My newest challenge? To accept no new challenges

If you know me at all, you know that I love a challenge! Having a fairly competitive nature (just ask my younger sisters), I thrive on tackling difficult tasks. Tasks that others might find impossible? Bring ’em on! Don’t think I can do it? Watch me! I love to push myself more, further, faster, higher.

This past year I’ve been involved in many, many challenges. Some knitting, some fitness, some nutrition, some professional. Most have been on-line (it’s so much harder to resist a Facebook challenge than one issued face to face) where the support and encouragement of the other participants makes it easier to get to the end.

Some I’ve successfully completed.

The 2 Week No Sugar Challenge (liked it so much I did it three times; two successfully, the last time, not so much)


Eleven shawls in 2011 (I’ve finished 10 and I’m pretty sure number 11 will be done by January 1st)

Some were just okay attempts. Maybe I didn’t finish, but I learned something along the way.

30 Days without Chocolate? Maybe I managed 5 in a row. (Thank goodness that one’s over on Thursday!).

One hundred pushups? After a valiant attempt, I got stuck at week 4, day 3 (my total number of full, on toe pushups was 120 over 5 sets; I was impressed, but my shoulder said ‘no more’).

Some were epic fails. Why I even agreed to them I cannot say. Bravado? Lack of planning?  Sheer folly?

Tour de Sock. What was I thinking? I mean, 6 pairs of hand knit socks in 60 days? (My all-time record was 1 pair in 12 days and this was on holiday). On a positive note, the entry fee of $7.50 went to a good cause, Doctors without Borders, and I did get 6 new sock patterns (that I’ll probably never knit up…).

Looking back, I realize that although these types of challenges are fun and help to keep you on track with your goals, sometimes life gets in the way and makes it impossible to finish them.

Sometimes life is challenge enough.

(If you haven’t been reading this blog for very long, read this post and this post and this post to get an idea of the particular challenges I’ve encountered over the past year; no worse than yours I’m sure, just unique to me!).

Come January 1st, I’m resolving to just say ‘no’ to any online challenges that find themselves staring at me when I check in with my Facebook (follow me at fitknitchick) and Twitter (@fitknitchick_1) friends. Not because I’m done with challenges. Not at all. Just because I need to focus my attention on new endeavors (see how I’m not even calling them challenges?).

Stay tuned for some exciting news…

Do you participate in online challenges?

Which one/ones were your favorites?

About the other thing I love to do

Well, it seems like ages since I’ve written about my other favorite past time. The one I spend just as much (or more) time engaging in as exercise. When I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about doing it. I even think about doing it while I’m exercising. I sometimes dream about it.

Need a hint?

fitKNITchick! (I’ve written before about the parallels between knitting and exercise; if you haven’t read this post, you should!).

I knit for sanity. (That is, to preserve my own.) I knit because it keeps my hands busy. I knit because it feels like meditation. I knit to be productive. I knit for aesthetics as well as for function. I knit to learn new things. I knit for mental stimulation. I knit because it makes me feel like me.

Knitting is the yang to my exercise ying.

When I’m having  ‘one of those days’, my children will tell me to go and knit. They recognize that it calms and soothes me and turns the ‘dragon lady’ back into their happy, smiling mom.

So what have I been knitting? Where to start?

I’ve finished up several shawly, scarfy things since I last showed you my knitting basket (click on the images for direct links to my Ravelry projects page; that’s where you’ll find details about the patterns and yarns);

Several pairs of socks (in high demand around my house now that the cold weather has finally arrived);

A couple of hats (not sure why I keep knitting them for myself, they always look much better on my daughter);

some fingerless gloves;

two knitted, then felted yarn baskets (not sure why I enjoy felting so much);

and a cute, cropped shrug (for some reason, I only managed a crappy PhotoBooth shot of this one);

Although I promised myself that I wasn’t going to commit to knitting Christmas presents this year (it always turns into a last minute, stressed out, knit-but-not-enjoy-it-fest), I couldn’t help myself and cast on a rather large, secret project (I can’t talk about it here, just in case the recipient decides to read this post 🙂 ).

There may be a few other, late-in-the-game gift knits too; I’m experiencing a terrible case of ‘startitis’ (def. the urge the cast on project after project after project without finishing anything that’s already on the needles). More soon, promise!

We all need activities that nurture and calm us. I knit. What about you?

What happens at Sock Summit stays at Sock Summit; NOT

Well, Sock Summit has come and gone. Over a year’s anticipation and planning and it’s over in the blink of an eye. Remember how you felt about Christmas as a child? Like that, but even more so, and with lots and lots of yarn!

I had planned to blog while away (just like I had planned to visit the fitness centre in my hotel daily and eat clean; got their once and managed egg white omelettes and oatmeal for breakfast). Best laid plans, or so they say.

Blame it on the wool fumes, the excitement of meeting on-line friends ITF (In The Flesh), the presence of so many knitting celebrities (aka The Knitterati) and the constant and steady pull of the Marketplace (just one more peek to see whether I’ve missed anything I have to have…). I could not bring myself to sit and write about what I could, instead, be experiencing!

One thousand, nine hundred and eighty students attending 1, 3 and 6 hour classes on everything from sock design, to chart reading, to ergonomics for knitters to photographing your fiber. A Marketplace with over 200 vendors. A brilliant and humorous lecture on the changes knitting causes in our brains. Participating in a flash mob (my children think this is particularly cool!). All set against a backdrop of new and old friends connected by their love of fiber arts.

Wherever I turned, there were knitters, knitting. At Denny’s over breakfast. At Starbucks. On the MAX. Wandering the Saturday Market (which, by the way, is fabulous, if you’re into arts and crafts). In line for the food carts. And of course, wandering the halls or resting between classes at the Oregon Convention Center. Even during the keynote lecture! Lights were intentionally left on so that we could see to work while we listened!

I was able to meet up with friends from my favorite Ravelry group for a wonderful dinner out. We all “shawled up” for a group photo (which, when uploaded to Rav, generated lots of discussion about who was who and what shawl pattern each was modeling!) and continued our knitting at the hotel’s cafe late into the night.

How wonderful to be surrounded by like-minded people. People who don’t question what you’re doing or why you’re doing it (‘why would you spend $20 and 20 hours knitting a pair of socks when you can buy them at Target, 3 for $5?’). Strangers became immediate friends in line-ups, in classes (hi Jill!) on elevators and even in the loo!

We exchanged patterns, stitch markers, blog cards and hugs, planning for the next meet up before we headed for home.

Not much exercise, too many carbs, a whopping credit card bill (shh, don’t tell my hubby) and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Now I’m off to cast on at least three new projects, freshly inspired and my love of knitting once again renewed.

Have you ever attended an event related to a hobby or passion?

If you could learn an art or craft, what would it be?

What would you pack for a sock knitting convention?

Sock Summit is almost here! Four days of knitting, learning, shopping and eating with 1800 of my closest online friends! What could be more fun?

I’ve been busily making lists of what to take (and what to leave at home; I imagine there will be yarn swifts and ball winders at the Marketplace…the vendor line-up is incredibly extensive). My classes all have supply lists, so that’s easy (although choosing which of my pretty stash sock yarns to use for my sock design class was excruciatingly difficult). And of course, I have a new traveling sock to work on; plain stocking stitch in a beautiful bluey-green yarn from Saffron Dyeworks. (Should I happen to finish this pair while I’m away, I’m sure I’ll be able to get my hands on some more yarn to start another pair!).

The weather is finally starting to act like summer, so shorts, skirts and tank tops with a couple of hand knit shawls to wear/show off if the convention centre is air conditioned or the nights are cool.

What about exercise gear and clean eats?

My hotel has a fitness centre (although you never know what type of equipment you’ll have to work with until you get there…), so I’ll be packing running shoes, shorts and workout tanks. I’ve already loaded my iPod up with a new playlist (I’m loving anything Lady Gaga these days!).

With all the sitting (car ride, lectures and workshops) and standing around (receptions, marketplace and downtown Portland shopping), I’ll definitely need to get a couple of workouts in. My typical travel training sessions usually focus on cardio (short burst treadmill intervals) and body weight exercises (squats, pushups, planks and dips), although depending on the caliber of the gym, I may be able to get in some heavier lifting as well.

Clean eating supplies are a bit more difficult. I’ll be crossing the border, so can’t take any fresh fruits or veggies with me. Not sure how big the mini-fridge in the hotel will be, so I daren’t risk too many things that need to be kept cold. So, eggs, Greek yogurt and cooked chicken breasts are out (my friend and roommate will be thankful that I’m leaving the hard cooked eggs at home!).

Protein powder (to add to water or milk), raw oats, dried fruit and some nuts will have to be my staples. I can make some protein bars before I leave and buy fruit and veggies when I get there. Maybe I’ll even get to visit Trader Joes! My biggest challenges will be to (1) avoid baked goods at the coffee shops (my downfall 🙁 ) and (2) make sure I get enough lean protein at restaurant meals (while resisting the fries…).

Last thing on my to-do list? Input all my on-line Ravelry friends’ cell phone numbers into my iPhone. We’re planning a ‘live’ meet up and I truly think that this will be the very best part of Sock Summit!

Stay tuned; we have free Wi-Fi at the conference and I’m hoping to blog from there…

Are you an over-packer or an under-packer when you travel?

Have you ever met up (in the flesh) with any online friends?

That elusive balance point

Over the last few years, I’ve discovered that I only really need two activities in my life to keep me sane; exercise and knitting. One keeps my body strong and healthy, the other, my mind.

There is an optimal level of each and sometimes, the perfect balance is elusive.

Last week, while on holiday, I had many hours in the car to spend on my knitting. I knit socks. I knit lace. I worked on a garment. Lots of time to wrap string around needles and let my thoughts drift randomly. My brain relaxed and let go of the usual minutia it likes to bandy about and stress over. Knitting does for me what yoga does for others.

However lovely it was to knit my days away, my body was missing its daily visits to the gym. My legs and lower back were achey; too much sitting in the car and sleeping poorly on soft hotel mattresses, not enough squats and lunges and dead lifts.

This week, I happily returned to work, teaching my usual five classes and eagerly volunteering to sub three extras. I trained as many clients as I could and busily taxied my children back and forth from their various summer camps. Muscles content and tired, I fell into bed each night anticipating a hard-earned slumber only to be kept awake by to-do lists and re-hashes of the day’s petty slights and disagreements.

What did I do wrong?

Not enough knitting.

Next week my work schedule is light and the children need only be taken to the pool for their mid-morning lessons. Time to fit in a run or an at-home workout before and some knitting afterwards.


It’s an elusive balance, but when I get it right, I am calm, content and unflappable.

Do you struggle with finding balance in your life?

What activities help you feel more balanced and centered?

Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

Just in case you think I haven’t been knitting…

I have!

I knit almost every day (although not until I’ve exercised; priorities, please) and have finished a whole whack of projects since the last time I blogged about them. In fact, as you’re reading this, I am probably sitting in the car (not driving, of course) and knitting happily away on a simple, plain vanilla sock. I call this my ‘traveling sock’, because it rides around in my handbag and gets pulled out whenever there’s a few minutes available to knit. (My grandmother used to say something about idle hands and the devil’s work; guess I took that lesson a bit too seriously!).

In no particular order (more details on my Ravelry projects page)…

Beaded heart to heart

Rose lace stole

Wandering the Moors shawl

Cathy's Retirement Shawl

Wispy cardigan

Fallberry mitts

I’ve a few more projects OTN (‘on the needles’) as well as a gorgeous new shawl that’s just been blocked but needs some photos.

What have my knitting friends been up to lately?

Anyone going to Sock Summit in Portland, July 27-31? Look for me; I’ll be there!

A few of my favorite (green) things

Well, spring has finally arrived on the west coast. Tank tops and flip flops, here I come! Everywhere I look I see green. Wanna know what my favourite green things are?

Creamy, ripe avocado. One of the best heart-healthy fats out there and a great addition to your favourite salad or sandwich. I use it as a replacement for mayonnaise in tuna, salmon or chicken salad. Yum, yum!

My kitchen garden. Full of an incredible assortment of beautiful plants, including my favourites, Solomon’s Seal and Hostas. Now that spring’s finally here (I did mention that, didn’t I?), I can finally spend time in my garden, sipping tea (green tea!) and perhaps, knitting a bit…

A spinach salad. Pair your iron-rich spinach with tomatoes, peppers or some other source of vitamin C to really up your absorption of this much needed mineral. I dress mine with a combination of home-made pesto, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

My gym buddies; Lululemon gym bag, Pearl Izumi spin shoes and Nathan water bottle. There isn’t a day that I leave home without this winsome trio. And no, I didn’t purchase them to match, it just happened that way!

A recently finished shawl. Knit in Saffron Dyeworks Enya. The colour is ‘Frog Blancmange’, perfect for the leaf-inspired stitch pattern. Doesn’t it just scream spring?

This knit is a gift for my son’s grade 1 teacher, who retires at the end of the school year. She has done so much to nurture him through kindergarten and grade 1, as well as being his older sister’s kindergarten teacher too. I thought it would be appropriate to knit her something to place around her shoulders as a way of thanking her for all the hugs she has bestowed on my children over the years.

Happy retirement Cathy and happy spring (yes, it’s finally spring!) to you all!

Confessions of a serial project mom

Psst. Wanna know something? I often bite off more than I can chew and I THRIVE on the challenge of getting things done! I’m never happier than when I’m diving into a new project, be it fitness, knitting, new technology know-how, another certification…

Finishing things up, though, that’s where the real work lies. It’s not that I leave projects languishing (I’m much too Type A for that!), it’s just that my excitement for them fades when the prospect of a new project arises. Sound familiar?

Lately, I’ve been pretty good at getting things done. And to celebrate, I thought I’d bring you up to date on my various projects; knitting, more knitting, career advancement and gulp, bikini body.

First, the pretty pictures (with links to Ravelry pattern pages, for the knitterly among you).

A lovely, merino and cashmere shawl; Wandering the Moors, knit in Saffron Dyeworks ‘Tush’ (I love that name! And it is as soft as a baby’s bottom!).

My daughter’s much-begged-for hoodie (which she has yet to wear; apparently it’s being saved for a ‘special occasion’, which better occur before she outgrows it, or else); Camp Hoodie, knit mainly in Cascade ‘Ultra Pima’.

A pair of silk and wool socks, currently making their way across the country in honor of Mother’s Day; my own basic ribbed sock pattern knit in Adirondack ‘Silky Sock’.

A pretty pink extra large beaded wrap; Rose Lace Stole knit in Jojoland Melody Superwash (I love the long, gradual colour changes in this yarn, and it’s incredibly soft given the nylon content).

And two works-in-progress (I actually started a third since beginning this post, but I haven’t had time to photograph it. Next time.).

Wispy Cardigan, a light weight, shrug-style cardi knit in Indigo Moon Merino. I just know that this will be my go-to sweater this summer. Don’t you think it will look great with jeans and a tank? (I know, not a lot of shaping to see here, yet. Patience, my knitters, patience).

And a super-secret project whose details I must protect until it’s recipient unwraps it (May 26th, but no more clues!). The yarn is Saffron Dyeworks ‘Enya’. The colour is called ‘Frog Blancmange’; don’t you just love it? (I know, lace, on the needles, really doesn’t look like much; just wait until it’s finished and blocked!).

Workwise, I’ve just signed up for an on-line course that’s the first pre-requisite for obtaining my ‘Supervisor of Fitness Leaders’ status with BCRPA. This designation will allow me to become a supervisor of group fitness instructors (and will make it so that I don’t have to teach as many classes a week…). I have a month to complete the course work, fitting it in around all of my other obligations. I’ll let you know how it goes!

As for my fitness and nutrition project (The Last 10 Pounds, remember?), I am happy to report a net loss of 3 pounds (4 lost, 1 found it’s way home). As of today my numbers are;

Weight: 144 lbs
Chest: 36″ (whew, don’t have much to lose up there!)
Waist: 28 1/2″
Abdomen: 30″
Hips/butt: 38″

The only thing that’s changed is the last one; I’m down 1 inch about the hips. Everything else remains the same. (No need for a bikini shot; you’re really not going to see that small of a difference!). On track and reasonable (but not stellar) progress over the last three weeks.

I’d love to see the scale hit (and remain at) 140, but am most interested in seeing change in the mirror (and being comfortable, once again, in a certain pair of jeans…).

I’ve found dialling in my nutrition to be very challenging. I still have a sweet tooth. After school is my ‘danger time’. I have to be very conscious of not finishing off the remainders of my children’s lunches! It’s all too easy to convince myself to have a larger portion on days I’ve done a strenuous workout (the “you’ve earned it” trap).

Initially, I was using My Fitness Pal (a free online food tracking website that also has inexpensive iPhone and iPad applications) to log my meals after I’d eaten them, and sometimes, not until the end of the day. Not so helpful to know you’ve gone over your daily calorie allotment when it’s too late to do anything about it (I’m not purging… if you get my drift).

Screen capture of food diary, MyFitnessPal

Also, since I’m trying to retain, and even increase my lean muscle mass, I need to be certain I’m reaching my protein goals each day. That’s one of the neat things about My Fitness Pal; it calculates daily targets for fats, protein and carbohydrates and compares your daily intake of these dietary components to your targets (you can also override their calculations and insert your own values, but I don’t advise doing so unless you have a good understanding of your body’s nutritional needs). Makes it very easy to see where you’ve made nutritional ‘mistakes’.

Why not use it to see those mistakes before you make them? Why not use the ap as a nutrition planner rather than a nutrition tracker?

For the last week I’ve been doing just that. Each evening, I sit down and ‘create’ my meals and snacks for the following day. Using the daily nutrition option, I can get a preview of what the following day will look like and adjust accordingly.

It takes me about 15 minutes to plan a day’s meals; a little less if it’s time to go shopping (less food in the fridge means fewer options for meals…). But what’s 15 minutes a day if it leads to a leaner, healthier you?

And finally, we have a new addition at our house. Kind of a long term project.

Meet Saffron (name after both her coat colour and my favourite yarn!). She was rescued by one of my clients after being abandoned by either her mother or her owner. I couldn’t resist. Could you?

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?