It only ‘sucks’ for two weeks…

Usually…

We started a new aspect of training in my lessons this week–specifically aimed at increasing my conditioning and cardio endurance. It was something we spoke about prior to my surgery, but hadn’t consistently applied it yet.

We have now.

What we have started doing is essentially the ballroom dance version of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). The second half of my lesson is spent doing 1:30 intervals of Viennese Waltz or Jive (depending on the day), with 3 minutes spent working on less intense sections of my routines or ‘rest’.

Yesterday we actually tried alternating jive and samba for the intervals, but today we upped the ante with 7 rounds of VW. We had to cut down the time for the final two rounds to only 1 minute, but I got through them.

Barely.

As mentioned, we had to cut down the interval times for the last two rounds, and I barely made it through them. In the second last, my feet just stopped working and keeping time, I finished the last feeling very light headed and had some minor dry heaves.

I still religiously wear a fitbit, so I made a point of checking my pulse. One thing I noticed–the first 4 rounds, my pulse recovered from over 160 to less than 140 before we started again. With the last 3 rounds, my pulse recovered a lot less, and before the final round, it didn’t recover at all and was reading 158 before we started. It was 170 when we finished.

I have done HIIT training before, a lot (but never through dance), so I had an idea what to expect, and I have an idea what to expect. Boss told me his intention is to do this during my lessons for the next little while, since we have them regularly 3 times a week. I am perfectly game as I know my stamina and cardio endurance for dance is not likely to improve much otherwise.

From previous experience, it usually takes about 2 weeks for me to start feeling some improvement. I wouldn’t say things get easier, but I should be able to push harder through the full interval without fading so much.

It’s a little scary how much my endurance has suffered while I have been sick. The extra weight I am carrying isn’t going to help much either, but hopefully the intervals will also help it to keep gradually going down. I have been at a plateau for 4 weeks now, and I hope this might help push me through it.

I am trying to approach the intervals with as much drive as I can. Already, the ‘average heart rate’ for my lessons has increased from 115 to 135, which is a good sign. They are meant to be difficult and exhausting, and truly they are going to ‘suck’ for about 2 weeks before I will start feeling stronger. I just keep reminding myself of that.

I actually really hope that we will be able to continue with the intervals through the lessons. I know that beside being hard on me, they are difficult on Boss too (although less so). If we can keep consistent with them, then I hope when it comes to the competition in a month, I will be able to be more confident in my ability to get through a 5-dance scholarship.

After my lesson, I was even able to stay for latin technique class, which really surprised me. I had a little time to rest and really recover, and the class was less intense than my lesson (I think anything will be now!). I was happy to be able to complete it after such a hard lesson.

Boss and I had a quick talk about the group classes, as I have been trying to regularly attend them. Particularly on Mondays, I have a lesson, then usually I do some practice between my lesson and the group class. I asked what he would prefer–I cut back practice some to make the class a priority, or focus on the practice and skip the class if I am too tired. We both agreed that the class should be the priority for now. It gives me a chance to do drills I would do in practice, and it allows Boss to see things that may need to be worked on in my lesson.

Among the stress of the intervals tonight, I also had a revelation about ‘stretching back’ in standard versus ‘leaning back’ (or falling back). The first one involves stretching back from my shoulders and neck, but still keeping my ribs and chest forward. That is what I need to be doing and need to work on doing more. The second one happens when I stretch my hips forward, but let my upper body fall back from them. It brings my entire upper body behind me, hence the feeling of falling.

As we were working on foxtrot between rounds, I was able to work with this newfound knowledge and explore a bit how much stretching I could do before over doing it. There still seems to be more I can do, but doing it free up Boss some and allows us to work together a bit more in standard. I need to allow this to process more so I can apply it to the other dances.

It’s great to see a definite improvement in an area I have been working on for a while, especially when the rest of my lesson was difficult and I was bordering on exhaustion.

It’s the silver lining in many ways of my mind being freed up as my body physically grows tired. I look forward to seeing what other small improvements might be on the horizon, and seeing where the work on the conditioning takes me.

It should only ‘suck’ for 2 weeks.

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Searching for the ‘on’ switch

Things seem to be settling down.

On the other hand, there are new challenges to face, but I am ok with that.

Today, something Boss remarked on is that it takes me about 15 minutes into my lesson before I start moving my upper body in standard and rotating like he asks me to do from the beginning. It’s been pretty consistent that it takes at least 1 round of routines, if not two before I seem to switch ‘on’ and start moving the way I am supposed to.

I have a couple theories for this, since it has been drawn to my attention.

First, especially on Wednesday, I don’t really have time before my lesson to switch my mindset from processing things from work to processing dance. I go from work to home, feed my cats, pick up my dance bag, grab something to eat and go to dance. I have more time on other days, but there does need to be a bit of a mind change.

Second, once I get to dance and into my lesson, it really does take at least one round for my mind to gather and start processing and remembering everything I need to do beyond remembering the steps in the routine. It’s like I need the first round to confirm for myself that I know the steps of the routine, then once I know that I can move beyond the steps to other aspects.

It’s something I notice I do during my own practice as well.  The first round is to review the steps, everything else comes after that.

It’s an interesting dilemma, and I am hoping that now I am aware of it I might be able to move past it. Presumably, once I feel more confident that I know the steps of the routine, I will be able to start focusing elsewhere without that review.

The other thing Boss asked me to do is move and rotate my upper body more. To worry less about what my feet are doing and to focus more on what my body should be doing, and doing more of it.

I had to give some thought to this and I came to an interesting conclusion–what I usually do when it comes to sway and CBM is basically follow what Boss is leading–and that’s it. What he is asking is for me to move beyond what he is leading–to see it as a signal only to start changing–and to take my own initiative to follow through the entire movement.

It’s actually similar to what I had to learn in the steps–especially going forward. In forward steps, I need to do some driving of the movement, so once we start moving forward I need to put some drive into the steps to keep us moving and traveling. It’s especially important in promenade when my path is fairly clear and not blocked by Boss.

It’s a completely different mindset from what I have done previously in standard to more or less embrace and use rotation to move. When I first started dancing standard, one of the things I worked on was not moving my upper body to help build stability in my frame. Now I have to get beyond that.

It’s going to take some time and work, but the seeds have been planted, and I have finally figured out what is being asked of me. Now, the challenge is almost to reach a point where I am rotating too much.

Finally, there was one other major point to tonight’s lesson, and that is to give my mind a physical ‘anchor’ to focus on when I need to close my left side back towards Boss after being open. It seems to be effective in achieving what he needs me to do and my guess is that it’s simply using the dominantly tactile focus of my brain. Give me something I can physically feel to focus on, and generally it works.

The interesting thing to come out of tonight’s lesson is that I can already feel my muscles reacting to being used in a different way. Since that was the goal, I take it as a good sign. My body is tired and achy in general, but not in the exhausted, I don’t want to move way. It’s the general tired and achyness you experience after doing a good workout.

It’s actually the balance I have been wanting to find. I am getting better at not only reading my body through this recovery, but also responding and knowing when to push it and when not to.

For example, after my lesson I stayed to practice today. I had hoped to do a full hour, but after 35 minutes my balance was consistently wavering and my focus was disappearing. My knees were also starting to ache. So, I stopped for tonight. It was the right choice to make and instead of feeling exhausted, I feel appropriately tired.

This thought actually brought to my attention how important my post-dance routine is to the entire process. Since returning after my recovery, I have been developing a bit of a routine.

Before I head home, I take time to process what I did. Usually I do this through driving, which I find very relaxing and head clearing. Some times I drive for over an hour before heading home–but that seems to be when I am able to examine the questions and points brought up in the lesson and consciously work through them.

Once I get home, I have about a 30 min soak in a tub with 3 cups of epsom salts while listening to music and reading my kobo. After that I shower and wash my hair. After the shower is knee pampering (voltaren and tiger balm), brushing my teeth, drying my hair, and if needed, icing my knees. Depending on the time and how I feel, I sometimes go straight to bed to read more, or watch something on netflix to clear my head (or write for you guys!).

It’s almost strange to think that all of these things post-dance contribute to dance, but the time and ritual seems to give my brain the time it needs to catch up and process what it needs to.

It’s interesting what you discover, when you give your mind an opportunity to slow down and discover it.

Hopefully, I will discover the ‘on’ button and get it switched sooner in my lessons next.

Rebuilding Confidence

This seems to be the centre of my issues in Standard.

On a side note, I was right about the infection and with some antibiotics, I am feeling much better and my energy has returned.

Back to standard, I had a brief discussion with Boss last night to try and sort through why I have so much anxiety about standard in general. It was a good discussion and helped me to start to work through some of the clutter in my brain.

It really does come down to confidence. I have no confidence in my stamina for standard. This is leading to a lot of fear and doubts and that is something I am not used to clouding how I dance.

We are doing a lot in standard, but I still can’t seem to get through 1 full dance without collapsing. I haven’t been able to notice any sort of increase in stamina (although I admit it’s been hard to track), and I am really concerned that I will have to dance 5 (will definitely happen), but even 10 or 15 dances in a row at the competition in October.

We will do standard rounds practice in a bigger hall this weekend, and the anxiety I am feeling approaching that is pretty high. I think among other things, what I fear the most is that the practice will confirm my fears, and I will be done for the entire practice after putting marginal effort into the first few dances.

All of that aside, during my lesson yesterday we were working on waltz and it gave me some time to process through some thoughts in context. One thing I realized is aside from stamina concerns, I also am not sure that I know my routines (which actually for the most part I do), and I am relying too much on what is being led instead of taking a little more initiative myself.  This almost puts me behind, but it also doesn’t let me take initiative in putting some effort and power into what I am doing.

The other thing I discovered is that my anxiety is also paralyzing me. I am not going ‘all out’ like I could because I am afraid of making mistakes and in general trying to control things too much. The general theme of comments from Boss tends to be that while I am doing some movements (such as swag, swing and using my head), I am not really embracing the movements fully and there is almost a point I reach where I physically stop the movement instead of following it through.

I think recognition of this is more than half the battle.

We did have some moments yesterday while working through specific parts of the routine that as I realized I do know the steps and stopped focusing on them so much I was able to start adding other elements to what I was doing–like leading with my head, using power on forward steps–and I think that began some baby steps to start to return my trust in my abilities.

Along with confidence, it seems I also have to relearn to trust my body.

I stayed and practiced after my lesson for almost an hour and took the time to run through all my routines except foxtrot which I will focus on more on Friday as I want to pick apart the timing some and hopefully will have more room. Just doing that, I started to realize that I do know about 95% of the steps in my routines, and a lot of them are fairly automatic, instead of taking a lot of thought. I think that went a long way to helping me rebuild the trust and confidence I need.

I think one of the main things is that right now in standard I am experiencing a lot of ‘trial and error’ in how we work. In order to figure out exactly what works, it’s necessary to try them and see how they go.

It means letting go and accepting that I might lose my balance, I might make an error and I could end up being completely wrong. I have a hard time with that.

But hopefully, more trial will mean less error and the more I force myself outside the comfort zone the more confident I will become in my ability to work there.

I think the knowing part of the battle is starting to materialize and now I feel ready to move onto the doing.

It’s time to step forward with confidence. I’ve earned it.

Standard Thoughts

I had an interesting night.

One of the things that became obvious was a possible explanation to how I have been feeling that is NOT a return of depression. From last night and into today, I developed clear signs of an infection–which may have started earlier in the week and was dismissed. I am going to head to a walk-in clinic today to get it sorted and have my fingers crossed some antibiotics will lead to improvements.

Beyond that potential explanation, I was able to work through and organize some thoughts about what is bothering me about standard.

At the top of the list is general anxiety about my stamina level and lack of confidence and how my stamina failing could affect the partnership and potentially lead to injury of myself or Boss.  I am also afraid if I do too much, then I will fail through the rest of the dancing.

I am really not sure how to attack this problem. I have gotten used to being ‘cautious’ and the solution seems to be beyond just ‘throwing caution to the wind’. Consciously, I may want to do this, but subconsciously there is a block and I am not really sure how to do it.

Beyond this, I have frustrations in specific dances.

Top of the list is tango. I can’t seem to settle into the right position. If I start out ok, as soon as I change to promenade position (which is its own problem), when I turn back to closed position its not the same position I came from.  I keep slipping outside of Boss and too bar to the left. We went over it a lot yesterday, but my mind still feels scattered and unsure. Even the footwork in tango seems to be working against me. I feel like I need to be able to twist my feet in directions they don’t want to go. I also can’t seem to get consistency in sharpness, or consistency in general in tango. It just seems like this dance is all over the place and not wanting to come together.

Quickstep is next. We have gone over steps I am having difficulties with multiple times and it just doesn’t seem to want to stick. I think of all the dances, quickstep is the one where I keep defaulting to be cautious and I have the least confidence. It is also the dance where any failure on my part is most likely to lead to trips, falls and injuries.

Foxtrot is a matter of timing. I keep finding myself rushing through the slow steps. It’s frustrating for me because timing (being a musician) is usually a strong suit for me (almost too much as I have a hard time working outside of timing), but whenever we do foxtrot, I feel like I have no timing or rhythm. I haven’t quite worked out a way to work on foxtrot timing slowly with music–although I know I used to be able to and focused on it.

There are a number of things I am working on remembering and recapturing in standard and it seems like every day the list grows. I also feel far too tense and afraid to relax.

I am really not sure how to work through everything that goes through my head in standard. I need it to all come together, and it seems like it is doing so much much slower than it used to–and that is frustrating in itself. I am used to picking up things and putting them together and incorporating them faster.

I am going to have to give more thought to standard and how to resolve some of these issues. Almost all of them are things I need to work out myself that Boss can’t really help with. They are personal blocks and challenges I need to overcome, although if I can figure out a way to do that, there may be a way Boss can help.

I feel like the answer is sitting on the tip of brain.

I hope it comes forward soon.

Bad week

Bad weeks happen, right?

I am actually very worried and scared that I am becoming depressed again, after only 3 weeks off the anti-depressants.

This seems to have come out of no where.  Tuesday, I was absolutely fine. In fact, I was told by one of my doctors that my recovery was ‘above average’ and that he was extremely happy with my progress and only saw things getting better.

Then Wednesday afternoon I experienced an overwhelming sense of intense nausea just after eating. It passed after 10 minutes and I felt fine the rest of the day…until my lesson.

We were working on standard drills in my lesson and about 10 minutes into it I started to feel nauseous again and it built to the point where I had to stop and sit down for about 10 minutes.  I was very close to being sick, but it lessened (although it didn’t completely go away) and I continued back in the lesson, although I was fighting it the rest of the time. By the time I got home, I felt like all my energy had been drained and came close to being sick again.  I fought my way through a shower and went straight to bed.  My working theory is that I may have actually had a bit of food poisoning, because the next morning my stomach felt better again.

Needless to say, I was quite disappointed with the lack of productivity in my lesson and that I couldn’t stay to practice as I planned.

Thursday, for the most part, I felt better, but I could still tell something was off.  It wasn’t anything physical though, my mood just seemed to be jumping up and down. By the afternoon, I was finding myself getting upset and overwhelmed by things that weren’t really a big deal, and the level of emotional reaction I was having didn’t make a lot of sense.

Since I was feeling ok physically, I went to the studio early to get some practice in before my lesson that night. I couldn’t seem to focus on anything I was trying to do, felt scattered and disorganized and that just led to frustration. I stopped after 30 minutes because I was so upset with everything (not just dance). I actually felt my mood plummet.

Despite that, my lesson went pretty well.  We were running through the latin routines and in between rounds working out some of the details that weren’t quite coming together. We were able to go through all 5 routines in a row without my stamina completely failing or major disasters. We also did all of them at full speed, except paso. By the end of the lesson I actually felt much better, energized and motivated again.

Later on that night, I learned something that concerned me, and I could feel myself get upset about it, but at the same time, I also felt myself not even try to express my concerns. I just felt defeated without trying and that is unusual for me. Usually, even if I know something that concerns me isn’t going to change, I at least make a point of airing my concerns.

That defeated attitude seems to have persisted. I felt better when I woke up this morning, and fairly positive when I finished work as it had been a very productive week work-wise.

I decided to head to the studio early to take advantage of some practice time without a busy floor to work on standard, but shortly after I got there things started going downhill again.

Everything I was doing felt unfocused and scattered and all I really did was frustrate myself. I wanted to review the routines as I knew in my lesson we would be running them, but I kept running into things I couldn’t figure out. I just couldn’t seem to pull anything together.

My lesson, unfortunately, wasn’t much better. I had a break of more than an hour to clear my head, but pretty much from the beginning of my lesson things went downhill.

As I mentioned, I knew we would be running rounds of the standard routines (and only 4 of the 5 dances), and working on details between rounds. From the very start of the lesson I felt like jelly and defeated.

It’s a weird feeling to explain. Consciously, I wanted to push and work through the routines. Subconsciously, or at least as far as my body would respond, there was nothing there. No drive, no energy, no frame, no real dancing. I was walking through the steps.

I could actually feel the block but I couldn’t find a way to get past it. The minute I knew that we would be doing rounds without stopping, I could feel myself start to get small and cautious, and working to conserve energy. It was like somehow I had already decided that I no matter what I wouldn’t have the stamina, so I had better do less to make it through.

That seems to be an attitude to standard I can’t seem to get past. I can’t seem to make my body work as hard as I want it to, or at least in the way I used to. It’s like part of me is refusing to risk running out of energy, losing balance, making a mistake, and therefore it won’t respond with the effort I want to put into it.

Words cannot express how disappointed I am in myself because of this block.

I could also see, hear, and feel Boss’s frustration because I just couldn’t seem to respond to anything, and that just made things worse.

It’s a complete turn-around from how I felt and was able to dance two or even 1 week ago.

I feel completely overwhelmed and defeated by standard right now. It’s like I have all the tools to do it right, but all I can do is stand over them without being able to figure out how to pick them all up and use them.

I don’t feel this way in latin (at least not anywhere near this extent or noticeable–although there may be a small element somewhere).

This week, I suddenly feel weak and tired. It could be an accumulation of the work and return to activity from the last 3 weeks, but it doesn’t feel like that. I’ve kept things to a minimum and even did much less this week and last than I did the week before, or the first week I returned to dance.

I don’t like feeling this way, and I especially don’t like how quickly this seems to have manifested. One of the things I could say is that despite everything I have been through, I have never felt defeated.

But I am feeling defeated now, and I am scared it’s not going to go away. The idea of having to return to the anti-depressants is also overwhelming because it seems like a step back–something left over from Cancer that means it will never be over and I will never be able to move forward.

I think that is what scares me the most. At the beginning of the week, I was sure the worst was behind me and I was finally at a place where I could finally completely get my life back on track and moving forward.

Now it seems like I am only taking steps back.

And somehow that feels like failure.

I see my doctor on Monday, and I know, especially if things don’t improve over the weekend, that these feelings of depression will be on the table. Again. Especially if I continue to feel almost non-functional, as I did tonight. I am just not looking forward to that discussion.

Part of me really wants to hope that this is just my body adjusting to the new activity levels and I am just tired which is depressing my system. But considering all I have been through and my previous experiences, the realist in me really doesn’t believe that’s the case.

I guess the weekend will tell if this is a real problem, or just a bad week.

Damn.

Trying to Remember What I Used to Know

Boss made an interesting observation tonight.

It was interesting in that it vocalized what had pretty much been going on in my head since I started back to dance–particularly in standard.

What he said is that he had observed that there were things I was doing pretty consistently before my surgery which I seemed to have forgotten about since I returned.

I have to agree with that, as one thing I have noticed during my lessons, particularly in standard, is that I have this scrambled feeling in my brain–like I am trying to grab onto all sorts of thoughts at the same time and translate that into my movements. As we move through different things, my mind jumps around from technical aspect to technical aspect to try and remember some of the things that were just on the cusp of becoming habits before surgery.

Different examples include allowing my feet to roll through the movements, stepping in CBMP going into turning figures (particularly natural figures), keeping my knees flexed, not turning out too far in promenade position and keeping my ribs forward to open up my position.

Boss has mentioned some of them, and some of them have come into my head as we review (although sometimes to the point of distracting me from other things I am supposed to be focusing on). I am sure there are still more I haven’t completely remembered. The biggest step seems to be remembering, and then consciously reworking them back into my dancing to remember the habit so I don’t have to think about them so much.

I hope, at least, that as things come up and we do more reviews, the ‘almost habits’ will slowly come back more consistently and continue building on what was developing before the surgery.

That said, today was a pretty productive lesson. We started with some of the standard drills that Boss has been developing for us to do together in Waltz and Tango. Both are made up of basic steps, but the point is to work through them using full technique and paying attention to all the details. In tango, it is also about developing some sharpness to the movement, and starting to differentiate between the different dances. That was just the warm-up, and from there we picked up where we left off yesterday with the Quickstep.

Thankfully, it seems my mind did process what we were trying to do yesterday and today I was better able to do what was needed in the hover corte.  I still hesitate a little in wanting to move my weight all the way over my right foot, but it is getting there more consistent. After reviewing that, we worked on the final step I needed to learn to finish the routine, which went quite well.  It will still need work, but I seem to have at least the basic understanding and we were able to do it in time and in some context.

We finished up working on foxtrot. When we worked with the coach last week, he made some small suggestions for changes in the final line of our routine, but we hadn’t had a chance to review it since then.  Tonight we went through it and refined it some.

Throughout my lessons, there are some small things Boss is drawing my attention to that apply through all routines and it gives me some detailed things to focus on as we work. One of the things I am discovering is that for a lot of the small points, while each has its own specifics, a recurring theme tends to be to let myself relax into things a little more and to try to not limit myself and the flow of movement. I tend to get rigid in some of my movements and in doing so, I don’t quite complete them.  It’s something to think about, and I wonder if that is part of the pre- and post-surgery difference–that I was starting to get move relaxed and confident about many of my techniques and the work I was doing, and now I am back to being more tentative again. I am almost trying too hard.

Which leads me to my final point tonight. I was going to stay and practice some after my lesson tonight, but at the end of my lesson, my entire body was screaming for a break and that it was done for the week, led by my knees which are quite inflamed between the return to dance, work and everything else. I have been trying to mitigate the flare up, but my success seems to be a little limited. I do have some ice, voltaren and tiger balm on them now to try to quiet them down.  I was told to expect this, I guess I am a little disappointed about how bad it is.

I didn’t stay and headed home as I can recognize that there is some bone-weariness creeping up on me, and my body needs the break.  I want to keep pushing, but my body isn’t ready for that yet and its a little frustrating. I am trying not to worry about it and let it get me down, but it is on my mind now and then. Part of me is afraid that this might be the beginning of going back to feeling as I was before surgery, although there is a distinct difference–particularly in energy level.  While I am tire and sore, I still have energy.  I am trying to have faith that it’s all normal and that with the break of the long weekend, and some planned rest, I will be ready to get back at things on Wednesday during my next lesson.

It’s not that I feel I have a lot to do, its more that there is a lot I want to do.

A lot I want to remember.

Bending the knee

It seems Jon Snow is not the only one reluctant to do this…

We were working on quickstep tonight (which for some reason seems like something I haven’t done in two years), and after starting with some clarification in the fishtail, we moved on to the hover corte, which is a new step for me in my gold routine.

Ever have a night where it seems like your mind and body just won’t work together?

That was me tonight. My mind understood (for the most part) what I needed to do, but my body just could not figure out how to consistently make it happen. That said, I am hopeful that it will be one of those things that once my mind has an opportunity to sleep on it (literally), it will process the information and start working out.

The root of the problem though seems to stem some from my knees, particularly my right knee.

As I have mentioned before, knee issues and knee pain have been an on-going thing for me since before cancer.  I tend towards patella femoral syndrome, which is an issue that takes a lot of time and strengthening to work out.  After 6 weeks off of activity, my knees were feeling pretty good, but of course returning to activity has caused them to flare up some (which I was told to expect). My right knee tends to be the instigator, and my left joins in when it has to compensate.

So what does this have to do with dance?

When my knees get sore, my mind starts to unconsciously compensate by avoiding bending them, and in particular by avoiding allowing me to put my weight on one of them at a time while bent.  It also knows that I tend to be more unstable when standing on a bent right leg.

Particularly in standard, I had been working on moving with bent legs through all my steps and to break myself of the habit of step on mostly straight legs. Part of it is a strength issue, the other is simply breaking habits and giving myself the permission to keep my legs bent. Stepping on a straight leg was one of the biggest issues tonight. What’s interesting, is that it was an issue almost always only when stepping on the right leg and having to rise.

Exactly what my body like to avoid doing.

I had a bit of a thought after I got home tonight and did an experiment that brought interesting results.  One of the things Boss seemed to be pointing out was that I had a reluctance to move my weight completely over my right leg when I know I will be changing direction, preferring to keep my weight more to left, and particularly to tend to thrust my right hip out to the side.

So, when I got home, I tried comparing what happens when I balance on each leg with a bent knee.  The result? I am quite stable and comfortable standing on a bent left knee, and it feels perfectly natural to do so without any help from my hip.  Standing on a bent right knee is a bit of a disaster.  I have to almost consciously think to keep my hip from falling out, and I can feel my foot moving back and forth to try to keep the balance.  I can also stand for a prolonged time on my left, but after 10 seconds on my right, I can feel my hip start to tire.

Well, that tells me where my body needs some concentrated work, beginning with just building endurance for standing on a bent right knee.

It’s an exercise I remember doing at some point 2-3 years ago.

I don’t know if that will help directly with dance (it can’t hurt, I suppose), but on top of that I will have to start forcing my mind to pay attention to how I am stepping on my right in standard–especially in pivoting or rising steps to start breaking my current habit and helping my body rebuild it’s strength.

Speaking of building strength, I have started doing 15 mins of body weight exercises at home every other day, mostly to help my knees (they are all exercises I was doing on direction from my trainer and physio before the surgery). Them plus pushups against the wall seem to be a good place to start with some strength training.

I also stayed to do some practice after my lesson tonight, although I compromised with myself and limited it to 30 minutes just to review my latin routines and some of the hand work I did last week. I also took some time to work on my traveling spins in paso and keeping my elbow in front of me, which was the second half of my lesson on Monday (natural rolls in samba was the first half). I couldn’t do quite as much as I wanted as I was feeling a bit light-headed and getting dizzy, so I erred on the side of caution and stopped spinning when my balance stopped cooperating.

I am finding myself a little more tired this week, but as my body is still adjusting to the stopping of the anti-depressants, and the return to work, its not unusual.  I also had a bit of a harder time sleeping Monday and Tuesday night with a sudden heat wave.  Since it cooled off today, I hope to sleep better tonight.

Speaking of sleep, over the next couple weeks I will be working on reducing the dose of my insomnia medication, another positive step. The reduction is in my control, but it seems that I am reaching the point where it will be possible, since a lot of the insomnia increasing medications are out of my system now. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

A lot of positive things going on, and thankfully nothing unexpected coming up (knock on wood!). There are a lot of gradual increases and I am keeping an eye on things as I go along.

8 Weeks until the competition. At this point, I am not too sure about how the preparation will go.  It seems like we are not quite covering as much in my lessons as Boss hopes, although I am optimistic it will pick up momentum once we get some of the major issues cleared up and out of the way.  Other than endurance in general (which is going to be an issue for some time), there is really only one routine I am completely unsure of (quickstep), one routine I lack some confidence in (especially in my ability to do it at full speed, paso), and a few routines with the odd step I am not sure about.  Its really not a bad place to be considering its been a week since I have started back to activity.

Overall, I am doing good. Looking forward to moving further on this path.

Lots to be optimistic about!

A Week of Small Victories

I meant to write sooner, but I got bogged down in a paper for school.

Despite the schoolwork, my week included several victories well beyond what I expected for my first week back at dance.

I am feeling small side effects from stopping the anti-depressant, but they are manageable with a little bit of nausea and light-headedness.  I hope that is how things stay. It should be cleared out of my system tomorrow but it will take 2 weeks for my system to fully adjust. Things look really promising.

But back to dance!

I had my coaching lessons on Wednesday as planned and they went amazing. We were able to get through everything we wanted to cover and even a couple extra things as a bonus. Despite it being 90 minutes straight, my energy stayed up.

After coaching, I had a small break, then a lesson with Boss. I lasted about another 45 minutes before my body started signalling it was reaching its maximum and not fully cooperating.  The good thing was that it was only fatigue, no pain or other issues. During the lesson, we were able to go through some more things from the coaching to reinforce it. Overall, I was pretty amazed at how long I was able to last–it was well beyond what I expected.

After that lesson, my next one was on Thursday and we were able to go through 4 of the 5 latin routines to review them and make some small adjustments. It was my first time doing latin after coming back I was also glad how well I went.  I was feeling a little strange from the lack of medication, and could tell I wasn’t completely on my game, but it still went better than I thought.  If anything, it lacked a little bit of the energy from the previous lessons, but in retrospect it all makes sense.

Yesterday, was like a bonus round for me. I didn’t have a lesson, but I felt the need to blow off some steam and clear my head after a big push on my school paper, so I went to the studio for practice.  I was able to work 50 minutes pretty flat out before I started feeling fatigue seeping into my body. It was enough time to sort out the hand movements for 4 of my latin routines–at least movements that work for me.

The trick now is to first remember what they were, and hope that they work with Boss as well as they do on my own. There may be some places where Boss’s position in my head doesn’t match reality, or we might be in hold and I am not so free to move.  At a minimum, I hope that none of the movements will end up accidentally hitting Boss.

I am not sure when we will try them together, but I am going to work at reinforcing them into my own practice, and I guess we will go from there.

My next lesson is Monday, so I am taking it easy this weekend and enjoying the facebook live streams from George Pytlik of Delta Dance from the Canadian Closed Championships in Gatineau, Quebec. If it weren’t for surgery, this comp would have been high on the list for consideration, and I am glad to see some live footage from it!

I am looking forward to next week. Boss should have enough information to put together his plan for the next 8 weeks (eep! only 8 weeks!) until the competition in Calgary.  I am trying not to sweat it (except for doing some actual sweating!), reminding myself that the goal for this competition is not to be at full perfection, but to get back on the floor with full effort.

It’s been a revealing week, but a great one. I am finally starting to feel like the dancer I was before I got sick–full of drive, motivation, discipline and effort, and I hope it continues.

Monday I start back half days to work and I am looking forward to putting all of this behind me.

the end of 2017 is looking like a great lead up to a great 2018!

(Bonus shout out to The Girl with the Tree Tattoo who is getting ready to compete next weekend at the Embassy Ball! Your prep looks great and good luck!!)

Back on the Floor!

Yes, finally!!

I was cleared to return to all activities yesterday, and I celebrated by having a lesson. 9 weeks until the competition, so a lot of work to do.

The lesson last night was very interesting and telling.

It ended up being later in the evening than I usually have a lesson and I was worried I would be too tired, but I was so anxious to get back on the floor I pushed it aside.

It was good that I did.

The start of the lesson was really really rough. We were working on standard since I have a couple coaching lessons this week and we started by reviewing and walking through our gold routines. I really felt like a wet blanket with no strength, and my mind was racing in about 50 different directions as my body tried to figure out what was going on. By the time we finished walking through the quickstep, I was honestly feeling quite panicked, and really couldn’t figure out what was going on.

We took a bit of a break before looking at specific parts of the routines that we will focus on for the coaching.

It turned out that break was what my mind needed to reconnect with my body and to trust that my body knew and was capable of doing what it needed.

After that, it was like the weight I have been carrying on my shoulders for the last 6 months disappeared. I felt my mind relax and organize itself, and as Boss and I prepared to work through one segment of our waltz, everything just came back together.

Actually, it came together better than it has in a longer time than I can remember.

It was like I needed the rough start for my mind to assess the state of my body and once it decided that all the movements were ok, it gave permission.  I could use my full strength and power, was able to move into full hold and to follow what Boss was doing. By the end of the lesson we were even traveling significantly more down the floor than we have in a very long time.

The best way I can describe the feeling is to say I felt free and free to dance. There wasn’t anything holding me back anymore–no hormone issues, no depression, no muscle weakness, no fuzzy head, and no fatigue.

In fact, I felt more energized after the lesson than I was before it–something that hasn’t happened since before I was diagnosed. I had honestly forgotten what that feels like.

I was able to ask my body to do things, and it responded–usually better than I expected, and much more than I have become used to.

Needless to say, I was pretty shocked and overwhelmed. I found confidence in my movement that had been missing for a very long time.

Aside from completely surprising myself, Boss seemed to be completely over the moon. I don’t think he has said he was pleased so many times in a lesson before. Considering how my previous recoveries and issues with treatments have gone, I can’t blame him–this ‘comeback’ is in a class by itself. He commented that I was dancing better than he was prepared for.

A lot of pieces that were only just swirling around in pieces before my surgery seemed to click into place while I was recovering. It’s a testament to how even when you have to take a break physically, mentally your mind may still be working. I could almost feel them all fall into place.

Of course, that’s not to say that everything was easy. It has been 6 weeks since I have really done any activity except light walking in the last 2 weeks. I was getting winded easy, and my pulse was racing. I could feel how out of shape and out of conditioning I am. It’s going to take a lot of work to get that moving forward again. While I could do full power in short segments, I know that attempting even one full routine at that power would be pretty draining. Overall, the lesson was fantastically terrible–a lot of success mixed with hard work that demonstrates there is a lot more to be done.

But its baby steps. The foundation is there. I achieve beyond my own goal in that lesson, in that after the initial ‘trial’, I was able to push myself fully through the rest of the lesson without giving up. While this lesson was hard, the next will be a little easier and I will be able to push longer and further.

It’s like remembering something from childhood–I know I used to be able to do it, but the details are fuzzy.

They are becoming more clear now.

I feel much more optimistic about the coaching on Wednesday, and my ability to get through 2 45 min lessons. The last time this coach was here, the work with him triggered a few things falling into place in standard that had been eluding me, and I am hopeful at something similar may be possible this time too. We (and by ‘we’, I mean Boss) have a good plan for things to work on, and if it is even remotely similar to last night, it’s going to be fun.

Fun. There’s a word I haven’t used in relation to dance in a long time. It feels good. Fun.

After last night’s lesson, I expected to wake up sore, especially in the surgical area, and completely tired and drained today from so much effort last night.

In another surprise, I woke up with tons of energy after sleeping better than I have in quite some time, and while I am moderately sore in the muscles I haven’t used in a long time, my belly and abdomen feel the same as they did before the lesson yesterday.

I am sooooo pleased to not have adverse after-effects! (I was pretty worried).

I expect my upper back, shoulder and leg muscles will be a little more sore tomorrow, but nothing unusual.

As a bonus to all of this, my doctor and I decided this morning to stop the anti-depressants, and see how it goes. The last 3 days I have been feeling symptoms of being over medicated again, and since I am on the lowest dose now, the next step is to stop and see how I feel in 2 weeks once my system has adjusted.  I can always go back if I need them. It’s the last of the medications I had to take to counter-act side effects of the hormone therapy.

In fact, I am now officially back to taking only the medications I was taking before I was diagnosed (actually one less, since one was a hormone supplement), one for insomnia, one for allergies. It’s another way to feel free.

Something else I haven’t mentioned which may be contributing to the increase in energy I am having–since the surgery I have lost 10 of the 40 lbs I gained during treatment, with only small diet changes on my part. Finally, it seems my body is ready to get fit again. It’s something I will need to stay on top of, but it’s the first real weight progress I have seen in over a year, and I finally feel motivated again to keep focusing on it.

In a lot of ways, my life is finally starting to resemble what it was pre-cancer, and I hope the momentum I now have continues to keep me moving forward. I am back to work next week, and looking forward to it. I have almost finished the 5th course for my masters.

And now I feel like I am ready and capable of getting back to fully dancing again.

Even more, I feel like I can really hope again.

It’s been a long time coming.

A plan coming together

Monday seems such a long way off.

On Monday I see the surgeon and should get my clearance to return to activities, including dance. The following week I return to work half days.

Since I have an idea of when I will be returning to dance, I was able to sit down with Boss and put together some thoughts for competing, and how to get back into training.

Among other things, we decided on a competition goal–that is just over 9 weeks away. 9 weeks of working to prepare for a competition that is nearby, but still requires a plane ride. Before that, I may do a solo at a local comp, but I haven’t quite decided on that yet.

We also took a look into the new year, and right now we are looking to attend a bigger competition in the US in the spring. After that, plans are in the works for a unique opportunity, but more on that later.

Even though it is really in the short-term, I am relieved to have a competition goal to work towards. I suddenly feel like I have focus for dance again and I am eager to get started.

We have a plan for the first few lessons to get an idea of how things feel and where I am at.

For myself, my goal is to start with the regular 3 lessons a week, and when things feel good and stable then work to add practices and eventually group classes from there. When I can handle 3 lessons and work, then I will add some more activity. As eager as I am to get working, I am not eager to move too fast and end up injured.

I am finding I have a renewed motivation towards dance. Even though I will have one more surgery in October (after the comp), finally there is really nothing looming on the horizon for me.  I can get back to moving through things as I want to without medical interference.

Among other things, I finally found the word that has been eluding me for about 6 months. The word is ‘effort’. It may seem strange, but through my illness I have gotten use to reducing the effort I put into lessons and practices in order to conserve energy. It’s made me cautious, and it has also limited my endurance and conditioning because I never really push myself.

I have realized that I don’t want to play in this ‘safe’ zone anymore and want to get back to pushing my way through everything I do with my full effort. I really hope I will be able to translate that back into dance. I feel like I have allowed myself to get lazy, and it doesn’t sit well with me.

I think the challenge of competing in only 9 weeks is exactly what I need to help remotivate me. Outside of dance, there is renewed energy in a few different areas of my life as all is connected.

I have different ideas for things I want to do and how I want to approach practice and preparation over the next few weeks. I only hope that Boss will also be on board.

Slowly the plan is coming together.