Sweat

Seems like an odd topic for a post, but there it is.

Why? Because this is something that seems to be permeating into my dance in ways I didn’t expect.

One thing I have learned about sweat is that the fitter you are, the more you sweat and in more places. I guess as your body gets stronger it also gets more efficient at cooling itself – and that means sweat.

What is significant about sweat for me right now is the variety of places I am finding I am sweating as I work – whether in the studio or the gym.

Case in point – I am having issues right now with my side planks. Not because they are difficult, but because my forearms and elbows are sweating so much I keep sliding on the mat making them harder to hold. Its even an issue when I take the time between sets to mop off my arm and the mat.

Another place I am sweating a lot I didn’t expect are my knees. Anyone else get sweaty knees? I noticed today I had wet marks on my pants from where my knees were sweating through the fabric.

All of this to say that despite how inconvenient it may be (especially as I soak through a pair of practice shoes each night at dance making me prone to blisters), it is also a sign that my body is slowly getting stronger.

The last time I noticed myself sweating this much and in so many different places, was back well before I got sick when I lost my first round of weight. I guess in some ways I am equating them both together and that one is a sign of the beginning of a return to another.

Regardless, it appears that sweat is good.

Advertisements

Over-thinking

I am getting in my own way.

I am at a point now where I am trying too hard to put everything together and capture all the little details in every thing I do. Beyond that, I am trying so hard that in some instances I am overdoing things – because my body is already what its been trained to do naturally.

Its slowing me down and making me heavy at times. I am thinking so much as I dance that my mind can’t keep up with the music. It is also making me tense through my upper body.

I just need to relax and trust that my body will do what it is trained to do.

It sounds easy, but truthfully, I am not very good at letting go. I can’t see what my body is doing and because I am so used to a lot of the movements I don’t necessarily feel my body doing them.

At my lesson tonight the problem first showed up in the open samba. Once Boss pointed out that I should just relax a little and focus on my feet instead of my body things seemed to get better. I also felt a bit faster and lighter overall. The trick was to shift my focus from my body to my legs.

Later in the lessons we reviewed the silver latin routines and the same issue seemed to be creeping up. Again, my focus was on my body and that was making me heavy, especially in my feet. Once I lightened up, it seemed to go smoother.

My body is also really starting to know the routines well – again if I would just trust it to move. I was running through all the silver routines on my own today and with the exception of Quickstep (which is still confounding me), they are really coming together on my own. I could really feel where I am getting in my own way. I ran through them all with the music except tango and foxtrot (I didn’t have any music for them with me), and once I stopped trying to think through every step they started running smoother.

What really surprised me was that once I let go of thinking too much, I suddenly found myself remembering small little details I didn’t have time to think of when I was trying to think of everything.

Funny how that works.

In general, my solo practice felt more like I was taking ownership of the routines tonight. They felt more solid and less like I was scrambling. I definitely felt more confident working through them (except the before mentioned quickstep). My next goal is to slowly start adding the open routines to my self-practice to get them also to the same level of confidence. I was there with them before and I can get there again.

If I just stay out of my own way.

Speed

I can feel myself lacking this.

On Friday after my lesson I worked on running through the silver routines, and in particular I tried to do the latin routines with the music.

Oy. That was a sobering moment.

In all the routines, except for rumba (and even moments there), I generally felt really heavy and slow. In cha cha in particular it felt like I was constantly scrambling to get my legs moving.

It was a little disappointing because I know that once upon a time I prided myself in being able to run all my routines in time with the music and speed used to be one of my greatest assets in latin.

Now I just feel like I am constantly behind and no matter how hard I try my legs just wouldn’t keep up. My body wouldn’t move and I felt a bit like a lead block. It was honestly the first time I tried to do any routine in time with the music in quite some time, so I am looking at it as a first step which will get better every time I do it.

That said, the major victory for the week was getting through the open paso in time with music up to speed without any major stops or disasters. It was rough, the styling was pretty much non-existent, but we were able to do it a few times at the end of my lesson on Friday.

The other small victory this week was that I was finally able to work through the silver standard routines on my own. I haven’t tried to put them to the music yet, but I was have constant issues just putting all the steps together in time with the music. The silver quickstep is still a bit of an issue, but at least there is a starting point.

Yesterday we focused on standard in the bigger hall during my extra lesson. We started with running the silver routines which went really well, and they we walked through the open paso and samba to see how they fit in a bigger hall for the alignments. After that, we ran through the open waltz, tango and worked some on the open quickstep to finish the lesson.

One of the issues we are encountering right now is that both our open waltz and tango had lines that were too long for the hall. We have had to cut a few steps out of each line and to realign the start a little to make them fit. Its still a bit of a work in progress, and I am sure we will finish adjusting the routines this week.

The open quickstep didn’t go too bad, but the main issue was that neither I nor Boss had worked on it in a while, so it was just rough. Its top of the list for my lessons this week.

The one routine where speed is really concerning me is jive. I just can’t imagine the routine at the speed it needs to go.

That’s actually one of the issues I am finding right now – in my head all of the routines in are slo-mode. My head can’t visualize them at the speed they need to be because in all honestly its been quite a while since I have really done any routines at the proper speed in some of the dances. The dances themselves have become slow in my head and that is not helping me get up to speed.

But the hardest part of fixing a problem is recognizing there is one. At least I have done that.

The only place to go from here is faster.

Off and Running

Well, not running, but dancing.

Yesterday I had an extra lesson with Boss in a bigger hall so we could concentrate on our open standard routines.

It was a great lesson and one I really needed.

We really didn’t stop during the lesson. We were able to run through the Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot routines, as well as the silver Foxtrot (which needed some adjustments for the bigger hall).

It was a lot of starting and stopping to begin with, but slowly we were able to work through all 3 routines and we did most of them twice through without stopping during the lesson.

By the end of the lesson, I really felt like jelly. We ended by going through the Waltz which we started with and while we got through it, it was a struggle almost from the beginning of that dance to keep things together.

The best thing about yesterday’s lesson is that I felt like for the first time in a long time that I was able to start incorporating all the details we have been working on during all my lessons into the full routines. It was only a beginning it was it was like an on-going session of things clicking into place.

Essentially, the intent from now until the competition is to do more of the same – regularly running through the routines where we can. Its going to be intense, but I am looking forward to it overall. Feeling things click together in my brain and coming out as we dance is a good feeling. Its not perfect, but at least there is something happening.

For myself, I found that focusing on one or two things per dance and seeing how much I could incorporate them really helped to keep me grounded throughout the lesson.

We didn’t have time to get to the Quickstep, so that will probably be first on the list for the next lesson. We have done Quickstep in that hall before so I am not as anxious about it as I have been. I still need to review it, but I know I can do it, so that is a good start.

On Friday night, we were able to sit down briefly and go over the plan until the competition and get on the same page. We weren’t far off, we just needed to clarify some lesson schedule and the intent with the lessons overall.

Boss also asked me to flag any pieces I want to review and go over, so I am giving some thought to that today.

One thing I will say is that I am definitely still adjusting to having school done. I am not used to having so much free time! I am using it to review my routines and get them into my brain and my legs, and enjoying the time to focus on dance. Its really been a long time since I have been able to do that.

I was also able to do the entire lesson yesterday in my competition shoes. Thankfully no blisters, although by the end of the lesson I could feel a little bit of rubbing happening due to the amount my feet were sweating. I actually haven’t worn them since competing in fall 2017. They felt really good though.

I did discover one shoe woe this week. At some point during my lesson with the coach on Wednesday I actually broke one of my practice shoes! I went to wear them at my lesson on Friday and kept feeling a bump under my heel. I took them off and discovered it was one of the screws and that the heel of the shoes was almost completely falling off. I guess its off to the cobblers for me as these are my newest practice shoes that are not yet even a year old. I hope they can fix them!

Competition preparations have started and we have an ambitious plan to get there. All the pieces are coming together slowly, and it will be interesting to see how far the preps can get before we get to the competition floor.

We are off and running.

Catching Up

I’m back!

I wasn’t really away that long, but I have been so busy I have been away from writing. For that I apologize.

I’ve been bogged down with work and finishing off my masters degree and I am happy to say that work is giving a bit of a break and my final assignment has been submitted!

Last week was a much needed vacation, although it was not without its own drama when airline delays meant we missed our cruise ship and had to be rerouted over two days to the first port! We joined the ship only 2 days late and had a great time from there, but it was hectic to say the least.

This week I had a great opportunity to work with one of our Canadian pro latin vice champions over 6 lessons and honestly it was a lot of what I needed. He is amazing to work with and I highly recommend if you have an opportunity.

I lost a lot of training momentum while I was deployed this fall and then with the Christmas break, first my hip then my back injuries, menopause issues affecting my concentration and focus, snow days and Boss getting the flu – well I just haven’t been able to really organize myself and get back into a regular groove of things. I also completely changed my strength training routines to better support weight loss and my goals, and finished my masters with a very high intensity course requiring a lot of my time to get through.

I am not completely comfortable with where I am personally when it comes to preparing for this competition. I don’t feel like I know even the sequence of my routines (which is very unusual for me) and when I do learn them, I seem to keep forgetting them. My own practice has been almost non-existent because I don’t feel structured or like I have a plan when I go to do it (also unusual for me).

But now with a lot of the outside pressures out of the way, I am looking forward to spending the next 50 days or so focused on preparing for Emerald Ball. Training itself is ramping up with extra lessons and starting to focus on rounds and run-throughs.

Despite my concerns and disappointment in myself, there are some silver linings. Among other things, I was able to work through 6 pretty intense lessons without my strength and stamina failing me too much. I was actually quite surprised and impressed with myself for that. I was able to take away a lot from my work with the coach and it helped to solidify some of the routines I was really unsure of – like paso. That has helped me feel better overall about where I am.

The main thing I really need to nail down for myself right now is some structure to organize myself until the competition. I know Boss has his own plans and they’ll get us there, but I do feel like I am not pulling my own weight and doing my part – at least as much as I am used to doing – and that is slowing us down. I know myself well enough though that once I figure out a structure, it should fall into place from there. Boss and I are going to try to get that established tonight so I can start fresh next week.

I have a lesson tonight and one again tomorrow (in a bigger hall so we can look at the alignments for our routines). I think the plan tonight is to go over the silver routines and try to dance them through, ideally getting through all of them in one lesson. That would be nice to achieve because we haven’t been able to do that yet, but I also expect that we might not get there. We’ll see how it goes.

From there, its about catching up.

Scattered Pieces

My back seems to be settled.

That is one piece of good news I am happy to take to the bank. Its still a little sensitive and I have to be careful, but it isn’t impeding me anymore.

We had two snow days this week and that was an issue. Because the gym was closed, I couldn’t get my workouts in, although I did do most of the leg one on Monday at home because it is still a lot of body weight stuff. I don’t have weights heavy enough at home for the upper body one. I did catch up on Wednesday and yesterday, and I did get all 3 lessons in this week.

The lessons this week focused on the open foxtrot and open jive, with a smattering of the quickstep to finish it up.

The quickstep was more of a review to get us through to the end of the routine, but the foxtrot was going over the latter half of the routine in detail, which was a good refresher at the same time. I am finding myself being less rigid with my body and allowing myself to reach the limits of my own sway instead of only doing what Boss leads. The quickstep on Monday was a little hard on my back, so I didn’t stay to practice as it was borderline between sore and really angry and I didn’t want to push it.

The jive was another story. There was a lot of review needed for the routine and I initially felt like I had forgotten everything. There are a lot of similar transitions that have really small variations I kept messing up. Once we got through each section a couple times, we were able to sort out the details where I am messing myself up and by the end of Wednesday we were able to run it almost all the way through with only a couple pitfalls here and there to slow music.

We picked it up again today and it was stronger and more together on my part and we were able to do quite a few full run through with slower music. That said, I can’t even begin to imagine doing it even close to full speed at this point – although to be fair, we haven’t even tried mid-speed yet.

What is driving me a bit crazy is that I am still getting hung up in the same two or three places and can’t seem to get them corrected. Its like a new vendetta for me – fix the jive. I also feel generally sloppy and scattered throughout like I am just getting lucky to get through it and the technique is pretty non-existent. I know I feel behind a lot and Boss has commented that I am not using my body, which I have to agree with. I think I am still too focused on the steps and anxious about the speed.

We have about 2 and a half months until the comp and while it seems like a long time, I know it is going to go really quickly. I can feel myself starting to panic a little that we haven’t even tried to go through any of the routines in time with the music for open and the last time we tried to run the silver routines Boss made changes in almost all of them.

I am really worried about my stamina overall, but more so that they just won’t come together in time. I feel like all the routines are in scattered pieces which is really not like me.

I know Boss has a plan and that he tells me he will be ready to share it with me next week. I am looking forward to seeing it on the one hand as I am sure it will help ease my creeping anxiety, but on the other I am a little worried because I know plans are great only until first contact. What if something doesn’t go as planned?

I think I would feel better if I felt the silver routines were more solid overall and that we can run through them without missing steps. There has been an intent to do that, but it has just never happened. I want to focus on the open routines, but I feel like I need time on the silver to be able to do that.

I have one week until I am away for a week on vacation. I am soooooo looking forward to it as among other things, I need the break and time away from work which has been really intense lately. School is so close to being done but there is a lot that is left to do in our final 3 weeks. 3 WEEKS!

I know the break will do me good, but I would like to feel a little less scattered on the dance front before I start vacation.

Just need to pull the pieces together.

Figuring out the “Where”

I am finding that is a theme with dance right now.

First, on a good note, my back is doing better, although not completely pain free yet. I got permission to try without the back brace and see how things go. My physio did some aggressive needling on my back and hip today too which should help. I was able to dance quickstep more or less full out last night with only minor tweaks, as well as do my regular lower body workout.

I met with my trainer this morning as well and we made some small adjustments to my exercises to ensure I am not aggravating my back doing them. Physio also added a “clamshell” exercise to help my hip.

All of that aside, one of the things we are doing in dance right now is identifying where I need to do things.

I have reached a point where I understand more or less how to do sway in standard and twisting in latin, but I am not sure where I really need to do it.

On Monday, Boss gave me some small sequences to do as exercises in both latin and standard. Part of that includes a piece in waltz where the focus is completely on the sway to the point of purposely overdoing it to really get it in my head.

One of my biggest issues is that if I am not told to do something, I will always try to not do it. What we are working on right now is more or less enabling me to do movements. I expect as I build on this and go over more of the routines I will start picking up on other places to do it automatically.

The plan is to look at where I should be twisting my body more in my latin routines to make sure I am taking advantage and using the movement as much as I can.

We spent yesterday really digging into the open quickstep, particularly some of our runs. The focus there is keeping up on my toes and trying not to ‘bounce’ and ‘jump’ as we move. It was pretty easy to pick out the places where I am not staying on my toes when I need to – so more to work on, and yes another exercise.

I am taking it easy this week to keep my back rested, but plan to return to practice next week and see how it goes. Despite the issues I am having, we do seem to be making progress. I have 2 weeks before I am away for a week on a cruise (a vacation one, not work).

But lots of time to focus on figuring out the ‘where’.

Strained

My lower back muscles that is.

That was the news I got from physio today when I finally got to see him and ask what might be going on with my back. Now I am sitting in a back brace to give some support to the muscles so they can rest and heal up.

Its actually a bit of good news  – it does mean my torn disc isn’t acting up or anything worse. My hip is still an issue too, although my back is the priority right now as I am limited in how much I can move.

It seems that I probably injured my back on Monday doing lunges. That was probably the ‘twinge’ I felt which seemed like a stretch or tight muscles. It had a bit of a delayed reaction as I didn’t start getting really sore until Wednesday morning. Physio also thinks that as I toss and turn at night I may be aggravating it more – so it is necessary to wear the brace especially to bed. Hopefully it should only be for a week, but we will see.

I have been cleared to do some careful dance as its important to stay mobile with back injuries, but pretty much I am to rest. I am not allowed to do strength training until my back feels at least 50% better. I am allowed to do elliptical though.

Dance actually helps a little – the twisting seems to give some relief for whatever reason. The exercises I was doing to try and relieve the pain (those I do for my disc) were actually aggravating it more as well. So no more back bends till I can move around without pain.

I did have an extra lesson booked for tomorrow in a bigger dance hall to do some conditioning and work on the standard routines in a full space, but Boss and I decided to cancel. It won’t be much help to use the bigger hall if I am not able to dance full out to see how they fit.

Its a small consolation prize I guess. Once my back settles some, we can go back to helping my hip – although staying off the running (which is now WAAAAAY off the table) will help it to heal up too.

Despite the injuries, I did have a good lesson tonight. We went through the silver routines and reviewed the spots where I wasn’t sure of the steps while practicing on my own. That should set me up well for my own practice when I am healed up to get back to it.

This weekend is going to be all about schoolwork as I work on an assignment I am struggling with, with the exception of Sunday afternoon when I will go for my first fitting of my new dresses. At least there is one silver lining to all the gloom.

In the end, these are small setbacks and its better to work out the kinks now than at the end of April when we are close to heading to the competition. I am optimistic once I rest a little everything will come back together and I will be able to pull it all together so I can compete in style at the Emerald Ball.

Battling On

My battle with injuries is continuing.

To be honest, I am not sure if I am winning or not, but I am still able to stay active and I am hopeful that when I see physio on Friday I won’t end up in ‘forced rest’.

For the most part, except for running (which I do avoid now), some walking and if I go too fast up stairs, my hip seems to be ok – except when it isn’t.

The reason I say that is that it seems to be a bit unpredictable. I can do a lesson completely focused on Latin and have only a small bit of pain near the end, but some days, like yesterday, a random move I have done several times already tweaks it and I get shooting pain through my hip and down my leg.

Regardless, I can feel my frustration mounting.

My shoulders have been a bit up and down, but this morning I woke up more sore than I have been in a while for no reason I could figure out. They have remained sore all day, although they weren’t an issue during my workout.

My workout are at least one silver lining. I feel 100% better about them, even when the lunges seem to be causing me a bit of problem due to a tight quad muscle. They are hard, but not too hard and I feel like I am making better progress than I was before.

Of course, it is only the beginning of week 2.

One of the other things I will add is that doing cardio right after strength training is harder than I expected it to be. It’s only 25 minutes of sustained cardio but I can tell my body is working hard to get through it.

I have also been blasting through the calories quite a bit to the point I have had to modify my diet to eat more calories during the day so I am not having to eat so many after dance at night. I can tell I still need to make a couple more adjustments – in particular to up my protein but I am feeling better this week with the modifications.

I do wish it all didn’t seem like such a battle. It’s not a battle because it is hard, but because I always seem to be fighting against something not ‘feeling right’. Whether it is my hip or shoulder or something else, there is always something that makes me feel like I am being held back.

There are also the menopause symptoms which are coming with the new workout. The hot flashes sometimes seem constant and yesterday I couldn’t cut through the foggy brain to focus in on anything. It made my lesson difficult because my brain wouldn’t engage and my own practice almost useless because I couldn’t seem to focus on anything.

It doesn’t help that I can’t seem to nail down an effective way to practice right now. Mostly I am just running through our silver routines to try and get them in my head but I am not sure what to focus on for technique exercises.

My lessons themselves have been really good lately. We are getting a lot of work done on the open routines and cleaned up some pieces in the open waltz, tango, cha cha, paso, and samba. We have reviewed the silver routines together once, but we will have to go through them again to help them come together. I am looking forward to that.

School is also causing some stress right now. I am working on my final course and the volume of material is proving tricky to keep up with. I am also not really engaged with the subject so that makes the course more tedious than it would be otherwise. Ironically, I am actually dealing with an issue at work that is exactly what the course is about but because of the nature of the issue I can’t use it for school.

This week is going to be hard.

It actually already is because I can feel myself dragging to stay motivated and engaged with all I need to do. Being the second week of a new workout my body also hasn’t adjusted to it yet and is feeling more tired than usual. My ‘to do’ list is long.

But, this week will pass and I will get through it a day at a time and a task at a time. I keep reminding myself that I have only 4.5 weeks of school left and I will have completed my degree!

After that, I can focus more on dance and will have time for other things – not to mention having time to relax a little more and take some much needed ‘me’ time. Its been a long 2 years to get this Masters done, but I am almost there.

Not to mention 3 weeks until I am on vacation – a cruise in the western Caribbean (a real one – not one with work this time!) for a week. Following that, I have some extra time off which will include lessons with a latin coach I have worked with from out east. I am definitely looking forward to that!

In the meantime, I will continue to do battle and get through this challenging period of my life knowing there are good things to come on the other side.

Like competing again.

Revisiting Silver

Last Friday during my lesson we went over our silver routines.

Oy. Lots of work to do there, beginning with re-memorizing the sequences to do them on my own.

There is a bit of a different dimension to them – but that is to be expected considering how long it has been since I have worked on them – how I dance now is different.

I am focusing on working on and reviewing the routines during my self practice, working to rebuild them, strengthen them and incorporate the different techniques I now have in my dance.

Its proving harder than I expected, but its only been a couple days so I am not that surprised. I mostly feel a little unfocused working on them – like I am not completely sure what I should be doing with them. I am sure that will come as I keep working and Boss and I review them together.

I also was able to meet with my trainer today to look at my strength program. She made some significant changes and I am cautiously optimistic that they might shake things up a bit and better support my goals. I will be doing strength training 4 days a week now, followed by some cardio. The strength training is divided into 2 different ‘days’ – upper and lower body – which allows a little more overall work. There is a lot more leg work than I am was doing previously but less upper body work. It is also more balanced overall. The goal is more endurance and less power with higher reps and lower weight.

I will see how it goes as I work to make the changes.

I wish I had time to write more, but I am pretty bogged down with school right now and it is really sucking at my spare time. I may be a little scarce till March, but I am sure my writing will pick up more.

Especially as we get closer to competing again.