Quickstep

My lesson today was more than an hour on quickstep.

That’s a feat in itself.

It was good though because we were able to completely review the routine and work through some of the trouble spots.

Quickstep is interesting because while you need to know your steps, you also don’t really have the time to think about them, so you have to trust your feet know what they are doing as you move along.

My feet are not quite there yet.

One of the most revealing things from today was realizing that the quickstep routine is quite fragmented in my mind. I know it in sections – the sections I practice to fit in the smaller hall we normally work in. Today we were in a bigger hall that is closer to regulation size and that meant working to keep the routine moving – and immediately highlighted that once we switched to a new section my brain kept expecting to start.

I suspect there may be a similar issue in the other standard routines as well. One of the ways we will be fixing that is working in the bigger hall twice a month until competing – that should highlight all those gaps pretty quickly.

The other thing I noticed in quickstep, which I did notice in the work we did last week, was that there seems to be a lot of things coming together for me in standard right now. Its like my mind processed them over the break and they just make sense. There are a lot of ‘aha’ moments going on – especially when it comes to moving my body in standard.

For example, something that seemed to constantly elude me was my promenade position. I could hold it when I was standing on my own, but somehow whenever I put it into context it just didn’t manifest in the same way. Something was off, but I could never figure out why the two felt so different when they were meant to be the same. Somehow it pulled together for me and I know what I need to do to create the same feeling. For me, its more about thinking of pulling my left shoulder and elbow back instead of just facing forward. Somehow this thought locks the position into place. I think this has come from the tango work I did in Ottawa for some reason.

Its not consistent yet, but my mind is starting to consistently remind myself and check when I turn to promenade to see if the right feeling is there. I can feel muscle memory starting to develop. Working in quickstep today was really helpful as I feel like that is the dance where the position is the most crucial overall – without a strong position, the entire dance will fall apart due to the momentum and speed. It needs that support.

I had asked to work on quickstep specifically because I felt it was the one standard routine we just don’t quite have together yet. We haven’t really done any of it to the music and we haven’t yet gone all the way through it without a mini disaster.

Because quickstep is the last dance we do in standard and we are most tired when we do it (not to mention the momentum and pace of it), for me its really important that we have it down solid and feel confident and comfortable with it. Of all the routines, this is the one I need to know inside and out so that when I get to that point in a comp no matter how tired I am I know it is there.

Basically, I feel like if I can do the quickstep routine, then I can do any of them. The rest is almost gravy.

I predict a lot of quickstep in the future – although the progress seems to be moving quickly since we are concentrating on it. I also know that every adjustment we make in quickstep will translate into the other dances – especially the waltz and foxtrot.

Some other areas where my mind seems to be pulling things together are in my feet position (closing them just seems to happen easier now), keeping my knees bent, power, and my upper body position in general. Somehow it all seems different and better. I am not sure if its perception or perhaps just a change in focus in my mind.

Regardless, it seems like there has been a fundamental jump forward for me in standard and I am looking forward to see where it goes.

Quickstep is only the beginning.

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Running

I am not built to be a runner.

But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to do it. Or perhaps I should say fighting.

The fight is what I like I about running. No matter how much I might not want to do it, or how hard it is to get it done, the ‘runner’s high’ I get and the sense of accomplishment I feel after every running session reminds me that I am strong and can get stronger.

I call it a running session because I can’t run continuously. I do intervals. Right now I run for 1:30 and walk for 1 min for 14 intervals, 35 mins total. If I ran longer or did more, my body would fall apart. Already my knees are starting to protest, but as long as the protest stays consistent I should be able to keep going at this level.

I need to keep going at this level. I need to keep working on running for me. Even if I never get any better and my body never adjusts to the level I am running at right now, three times a week I am reaching a goal. I am getting out and going for run.

Today was a struggle for a run. It is raining steadily and only 6 degrees. Basically, it sucks outside. But I bundled up and headed down to the local high school track and got it done.

There are a lot of things that run through my head when I run, but when it comes down to it, every interval is a little victory.

The first two hurt the most. My body is still warming up and my knees are protesting the pounding. My lungs are also warming up and my mind is trying to settle in for the long haul. I always wonder if I will make it through the second interval.

Then the first 5 minutes are done. A goal is achieved and I get my ‘second wind’. My pulse still stays moderate during the runs, usually just high 150s and goes below 140 as I walk.

The next 2 intervals just happen. My watch buzzes when I need to start and I put one foot in front of the other until it buzzes for me to start walking again. I feel better and I feel stronger. It occurs to me that I have done 10 minutes. After 2 more intervals, it is 15 minutes done.

It is similar for the next two intervals. I focus on making that 15 minute mark and knowing that after 1 more interval means I am halfway done. I am halfway to my goal for the day.

I run through the halfway mark and remind myself that after every interval I have more runs behind me than in front of me. The number I have run is bigger than what I have left. If I can run that many to start, I can do less than that to end. Suddenly 20 minutes is done.

Around this mark, I start to feel meditative. The regular rhythm clears my head and allows me to think. I process things, sometimes I write in my head. Its great when I have work to do or am struggling with something. Today I wrote most of this post in my head.

As I round to 25 minutes it occurs to me that there are only 4 intervals left – only 4! But truthfully this is where the struggle really begins. I start to feel slower (although I may not slow down at all – it is mostly a perception). I wonder if I am walking further in a minute than I am running in a 1:30. I take a moment to pull my mind back, look at what I am doing, where I am ending, where I am starting and remind myself that in the end it doesn’t matter how far or fast I am going, it only matters that I am doing it.

Then I get to the penultimate interval, and it is absolutely the hardest. So close but yet so far from finishing. I am fighting with myself, usually bargaining and questioning if 14 intervals are really necessary (and I will admit it may not be – its just an arbitrary number). My pulse is hovering around 170 during the run and only slowing to about 155 during the walks. I feel drained.

But then I have it done and there is only one more left. 1:30 of running. That is it. I remind myself I can do anything for 1:30. I know that when I finish, the last minute of walking is to cool down and I will feel satisfied knowing I set a goal and achieved it. In some ways it is the easiest interval because it is the end.

Every time my watch buzzes it takes an effort to change my pace back to running. To keep it balanced I change direction every 5 minutes (also changes up the view). I push myself through every run and remind myself that I am a fighter and I am strong. Its what I need to do for myself. When its a running day I actually feel anxious until it is done wondering if I will find the time to fit it in and how it will feel. After I feel accomplished. I can do nothing for the rest of the day, but know I did something.

My body hurts and protests. The transition from the treadmill on the ship to tracks outside has shocked it some, not to mention the colder weather.

But Monday’s run left me tasting lactic acid in my mouth and coughing off an on the rest of the day – a sign I worked my cardio system really hard. The distance recorded on my fitbit was just over 3 km. Wednesday my lungs felt much better and there was almost no coughing after. My distance was much higher than I expected – 3.6 km. Today I felt like I was dragging myself from the beginning and s.l.o.w. But I recorded 3.7 km (no idea how accurate those things are), and got it done – no coughing, no taste of lactic acid. I actually burned less calories during the workout today (again, how accurate is that?) but it could be the different track. Regardless, I am adapting.

One foot in front of the other.

I might need to scale back to twice a week to keep my body from getting injured, especially once I pick up weight training and dance again, but I intend to keep running as part of my routine. Its a different challenge from dance, but one that seems to compliment it.

I will never be a runner. I will always admire those who can just run out and do 5 km without even thinking or trying. But I have my own way of doing it that makes sense for me and my body and it works. It leaves me feeling satisfied because I know I am doing something I want to do how I want to do it. I also know every run makes me stronger – a stronger person and a stronger dancer.

As I took my walks today, I could feel the rain hitting my face. I think I cursed every run I did. I even started out thinking I would only do 20 minutes because of the weather, but once I got that far there just didn’t seem to be a reason not to finish the entire 35.

Time for an Epsom bath and a couple days of active recovery (not to mention some dancing tomorrow).

Then on Monday I will be out running again.

I’m Back!

Actually I have been home just over a week, but needed some time to decompress.

It was a good sail although very tiring and stressful at times. I am glad to have it done, but it was also a rewarding experience.

Since I have been back, I have been trying to get back into the rhythm of my everyday life or at least trying to figure out what that is now. I have even had 3 lessons already as after being on the ship for so long I was eager to get back in the studio.

I am on vacation from work until Jan 8th, so in many ways that makes it a bit difficult to get back to ‘normal’. I am sure I will settle into a routine quick enough once I get back at work though. For now, I am relaxing and enjoying the break. I even have a break from school right now until January – then I start the final course of my Masters degree. In June I will graduate!!

On the dance front, Boss and I had some preliminary discussions about the next steps and we seem to be on the same page. The goal is to compete in late spring!

Returning to a competition means making a switch of mindset from development to competition preparation. There isn’t a huge difference, but it is an important one nonetheless. There is a time factor now for my goals and a lot of work to do in that time.

In many ways though, it feels good to have a comp goal again, even if a little daunting. Half the battle is setting the goal as I can tell I have fallen back into a ‘I won’t be ready’ mindset. But the way to overcome that is to know it is there, acknowledge it and understand that you will never feel ‘ready’, especially if you never set a goal for what ‘ready’ is. There will always be things to work on, but now I have set a time to put forth my best efforts at that time – whatever they may be.

I was anxious going back to my first lesson as I wasn’t sure what to expect. After 10 weeks of no studio time or work with Boss or a partner I didn’t know where I would be. I did a lot of work on the ship on very specific movements and techniques as well as some running intervals, but there really is no way to gauge how that would translate back in the studio. I wrote an article about my work on the ship and I will post it with some photos (and maybe some videos) in my next post.

It seems I did well in my work as Boss was quite pleased with the shape I was in when I got back. We reviewed a couple of latin routines and have been focusing some on standard since then. I think I processed a lot of the information from the coaching lessons I did just before I left and it is coming out in my lessons now. My first few lessons were a bit of evaluation, discussion and trial so a plan can be developed going forward.

I am still working out how I want to work in the future for dance and my fitness. As I mentioned, I did some running intervals on the ship (the treadmill was the best cardio option for me), and I was surprised that my knees tolerated it pretty well, but I hope that is the result of the work I have been doing to strengthen them. For now, my intent is to continue the running on land as much as my knees will tolerate. I run for 1:30 and walk for 1 min for 14 intervals (35 mins total). Transferring off the treadmill has taken some adjustment (its harder) but so far so good after 2 runs. We’ll see how that continues.

That is all for now, but I will write about my experience keeping up dance on the ship in my next post. The article I wrote was part of my requirements for the course I was doing for school.