It’s been one of THOSE weeks…

Ever feel like the universe is telling you stay in bed?

Even refuse to listen and then regret it later?

That was what my week was like. Just one comedy of errors after the other.

It started with waking up on Monday and not feeling the greatest due to sinuses and an upset stomach. Despite that and my bed calling me strongly, I still resolved to go to work and to do my regular workout. That ended in a black eye (mentioned in my last post) followed by returning to my office and spilling m

y water bottle all over the office floor.

My team sent me home after that. Good people, my team.

At dance, things were going good, although I had a bit of a headache and my eye was bothering me a little when suddenly first my hip flexor started feeling tight, then later during my practice I was getting a full on pulling sensation while doing latin. I had to end my practice early when it started to get really painful and impact really bothered it.

Tuesday I woke up with a killer headache and decided to give in and went back to bed. I was surprised I slept until 1030 (really late for me!) and almost missed my physio appointment at 11. I made it and told my physio about my hip issues. He had 2 minds about it and decided to treat my back in case it was referred pain, and told me if it didn’t get better, next time he would treat my hip more.

It only got marginally better.

Wednesday and Thursday at work was quite literally one bizarre happening after the other that had to be dealt with. The kind of stuff you just can’t really make up.

Wednesday night at dance, my hip was doing a little bit better until we switched to paso and again it flared up tight and painful. We had to stop what we were doing for a while so it could calm down and Boss recommended I consider doing weekly massage therapy appointments till the comp to try and help my body recover from the volume of work we are doing right now. I was reluctant because I have to pay for it completely out of pocket, but in the end I did decide it was a good idea.

Friday was my first appointment and honestly before it I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do my lesson that night. It was a good appointment though and he was able to release a lot of the tight muscles in my hip which felt 100% better, so I did my lesson. It went well until almost the end when it flared up during Paso again. It seems to be in my hip flexors and flares some when I move my pelvis forward in Paso.

Saturday (was it only yesterday??!!) I had another dress fitting on the mainland. I had completely forgotten that it is the end of spring break, so I wasn’t able to reserve a spot on the ferry meaning I had to sail stand-by. In order to make sure I made my appointment, I had to leave home 90 minutes earlier than I would with a reservation, and I still came close to not being on the boat.

My appointment went really well though and I can see the dresses really coming together now. I will pick them up over Easter and can’t wait!

On the way home, thankfully some one was smiling and I was the second-last car to make the sailing I wanted without having to wait another hour.

Today was our first run through practice with the other couples.

My hip felt tight but not sore, so I was only minimally worries about it, but for some reason I just couldn’t get my core to engage or to lock my frame together for standard. It took a couple rounds before I was able to pull things together and I am not really sure why it was such an issue.

We are definitely not used to sharing the floor, so the practices are good to do. It took a little bit for me to get back into following when we had to adjust and the only dance that was a real problem was the silver quickstep because once we deviated from the routine I couldn’t seem to pick it back up again.

That said, the practice went better than I expected. The open latin went really well and finally I started to see them all come together.

Except for one issue. We were doing the jive and it was going well until I went to engage my core to pull myself out of a leaned back position to upright and I got a shooting pain through my hip. That pretty much sidelined us for a bit and when we went to the final round I had to take it a little easier and skipped some of the steps that had a lot of turns or twisting.

I am still not quite sure what is going on with my hip – whether its my back or the hip or both. I am off work tomorrow (I took a vacation day knowing I would be in Vancouver again) and have physio so hopefully that will help. I am going to take a week off the gym to try and rest some. After this week I will also have physio twice a week instead of once to try and get ahead of things before the competition.

So that was my crazy week – truly a week where you just have to laugh at the craziness, take it with a grain of salt and know that it can only get better next week.

Onward and upwards.

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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.

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.

A week of coaching

Last week I did seven coaching lessons.

All of them were really interesting and fun. I had two lessons with two different instructors – one a standard lead, the other a latin follow and three with a latin lead.

The latin couple were the ones who choreographed my open latin routines which was an advantage as they were familiar with what I have been working on. We sent them all videos of recent work before I arrived and Boss sent them messages to let them know what he would like me to work on.

I started by working with the standard coach, who was someone I haven’t worked with since my first two years of dancing. Interestingly, he is also working with another of Boss’s students who in working for a year in Ottawa, so he was a little bit familiar with the style of Boss’s students.

Boss had two specific sections of sequences from our waltz and tango he wanted him to look at, so that is what we did. One of the first things he suggested was that we try a more off-set position for standard to see if it had a positive effect. It actually made a big difference in ways I can’t fully describe but it allowed me to travel more and gave me a little more freedom in movement and shaping.

We also talked about thinking of lifting my sternum through my position to connect with my partner at the ribs, and using this to project up through shaping. We also talked about being a little more grounded in my steps and being sure not to rush through them.

Finally, in tango we also talked about position and connecting more through my left arm to the point where we could dance full steps while only maintaining hold on that side. The other interesting thing was to think of resisting against the partner as we move – so if I was moving back, I needed to think of resisting his forward movement through my ribs.

I was really tired and jet-legged when I had those lessons and I was concerned I didn’t retain much from them, but today working with Boss it appears I retained more than I thought to the point I was doing things differently without fully realizing what I was doing.

From there I moved on to Latin coaching. My first lessons were with the lead and they started with him looking at the videos and asking what I would like to work on. I talked about the state of all the routines and mentioned that paso was probably the roughest. So paso was what we worked on.

At the end of the first two lessons, we had gone through the first half of the routine in detail and cleaned and adjusted parts as needed. We talked a lot about position and the use of the knees and forward pelvis. We also found a lot of steps in paso which I have a natural tendency to turn into standard so we worked on identifying and fixing those sections. He also made some small adjustments to the choreography so it worked better for me. We were able to record the first half together for Boss.

At the end of the second lesson we took 10 minutes to look at the samba and he identified 3 steps that needed a little more clarification. That was a fast and furious section, and I am not sure I completely got all the steps down in the end, but I have an idea how to adjust.

My final lesson with him was focused on cha cha and twisting was the name of the game. We took one section of the routine and worked on getting me to twist more and to separate the twisting from the rest of my body movement. From there we looked at some specific steps (like swivels) and cleaned up one section of the routine which was a bit messy. We were able to record that section to make it more clear for Boss.

My other lessons were with the latin follow and they were focused on styling, and some technical exercises for lead/follow and using the ankles to help travel. The interesting thing about those lessons was that we talked about 4 different hip levels and how to use them, as well as a breakdown of the aims/goals of styling in each style, which are all different. I got some really good exercises out of those lessons, especially focused on styling.

I have had two lessons now with Boss since I got back and they have been focused on going over what I did with the coaches and developing a program for practice while I am away. I have a bunch of new exercises from all three coaches so I want to incorporate them into my work while I am away.

I will talk more about those preparations tomorrow.

Once a year I get this opportunity to work with these coaches and its always been a really positive experience. I hope the future presents more opportunities for us to work together again.

But for now, a week of coaching is a valuable experience.

A Successful Performance

And two of my open latin routines are on the floor!

Some poeple can grow a human in 9 months. I can’t, so instead I grew 2 latin routines to initial performance level.

The showcase last night went really well, but instead of just talking about it, I am going to show you.

First, we did the open Cha cha then we did the open rumba.

It felt so good to be performing. I really didn’t realize how much I have missed preparing for a goal. We decided to do the cha cha just over a month ago, and added the rumba 3 weeks ago. I was really amazed how much we were able to polish up the routines in that short amount of time – especially as prior to that we hadn’t even tried either in time with the music.

I could go into multiple details about what was wrong with them – little stumbles, legs not quite straight, some strange styling – but that was not what last night was about.

Last night was about getting back on the floor, knowing I worked hard and taking the time to just enjoy dancing and presenting two challenging routines to a local audience who haven’t seen me perform since 2016.

I was approached by one of the local social dancers after the showcase and what she told me really stuck. She told me she really enjoyed watching me perform last night because she could see the pure joy I was experiencing being on the floor.

It really stuck out because she has seen me dance through my entire cancer journey and when it became known I had cancer she was one of the first to approach me and share that she too had battled cancer and won. Her sharing that with me helped me to realize I too could win this battle. Sadly, last night she shared she is once again battling and will be doing a form of chemo for the rest of her life. But to know that seeing me back on the floor and doing what I love meant a lot to her really touched me.

Cancer has not been nice to the dancers in my community. But we keep fighting and supporting each other to overcome it.

2 of 9 routines now on the floor! I am sure the others will follow in the new year after I get back from this upcoming extended work trip.

I reminded myself of something last night I hadn’t realized I had forgotten. It’s easy to always declare new routines ‘not ready’. The truth is that they are never ready, but at some point they need to be put on the floor so the next steps for them can be determined.

Ready for the next steps in cha cha and rumba now.

 

Finishing touches

I spent a big part of my lesson learning how to bow today.

It seems so simple. Don’t we all learn it as a kid? Well, apparently not dancesport style.

As we get closer to the performance on Saturday it is time to sort out these little details. The routines we are doing are meant for competition, but this is going to be a bit of a show.

Among other things, we had to figure out what to do for an opening and closing. We kept it simple in the end, but I think it will work. As I said, the trickiest part was sorting out how to make the bow works.

Other than that the main focus was on running through the routines and cleaning up a few areas that needed a little more work.

One of the things we had to do was sort out how I was responding to the lead in a few places. Especially when the lead is on my right side, I have a tendency to lock up and restrict my movement, which then makes is really difficult for Boss to lead me through steps, especially if I have to turn anywhere.

It took some experimenting, but in the end what worked was just relaxing in some spots and letting my arm go, and in others moving to the step when I felt the lead. It will work for now, and I am sure there are other spots we need to work out.

The routines are not going to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they will still look good and be passable. Considering this is the first time we will dance them, I feel pretty good about where they are right now.

I think Boss is pretty happy with them too. He was saying today that on Wednesday he plans to do some work on the other routines as we want to record them before I head to Ottawa at the beginning of the month.

The next two weeks are going to be pretty crazy, but I am just taking it one day at a time and looking forward to the performance this weekend.

Until then, its the finishing touches to build on the foundation we have.

Confidence

Usually when you see that in a title it’s because it is lacking.

I am actually finding the opposite. Last night I realized that I am slowly regaining my confidence back.

The odd thing is that I hadn’t even been really aware that I had lost it. But I suppose like most things you don’t realize something until you can see a big difference. I lost it gradually, but at yesterday’s lesson I realized there has been quite a change.

We were focusing on the rumba and cha cha yesterday as we continue to prepare for the showcase in two weeks. I can’t even really explain what I noticed was different except to say that I felt myself looking up more and feeling confident in bringing the routines to the next level. I was beginning to perform the routines instead of just working through the steps.

I felt better about how I looked doing the routines.

I am not sure what is triggering the change but part of it is having a performance to focus on. Another part of it is likely that I have been able to lose some of the chemo weight. Its appears to be a combination that just works.

I am not going to knock it. Instead I am just going to roll with it.

It helps that the routines seem to be coming together really well. We may have also decided on music yesterday, just from what we were using to practice.

We started by ironing out some of the details for some of the line features in the rumba. I have a roll-out to a lunge I wasn’t very sure of, especially the movements after the lunge. We were able to to get that working together, and the transition to the next step. It leaves only one more section to work out, and the routine will be in really good shape.

We also worked a little on the cha cha, working through the beginning and reviewing the section we worked on last week. We were able to run through 2/3rds of the routine before we ran out of time, at speed. It was also working well.

It puts us in a great place for the performance in 2 weeks. It’s been a while since I have felt this good about my dancing. It is making me look forward to what is next.

And hopefully more confidence will emerge.

Preparing to perform

So it appears we will be performing in two weeks.

We are focusing on latin and we will do the cha cha routine for sure, but we are also working on the rumba and will probably do that as well.

It’s a showcase for another local studio that Boss’s studio has been invited to participate in. It presented an opportunity for us to perform just before I leave for the rest of the fall, and gives us a goal for getting two routines ready to perform.

It just makes sense, especially since other than a really brief and quick demonstration back in July we haven’t done any competing or performing since last October.

Both routines are actually not in bad shape right now.

The cha cha we are able to get through in time with slow music and the medium music has only a couple of bumps but doesn’t completely fall apart. Since the last time we ran it in full, we have worked out almost all of the bumps, and most of the styling. In the end, the routine has only two major spots where arm styling is a concern and I have been working on them pretty hard.

The big thing we have been focusing on in the cha cha is the lead and follow as that is key to getting the turns on time and executing quite a few of the steps. It’s actually pretty together right now, but needs some polishing and running through a few more times to hopefully lock it down.

I have actually really enjoyed the concentrated focus on the cha cha routine to pull it together and it confirms for me that agreeing to do the performance has been the right thing to do to move some of the routines to the next level before I leave.

We started digging into the rumba on Monday. It’s actually also not in a bad place, but it also has a few bumps to iron out and we really need to go over the styling in detail. We ironed out one of the biggest bumps in the middle of the routine yesterday, taking the whole lesson, but it was time well spent as we were able to go through that section in time with the music several times.

The key to the rumba right now seems to be the timing. Its tricky because it varies quite a bit and there are holds and pauses for development – some of which are one bar, some are two. The trick is remembering how long to develop at what part.

The styling will also be tricky, especially some of the transitional pieces. I already accidentally clobbered Boss in the face yesterday in a combination of not getting my arm high enough and him having his head a little forward. Some of the hold changes are also tricky.

One of my biggest concerns about the styling is that I am not very good at developing some of the lines and some of them need a lot of very specific movements I just can’t seem to make work for me. One of the key parts of the routine has me do a double turn to roll-out into a side lunge stretching away from Boss. When I hit the lunge, I need to make sure I have reconnected with Boss after turning on my own and after I stretch away I am supposed to melt.

I don’t melt very well. I really think we need to considering another way of styling that step, whether it is to stretch it a little longer and then turn in for the transition which is to a pivot to a lunge done together. I hope it is something we look at a bit closer very soon. I know I can do a good stretch because we have done one in a previous showcase routine.

For both routines, it really is about polishing right now, minus a couple of timing and step bumps to work out. For the cha cha, I need to make sure I add more power and speed to my turns, and the rumba is about the timing and not rushing. I don’t feel relaxed about performing, but I am not feeling overly stressed about either routine not being ready.

At least not yet. We will see how I feel in a couple weeks.

The focus on latin and the details has really been interesting over the last week. I’ve really enjoyed what we have been doing and actually been surprised at how things have come together. I feel really good about the work we have done and while I know neither routine will go perfectly, I am starting to look forward to performing. I have missed it more than I realized.

More prep to go.

And suddenly…

Things are making a lot of sense.

Somewhere between my last lesson and the lesson tonight a few things clicked together. The surprising thing is that it is not so much specific elements that has clicked together but more a realization and understanding of the level I am able to work at and that it is much higher than I give myself credit for.

I am not quite sure what triggered this but it seems to be a good thing. My mind has really zeroed in on pulling together a lot of details, processed them and been able to execute them all together.

There was just something about tonight’s lesson that seemed to come together. We weren’t doing anything different from what we usually did, but it just seemed to work much easier. Less time reviewing things and I was picking up the concepts and making the adjustments faster than I expected.

We were focusing on standard tonight, specifically two sequences of steps in waltz and foxtrot that have a lot of similarities. Both end with a lunge, but the entrance to and out of it is different, as is the sway going into the lunge.

It’s really a variation on a theme, but there are enough subtle differences that my mind needs to stay engaged. The nice thing as we moved through each of the sequences is that Boss would give some little directions for improvement and I was able to just incorporate them.

In the end, it was a really productive lesson that just seemed to flow. It was hard work, but it was paying off. We ended with the samba conditioning and while I was certainly tired, it also just seemed a little more refined and put together tonight.

At my last lesson, Boss asked me which latin dance I would prefer for a new sequence for conditioning – cha cha or jive. I originally said cha cha, thinking it might be more technical, but once I thought about it, jive made the most sense. I do the conditioning sequence in time with the music, and it is usually something from one of my routines.

Of all the routines, jive is going to be the trickiest to get up to speed. So, if I work on elements from the routine during conditioning in time with the music then my confidence will also go up in the steps. It’s also quite the cardio workout, there is no denying that!

I think I needed this small breakthrough this week as I had been feeling a bit complacent about dance – although perhaps that isn’t the right word. Perhaps it’s more that I have been feeling like I have been treading water and a little stagnant. It’s not only dance where I had been feeling that way, but a couple of changes seems to have made a big difference overall.

I also had a really productive weekend and cross a lot of things off my ‘to do’ list which has taken some loads off my mind.

It’s interesting how little changes can have big impacts.

A Routine Victory

We got through 4 of the 5 latin routines tonight with slow music.

The one we missed was jive, but only because we ran out of time.

We started by reviewing each of the routines then we went through them, first at a slower speed then slightly faster.

We got through all of them without major disaster except paso which needed a pause, but we were able to pick it up again.

It went better than I expected (although I am not sure why I expected disasters) and certainly there are places and elements to work on – like arm transitions and the fact that I have a habit of just barreling along without waiting for the lead or really having any idea of what Boss is doing in some places (so being really surprised to discover some of my turns are underarm for example).

I found for myself some interesting results from the solo practice I have been working on. For example, I have really been working on the NY sequence we have in Cha cha and today it went much better than I expected in context, so much so that the first time I was so surprised I almost stopped. I really had to give myself a pat on the back for that. In addition, there was one spot I couldn’t seem to figure out on my own, but as soon as we put it in context, it clicked that I was missing a step in the timing and I was able to fix it in my practice after my lesson.

I like lessons like today that just put things together for me, but also reveals the places that just aren’t quite there yet. It also helps with building a bit of confidence in my steps and that I know them, which in turn lets me relax a bit about the steps and turn my focus elsewhere like how to move my body instead of my feet.

I think I needed the lesson today. I had been feeling a bit down and like I was working hard but not getting anywhere, although that was probably because of the infection I was fighting (which thanks to antibiotics my energy levels are coming up). The boost from today has been a long time coming.

My ballet experiment is almost over. One more lesson tomorrow. I have to say I like it, and am trying to figure out how I can fit it in my schedule in the fall. They already told me they would work with the time I am away for work. It would be once a week in the fall. It’s sort of like a combination of a strengthening and stretching in one. I will write more on it after the lesson tomorrow.

For now I am going to take my little win.