giving value in 2017

The first post of the year.

For a fitness blogger, the topics are fairly predictable; how to get back to exercise after the holidays, tips for reducing added sugar, finding new motivation in a new year, tricks for creating attainable goals and making new habits stick, strategies for dealing with the January gym rush etc.

Not that these posts aren’t helpful. Heck, I’ve written many of them myself, and if that’s what you’re looking for, just click on the links above and get inspired.

This year’s first post is more personal.

Twenty-sixteen was a challenging year for me.

The plans that I’d made for family, fitness, business and personal development didn’t all pan out. Some of that was on me and some of it was completely beyond my control.

I didn’t get to the gym as much as usual. I indulged in alcohol more frequently than I typically do. I cancelled an online program due to lack of interest. I took things personally way more often than is typical of me.

There were periods of stillness, punctuated by tentative steps forward.

I joined a new gym. I took on new fitness coaching clients. I attended a midlife bloggers conference. I went to a health and wellness spa. I revitalized my newsletter. I blogged regularly. I travelled a fair bit and spent lots of time hanging with my family and friends.

In retrospect, I think I did pretty damn well, all things considered.

For the first time in fourteen months I find myself looking forward with hope and possibility. And the realization that 2017 can only be an improvement on 2016 if I’m clear on what I want from it.

It’s been years since I’ve made a New Year’s resolution. Not doing so has worked well for me, so I’m inclined to continue the lack of tradition 🙂

Setting ‘goals’ isn’t quite right either, as what I’m seeking isn’t material or measurable. (Don’t get me wrong, I have goals, they’re just not associated with the start of a new year…).

While vision boards work for many, I’m just not motivated by looking at pictures or motivational phrases.

What I’m after is a feeling. And that feeling is ‘value’.

  • I want to feel valuable to others. That what I give to my family, friends, clients and online community is of value. I want to know that when I write a blog post or share a personal story or help someone make a positive change in their life that my contribution is valued.
  • I want to value myself and my time more. Enough to put my own needs at least on par with the needs of others and spend less time on activities that aren’t adding value to my life or my business.
  • I want to make others feel valued. Letting people know I appreciate the time and energy they share with me. And that their actions have impacted me as an individual or an online community that they’re a part of.
Creating this feeling of ‘value’ is going to require change.

Some of those changes will be related to this blog and my activity on social media.

I’ve already implemented the first one. Every day in January, I’ll be sharing a ‘workout-let’ on my Instagram and Facebook fan pages; a short workout designed to help you get back to exercise after the holidays in a safe, sane and enjoyable fashion. (Make sure you’ve ‘liked’ my Facebook page and are ‘following’ me on Instagram to ensure you see them all and if you value the content I’ve shared, please pay it forward by sharing with your own friends and followers.)

Newsletter recipients will see a change in the frequency of emails from me. While I’ve enjoyed communicating twice-weekly in this less ‘formal’ fashion with my followers, the low rate of responses and overall engagement on this platform has led me to question whether it’s a valuable use of my time (and whether the recipients who do engage are receiving much value from my musings..).

I’ll be phasing out a program that’s helped many beginners to fitness and working on creating something new that will be considerably more valuable to my ‘ideal reader’ (midlife women with the goal of becoming the strongest, healthiest and happiest version of themselves possible).

While blogging will remain on my list of ‘valued’ activities, I’d like to tailor my posts to the topics of most value to my midlife female readers rather than those most ‘valued’ by search engines 🙂

Take a minute and help a girl out? 

Of the information I’m already sharing here, what types are most valuable to you? (e.g., workouts, how-to posts, fitness and nutrition information, motivational kicks in the butt etc).

Are there other types of posts that would be even more valuable to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thanks to all of you who regularly (or semi-regularly 😉 ) read, comment on and share my online offerings. You make me feel valued. I hope that I do the same for you.

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All I need to know about exercise I learned from knitting: 10 similarities between exercise and knitting

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.

  1. similarities between knitting and exercise

    I knit socks on 2.25 mm needles, with about 70 stitches around. The leg of a sock might have 70 rows in it; that 4900 stitches in one leg alone!

    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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. similarities between exercise and knitting

    Stranded knitting has always been difficult for me. Because I am a tight knitter, the fabric usually puckers. This sweater is for my daughter, and I’m proud to say, it’s my best stranded knitting yet!

    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.

  6. similarities between exercise and knitting

    I gave up knitting this one in the evening; the lace rows were so long I would lose track of where I was and have to rip back row after row to find my mistakes.

    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.

  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. similarities between exercise and knitting

    I have a vase of needles like this on my mantle; I grabbed this image from the web.

    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.

  10. 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?