Weight and size

As promised, a post on weight and size.

I am processing things from my lessons and practices this week, so I will take a little break from writing about dance.

As previously mentioned, prior to getting sick, I lost 75lbs and was working to lose more.  What I didn’t say was that prior to losing the weight, I shrank from a size 26 to 18 without losing a single lb.

I am sure you can imagine that was a very frustrating time in my life.  As far as I could tell, I was doing everything right, but I just never seemed to lose weight.  It even took quite a bit of time before I even realized I was getting smaller.

My message is that weight is not always an indication of fitness.  Even now, I have been told I look about 30lbs lighter than I actually am.  At my heaviest weight, I could run for more than 45 minutes, carry half my body weight over long distances, and bench press more than 100lbs.  After my illness, I know I can’t do any of that.  At least not right now.

Since recovering from my surgeries, I have been working hard on my diet and increasing my exercise.  I still had slips (everyone does), and I found it very frustrating that even after seeing before and after photos showing my change in size, I still weighed the same after surgery than before.  I even gained weight (mostly in inflammation) after my last surgery.

But then I remembered the ‘trick’ about me.  Before I start losing weight, especially when I am doing regular strength training, I will first shrink in size.  Once I realized this, I understood that if I wanted to have the best idea if everything I am doing is having a positive effect overall, I would need to start tracking my measurements as well as my weight.

So I started 3 weeks ago by taking baseline measurements of my bust, waist (narrowest part of my torso), belly button, hips, thighs, and arms once a week, including my weight.

What I have discovered is interesting.  In 3 weeks, I have lost a total of 1 lb.  But I am more than 8 inches smaller overall.  The first week, I even gained more than 1 lb while losing 2 inches.

I know that I am being diligent in diet and fitness, but it is interesting to see the results and progress laid out like that.  This week, some of my measurements were more than 2 inches smaller and I remeasured 3 times to make sure.  I try to make sure I keep the tape level and measure the largest area (except my waist which is the narrowest).  No matter how I adjusted the tape, I couldn’t come close to reaching my previous measurements.

I am glad previous history prepared me for this, but I can understand how otherwise I would be very frustrated right now.  During all my treatments, I tried very hard not to regain weight, even though I was told it would be inevitable.  Once I started gaining, I tried to minimize it.  The biggest change though was that I had to stop weight training–which meant that a lot of the strength and muscles I had built disappeared.  I am currently very similar to the same size I was before my diagnosis (at least according to my clothes), but I weigh almost 30lbs more.

Something to consider–many people say things like ‘muscles weigh more than fat’.  This doesn’t make sense.  1 lb of muscle weighs the same as 1 lb of fat.  The difference is that muscle is more dense than fat.  1 lb of muscle is much smaller than 1 lb of fat.  So while 1 lb of muscle might fill a teaspoon, 1lb of fat would fill a bowl.  This is a generalization of the difference, but hopefully the difference is clear.

While doing strength training and watching one’s diet, depending on general build, it is very possible that you are gaining weight while reducing size.  Denser muscle is being replaced by less fat.  That is what my body tends to do until it reaches a point where things even out and I start losing weight.  Eventually as the overall volume gets smaller, weight will have to be lost–simply because the volume is not there anymore.

This is why many bodybuilders show a BMI calculated through the weight/height measurements of someone obese, despite them clearly being fit and having almost no body fat.  Personally I don’t like using traditional BMI calculations for measuring fitness and healthiness just for this reason.  I feel similarly about the height/weight charts.

In the end, I chose to let my measurements and how I feel determine whether I am making progress towards my fitness goals.  I do still set weight goals, and I do intend to reach them, but I know that I will need to adjust them as I go based on my measurements and how I look and feel.  I never expect to be a ‘size 0’, as my frame itself is not that small.  There are some part of me that will always be a ‘medium’ or ‘large’, because that is how I am built.

But as I work on my recovery, I will continue to be disciplined and active and not let my size ever hold me back.  I was 4 sizes bigger during my first competition than I am now, but I still did well and was able to dance better than ladies half my size.  Do I think it affects my placings and score? Yes, of course it does.  But in the end, what matters is how I feel on the floor.  I know when I have done my best, and I know if I keep working I will keep getting healthier.

And as I get healthier, everything I do in dance will get easier.There will be less weight to control and move around.  My joints will be happier.  I will be able to dance longer.  I will be able to stretch better.

I know this, because it has happened before, and it will happen again.  I just had to remember that it’s not always about the weight on the scale.

Size matters more.

Precision and Joy

And so begins my first full week of work, practice and lessons.

Before I get into today, I want to take a small moment and talk about the social dance I went to on the weekend.

It was hosted by Boss and included a potluck.  It was a small crowd, probably due to the time of year and high heat, but the crowd that was there had great energy.

I chose not to dance a lot and to just observe, which as I have mentioned before is something I really enjoy.  One of the things I absolutely loved to watch was just the expression of pure joy on the faces of those dancing.  It just radiated out from them and it was clear that every person was enjoying what they were doing.  Watching just reminded me how much I also enjoy dance. It will be a while probably before I go to another social dance (as this is the slow season for dances), but I hope when I do I will be stronger to be able to dance more.

Moving on to my next item: Precision.

Precision is very important to me.  I work slow when I practice so that I am able to make sure that I build muscle memory to work precisely when I do things faster. With precision, comes sharpness, if it is done right.  One of the things that has diminished in my dancing while I was undergoing treatments was the sharpness and precision of my movements.

Today’s lesson had a great element of precision and sharpness to it, and Boss had me working in a way I haven’t in quite some time.

One of the things I really appreciated about today’s lesson was that it started with Boss telling me what we were going to cover in the lesson and what the goal was of what we worked on.  That quick summary told me that he had taken the time to work through a plan.

We started by looking at trying to fix some issues Boss noticed on Friday in my rumba and samba with moving to my right side.  Today, that issue seemed to have resolved itself (I think just his pointing it out allowed me to fix it).  What was a little surprising today was that I was very stiff in my movements in rumba and I wasn’t allowing myself to ‘settle’ into my hips.

I was a little frustrated by this, but only because one of the last things Boss told me before he went on vacation was that I was moving too much in rumba.  It seemed I over-compensated in trying to fix that issue.  It took a while, but eventually I started to relax some and allow my hips to move and settle as they should have.

One of the things we started to work on that led to precision was working through a sequence of a hip twist to fan to hockey stick in rumba and Boss had me work on ‘tightening’ up my turns and adding a little bit of speed to them.  At first I was overturning because I was using too much of my upper body, but eventually I was able to control the movement by using my hips to turn, which made the entire movement a little more sharp.  It was great to work on details like that–it’s really something I enjoy doing and it’s one of the ways I challenge myself and keep myself motivated–to master the details.

We ended the lesson with standard and began working on the feather step in foxtrot and getting me to be able to do it on my own with the proper use of CBMP and body position throughout.  We just started to work through it, but I found that my understanding of standard position and CBMP is much better now, from the exercises I have been doing.  Things went much smoother today in working through the standard details than I ever remember happening before.

After my lesson I went through my practice exercises wearing my ‘full’ practice shoes.  It made all the exercises a little more tricky, especially the standard exercises (the heel is a 1/2 inch higher than I usually wear for standard), but it was not as bad as I thought it would be and my feet weren’t bothering me as I expected.  The great thing was that I am still able to feel the work my muscles are doing and feel them working hard.  Even when I was doing my rumba walks I found my legs were getting a little like jelly and weren’t always responding as I wanted them to.

While I am tired after all that I did today, I am not exhausted, although I can tell I am close.  I still felt a little bit of a ‘high’ after my practice, which is the main goal I am looking for this week.  I still have moments of nausea from the HT, and some muscle aches, especially in the morning, but even the hot flashes seem to be dissipating and the headaches are finally gone.  I did notice that if I don’t take the HT close to the same time each day, then the side effects are worse.  It’s a good thing to note.

A small minor good note today was a bit of an unexpected comment.  I was talking with Boss about my dress fittings and mentioned that it seems each time I go the dressmaker has to make the dresses a little bit smaller because I am slowly shrinking in size.  Perhaps because he has been away, Boss made a small comment that yes, I am getting smaller.  I was surprised because while I know how much size I have lost, I didn’t think it was noticeable by anyone else.  It’s encouraging.  I will post more about weight and size later in the week.

Tomorrow night will be a new experience for me.  I have decided to take a group class during the summer focused on technique.  It’s offered by the local dance society, but taught by boss and is for levels bronze-gold.  I usually avoid group classes as I find they are slower than I like to go, and rarely focused on the things I want to work on.  I am making an exception for this because it is a technique class, so partners are not really necessary, and it is only 5 weeks in the summer.  As I am rebuilding, I want to spend some extra time on the floor, so I figured this would be a good way to do it.  If I find the class boring, or frustrating, it’s only 5 classes.

Renewal

That is how I am feeling today.

I went to the health clinic to see if I could get permission to increase my work hours a little since I am finally gaining energy and it has become frustrating to be in the office so little and didn’t have any luck because my doctor is on vacation.  I have to wait until I can see him in two weeks as the other doctor didn’t want to make any changes for me without consulting him.

Well, I tried.  Had a good talk with my outgoing supervisor today and he said not to worry too much about my hours, but did comment he noticed a steady positive change in my general energy in the last week–especially from when I started, and the end of last week when I was clearly quite unwell.

I also finally was able to start a steady progression in my strength training this week, which is also a good sign.  For the first time in a long time I felt strength through my muscles as I worked through my exercises, and it’s been a long time since I felt that.  All of my fitness activities left me feeling re-energized or tired but not exhausted this week.

I also was able to do all strength training sessions, all practices and a lesson this week–and none of it left me feeling depressed or exhausted.

Boss is back from vacation and it seems to have done him some good.  There’s a subtle change about his manner and attitude I can’t quite put a finger on, but it is definitely something positive.  I am not sure if it is a result of his networking while away, or something else or even just temporary exhaustion from jet-leg.  It’s good though, but just a little bit scary–like there is another shoe to drop somewhere–almost too good to be true.  It could be just something for today, but I wasn’t his only student to notice it and wonder.  There was just a slight change in his teaching style–almost a more openness.

After much debate with myself, I decided to put together an email for Boss to explain some of what I have gone through while he was away and many of the concerns I was having.  I know from experience with Boss that it’s often best to put things in writing because a) I can say everything I need to say without him interrupting and misunderstanding and b) he can read it a couple times.  Sometimes with the language barrier it just works better.

The best way to describe the theme of my email is ‘transition’.  I basically laid out that finally now things are settling down and my health is moving forward and most of the other areas of my life are organized and stable, it is time to do it with dance too.  I asked Boss to provide me with regular lessons times, asked about the competitive practices, competitions, goals and things to focus on for each dance and style.

The first surprising thing was that I got a response in less than 24 hours.  That NEVER happens. More than a response, he gave me 3 things to focus on for each dance and style, which is a model for motivation I put together and used to use to help keep me focused before I got sick.  It was a full word document and at the same time a complete shock.

The second surprising thing was that he gave me a plan for today’s lesson (which previously he said he wasn’t sure what to do), that made complete sense.  In the end, we went through my concerns from my email, set my lessons for Monday and Thursdays, discussed some competition options (he has promised some budget forecasts for options, so we will see how long that takes), and went through all my exercises.  He seemed actually pleased with most of them, and mentioned he wants to work on two of them next time to see if we can fix them up better.  It’s the same issue in both exercises, my right side, so hopefully we can address it.

I wasn’t surprised to hear my right side is giving difficulty.  That’s my cancer side and with the surgery and radiation, in the past week I have started to notice it’s a lot tighter as scar tissue is likely starting to form.  I am trying to keep working and stretching it, but it is definitely a lot weaker than my other side.  Even strength training I have to make sure to start with my right and match it with my left.

The final surprising thing that Boss told me today was that he had been waiting for the message in my email–which was basically that I was ready to start moving forward again–to start returning to a more structured way of working.  We seem to have things more or less in hand now and are on the same page–sometimes it happens that way, Boss and I manage to come to the same conclusions at the same time.

The one thing we haven’t been able to completely resolve is the competitive practices.  Boss asked until August to start them, and his reasons made enough sense I agreed–for now.  As there are quite a few things to put together and I want to keep building strength, I am willing to hold off 1 month.  But I don’t see myself being willing to wait beyond that without really solid reason.  I am a little concerned that one of the reasons Boss stated was that I wouldn’t be competing until the fall, so there was no need to do it now, but he did say that he understands those practices are not just about competing for me.  I am not completely sure about that since his ‘default’ was to immediately say there was no pending comp to prepare for.  That is something that time will tell.  He did say we may do some run throughs in lessons, but it is not the same to me.

Tomorrow is a social dance and I am looking forward to getting out and having some fun and relaxing.  I am also very eager to see how my next few lessons go, and I might soon have some interesting news.

I can definitely say that today, for the first time since my diagnosis, I truly felt like the ‘old’ me. Words cannot express the relief I feel with that.

Putting it all together

I seem to have finally come to a conclusion to my musings.

And with that conclusion, I also seem to have found a solution–or at least figured out what all of this has been about.

As I have worked through my frustrations with pro/am, I realized that I was missing something–and I began to ask myself what that ‘something’ was.

Frustrations about money, lack of partner and not being able to fully share my experiences are not something new I am encountering.  They are all frustrations that have always been concerns the full time I have worked in pro/am.

So, I had to ask myself–what is different now that these frustrations seem less bearable?  Once I discovered that, I seem to have found the root of the problem.

I mentioned before that until about a year ago, I participated in regular weekly competitive rounds practice with Boss, run by him and involving almost all of the amateur competitive couples in the community.  I was very consistent with them, but as my treatments progress, I became unable to do them, and Boss had another student start to do them too so the practices were reduced from weekly, to monthly, to none.  Right now, I can’t remember the last time I did one, but I think it was last September.

There are a few different reasons for the cutback besides my health–Boss also coaches some of the amateur couples so he wanted to be able to watch what they were doing, he also wanted a break, and it was necessary to alternate weeks with other students.  Since the fall, because I haven’t been competing and my health has been up and down, I haven’t really pushed to return to the practices.  With low endurance and no competitions to prepare for there didn’t seem to be a point.

But it turns out I was wrong.  I had just fully missed the point of why these practices were so valuable to me.  These practices were never really about preparing for competitions.

What I have come to realize is that these practices were what kept me focused on my goals.  They were a weekly check for me to know if my fitness was improving, if my dancing was improving, and most importantly–if I was able to incorporate everything I was doing in lessons and my own practice into dancing full rounds with Boss.

The rounds practices pulled everything together for me.  They gave me a regular way to know that the amount of money and work I am doing is worth it–that I am growing as a dancer and slowly moving towards my goals.

Without the practices, I feel like everything I am doing is scattered in 10 different directions and I don’t really have any chance to take the technical things I am working on and put them into my routines in a bit of a ‘real stress’ situation.  The one rule of rounds practice is not to stop no matter how much you screw up–you just keep going.  If I miss something the first time round, there is usually more than 1 minute of music for me to try and fix it.  Almost every practice resulted in some small sense of accomplishment.

That is what I have been missing–the feeling and knowing that I have accomplished something and that what I am doing contributes to my long-term competitive goals.  Without them, everything took a sense of ‘randomness’, which being someone who works in a very structured, organized and methodical way is very hard for me to work with and feel comfortable.

So, in the end, that is the ‘deal-breaker’.  Being able to complete full competitive practice rounds is the one thing that seems to make the difference for me being able to tolerate the frustrations of pro/am, or to leave it to seek something else.

I told Boss when I was getting ready to restart after my last surgery that having an opportunity to regularly do those practices was one of the most important things for me, but I didn’t realize even then how important.  We discussed the possibility of doing them weekly and him having a time to work with his pro/am students away from the amateur couples.  Nothing has ever been finalized though, and unfortunately that is something which Boss has been saying he would make available for a very long time.  When he first opened his studio he told both myself and his other student at the time that those practices would be included if we took regular privates.  From what I understand, hall issues mainly made those unfeasible.

My lesson structure is something which Boss and I need to discuss once he is back from vacation.  I need to set out specific goals for myself to help bring me back into focus and I need to set a specific competitive goal to work towards.  I also need regular lesson times that work with my work schedule.

He asked me today if I wanted to have a lesson on Friday when he is back.  I think he was a little surprised and put out that I didn’t immediately jump at the chance to have a lesson after so much time off, and instead I asked him what the plan for that lesson would be.  At this point, he told me he doesn’t have a plan.  Since I feel like a lot of my lessons lately have been a little ‘ad hoc’ just to fill the time between my surgery recovery and Boss’s vacation, I don’t really want to have a lesson that doesn’t seem to have any point to it.  Especially when I add in that Boss will just be returning from vacation, jet-legged, stressed and preparing for a social dance he is hosting the following night when some of his students will be performing.

He has only been gone 3 weeks, but in that time a lot has happened in my life and my perspective on things has changed a lot.  Now that I am finally adjusting to the HT and getting back into a regular schedule for work and strength training and practice, I am no longer ‘coasting along’ trying to fill the time while I am sick.  I have slowly been preparing myself to get back to focused training and competitive preparation, and setting myself up so that I can transition to that in the smoothest and best way possible.

I am ready to move past having cancer, and being sick to get back to focused training.  I am just not sure that Boss is. And unfortunately, I can’t do it without him.

That’s just pro/am.

Sharing

My internal musings about pro/am and dance continue….

Well I guess not so internal since I am writing them here, but perhaps it’s a bit of therapy for me.  I don’t think today’s post will be as long.

I mentioned that one of the main frustrations I am having about pro/am is money, but I think that if that was the only issue it be that big a deal and I would make it work.

The other issue is time and sharing.  I want to be upfront by saying that I am not naive enough to think that these are only pro/am issues–I know they exist in all partnerships.

But since it is pro/am I have been giving a lot of thought to, that is what I am going to focus on 🙂

All money questions aside, no matter how much I am willing to pay, I cannot overcome the obstacle that I will probably always want to put more time into my dance than my instructor.  That is another challenge of pro/am.  While I only have to worry about my own dancing, he has to worry about the dancing of all his other students–of different ages, levels, styles and abilities.  And that is on top of his own regular every day life outside of dance with his family and trying to run a business.

Especially right now, every practice, and workout I complete is a victory for me.  There is no one to motivate me to do these things–I just do them because it’s what I want to do and it is necessary to reach my goals.  I can struggle through all my trials and tribulations to get to a competition, but when I get there, if I don’t do well for some reason I know that it was not because I didn’t put 100% into preparing for it.  If I do well it’s a victory.  If I don’t, I can still hold my head high knowing that I did everything I could to prepare and I still had fun doing so.

No one really knows how much work and how difficult or easy the work I do in dance is, not even Boss.  I can tell him I did this or that, but anything I do on my own is just words to him.  His goals and my goals, while similar are different and sometimes that is frustrating.

I can spend a lot of time trying to master one particular thing, or even to feel that great sense of accomplishment at a competition to know that the work I have done is showing and that I have done well for my level.  Knowing and being proud of myself as I reach each goal is part of what I look forward to–and why I work so hard–so I can look back and know how much time and work it took to get to that point.

But it’s weird and sometimes anti-climatic because even though I did a lot of the work myself, in the end the goal is accomplished as a partnership–and my partner really won’t share that sense of accomplishment with me.

I am not saying that Boss is not proud of me when I do well.  I know very well that he feels very proud of what I accomplish (sometimes more than others) and is happy for me–but what he takes pride in is the result of his teaching (which is absolutely a big part of reaching my goal), which is different from taking pride and sharing that accomplishment with me.  Why I might be proud of myself for doing well at the silver level, for Boss that is something he achieved years ago–with whomever was his partner at the time.  I can’t see how doing well to dance through silver steps with silver technique would be a big deal for him–he’s been there before.

It’s an interesting frustration that has come out of all my ‘deep thinking’ about pro/am.  What makes it interesting is that I haven’t really recognized before that the idea of partnership and teamwork had an appeal to me for dance.  In hindsight, it does seem obvious–it is after all a partnered activity–but in general I am an independent person and I can’t think of any other activity I have done in my life (partnered, team activity or not) where it has been important to me that the goals I achieve are done in partnership or as a team.  It’s like a discovery of a new side of me I didn’t know (or want to know or admit) was there.

Looking back at some of the things I have done and accomplished, especially while I was sick, I realize that this frustration about sharing has been there, I just haven’t really been able to figure out what was missing.  I am not even sure I am making sense trying to explain it right now.

I guess it is a bit of a double-edged sword.  I want and know that I can feel proud of what I accomplish in dance, but because I have to work with someone else and dance with someone else to accomplish it I feel like it’s less and there is something missing when I reach a personal goal because in the end it is both something ‘I’ accomplished, but not something ‘we’ accomplished–even though we danced together.  ‘My’ goals are not ‘Our’ goals–and I seem to be finding that frustrating–in that since the goals must be achieved together, then reaching them together should also be a shared experience.

What’s frustrating is that when it comes to sharing those accomplishments, somehow it seems a little hollow and like taking credit on my own for something a team has done.

It seems I am finding myself curious about what it would feel like to know that those accomplishments are shared by two people truly achieving them together.

That’s a hard frustration to figure out.

 

Motivation

I am very happy to say that today I had actual energy.

It seems I am indeed on an upswing and slowly adjusting to the HT.  The nausea was almost non-existent and even the headaches and body aches were mild.  The exercises I have been doing has also brought my back pain under control.  My first workout today left me energized and my dance practice tired, but not exhausted.  I hope it’s a trend that continues.

As I mentioned last week, I have been giving a lot of thought to dance and pro/am and costs and competition.  One of the things I have been questioning myself on is motivation–not only motivation to dance, but more motivation to compete.  What is it about competing for me that helps keep me motivated? Why is competing such a big part of dance for me instead of just being a social dancer?

My thoughts took me all the way back to why I started dancing in the first place.

In 2007, during training for my job, I fell from the top of a wall. I didn’t seem to be injured at the time, but by the next week I was in so much pain I could barely walk.  It took 2 years before a tear in one of the discs in my lower back was discovered to be the source of the pain, but in the meantime I was very limited in what I could do physically.  As a result, I gained a lot of weight, was very unhappy and in constant pain.  Once the problem was discovered, I was able to be properly treated through physio therapy and rehabilitative exercises to help strengthen the supporting muscles around the disc to make up for the instability caused by the tear.  I am lucky the disc neither ruptured nor herniated, but the tear will always be there.

As I was rehabilitating from that injury, there were a lot of changes that happened in my life.  I changed specialty in my job, I got married, got divorced, and eventually was sent to a new post.  When I got to the new post, I was able to work with the various medical specialists and slowly work back to regular activity.  I was even given clearance to do very limited running.  As I work at a physical job and have to pass an annual fitness test, I decided the best thing for my health would be to find a competitive sport I enjoyed that didn’t aggravate my back and use that to work on regaining the fitness I lost through injury.  I looked at a few different options, but finally decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and try the one thing I had always wanted to do, but always found an excuse to avoid–ballroom and latin dance.  I didn’t care that I didn’t have a partner–I just hoped to meet one during group classes and my goal was to work at it seriously to improve my health and fitness and eventually compete.

The rest, as they say, is history.  I was hooked from my very first group class and never looked back.  I knew I had a lot of work to do on my fitness in order to be able to compete and be good at dance, so initially I focused on that.  Because I knew I wanted to compete and do well, from the beginning I focused on technique and being precise.  I asked for extra exercises I could do on my own and the owner of the studio where I was working encouraged my enthusiasm and gave me things to work on even while I was on extended trips for work.  Eventually, I changed location for work to where I am now and when I did I was ready to make serious lifestyle changes to continue to increase my health.  I also started taking private lessons and met Boss, and in my first 3 years of dance I had lost 75 lbs, and still had more to go.  I had even competed and done well in 3 different competitions. I was on a great role and had every intention to keep working in the same way, stay motivated, be disciplined and continue to grow as a dancer and person. I felt like I had found my ‘niche’.

That’s where I was in my life when I found the lump in my breast that led to my cancer diagnosis.  I am not going to rehash that story as there is an entire blog post here.

My point is that competing has been a big part of my motivation from my first decision to start studying dance.  As I gave more thought to that last week, I began to realize a bit about why competing is so motivating for me, and why it is important to me that competitions stay a part of my dance life.

One of the biggest things that competitions do for me is challenge me.  They challenge me to be better at each competition than I was at the competition before.  I don’t mean place better, I mean dance better myself.  That challenge and that goal is what helps drive my discipline in learning dance.  It is what drives me to be precise with my technique, to get stronger, be fitter.  I can’t get that from a social dance floor.  When I social dance, I mainly focus on what steps I am doing and being led through, and technique is secondary.  At competitions, I know before I step on the floor that I have done the work and built up the muscle memory so that I don’t have to think of every single detail–my body will do that for me.  I also know that while I might not be able to execute perfect technique, the work I am doing will build the foundations so that as I gain strength and skill eventually the technique will come.

I am a competitive person by nature–but in my own quirky way.  I like to compete and know I am doing well, but it’s not a matter of competing with other people.  I am competitive with myself–always trying to be better than I was the day before.  I know that as long as I always do my best, then my ‘best’ will slowly get better.  That’s what motivates me–to see where I can go if I keep trying my best.

After my first competition (which was also Boss’s first competition in North America and pro/am), I slowly developed a system of evaluation for myself and started to look at specific goals for specific competitions.  I would discuss them with Boss and together we would come up with a plan for what I would like to focus on and achieve by competing.  The last ‘serious’ competition I did, just before my diagnosis, the goal was to perform all my bronze routines well, focus on endurance and posture, and try silver routines for the first time.  I went into that competition knowing it would be my last bronze competition.

I have missed that sort of goal-planning for competitions.  I know that my next competition will likely be my last silver competition (as I plan to do my test in August), but I have no idea when it will be really.  I am hopeful for the fall.  In the meantime, I am trying to save my dollars and ignore the am/am couples around me who compete an average of once a month.  Right now, it takes almost a year of budgeting and planning for me to do one competition, because of the cost.

I don’t know what the future will hold, but I know that competing will be part of it–even if I decide to leave behind dance.  One of the main obstacles I am facing right now is feeling very unfocused on my goals, and not fully understanding what I am trying to achieve long-term.  I feel like I used to know, but since everything changed I don’t know where I am anymore.

Being competitive was a big part of the drive and motivation that brought me to dance in the first place–it was what would help keep me motivated to take better care of myself and improve my fitness–so I could be better competitively.  Somehow, through pro/am, at the level I am at, and the restraints on time and money, I need to rediscover that motivation and drive.  I am hoping it is something I can discuss more clearly with Boss when he is back from vacation.

In some ways, as I come out of the fog I have been living in with HT (and yes, my head is finally clearing!), I think I am mentally taking a big step back to re-evaluate and figure out where I am, and what from before cancer and bring into my life now.  Somehow, it seemed so simple before I battled cancer, but now it seems more complicated.

Or maybe I feel like I have taken such a big step back I haven’t yet figured out how to start moving forward again.

Social Dance Revival

I promised a more positive post, so here it is–

Last night I ended up going to a social dance for the local dance society at a venue managed by a ‘club’ I have to be a part of for work.  I had to be there as the ‘sponsoring member’.  Thankfully, other than an on-going headache and some body aches, I was finally feeling better.

It has been since the beginning of the year since I have been able to go to a social dance, both for health and other reasons.  The nice thing about the dance last night was that it wasn’t at either a gym or a senior centre.  It was a completely ‘new’ venue for the society and one where many people had never been before.

The dance was really well attended.  There were several people there who also had not been to a social dance in a very long time.  The result was close to 100 people with great energy really enjoying themselves.  I was able to see people I haven’t seen in a while and catch up with friends.  At the end of the night, there were even people still standing on the floor waiting for just.one.more.song.  In the past 2 years, I cannot think of a time when that has happened.  There was a group from the society who even stayed behind in the lounge to socialize a bit more.

Looking around the dance, it felt great to see so many people enjoying dancing and socializing and having a good time.  Many of the leaders were mixing up who they partnered and no one spent extended time sitting.  It was the type of event that was exactly why I had gotten involved in the society in the first place–to promote and enjoy dance with like-minded people.  There were even some of the regular members of the ‘club’ taking time to watch the dance that was happening–even if they didn’t want to dance themselves.

It was good to get out and be able to just enjoy dancing.  There were some stronger leaders there to dance with and a couple of ladies even came up to me after to say how much they enjoyed my dancing with one in particular.  The interesting thing was that it was the first time I was able to apply some of my recent lessons in lead/follow and from standard to a social setting.  I had to remember to adapt to some of the leaders who were less strong and wouldn’t anticipate my using my head in spins turns and some of them have very light touches that can be hard to follow.

My body did tell me when I had done too much.  I found myself easily becoming light-headed and dizzy if I wasn’t careful.  Sometimes the nausea would come back too.  But I remembered to give myself lots of breaks and not push it too hard and just to try and have a good time.

After such a late night, I expected to be dragging a little bit today, but happily I can say I am feeling even better.  The headache is persisting as are the body aches, but the nausea has been minimal.  My lower back is acting up, likely from sitting too much, so I am having to do my exercises to relieve the pain there.  That’s an issue not related to the HT, but an old injury that flares up now and then when my body goes through significant changes.  It’s very painful to bend forward, but I will keep on the exercises and hopefully that will work it out.

I will have another social dance next weekend and I am looking forward to it.  My goal for this week is to try to complete all my workouts and practices as I can as well as work, of course.  I am very relieved to find myself feeling better, and hope it continues to improve as the week progresses.

Because I was feeling better, I had a really productive day today–all the chores are done, I purged my wardrobe and donated a garbage bag of clothes to charity and finished piecing the top of my quilt.  It may still be an early night to bed, but it’s 8 pm and I am not ready yet–even after only 7 hours of sleep last night 🙂

I have a few other topics to write about in the next few days when I have time, so I hope you will find them interesting.

Faith and promises

First, I am thankfully feeling better today.  Still have a headache and feel light-headed and dizzy and tired, but haven’t had to take gravol today.  So far anyway–seems to be a step forward.  Maybe there is hope yet 🙂

I have really been thinking about the cost of dance and pro/am lately. Since Boss is away on vacation, it’s given me time to consider a few things.

I can be a very passive person in general.  I don’t like conflict and prefer to avoid it.  Therefore, I don’t always stand up for myself when I should and sometimes I make excuses for others when they don’t follow through on the things they say.  ‘they’re too busy’, ‘they have more important things’, ‘it’s not their fault’, ‘I should have reminded them’, ‘I am asking too much’, ‘I expect too much’.

But sometimes, with some people, I give them just too much leeway.  I find myself constantly waiting for them to follow through on the things they say, even as they continually tell me they are putting it off.  I hear ‘I will have time after blah’, or ‘I plan to do it when blah is finished’, or ‘I will have it to you by blah’.  And yet ‘blah’ comes and goes and their is either a new excuse, or I just don’t hear anything until the promise is fulfilled.  Sometimes I just get so frustrated that I do the task myself.  But there are somethings I can’t do and I have to rely on others to fulfill the promises they make.

So what does this have to do with dance?  Looking at the big picture, I have a lot of frustrations with dance right now.  Part of them have to do with my health and the delays I am experiencing with that, and those are things I can accept and adjust to.

I have come to realize that the other part of the frustrations is that I am waiting for some promises to be fulfilled and I am running out of faith that they will ever get done.  On top of that, the longer I wait and the more I see things put off, the less worthy I feel.  It makes me feel like my things just don’t matter and that all I am worth is the money I am paying.

And perhaps that is the nature of pro/am in the end.  Certainly I am not the only blogger who is waiting on the fulfillment of broken promises.  It seems almost second nature to add at least a 2 week timeline to any promises that are made and then hope that nothing comes up in the meantime.

I am really trying to be patient, but I think I am reaching a point where I am wondering how patient is too patient?  I think what bothers me most is that I know there are genuine good intentions behind the promises, but there is also a genuine lack of time to follow through on them.

I never expect to be a priority for anyone, and in pro/am, no one is a priority.  But there does need to be some trust and faith and when I take a step back and look at the big picture I am finding that dwindling a lot for me.  It’s hard to explain, but as much as I have faith in my own abilities, I also need to know that the work I am putting in will go somewhere and not be held up waiting for the pieces from others to move it forward. I look around and as much as I am waiting for my health to improve, I realize I am also waiting for a lot of other pieces too–pieces I have been promised for a while now.  They are also pieces which, despite promises otherwise, I really feel I will still be waiting for at the end of the summer.  Or that when they are given attention, it will only be partly–as that is the track record I am used to.

So, after a lot of reflection, I have decided that like HT I will give a little more time to see if the promised changes actually materialize.  And I am reminding myself that if these changes and things I am waiting for don’t happen then I do have options I can use, and perhaps one of them will be finding a new hobby where I don’t feel quite so second-rate.

I promise a happier post next time 🙂

Mish Mash

That’s a good description for my mind right now.

It’s like the pictures in my head (I think in pictures) are all under water and I can’t clear them up.

The last 24+ hours has been a bit of a personal hell.  The side effects from the HT seems to have ramped up to super mode.  I went to bed exhausted at 630 pm last night, meaning I didn’t get any practice in.  I woke up briefly at midnight to a hot flash, then again at 430 for more than 1 hour of ‘cascading’ hot flashes (best description I can think of for repetitive and building).  I fell back asleep and work at 830 to go to work.  I have had constant nausea so bad gravol wasn’t keeping it at bay and it was keeping me awake as well.

If it weren’t for my apartment building undergoing massive roofing repairs and that I live on the top floor, I would not have gone to work.  But the only thing I could think of worse than how I felt was to feel that way while sitting around at home with nothing to do but listen to roofers pound and bang on my ceiling.  At least work was a distraction and my supervisor is well aware that I am not doing the best.

I have no focus or concentration.  I start reading things and find myself fading in and out.  I tried to write at work today (which is one of my main jobs), and I couldn’t put the words together.  It’s only 730 pm and I am ready to go back to bed.

I have had serious debates with myself over the last 48-hours if what I am going through is worth it.  Then I remembered that I have only been on the full dose of HT for 1 week.  It’s only been 1 WEEK.  It seems much longer.  I am trying to figure how much longer I can stand these side effects.  I feel like I did on my worse days of chemo :(.

I feel so weak and tired that any extra activity at the gym or practice has reached the point where it is not helping me, it is hindering me, so I have to stop going until I feel better.  My legs are a bit like rubber.

The small silver lining and hope I am clinging to is that when I was on the 1/2 dose, after almost 2 weeks I started to feel normal again.  So I hope that as I reach the 2 week mark next week, things will lessen. I am planning for a rocky weekend and trying to give myself at least until the 2 week mark to adjust to the new dose.

I am trying to keep myself busy in the meantime.  I am still thinking a lot about dance and costs and pro/am.  Big should out to The Girl with the Tree Tattoo and her ‘Dance Diaries’ books.  I won an advanced copy of her second book on ballroom budgeting and had a chance to read it over the last couple days.  For anyone doing dance, especially pro/am, I highly recommend reading her first book and checking out her second when it is published in the next little while.  I am not going to give away any secrets, but I will say that the second book on budgeting said a lot of things about the cost of dance and pro/am I have been thinking and providing just the things I needed to hear as I am trying to figure out what to do with the future.

I also had a fitting at Spirals Designs for my new competition dresses yesterday and that helped a little bit too.  I am excited about finally getting some new dresses and my new standard dress (which I call ’emerald wine’) is really coming together.  I had forgotten how rich the velvet looks and it felt amazing to try the dress on–even while trying to avoid getting poked with multiple pins :).  I am looking forward to my next fitting in a couple weeks.

This week has definitely been a challenge.  Only being able to practice once and strength training twice has been frustrating.  The amount of sleep I have been needing is daunting.  I think there is nothing worse than constantly feeling nauseous and not being able to really do anything about it–the gravol is just taking the edge off.

But I have to give my body time to adjust and even though I feel terrible, I still feel marginally better than the first time I tried HT.  I am trying to keep my strength together.  I noticed my resting heart rate is down today, so I hope that’s a sign my body is starting to adjust.  I have 2 days of virtually nothing ahead of me except rest.

I thought the hard part was behind me, but I am re-ordering my thinking so I can get through this too.Read More »

Dance crisis, or Hormone therapy?

I am having a couples days where it is hard to tell.  Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

I have noticed the last couple days that my mood is dropping and I am increasingly tired.  I am also plagued by headaches although the nausea has let up some.  With this drop in mood has come some very serious and deep thinking about dance–what I am doing, and what I would like to do.

It’s leading me to question whether I want to continue dancing when pro/am is the only option open to me for competing and as much as I might try I don’t see how I will be able to both afford pro/am and to reach my competitive goals–goals which seem to be only really open to dancers with partners.

Let me be clear–I love to dance.  Absolutely and truly love it.  I have from the moment I first started it more than 5 years ago.  I started without a partner and except for one leader who I regularly danced with in group classes when I first started I have never had an amateur partner.  I can’t even say I really wanted one after discovering pro/am as a possibility–as pro/am allowed me to truly focus on my dancing and myself, which is what I needed to do when I started dancing.

But with pro/am comes many frustrations–the first of which is money and second of which is sharing your professional instructor/partner with other students.

Where I live, the dance community is very am/am oriented.  There are very few pro/am students and none in my hometown in my age or category.  If I go to a local competition, I am very lucky if there is someone else to compete against.  If I want to ‘really’ compete, I have to travel to either the US or Eastern Canada–which is very costly–and include in my costs the fees for my professional teacher.  On top of that, pro/am entry fees compared to am/am entry fees are sometimes more than double.  Being pro/am, I need to budget $3-6,000 to go to a competition.  There are competitions here in my home province for am/am that cost couples less than $500 with all entry fees and travel costs included.

In the past 2 years while I have been sick, I have watched many of the am/am couples from my dance community compete in 5-6 competitions each year, some local, some further away, many of which have strongly contested heats.  Each time I see a competition for am/am I found myself looking at the pro/am division (if there was one) and calculating costs and seeing if I would have been contested.  Most of the time, the cost was more than $1000 just for a minimal number of dances (one in each dance and 1 scholarship), and there was no one competing in my age and level in pro/am.

It’s a very small dance community here and the majority of the am/am couples are couples in life as well as dance and over 50.  Beyond that, there are no leaders looking for partners who want to compete in 10-dance.  I even advertised looking for a male athlete who wanted to try a new competitive sport, but everyone who responded did not want to do dance.

So I find myself stuck.  If I want to dance competitively, then I need to pay and compete in pro/am.  I guess the question I am asking myself now is do I want to continue to dance competitively paying more than $20,000/year for a minimum of competitions, and can I afford to keep doing that?

As I move up in levels, I am increasingly finding that the time I spend working myself has less impact on my dancing.  I feel like there are huge gaps where the lack of time working with a partner is very obvious.  I can do and work on my own technique and steps, but at certain points they need to be done with a partner to get the proper idea of lead, balance, connection, etc.  Without that regular partner practice, it seems like those concepts will always be absent from my dancing.

I know for myself that I am very willing to put in the time and work to do well and get better at my dancing.  The problem I am facing is that I cannot afford the same amount of time working and practicing with my instructor, and even if I could, he would not have the time to put into my dancing–paid or not.  He has other students who also need lessons and practice.  His priorities are not the same as mine–even though he is committed to helping me try to reach my goals.  I will always be limited by my budget and my instructor’s time.

I am also looking at my goals and from very early on when I started dancing I wanted to be competitive as an open 10-dancer.  I look at the pro/am competitions in Canada though and I have yet to see one that offers a 10-dance option (I think one just added a 9-dance category), and there is no pro/am national competition in Canada.  I am also not aware of any recognized international pro/am championships.  There is no World 10-dance pro/am championship.

But there is for amateur couples.  Both nationally and internationally.  Pro/am does have the ‘World Pro/Am Dancesport Series’, but that is a point-based system that is more based on quantity than quality and it is necessary to compete almost monthly in order to even make the top-10.  In the end, that series really doesn’t tell you much about the quality of your dancing, just that you are capable and able to afford to dance a lot. Pro/Am champions seem to be based much more on how much you can dance rather than how well you can dance, and I have seen bronze-level dancers treated and recognized more than top-quality open-level dancers.

So with that in mind, what is my long-term goal then?  Do I keep working on the hope that as I progress in level I might one day find a partner able to dance at a similar level, who is not a professional, and willing to work as hard as I am to compete in Snr I open or older?  Do I hope that some day pro/am students will have their own championships based on quality of dancing similar to those of am/ams and pro/pro?

Am I willing to keep investing money into this sport based on could be, maybe and perhaps one day?  Or is it time to find a new sport to maintain my fitness, perhaps one that doesn’t require a partner or large piggy bank that has a very definite goal I can work towards.

I wish it could be enough for me to just compete against myself and be happy knowing I am one of the strongest pro/am dancers for my age and level in my province (due to lack of other options).  It is not–not for the amount of money I am investing in it.  One of the biggest things I enjoy about dancing, other than the pure joy of dancing itself, is knowing that the time and effort I am putting into it pays off not only for myself, but shows when I am compared with other people.  That there is an ultimate goal to work for–to be better than I was the day before and to have the example of others I am competing with to work against. Competition challenges me–to be better for myself, to have goals and to work to be a better dancer.

I am not sure if that makes sense, but it’s the competitive drive that keeps me working so hard, and has been my reason for working so hard from the start.  I think if it was enough for me to just dance I would have stuck with group classes and would have become a social dancer happy to be able to do a minimum of steps with so/so technique long ago.  I just wouldn’t be the dancer I am today.

Dance is a sport I love because it combines both the athleticism of a sport with the aesthetics of a fine art.  I started because I was looking for something I could do to improve my fitness that I would enjoy and had competition to keep me motivated, but also allowed me to express myself.

But now I am finding I am reaching a level where my goals are falling out of my reach because of circumstances I don’t have much control over.  I have cut my personal budget as much as I reasonably can and taken measures such as moving to a cheaper apartment and taken on a roommate to cover dance costs.  I have very few luxuries in my life, and those I do have are almost all dance related (like going out to social dances).  I am trying to make pro/am fit into my goals and life because I feel it is the only option I have.  But I am continuously finding myself wondering if I am sacrificing too much of the rest of my life trying to reach goals that might not actually exist in the pro/am world.

So that is a taste of the thoughts that have come swirling into my brain in the last couple days as my fatigue and mood has suffered from the HT. At least I hope it’s the HT (and probably it is a big part of it).

I think some of the other contributing factors are that because Boss is on vacation I am practicing completely on my own right now, and as I do I feel as though practicing on my own is just what I am fated to do.  I haven’t had a good practice session with Boss in more than 8 months.  Even in my lessons we rarely dance together as we have been focused on me working on technique.  Because of my health, I have been inconsistent with when I am able to go to lessons and somewhere in the last 6 months I began to feel left out and not as important as Boss’s other students who have been able to work and compete consistently while I was sick.  I do feel like sometimes when Boss needs to adjust or cancel a lesson it is my lesson that gets cancelled first, and I was admittedly hurt that in the end I wasn’t able to have a lesson the day before he left for vacation due to lack of time in the hall and the number of other lessons and classes he had that night.  It was like he forgot to include me and when he tried to last minute he couldn’t make it work.

I sometimes feel like because I am so willing to work on my own sometimes I get passed over for opportunities to work with others.  I mentioned to Boss about perhaps returning to group classes when he gets back, but his response was that there are already a lot of single ladies in the classes and too many for him to dance with them all.  He doesn’t feel the group classes would be much use to me as they are below my level and not in line with how I prefer to work.  All that is fair points, but it doesn’t help me in trying to find ways to dance more and dance more constructively.

Right now, I don’t even know when my next lesson will be.  I know when Boss is back, but in the shuffle of the time between my return after my last surgery and Boss’s vacation my lessons got moved around a lot, and many of them won’t work with my work hours.  I know that the evenings that Boss works are pretty full and that my lessons tend to get added to the beginning of his ‘day’.  So I just don’t know when he will have time to schedule my lessons now that I am back at work.

Because of all the health issues I have been facing, with the extra surgeries and recoveries, it almost feels like serious work in dance has been delayed and ‘put off’ waiting for the right time.  As soon as I started to come back after my last surgery, it was done knowing that in a short amount of time Boss would be away for vacation.  But looking back from there, I can organize my dance into small blocks going all the way back to my first surgery in December 2014.  It just seems like I never had enough time to really ‘get into’ anything consistent without something coming to break it up.  I do hope that when Boss gets back he and I will be able to sort out a regular schedule and goals to get me back on track.  I feel very derailed right now.

And all of that doesn’t help the frustration that I feel I need some concentrated practice time with a partner in order to keep moving forward, and that is just not available–with Boss or anyone else.

I know I am raising many of the frustrations many pro/am students feel and I am sorry to whine some.  I am really not sure what I will do right now although I find myself giving thoughts to some options–like leaving ballroom and taking up another form of dance like jazz or modern, or exploring a new sport like martial arts.  I know I would miss ballroom, but a large part of me wonders if I would feel happier and more fulfilled in a sport or activity where I can still be competitive, but I don’t need a partner, or to rely on paying a professional in order to do it–beyond lesson costs.

I don’t see how I can reconcile my fitness, competition and budget goals with continuing to do pro/am in ballroom dance with the restrictions on costs and practice time I am facing.

But for now, I am still trying to figure it out.