Almost There

I can’t believe we fly for the competition tomorrow night.

For some reason it seems a little surreal. I feel really good heading into this competition. No, nothing will be ‘perfect’ (nothing ever is), but I know that I am as prepared as I am going to be and that I am stronger going into this competition than I have been since 2014.

That said, tomorrow night also still feels a million hours away.

I have been giving some thought as to what my own personal goals are for this competition. Basically, it is to do my best, complete every dance, and have fun. I deserve this and it is going to be great.

I have some legitimate concerns about endurance. All of my multi-dance events are scheduled in a row with no breaks between. That means I will do almost 20 dances in a row each day, pretty daunting considering I start struggling to get through 5 dances!

In the end, it is just a deep breath, visualizing my routines and keeping calm. I don’t need to over-do it, I need to stay relaxed and calm.

Easier said than done, right?

At least my heats are not at 7 am, they don’t start until 11 and noon each day which I definitely appreciate.

My new shoes should arrive today and I am going to pop home from work at lunch to see if they are they. I don’t have much time to break them in, but since they were ordered long-distance, I just hope they fit! 2 pairs are almost identical to shoes I already own, so it should be good. I have never worn standard shoes from this brand, but do have practice shoes from them. I will take both the new and old shoes with me, so I can adjust if needed.

One more lesson tonight to clean a couple of transitions, and then it is packing, one more day of work, and all focused on the competition.

The competition will include a pro showdance competition with 6 couples registered and more than anything I can’t wait to see that!

Almost there!

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Released

I will not be doing any more preventative cancer treatments.

The decision was made today with my oncologist. Initially, he wanted me to consider trying one of the other 2 hormone therapies I have not yet tried, but after we talked more he changed to waiting 6 months to try one of them. With more talk, we finally agreed that the side effects I experience from the hormone therapies were not worth the 10% reduction in risk they would give me.

So no restarting the hormone therapy. No HT side effects, no side effect preventing medications (with their own side effects), no more medications.

My only follow-up from now on are regular 6-month check-ups for the next 3 years until I am outside the 5-year high risk window. My overall risk of recurrence during this time is approximately 15-20%. The risk for a woman my age with no history is 5% (but with breasts and ovaries). My risk will never be that low again, even with treatments.

I feel like I was just officially handed my life back.

For some, any increased risk may seem to high, but for me the side effects took so much of my energy I couldn’t live my life. I am actually more afraid of the effect of the side effects than finding out I have cancer again.

That said, it wasn’t an easy decision. There was a lot to consider, pros, cons, advantages, disadvantages. It was a lot of discussion with my oncologist, but in the end this is the best decision for me.

I can’t live my life in fear of cancer coming back, and I can’t live my life experiencing the side effects I was having.

This may have been an easier decision for me than my oncologist expected. When it comes down to it, the thought of recurrence is not one I dwell on. I have done a lot to reduce my cancer risk, but they are the basic things expected–chemo, radiation, surgery. If I didn’t have side effects from the HT I would still be doing it.

When it comes to cancer, I chose from the beginning not to live in fear.

I don’t have any regrets from my life. I have been very lucky, had lots of ups and down, but I don’t feel like there is anything unfinished. It’s not that I am ready for my life to be over–far from it–but if fate determines that cancer is to be a part of my future I don’t feel I have or could have control over that. I had no (known) risk factors before I was diagnosed, but I still found a lump and began this journey.

I can only live my life as best as I can right now and take the future as it comes. I was not able to do that while undergoing the hormone therapy and that is reason enough to not do more HT.

I don’t know what the future holds, but in the meantime I am ready to continue rebuilding my life. I am ready to embrace the whatever challenges the future holds as I am now and I feel like I have been given final permission to put cancer behind me and move forward.

I feel released from the hold cancer has had on my life.

It’s been almost 3 years coming.

Refinding my strength

I had an interesting revelation 2 weeks ago.

I was practicing and I noticed something was feeling different. Or rather, I was noticing something I hadn’t realized had been missing.

I could feel strength in my body.

For the first time in almost 3 years I could feel the strength moving through my body from my feet to my head and back down into the floor. It was like my muscles just suddenly woke up and realized they have a job to do.

It’s a hard feeling to describe and since I am a very tactile person it is probably more obvious to me than those who are less so, but in many ways this is where I draw my power from. I use this feeling through my body to push down into the floor and move my entire body.

For me, that is what ‘feeling grounded’ means.

It took me a while to figure out what I was feeling, but it also took a bit of time to realize I have to use it properly and exercise some control.  Some speed came back with it that I didn’t expect, and I have spent the last 2 weeks fighting a tendency to get ahead of the music–especially in cha cha and quickstep–something I don’t think was possible even a month ago. Paying attention to that, I think my movement have also gotten a bit sharper.

I don’t know why this sensation came back all of a sudden, it could be a number of things–the ‘magic’ 2 years post radiation milestone, 2 years post major surgery, adjusting to the hormonal changes from my last surgery, general recovery. Likely it’s a combination of things, but I am not going to dwell on it.

It’s a good time to have it though as I am competing on Friday (this FRIDAY!) and Saturday. I had a good run-through of standard at the rounds practice yesterday and it was easy to see where the work on my endurance is starting to pay off.  I was not tiring and ‘dying’ so soon yesterday and when I was, there were times I was able to recover and finish strong.

We did a latin run-through on Friday which was a little bit disastrous a I kept blanking on routines, and styling, but our second time through was smoother. We will do another latin run-through tonight I hope will be better.

After tonight, I have one more lesson before the competition, so right now it is mainly things that can be fixed short-term, cleaning, and run throughs.  I am excited to get out on the floor again but I can’t say I have much as far as expectations.  I just want to go and enjoy myself and see how it goes. If I can keep myself ‘calm’ and from ‘trying too hard’ there is potential for some good dancing.

As I continue on this journey, it does amaze me as I recover things I didn’t know I had lost. This feeling of strength is one of them and I can’t wait to keep building on it after this competition to prepare for the next one.

The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.

Latin reset

Sometimes you don’t know you are missing something until you discover it.

It’s been a busy week for me. I was traveling for work, and after returning Friday I went to visit with a friend for the long weekend.

One of the things I did while I was traveling for work was to take advantage of being somewhere new and to take coaching lessons.  I managed to fit 3 lessons into the short time I was there, but the exciting thing was that the couple I was working with are one of my favourite latin couples–and people I have wanted to work with for a long time.

I did one lesson with the lead and 2 with the follow and all 3 were absolutely amazing!

I have only once worked with a coach other than Boss on latin, and that was for one lesson while the others were focused on smooth. I have never worked in latin with another male dancer. In three lessons I was able to put together more than 3 pages of notes and felt like a sponge soaking up information.

Before I left, I had discussed with Boss some topics to focus on during my lessons and we sent 3 videos of cha cha, samba and paso for them to review ahead of time.  We decided to focus on connection and styling–both of which turned out to be exactly what I needed.

I feel like it has been quite a while since I have worked on more than just sequence of steps in latin as most of my lessons with Boss recently have been focused on standard and taking advantage of the progress I am making there.

In all honesty, I have felt a little bit like I was ‘spinning my wheels’ in latin and lacking some specific points to focus on. One week I would challenge myself with one thing, but then I would switch to something else and mainly I just kept working through my routines to get the choreography down.

The lessons with the coaches help to give me a new focus for latin and several new points to focus on which I really needed. Styling has been a big issue for a long time, but I felt I was lacking some specifics to focus on. Now I have a lot of specifics and I can’t wait to spend some time working through the things we talked about.

Eye contact, especially with my partner, was one of the really big things brought up in the lessons. I have always had problems with this, as when I work alone I tend to retreat into myself and look down when I think. It’s not that I haven’t been told to keep my eyes up before, part of it is just not being ready to commit to it. I can’t say for sure that I am really ready to commit to it, but it has become enough of a problem that it is officially annoying me.

I worked on arm movement with both of them, but with the lady we were able to work through the beginning of my cha cha and samba to ‘clean’ my arm movements and strengthen what I am doing so it is less ‘flappy’ and busy. We worked through a couple different options and came up with some solid movements for me to work through on my own.

I was also given exercises, both for connection and styling, but are diverse enough to include other aspects of technique (like weight transfer).

One of the most significant topics I discussed with the lady was that of using my body in my styling. Not only moving it, but also touching it, and touching it with commitment and purpose. She even gave me some exercises to develop a habit of doing this to work it into my routines and so that it looks (and feels) more natural. We had a discussion about why strong solid touch is preferred to doing something like a ‘shadowed outline’ and she pointed out it displays a difference in confidence, emphasizes the body shape, and shows commitment to the styling. All very logical reasoning.

I could go on for hours about all the different things we covered in the lessons, but to keep this short, I want to go back to my title. After doing these lessons I feel very renewed and reset when it comes to latin. I have some very specific things to focus on and build on, I feel I have some new goals (eye contact being at the top of the list), and it has renewed my enthusiasm and invigorated me for the future.

I really hope to work with this couple again soon. Among other things, I just had a blast and had fun digging into latin in as much detail as I tend to work in standard.

It’s less than 2 weeks to my next competition, so I don’t expect to be able to incorporate everything I want to do, but I hope at least some of the work will be able to come through.

I can’t believe it is only 2 weeks until the competition though. I feel like I have so much to do before then! My nerves are settling in a little and I know that practice next weekend will certainly ‘set the stage’ for me. Because I was away, I didn’t do practice this weekend, but although I am a little nervous about that I am also glad as well.  It forced me to relax and take a step back before the final push to the competition.

The couple I worked with will also be at the competition I am going to and I can’t wait to see them dance in person. I have always watched them on video or live stream, so seeing them compete live is going to be an extra bonus to the competition I am going to.

I am really happy I was able to schedule the coaching lessons into my work trip. It was a tiring trip, but so so worth it!

An inconvenient truth

No one ever talks about specifics.

I am talking about the cost of doing competitive pro/am dance. A lot of people talk about generalizations–like it’s expensive and you have to include this, this, and this….

But expensive is a relative term. What is expensive for me might be cheap for you and vice versa.

So here are some ranges of dollars ( in Cdn$):

Private lessons: $65-$150 each. Coaching can be more.

Competitions:

Eentry fees: $25-50 for single dances. $60-80 for 3-dance events, $75-150 for 5-dance events, $200-300 for a 10-dance event. Most scholarships require a minimum of 5 additional single dances to qualify (4 for smooth).

Pro fees: $10-75 per dance, depending on the pro and how he prices (it could be per event or even day).

All these fees are based on my research and experience. Feel free to fact check, but I have tried to provide an average range.

The above fees are paid individually.

Additional fees that are usually split between students:

Pro incidentals and travel such as flights, hotel rooms, ticket fees, meals.

If you are the only student, you pay for it all, PLUS your own flights, hotel, meals and tickets.

For amateur couples, consider these fees (usually split by the couple):

Private lessons: $65-150 per hour

Comp fees: $25-75 per event (usually 2-5 dances, same fee regardless of number of dances)

Flights, hotels, meals and tickets.

I hope this illustrates the gap some.

Additional info:

Most scholarship prizes range from $200-50 depending on comp size and placing (there are a couple higher exceptions). BUT, consider most entries for these events are $100-150 each + 5 $35-50 single dances + pro fees.

I haven’t included other costs, like shoes, dresses, esthetics.

I don’t mean to be discouraging, but I want to provide some info for those considering competing in pro/am So you do so with eyes wide open.

The comps I have done have cost me between $2000-12000 each on their own without factoring in lessons, shoes, dresses and esthetics (like hair, make-up, mani, pedi, jewellery). That is just the total I pay organizers, Boss, and for my own travel and accommodations.

Coaching is another additional cost that may come up.

It takes me 3-6 months to save enough for a Comp, depending where it is. Often, it is more.

It’s not pretty, but those are some numbers. If you have questions please ask.

I am competing in 3 weeks in Canada doing more than 60 dances over 2 days and it cost me just over $3000 with another student sharing pro incidentals.

It’s still worth it to me to do what I love.

The Myth of Pro/am closed gold

I have discovered an unexpected aspect of pro/am.

There is a self-perpetuating cycle where there are almost no closed gold pro/am events. One of the main reasons there are no events is that there is no demand for them; no competitors. The main reasons there are no competitors? Lack of other competitors and events.

And so it seems the circle goes.

I discovered this when I was doing research into some potential competitions. I was very surprised to discover that there were almost no closed gold multi-dance or scholarship events in most of the competitions I was looking at.

Intrigued, I asked one organizer and posed a question to a pro/am forum I participate in.

The organizer said he stopped offering the events because no one was registering for them. The pro/am students said they weren’t competing in them because no one else was and they were rarely offered.

Because of this, most students said they just ‘jumped’ from silver to open.

It was also pointed out that there isn’t really a syllabus for gold in American style. The NDCA only has a list of restrictions (such as no entrances, no separations for more than 4 bars).

The bottom line to this is that I have had to rethink my current competition goals. I was going to focus on closed gold now that I am able to get back to competing consistently, but if there are no events, and no competition, there is really no point.

The competition I was going to do in the spring not only doesn’t have anything except single dances for closed gold, but it also significantly raised the prices for 2018. The combination of the two together, led me to decide to take it off the table as an option.

I discussed the issue with Boss as I want to have an idea of what is next after the competition in 3 weeks, and he had an interesting suggestion which we have combined with one of mine.

My time spent in silver was completely during the time I was sick. I really only did one competition in silver, and my routines were more bronze at that time. It was right before I was diagnosed. When it comes down to it, I basically haven’t done any competing in full silver. If I was an amateur competitor who collected points to determine my competitive level, I would have almost none for silver.

So that was what Boss proposed: that I consider competing in closed silver for syllabus level at the next few competitions and see how I place. We have some closed silver routines, and they could be modified to be more like competitive routines and less test routines. The goal would be to keep them short so they could also be used as drills and practice for the future.

The real focus would be on developing and learning open routines and steps for competing in open competitions and to begin to work at the open level.

It’s an interesting idea. Since I haven’t had an opportunity to really compete in silver, I really have no idea how I would do. I can let the results speak for when to leave silver behind. The gold steps I like can be part of the open routines.

I will still do my gold test when Boss thinks I am ready and it is able to be scheduled. Like the silver test I just did, we can spend some concentrated time working on gold routines to prepare for the test.

The part of this that was combined with my own proposal was a suggestion that we consider doing a competition earlier in the new year that would be cheaper than the one in the US we were looking at. The information for that competition isn’t out yet, but once it is we will look at it closer and decide then. After that comp, would be about 6 months until the next comp I want to do–a nice long time to keep developing the open routines and strengthening my dancing overall.

The small wrench is that I will be away from dance for about 2 weeks at the end of November as I will finally have my surgery to complete my reconstruction. It’s almost all ‘surface work’ and no muscle involvement, but it will still require time to recover. I will talk about that closer to the date.

So this unexpected twist in pro/am competitions has meant rethinking my approach to competing in order to align with what happens in practice versus theory. That said, now that I am clear on the next steps, I have 3 weeks to focus on my next competition which will be with my full gold routines I have been working on.

The future will of course include continuing to focus on building my fitness and endurance, but I feel a bit better about that since taking the step back yesterday. I feel much better and less drained after my lesson yesterday, so I am hoping that will translate into a strong rounds practice tomorrow.

I feel almost like a mythical creature aiming to do full gold routines at my next competition.

Perhaps I will shine like a unicorn 🙂

Disappointing myself

I am not, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling like I am.

It’s been a rough week for me.

My hormones started acting up on the weekend, giving me vivid and disturbing dreams and effecting my sleep. That made me tired overall. Coupled with that, this week has been ‘hot flash’-a-palooza with hot flashing coming 2-3 an hour–something else that has been sapping my energy. The amount I am sweating makes it hard to stay hydrated and that leaves me with a headache that won’t seem to go away.

All of that drain on my system has left me emotional, unfocused, unable to concentrate and unmotivated. Not to mention exhausted. It’s been a bad combination when the last thing I do every day is dance, since work gets first crack at my energy (and it has been using a lot of it).

It’s meant very difficult lessons, especially Wednesday and last night–to the point where I feel they have been pretty much unproductive.

I did start feeling a bit better yesterday and I slept much better Wednesday night, but work on Thursday literally had me running all over the place. It would have been an exhausting day for anyone.

Backing up a little, Monday’s lesson seemed to go ok. We worked on some pieces in foxtrot and waltz that needed cleaning and we did 7 rounds of Viennese Waltz. We actually worked on improving VW as we were doing it, focusing on fixing the sway, amount of travel, rotation and other things. Even though I was tiring, the way I was doing the dance seemed to improve throughout the lesson. I left the lesson feeling things clicking into place–not just in VW but for other standard dances.

Wednesday, we started out with a discussion about future competitions because I had noticed something (will elaborate in my next post) that warranted considering a change in approach after this competition coming up.

After that, we looked at latin, beginning with adding a piece to our cha cha so it is a bit longer. We managed to get the piece worked out, but my mind and my body were not quite communicating. We would work on a step and Boss would show me how to do it, but my body just refused to do it. I just left it for something for me to work on myself. After that, we had to look at another piece where our arm styling didn’t quite match because Boss wanted to do a hold for a bar, but I hadn’t planned for it so we kept missing it.

Then Boss told me he didn’t like the styling I was doing on one of the steps just before that piece and that hit me hard. I had spent more than 30 mins in a practice trying to figure out something to do for that step that wasn’t just me flapping my arms around, and I had been working on that styling for more than a month. Boss showed me some options for what he would prefer and honestly, I hated them all. They were too busy–exactly what I had been trying to avoid–and his main point was he didn’t want me holding my hands in one position. I spent another 30 mins during practice trying to come up with an option somewhere between and still have nothing.

The whole thing really shouldn’t be so difficult to fix, but it made me really upset and now I have no idea what to do.

After that, we worked out a section of paso where our arms weren’t matching and that went ok, except now coming out of that section I keep doing something strange (funny how arms can mess up the feet!). That I should be able to work out.

We ended the lesson working on a step in paso called ‘the twists’. I had thought I was actually doing pretty good on this step, but apparently I am not really. We didn’t get much time to focus on it.

I stayed for practice after, but other than trying to work out the cha cha hands (which I didn’t want to do, and seemed to just be spinning my wheels over), I couldn’t seem to find a single thing I wanted to work on. So, I did a lot of nothing. I worked over the beginning of the cha cha, reviewed the hands for paso and stood around a lot trying to figure out what to do. I just felt frustrated in general with my lack of focus and that upset me more, and I felt like my lesson hadn’t been very productive and then it was followed by an even less productive practice.

Thursday got even worse. As I said, I felt better Thursday morning, but by the end of my work day I could feel I was exhausted. I seriously considered canceling my lesson that night and just going to bed, but with Wednesday’s lesson being so bad, and only so many lessons until the competition, I figured that going and doing something would be better than skipping and doing nothing.

I am pretty sure I was wrong about that.

I could feel my mind being unfocused and scattered before I arrived. We started with a follow-up to our conversation on Wednesday, and that led to Boss telling me that during our VW rounds on Monday, while I started out better, I was tiring much quicker than during the previous week and the rounds practice on Sunday, and that I had to find a way to do better.

I was a little surprised because I had thought that overall the rounds had gone better on Monday and that I had been stronger. I know I was putting everything I had into them. It wasn’t a good way to start a lesson that would include more intervals.

Then the real problems started. we went back to working on the twists in paso and trying to get me to do all the movements I need to do. It was a disaster. Boss would tell me what I needed to do, I would agree, we would do it and nothing would happen. So he kept asking for more. I would try to do more. And nothing would happen. No matter what I tried to do, my body absolutely would not respond to what I was asking. Even simple things like keeping my head out or stepping on a straight leg–nope, wasn’t happening.

I just kept getting more and more upset the more we worked on it and Boss kept getting more frustrated because nothing was happening. Eventually, we just left it.

Then we went to start the VW intervals. Before we even started my mind was screaming it was a terrible idea. But I really wanted to try and do something productive in my lesson.

It was a huge mistake. My body stopped working after about 15 seconds. My mind shut down after 30s. At 45s, there was really no reason to continue, and I truly think that if I had finished the entire 1:30 round I would have collapsed. I literally felt myself shut down.

I was devastated. I had to leave the hall to collect myself because at that point I felt like a complete failure. My main goal for myself before this competition is to increase my endurance so I can get through a 5-dance event. And I can’t even do the exercises needed to begin to address that.

I was honestly ready to just go home, even though there was still 30 mins left to my lesson.

I stayed, and we worked on reviewing the cha cha and working out the new piece a bit better, and a step in jive, spanish arms, I had been struggling with. By the time we finished, the spanish arms seemed to be in a better place, but again I kept being unable to do what Boss was asking me.

Needless to say, I didn’t stay for the group class, and went to bed early last night.

I am hoping that writing out some of my frustrations will help settle me down. I have a lesson again tonight and I want to get through the VW rounds. I want to do something productive in my lesson and be able to work like I usually do.

I just don’t know if my mind and body are going to cooperate for that today.

I don’t work today, so that will help and I slept about 10 hours last night. I seem to be having less hot flashes today, although it is still early. I was going to practice at the hall today, but a big part of me is still saying ‘practice what?’ Even running through all my routines wouldn’t feel very productive right now.

So I am going to just do my lesson and see how it goes. If I am going to get anywhere close to being ready for this comp in 3 weeks, I need to get past this training hump and wall. I need to chalk this up to a bad week and move on.

Next week will be a bit disjointed. I am traveling for work, so I will have lessons with Boss only on Monday and Friday. I won’t have rounds practice on the weekend either as I will be away visiting a friend for Thanksgiving. Perhaps the break is what I need.

I think the thing that is disappointing me the most right now is that I was getting back into ‘full training mode’ and feeling really really good about it and this week is a huge set back from that. And I feel powerless to do anything about it. I try to push myself like I used to and instead of responding, my body shuts down. I don’t know how to deal with that. It’s worse because my mind seems to be shutting down with it, leaving me with nothing to even fall back on.

I am also concerned (and pretty much suspect) that Boss will decide it is all too much and start scaling back everything we are doing. I don’t want to do that as I need my body to adjust and get used to doing more.

I think that is one of the biggest issues. It’s been 2 weeks since there was a significant change in my activity levels (both work and dance), and it feels like I am sitting on an edge with a choice–I can retreat (which feels like giving in), or I can keep pushing and force myself to adjust. I think while I was sick, I gave in too much and my body and mind expects that.

As I said in a previous post–usually only the first two weeks suck. Well, this is week 2 and my body has pretty much thrown in every wrench it can think of to get me to back down.

And it is the fact that I am considering doing so that is disappointing me. Because that would be giving up.

And I know I am stronger than that.

Help for Baby Nikita

We all started dancing somewhere.

For me, it was January 2011 and I had decided as a birthday present to myself to once and for all start ballroom dance–something I always wanted to do. I made myself go to a studio and sign up for group lessons. I never looked back.

Something that sticks with you is your first teacher, or in my case teachers.  My first few classes were taught by a combination of a young Ukrainian dancer and a more experience female dance assisting. Unfortunately, after a few lessons, the Ukrainian dancer had to leave the studio, so the female instructor’s taught the remaining classes with her husband.

That couple was Oksana and Yuriy Shelkovvy, former Canadian Professional 10-dance champions and two dancers I have never forgotten. We were able to reconnect at the competition I did in 2014 (where they were also competing) just before my diagnosis, and they have been helpful since, only 2 weeks ago helping me to connect with a coach I hope to work with while away for work next week.

Last week, Oksana and Yuriy’s 8-week-old son Nikita suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while in their car, and was able to be revived through the help of strangers.  You can read their story here.

Nikita continues to struggle and has had additional episodes since then resulting in a hospitalization that is looking to be long-term as doctors try to find the cause. As self-employed instructors who run a studio, unexpected time away from the studio means less income. The dance community is rallying, and a ‘gofundme’ page has been set up.

I am appealing to you to consider helping this dance family. As someone who knows first hand how difficult unexpected illness (let alone of a child!) can be, I know how much even a little support can feel like the world.

You can give through this link: https://www.gofundme.com/for-nikitathe-tiny-dancer

Thank you so much in advance for your support!

The little things

I had my first ’rounds’ practice today in more than a year.

There were some small victories I want to celebrate.

I made it through the entire practice without completely dying and using my frame. I even had a little energy left over.

I missed the final quickstep because I had a blister pop quite badly during the foxtrot just before. That’s what happens when you don’t wear competition shoes for 9 months–you forget where the ‘rub’ spots are.

I made it through 2 Viennese Waltzes in the centre of 5 dances for 1:30 without having to stop, and still being able to move through the dance. Boss even commented on how it was better from Thursday. I thought I wouldn’t even get through the start of the second one as I felt I was exhausted after the waltz and tango, but I surprised myself by being able to muster my energy and dance the entire way through.

I did have some difficulties (aside from 3 blisters). My left side tired much quicker than I expected in standard. I was much more tired for the second round of latin than I expected. Once my body tires out, I lose the muscle memories of my routines and start missing things. My upper body also starts to collapse making it harder for me to follow and respond to Boss’s lead.

The rounds gave me an opportunity to experiment with moving my upper body and using my head in standard. It was inconsistent, especially at the beginning, but I think it started to settle out some by the final rounds. It’s something I will need to continue to work on more, and a big part of it is needing to become more comfortable with what I can do.

Overall, Boss also seemed pleased with how things went, although we will have to discuss some points more tomorrow during my next lesson. At least for me, it seems Quickstep is the weakest dance/routine, followed by tango. A big victory was going through the paso routine at full speed (for the first time), twice. The second time I was even able to add some power to my steps and it seemed there was shaping.

The latin routines went well, although the first round was a little rough. We were able to identify spots in 3 routines where we have to agree better on the hands and hold, and it turns out that the cha cha routine is shorter than we expected (we made it through almost 2 full loops in 1:30).

Hopefully subsequent practices will only build on today’s and things will become stronger and smoother as we get closer to the competition. 4 more weeks to go.

I do want to say that I found something today I didn’t fully realize I had lost. The we did today was strong and intense, but underneath, I was enjoying myself more than I had in a very long time. I had a moment where I felt pure joy.

It’s definitely the little things.

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.