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.

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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.

Upping the Ante

Tonight’s lesson was about Paso.

When the coach was here, he made some small changes to the paso and we worked through the routine from top to bottom, but we didn’t have a chance to go over it with Boss.

Tonight we worked through the first half of the paso to incorporate the changes, the coaching and to work on it with the music.

There were some details to work out in the alignment and some places where I needed to rotate more to make it all work. Once we got the details worked out, we focused on running through the first part with the music at speed.

Tonight was the first time we tried any part of the paso at full speed. That said, other than having to adjust a lot to moving faster initially, by the end of the lesson it wasn’t going too bad. There are definitely some rough patches, but it was doable.

We recorded it at the end of the lesson, and the video doesn’t look as bad as I thought it might. I am clearly tired, but there are some good things happening. It looks promising. Next up is to do the same with the second part to put it all together.

My last few lessons have really upped the ante on our preparations. We are dancing more in lessons and running the routines where we can. In total, I am spending a lot more time in my lessons working hard and more intensely. Generally, I like it.

Of course, with any increase in activity there are some trickle down effects. My body is definitely feeling it. After Monday’s lesson, I was surprised to find my left knee a bit swollen and it was aching so bad when I was trying to sleep I had to get up to put some voltaren on it. The voltaren seems to be working and keeping the pain at bay.

I also stayed for the 90 minute group class today – 45 latin, 45 standard. It went well, but again I could feel the fatigue.

This week in itself is a bit of an adjustment week for me. Its the first week doing full strength training, dance, practice, ballet, the group class and an extra lesson which is going to be the ‘new normal’ until the competition, more or less. I expect my body will take a little while to adjust, but really hope it will adjust. I am doing my best to take care of it best I can making sure it is getting good rest, epsom salt soaks, voltaren and trying to listen to what my body is telling me.

And that is how we are upping the ante.

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.

Preparing for coaching

Today was my last day in my office until New Year.

Next week I am off to Ottawa for work for the week, then I am home for Thanksgiving. After that, I have a couple days of vacation before joining a ship that leaves our home port on Friday. We won’t be back until almost Christmas.

I will talk some more about the upcoming trip and preparations I am making to have some dance productivity while at sea, but tonight I want to talk about next week and the prep we have been making for that.

While I am in Ottawa for work, I am going to take the time to do some lessons with 3 different coaches – 1 standard and 2 latin – in the bit of time I have between work. I was able to schedule my flights to give me time on the day I arrive before I start work the next day and time before I fly home the day after work finishes.

I am pretty excited to be able to work with all 3 of them. I am going to do 2 lessons with 2 of them, and 3 with the other. The 2 latin coaches are the couple who designed our routines, and I also worked with both of them this time last year when I was in town for the same reason.

So, to get ready this week was about reviewing the routines I didn’t perform and recording the other 3 latin routines. We recorded 3 of the 4 standard routines back in August. We recorded the routines so the coaches can see where I am at and to give them an idea of where the problem areas are.

Needless to say, the other 3 latin routines are a bit rough, but not too bad. We were able to do them in time with the music, with only the odd disaster here and there. It didn’t help that this week has been crazy at work with a day of sailing, and having to travel more than 2 hours for a medical appointment. My brain was a little more fried than I would have liked.

Boss has been communicating with the coaches and giving them his thoughts and ideas for things to work on. He has some very specific ideas of things mostly which he hopes my getting another perspective will help my mind process it in a new way–which is really the main goal for any sort of coaching–at least my goal.

Last time I worked with these coaches it was a lot of information, but a lot of fun. It made a big difference right before my last competition and I left with about 4 pages of notes. I expect more the same this time, although a little more focused as we have worked together and are not new to each other.

It’s going to be a pretty intense week next week but I am up for the challenge. I am really looking forward to it as I am sure it’s going to be a valuable experience.

Because the ship is not leaving right away when I get back I will even have 4 more lessons with Boss before I leave until Christmas. That will give us time to review and go over what I have from the coaches and work together to develop exercises which can be done in the limited space on ship. It’s really important to me that I stay active and dancing while I am away.

In the meantime, I feel prepared for the week ahead.

It’s all exercises

I was going to call this post something else, but as I worked through my thoughts a different theme emerged.

I can’t really say yesterday was a great lesson. I was pretty exhausted from a crazy week at work so easily getting frustrated, and my lesson was right before a social dance that wasn’t scheduled when the lesson was scheduled so Boss was distracted, people were showing up and things like that.

We focused on going through the exercises, which was needed, but my head wasn’t in the right place to make it an easy exercise for either of us. I had come to the studio earlier to at least do my exercises and try to clear my head from work, but I think work and jet-leg just all caught up with me.

The theme for the review of the exercises was that I need to move my hips more in latin, but also move more in general. I feel like I am moving them a lot (almost too much), but according to Boss I am not moving them much, and I am not applying the movements I do from my exercises to my dancing. OUCH. I know he meant well, but…

That last part hit a nerve I didn’t know was a little raw, but again it could have been the fatigue. I’ll talk about that a little later.

We began working through the exercises and Boss changed two of them, the rocks I do at the gym (now they are on straight legs), and we changed my “cross” exercise to opening out. In my back walks he wants me to work on stepping further back, but honestly I am not really sure how to do that because I already feel I am walking as far back as I can without losing my hip technique.

We might need to revisit the exercises again soon.

We spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what is going on in my standard side steps and trying to get me to engage my glute muscles when doing them. It was a bit painful the amount of time it took to figure out how to move my body the way Boss wanted me to while using the right muscles. I still have serious doubts I am doing it right.

The sliding doors we are breaking down some of the movements a little more to sharpen it up. It will be interesting to see how that goes with the music.

It wasn’t that Boss was critical (far from it, he even mentioned that one of the reasons I am not moving enough is because I am controlling my movements so much), but it just seemed like everything we tried to do in the lesson my body refused to cooperate with which led to frustration on my part.

It could be a different ballgame when I go to incorporate the changes on Monday. I did the rocks today at the gym (yes, finally got back to strength training!), but I need to give the new version some time to settle as they are all over the place.

I expect much the same with the other exercises. I just need to take some time to work through them myself and see how they go. I hope we will have time to review them before I leave next in 3 weeks.

We ended the lesson by reviewing the new piece in samba in more detail and with me working through the steps on my own. We didn’t get as far as Boss wanted, but at least what we did do I should be able to continue on my own and add to the first half. For whatever reason, the samba is taking the most time to learn with only quarters of the routine coming together at a time. At least we are about 3/4 now.

Returning to the comment that hit a nerve. I was a little surprised to be sensitive about it, but it hit a nerve because we have been focusing on learning choreography, not technique, and there are very few and rare times in my lesson where I feel like I actually dance. Even less common are times when we fully dance together. I think maybe once we did the rumba before I left for Europe.

In short, I haven’t incorporated the work in the exercises into my routines because I haven’t really found any opportunities to do so. When I practice on my own I do try but I am also finding difficulty finding spots where the exercises apply. They are fairly focused, with two of them on specific steps, one on a specific movement which I don’t have a lot in my routines.

When I am working focused on choreography, remembering the steps tends to be my focus with technique secondary. But that said, I know I try to use my technique, but obviously I am missing a lot of spots where Boss would like to see it.

What doesn’t help is the underlying apathy I have trying to keep myself motivated. It’s not that I don’t have any goals, I just don’t feel any rush to achieve them. There is no timeline for me. As far as I am concerned, I have unlimited time to learn these routines and all the technique that goes with them. So I am taking my time, and perhaps more than Boss is used to me taking or needing to learn and incorporate new things.

I guess in the past 6 months since Boss had to reduce the amount of time he dances I have developed my own plan and pace and have become a bit resigned to things.

Don’t get me wrong though — I do very much enjoy my lessons and the progress we are making on the routines and choreography!

But since there are few opportunities, or even expectations (at least until Boss mentioned it yesterday) to do full out dancing, I guess I lack the incentive to really focus on that part of dancing right now. Anything I do on my own always seems limited compared with what I could do with a partner.

So, I have been focusing on the areas where I guess I feel is my wheelhouse right now: doing my exercises and learning choreography.

I am probably not explaining myself very well. In the end, the comment hit a nerve because I feel like I have been waiting for an opportunity to do exactly what he commented on — finding a time to incorporate the exercises into my routines. And I can’t explain why I feel like I am waiting except to say that I generally feel like everything I am doing right now is an exercise.

THAT is what I have been trying to figure out. Quite honestly, sometimes the reason I write here is to help me figure out what I am thinking.

I haven’t incorporated my exercises into my dancing because I feel like everything I am doing right now is a series of individual exercises. Even the choreography. There hasn’t been any time to stop doing exercises and just dance and see how it all comes together.

That’s what’s missing, and that’s why it hit a nerve.

The other comment about needing to move more, I do understand where he is coming from. It’s a constant battle for me to let go of the control because we spent years working to have me develop it. I feel constantly paranoid that if I let myself move, then it’s going to be too much. I don’t think I understand the difference between what I used to do that we had to correct so much and what he is asking me to do now.

I think he wants me to move more while maintaining the control, but I just don’t really know how and still can’t tell the difference between the right moving more and the uncontrolled moving more.

I wonder if maybe we need to do some run-throughs and take videos to just take a moment to evaluate and see where I am at. For ME to see where I am at and what Boss is talking about. Maybe even my practice needs to be recorded. I just don’t know.

When I practice my latin routines, I feel like I am moving a lot. In fact, I don’t do them to the music so I can make sure I allow myself to move.

There is a definite disconnect there. Most likely I am trying too hard. I also know there is a lot of tension and focus when I am working on my own, and it is rare I let myself relax into what I am doing. Perhaps that is all part of it too.

The hall has been crowded for practices lately as well, making it hard to even dance on my own full out without having to dodge other couples.

I am hopeful that tomorrow morning things will be a bit quieter and I can get through my routines.

Comments are comments. Its funny sometimes how something relatively small can have a big impact. I think the comments from yesterday’s lesson also highlighted my feeling like I am failing and slacking off on dance because I have no timelines to meet. I just feel like I am not doing enough right now, but that could be just the inconsistency due to the traveling. That feeling is going to make any comment that implies I am not doing something play right into my worst fears right now.

I may have to write some more about those in my next post.

For now, I am just going to continue doing exercises.

Back to Square One

But in a good way.

Tonight is the first night since I returned that I can confidently say I am where I was, or even a little bit ahead of where I was before I left.

I actually got to the gym today at work, so that was a good start. I was able to do my gym dance exercises for the first time and they went well.

My lesson also went pretty well, with the exception of a messy bit at the end, which I will get to later.

We were working on tango, specifically adding the second half so I can work on the entire routine on my own. It went well and by the end of the lesson I was able to work through the new section on my own, and during my practice tonight I was able to put it all together.

My standard frame seemed to be much better tonight than it was on Monday and I could feel my brain a little more relaxed and focused for the work. Boss remarked almost immediately that my right side was more engaged, so I took that as a good sign.

We were able to work through pieces of the routine with slow music, which led to discovering a need for Boss to clarify the timing in a couple line steps.

We ended the lesson with conditioning in change steps and it honestly started out as a bit of a disaster. I felt like jelly. I just couldn’t seem to settle into the steps, and I couldn’t seem to keep control over what I was doing. Even my brain seemed scattered and running all over the place to try to figure out what I needed to do.

In hindsight, I think my core was exhausted some from the return to the focused work. Part of my gym exercises is about 3 minutes of figure 8 work for latin. I could definitely feel my abs tiring when I was doing it and it was a bit of a fight to get to the end. My balance actually was off all afternoon, which also makes sense.

I guess the good thing is that I was able to pull it together some, although pretty inconsistently, for a couple of the last rounds.

We were also able to review and clarify one of my exercises to give it more focus, which is something I need in all my exercises right now, and which we are slowly going through.

My own practice tonight went well too. Better than it has since I returned. Besides my regular exercises, I was able to go through all 6 routines I am working on right now, and rumba and tango I can do from top to bottom, Samba we need to clarify the new piece, but Waltz, Cha Cha and Quickstep are ready for new pieces to be added.  Boss told me he wanted to finish both a standard and latin routine this week, and we have tango finished now, and he had forgotten we had already finished rumba (so I am not sure if that counts).

I am pretty happy with where I am at. Boss even remarked on watching me work through the cha cha and seemed pretty happy with how it looked. None of the routine are with the music yet, but I am trying to at least attempt to do them with a consistent count. My next goal, after getting the footwork down is to tighten up the timing for myself and make sure that the holds are right and that the sections that move keep moving.

My next lesson is Friday, so we will see what that will bring. I expect the review of my exercises as Boss mentioned a few times tonight he wants to go through them all, and quite honestly I could use a couple changes just to freshen things up.

But it’s good to be back to square one.

Quick-stepping

As planned, tonight’s lesson was all about Quickstep.

It went quite well. We have gone over it a few times before, but tonight was the first time for me to work through the steps on my own. By the end of the lesson, we had gone through about half the routine which was the goal for the lesson.

It went as I predicted — rather quick to go through, but a lot of work needs to be done on my own to gain confidence in the steps and to gain the speed needed to execute them. There is a lot of control needed so that things don’t go off the rails.

One of the things about this quickstep routine is that there are, more than any other dance, a lot of steps that are fundamental to the routine, but that aren’t really done a lot in syllabus routines. It’s not that they are complicated, they just take focus at the front end and small changes of mindset. I can easily see where I can over-complicate things if I over-think.

I am glad things went so well. I had a bit of a trying day with low energy and strength, mainly due to the effects of almost a full week of intense hot flashes taking it’s toll on me. It was most noticeable during the cardio conditioning at the end of my lesson. My legs kept feeling like jelly and I just couldn’t push them through the full 1:30 at full capacity. I had something similar during strength training this morning – exercises that usually I have no issue with were tiring me out and a struggle halfway through my sets.

It should work its way out over the weekend, and I can’t wait. I am on leave until Wednesday, but I have some paperwork that needs to be done before then, so my weekend will be busy. I also have a paper to write for school that needs to be finished before I leave for Europe next week.

Because I am going to be away for three weeks, I have been doing some extra lessons. My next one will be on Sunday morning. Although I originally asked to do Paso, when I thought about it more it occurred to me that it might be better to do jive as similar to quickstep there is more for me to do on my own than in lessons. Once we go through it I can start working on that, leaving Paso and Foxtrot to be worked out in lessons, as they will need.

After my lesson on Sunday, my plan is to go through the routines I have done this week and reinforce them. I hope it will become a regular Sunday routine when I get back.

Some more time quick-stepping away.

There are days…

It seems like things are just a little rough for me lately.

I had a fluke thing happen last night, and it means a little more time not dancing and more time healing. I had to cancel my lesson tonight, although I should be able to dance some the rest of the week, although with limitations.

Last night, while I was sleeping, I rolled over and felt a quick pinch over my right hip where one of my scars was from my last incision. I didn’t think anything of it at the time (I was mostly asleep), but woke up this morning to find blood on the sheets and a 2 inch opening in my hip where my scar had healed.

I was thankfully able to meet my surgeon later in the day at the hospital and he had to stitch the wound back together. He told me that he could see where a deep internal stitch had ‘popped’ and it put strain on all the tissue above it, hence the opening. Sometimes something like that just randomly happens and there is nothing I did or didn’t do to cause it or could have avoided it.

At least I only have to cancel one lesson (the surgeon gave his blessing to continue on Wednesday), but it still is just ‘one more thing’. I recognize that 2-3 weeks post surgery usually has a bit of a depressed period before the body rallies but I can’t help but feel there just seems to be an on-going barrage of obstacles between me and dance.

There are days I feel like the universe is trying to tell me that now is just not the right time for me to dance. That I am facing these constant obstacles because I am trying to force something that is just not meant to be at this point in my life.

These are days where I feel as though dance should not have to be this hard. I don’t mean the physical work, but the other obstacles–dancing through cancer, multiple surgeries, financial obstacles, difficulty finding a partner (even a paid one) for competing.  As soon as I overcome one obstacle another seems to immediately pop up, not giving me even the slightest break.

We all have our struggles with dance, and I don’t believe it is easy for anyone. My main hope is that days like these will remain few and far between and that I will continue to find ways to overcome the obstacles in front of me one step at a time.

Perhaps one day things will come together for me in a fortuitous way and I will have a “golden age” of dancing where I can truly explore and experience that I wish without constant blocks.

In the meantime, the obstacles I face do show me how much I want to dance, and for that I can at least be grateful. But there is a limit to what I can tolerate and how much I can keep fighting to do what I love and when I have days like these I realize I am in danger of reaching my limit for that tolerance. I hope I don’t get pushed over the edge anytime in the future.

But, there are days…

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!