And 2018 begins…

Off and running into the New Year!

I am not back to work until Monday, but this week has seen the return to weight training and the return to dance. I haven’t been able to do weight training since my surgery and dance was quite scattered after with the incision opening and the holidays.

All that to say I feel like I am shaking off a lot of rust and dust.

One thing that was a happy surprise is that in addition to the open standard routines Boss put together before the holidays, I now have 5 new open latin routines put together by the couple I worked with during my work trip in October.

It’s a happy surprise as I didn’t expect all 5 routines so soon, and was told to expect them later in the new year. I received the videos of all the routines yesterday and I am still digesting and processing them. I am super excited to start working on them.

I really enjoyed working with this couple back in October and I have been looking for other ways to work with them some more. I guess my enthusiasm rubbed off because Boss suggested we ask them to do routines for us. They have never done routines for a pro/am couple, so it was a new experience for them, but I am beyond thrilled with what they have come up with. Among other things, it’s obvious they took into account what they noticed from working with me. The routines have a way of playing to my strengths while still challenging me to work on the areas I still need to develop.

All nine (latin and standard) routines are going to push me out of my comfort zone in a good way and in a way I really need to be pushed. I wrote a bit about that before the end of the year and 2018 looks well on track to do just that.

I had my first lesson back tonight and the main focus was tango. We started working on the sequence for the new open tango, and I have a new mini-sequence from tango for doing conditioning (before the holidays I was doing waltz).

I also took 30 minutes tonight just to work through some things on my own and see how things feel after the surgery. I was focusing on latin because I haven’t done it in a while and my hips and belly had new incisions (and new scar tissue). It was enough to tell me I need to get back into the habit of moving them regularly as they feel very tight and almost unmoveable. It will work out, but it’s going to take some consistent movement to get the bugs out.

2018 has started with a fire hose of information for me and I am working to get it under control before I return to work next week and add to it. Lots to do, but already 2018 is looking to be the year for me.

About time!

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2017 Reflections and the impact of living past cancer

Like most, I find myself thinking about 2017.

2017 was a rough year for me. Certainly it was a lot tougher than I expected at the beginning of the year.

I had 2 major surgeries, spent the beginning of the year fighting debilitating side effects from hormone therapy, and lost any possibility to compete in the near future.

But I also completed almost 1/2 of my masters degree with a strong average, competed twice, including in open smooth and gold level, had a strong recovery, lost a third of the chemo weight, had successes at work, bought a new car, and felt my strength return for the first time since 2015.

I may recognize the good easier than the bad and I accept that as a gift.

Some things will continue for 2018. My degree will be only 3 months from completion, I expect work to keep progressing (especially since I can work full-time again now), recovery will continue and with it strength and weight loss. Dance will progress and while I am not going to be competing, I do have the time to focus on me and strengthen my dancing overall.

Cancer taught me a lot of hard lessons, not only about life but also about myself. It showed me strength and discipline I didn’t realize I had, helped me to determine what is truly important to me and to let go of those that are not.

Now, more than ever before, I can truly say that I am happy and content with where I am and where I am going. But that contentment comes more from knowing I am going some where, even if I don’t know the destination. I just want (and intend) to keep going there.

I don’t know what the future will bring. I don’t know when I will compete next, but I know at some point I will. In the meantime, I will continue to learn. I was told by work I can “reasonably” expect to stay in my current geographic location for 3-5 years and I am pleased with that. I am working to make sure I am well set up for my future.

The biggest takeaway from 2017 for me is reaching a point where I feel like I have a future I can look to again.

While dealing with cancer, the future disappeared. Not because the projected outcome was bleak or dismal, but only because it takes so much energy to fight cancer it is necessary to keep focused on the present and take things one day at a time. You focus on treatments–when the next one will be, whether the next day, week or 3 weeks–and work to get yourself there as positively as possible.

I am not sure I would have realized how important things such as dance and my work are to me if I hadn’t had to fight to keep them in my life. It gives me a different perspective on them and I fully believes shapes decisions I make about them–because I know now what is important about them.

This fall, I was put in a position where I had to decide what was more important to me in dance, competing or my process for learning. I would have made a different decision in 2014, and I know I would have regretted it and possibly ended up stopping dance.

I am comfortable in my decision, but also find myself a bit resigned–at least for now. I am resigned to the fact that current circumstances mean I can’t participate in dance how I would fully like to, but the circumstances are just that–current. They will change and I will adapt to new circumstances then. There will come a time when I can determine those circumstances, but it is not yet. There is a time for everything.

So as 2017 comes to an end, those are the thoughts that are bringing me into 2018.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year!

My (REAL) Dance Goals

I have a difficult time admitting to my goals.

I think one of the things that I personally struggle with when it comes to goals is that for some reason I feel they should be complicated and specific by my goals are and always have been really very simple.

I have two. Both are more about the experience and process than any tangible thing.

My goals are simple:

-to enjoy the experience of learning

-to enjoy the experience of competing

That’s it. There are no levels, placings, techniques or other things linked to it. It’s all about the experience of learning to dance and the experience of being on a competition floor. That is what matters to me when it comes to dance. And if I had to rank them (as recently I have had to do), then learning comes first.

To elaborate on each:

-Learning. I absolutely enjoy learning, whatever it is. I like analyzing, challenging myself, discovering new details and learning about myself and my capabilities in the process. It is the most important thing to me when it comes to dancing. I started with virtually nothing. In my past I have done classes in highland dance, country line dance, hip hop, and belly dance but none of them stuck because they weren’t for me (except maybe highland, but that ended because my teacher moved).

One of the reasons none of them stuck–there was no one to share the learning experience with on a one-on-one basis, although if there had been, perhaps it would have been different. As much as I am learning from an instructor and having the opportunity to develop myself, there is an aspect to ballroom where I have to share with others. At some times, perhaps others even learn from me.

The challenge of learning remains the most important part of dance for me and I don’t see that changing. From my perspective, the only thing that would enhance that would be the opportunity to teach that learning to others, as one never truly really learns something until they are able to teach it to someone else (of course I am very passionate about teaching, so perhaps I am biased on that). Teaching seems to be an evolution of learning.

-Competing. Competing is another aspect of learning for me, and it is truly about the experience. About challenging myself to get out there and in 1:30 show what I know and what I am capable of. Its a 1:30 to share what I have learned with others and perhaps inspire them to learn too. Competing has never been about winning or placements for me. It’s been about growth, stretching myself, learning about myself, seeing what I am capable of and getting outside of box I allow myself to be in during my regular life. Competing is the one opportunity I have to get out and feel like I have achieved something, and that is before the placing or marks come it.

Every competitive experience for me is an achievement and represents one moment in my life where I took a risk and got out there and did SOMETHING. The challenge of competing in ballroom is that I have to work with someone else for that achievement. I can’t just rely on myself which is my natural inclination to do. It’s a team effort and the challenge for me is to rise to the expectation of my partner and make him proud (whoever he is, instructor or otherwise) of what we are able to accomplish together. I want to feel as though I belong on the floor with the people I am competing with, and I don’t want to be the person who is automatically considered for last, but beyond that, I just want to be there and enjoy doing what I love to work for.

But that’s it.

I know I should probably have more concrete and specific goals, and ones that are more driven by reality than passion, but in the end it is just not what I want. I don’t want to limit myself. I just want to enjoy what I do.

As far as learning, I have no specific goals because I don’t know what I don’t know. As far as I am concerned, what I learn next or need to focus on is up to my instructor (even if in collaboration with others).  I just want to understand what I am trying to learn.

There are a lot of things I want to experience within the dance world.

 

An off week

I am back to dancing this week.

That said, while the week started strongly, yesterday and today (although less today) I was just off. I can’t even really describe why.

Yesterday, I did a little bit of practice to try and get my body back into the habit of moving again and almost from the beginning it just didn’t feel right. My entire body felt like it weighed twice what it does and getting any part of it to move too far too much effort.

It was disappointing because Monday I had energy and a good return. Even Boss commented on my strength of movement being unexpected. We covered a lot in that lesson including a lot of detailed work on the silver tango sequence. We even ended with normal HIIT conditioning using change steps.

Wednesday’s lesson just was off. I felt like I had a headache, but didn’t, that I was dizzy, but not quite, and had some vertigo. I also had some very intense hot flashes to the point I had to separate from Boss and wait for them to pass. We went over the new foxtrot open routine and filmed Boss’s part. After that, we reviewed the silver foxtrot sequence.

Because of how I was feeling, we didn’t do the conditioning last night and ended with the foxtrot.

Tonight was also a bit low key, but still productive. We reviewed the open routines for Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot and I wrote them down so I have them and can start preparing to learn them. We had a good conversation about my thoughts while I was healing and finished with the samba HIIT conditioning exercise. Beginning in January, we will start progressing the conditioning as I seem to have stabilized with what we are doing now, so it is time to start reducing the rest time between intervals.

Despite my lessons being less intense this week, there was a lot of productivity. I think what I was feeling yesterday and today are just the usual 2-week post surgery slump that tends to happen. I am confident I will strengthen as I work through next week and continue to recover.

One small disappointment from this week is that on Monday I discovered I cannot dance in contact until my chest finishes healing. The friction (which I cannot feel) causes the delicate incisions on the reconstruction to open and bleed. I have to be careful sleeping not to cause damage. I am hopeful that it will finish healing by January, but it is hard to say as it is a difficult place to heal.

Until then, I will need to work on my own or out of body contact (or in latin). There are certainly no lack of options.

A good week back, even if I feel like I am off.

Catching up and letting go of the dance control freak

I call this ‘catching up’ because I think these are some thought processes that needed to happen back in September after my last surgery.  I think Boss already reached these conclusions (and been telling me these things), but I just haven’t really had time until now to figure them out for myself (which is needed).

The surgery in July triggered a huge change for me generally. I can’t really explain the full extent of the difference, except that now I can fully live through my days instead of just doing the minimum. The same applies to dance. Prior to the surgery I was in a place where I had to pick and choose what I could do and focus on and what I could do was very limited. Even when I was trying to push hard, everything was less than I expected and underwhelming. I wanted to work hard but couldn’t and was trying to adjust to that. I look at the videos from my silver test and I see a dancer who is exhausted and trying not to show it who doesn’t really reach the limits of anything due to lack of energy.

The return after surgery was bigger than I could even process. I suddenly had all this energy and range of things I could do that previously just wouldn’t work. Even speed was eluding me as I found myself moving faster than I intended. I felt like I was handed all these gifts and I couldn’t figure out which ones to open, and when I did I couldn’t figure out exactly what to do with them. I still haven’t figured it out.

At the time, not sorting through things was ok because I had routines to learn to get ready for a competition which gave me something easy I could focus on and really I was just continuing the work I had been doing in standard, and of course conditioning was very much (and still is) needed.

Before and after the competition, I had coaching from 3 amazing coaches to process, all of which opened up the door of possibilities a lot wider than I expected or perhaps was ready for. All of the lessons showed me I am capable of doing much more than I thought I could do.

One of the things that seems to be a recurring theme for me is that I have become far too cautious. There was a time for that, but it is now over. I can push to my limits again, but I haven’t figured out how to do that or how to be comfortable doing that again.

It’s been a theme in my lessons and I recognize that, but until now I haven’t really been able to figure out what that means for me and how to turn it from a weakness to a strength. I haven’t been able to figure out how to frame it so doing it is no longer feels like a mistake. In short, I haven’t quite figured out yet how to give myself permission to fully explore my limits all the time.

That is the main thing I have been using this time to figure out. If I don’t have the right mind-set and approach it’s not going to work.

It’s been a long time since the work I have been doing in dance has ‘scared’ me. I have been doing a lot of safe and controlled things. Even working on my own, I spend so much time doing things slowly and ‘perfectly’ that a lot of them I never try at proper speed (because you can’t control as much as you can slowly). I have become a dance control freak, and at some point I allowed myself to become afraid of taking risks and being scared. It wasn’t that way when I first started dancing.

I recognize that in some ways, it’s not all a bad thing. There are some things that need that control. But the problem is that I am trying to control everything and it is keeping me from stretching myself. I have become too comfortable in my ‘comfort zone’.

So, I have fully come to the realization (and there were seeds before) that I need to start pushing myself outside my comfort zone on a regular basis to move forward. The biggest obstacle holding me back right now is myself.

I don’t know what I am capable of anymore. I don’t even fully have faith in what others are telling me I am capable of now.

All of this is to say that I have arrived. I have at least begun to understand what needs to be done to work towards new goals. It’s a combination of faith, trial and error, not holding back and facing (again) my fear of failure that tends to paralyze me at the last minute. Instead of asking myself how can I do this perfectly, I need to be asking myself how can I do this more, where are the limits of this.

That’s not to say it’s going to be rainbows and puppies from now on. It’s a big change of mind-set and that takes time, a lot of doing by trying, and a lot of asking myself if I could be doing more.

It also means being more willing to let mistakes happen like losing balance and more trust in myself and Boss. It also means letting go of always wanting to do slow and perfect practice and making sure that anything I do slow, I also do at speed (which is not a regular habit now).

The seeds are sewn and starting to branch out and percolate. I have a week before I can return to dance after the most recent surgery, but I am starting to get restless, so it’s a good sign. It’s also been more than a week since I have had to take my insomnia medication and my sleep continues to improve. I am also only needing strong pain medication at night and should be able to stop even that by the end of the week.

I am healing, both physically and I am catching up on the mental healing that began after my last surgery in July. There is nothing except time in front of me to stretch myself and reach those limits I have been shying away from.

Time to let go of the dance control freak.

Working out a plan

It seems things have settled.

But boy was it rocky to get there.

We have a plan.

I did go to my lesson on Wednesday, but I took some advice from the lovely Girl with the Tree Tattoo and put together my thoughts and frustrations and asked Boss for 5 minutes at the beginning of my lesson to just vent and let it all out.

It turned into a productive conversation that gave more clarity than previous conversations. One of the first things I mentioned was that I felt a little confused about what I was being told because at times it seemed contradictory. The biggest point to come out of that is that Boss is unable to support competing for at least 6 months to a year, and can’t say right now if he will return to competing or not after that.

Well, neither can I. Anything can happen in a year. I know that better than anyone. 2 weeks ago, while waiting for my biopsy result, I wasn’t sure if I would see my 40th birthday.

Life can change on a dime for all sorts of reasons.

All that to say that I know I won’t be competing with Boss for probably at least a year. After that, no one can really say what might be possible. Maybe he will be willing and able to compete, maybe he won’t.

Maybe I won’t be able to compete. You never know.

I don’t work with Boss because he was willing to be a warm body on a competition floor. While competing is one goal of mine, it is not the only one and it is not the most important one either. I work with him because he is able and willing to teach at the level I want and I can take lessons consistently throughout the week. He is also open to communicating, and does both long and short-term planning for lessons. Going to any other instructor, particularly commuting, eliminates a lot of those advantages, particularly being able to work with lessons throughout the week which is the most important thing for me.

Boss did suggest an option that I may consider in the future (for example if he is still unable to compete this time next year), but for now I don’t see it as necessary (not to mention it would be a bit costly).

After all of that, we did come to a plan that works.

I have no issues with not competing for 6 months to a year. I see it as an opportunity to work on my own technique and particularly focus on some details that require more in-depth and long term focus to sort out–things I can’t focus on while preparing to compete. In particular, trying to sort out the issue with my right foot turning out and lacking the strength to stay turned in. Other things include specific techniques in latin, CBMP in standard (I am just starting to scratch the surface on understanding that), and connection in latin.

Boss and I also discussed how I want to structure lessons for the next little while. We agreed that I would stick with 3 a week (as that’s the level I am happiest with), but two would be on things he wants to work on, but the third lesson would be directed by questions, topics that I want to work on (which I will provide to him in advance). I have already given him something for the first one.

My lessons in general will be focused more on individual conditioning and exercises for technique, although I have some routines that have details that need to be worked out. Now is an opportunity to do that. I see all the work I do now will only make my stronger in the future.

The most interesting thing about the discussion we had was that Boss told me he would like me to be more involved in my learning now as I have reached a point where I should be. It’s an interesting concept.

Finally, I had a couple ideas for evaluating progress without competing. First, as we are going to be doing some specific exercises (most from coaches), so I had the idea of filming me doing all the exercises (once we figure out what they will be), and then refilming them in 3 months to play side by side and see if there is any difference.

The second idea was that if I am not competing, then I am saving money. Something valuable I do with it that is still dance related (and cheaper than competing) is to do some coaching lessons. Already the last coach I worked with is going to be returning in February, so I have an opportunity to be able to afford more lessons with him, and Boss suggested a different coach for latin who may be possible to work with in the near-term (I have worked with her before and enjoyed it  a lot).

I am very glad and relieved to have a plan in place, for at least the next 6 months. In June, there will be a time to re-evaluate where everything is at, but until then I am happy with the plan. I have just over a week until my next surgery which will mean some brief time away from dancing. I am glad to have this sorted now.

When the worst happens

Spoiler Alert: Everything turned out more or less ok.

I have been living a deja vu nightmare for the past 2 weeks.

In 2014, just before a major dance competition I found a lump in my breast that led to a biopsy after the competition which led to my cancer diagnosis.

2 weeks ago, just before my last competition, I found a lump just on the inside of my right breast. I went to get it checked out and was told it was unusual, but that it was sore and moveable was a positive sign. I was referred for an ultrasound to make sure.

The ultrasound was the morning after we returned from the competition. I expected it would be a quick ultrasound and that the lump was probably just scar tissue or a cyst and I would be sent on my way. Instead, the ultrasound resulted in a biopsy because the lump was a lymph node that ‘didn’t look quite right’, was ‘larger than expected’ and ‘moderately suspicious’. All words I did NOT want to hear–especially with a history of having cancer that doesn’t show up on ultrasounds, and other imaging platforms.

That began one of the longest weeks of my life, trying to keep moving through things and put one step in front of the other. There were a lot of ups and downs. As much as you try not to let your mind go to dark places, at some point it has to.

I have been keeping busy, trying not to get too tired (which would lead to me losing all control of my emotions) and alternating between optimism and being realistic about what a recurrence could mean.

Finally, this afternoon I got the call from my doctor that the biopsy was completely clear and shows no sign of malignancy. All that was present were benign lymphoid cells–exactly what is expected in a lymph node. It is likely enlarged and inflamed due to some residual and on-going reaction to healing from my last surgery.

I will still be referred back to the breast surgeon who did my original breast surgeries and lymph node biopsies to see if she feels further exploration is necessary, but for the most part, everything can continue back to normal.

I am ok.

I am going to be ok.

I feel like I was just handed my life back, again. The amount of stress and tension that is leaving my body right now is palpable. I want to celebrate and haven’t the slightest idea how.

It’s a much better problem to have.

Onward I go with recovering and rebuilding my life!

Disappointing myself

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

It’s been a rough week for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am pretty sure I was wrong about that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I know I am stronger than that.

The little things

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

There were some small victories I want to celebrate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s definitely the little things.

It only ‘sucks’ for two weeks…

Usually…

We started a new aspect of training in my lessons this week–specifically aimed at increasing my conditioning and cardio endurance. It was something we spoke about prior to my surgery, but hadn’t consistently applied it yet.

We have now.

What we have started doing is essentially the ballroom dance version of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). The second half of my lesson is spent doing 1:30 intervals of Viennese Waltz or Jive (depending on the day), with 3 minutes spent working on less intense sections of my routines or ‘rest’.

Yesterday we actually tried alternating jive and samba for the intervals, but today we upped the ante with 7 rounds of VW. We had to cut down the time for the final two rounds to only 1 minute, but I got through them.

Barely.

As mentioned, we had to cut down the interval times for the last two rounds, and I barely made it through them. In the second last, my feet just stopped working and keeping time, I finished the last feeling very light headed and had some minor dry heaves.

I still religiously wear a fitbit, so I made a point of checking my pulse. One thing I noticed–the first 4 rounds, my pulse recovered from over 160 to less than 140 before we started again. With the last 3 rounds, my pulse recovered a lot less, and before the final round, it didn’t recover at all and was reading 158 before we started. It was 170 when we finished.

I have done HIIT training before, a lot (but never through dance), so I had an idea what to expect, and I have an idea what to expect. Boss told me his intention is to do this during my lessons for the next little while, since we have them regularly 3 times a week. I am perfectly game as I know my stamina and cardio endurance for dance is not likely to improve much otherwise.

From previous experience, it usually takes about 2 weeks for me to start feeling some improvement. I wouldn’t say things get easier, but I should be able to push harder through the full interval without fading so much.

It’s a little scary how much my endurance has suffered while I have been sick. The extra weight I am carrying isn’t going to help much either, but hopefully the intervals will also help it to keep gradually going down. I have been at a plateau for 4 weeks now, and I hope this might help push me through it.

I am trying to approach the intervals with as much drive as I can. Already, the ‘average heart rate’ for my lessons has increased from 115 to 135, which is a good sign. They are meant to be difficult and exhausting, and truly they are going to ‘suck’ for about 2 weeks before I will start feeling stronger. I just keep reminding myself of that.

I actually really hope that we will be able to continue with the intervals through the lessons. I know that beside being hard on me, they are difficult on Boss too (although less so). If we can keep consistent with them, then I hope when it comes to the competition in a month, I will be able to be more confident in my ability to get through a 5-dance scholarship.

After my lesson, I was even able to stay for latin technique class, which really surprised me. I had a little time to rest and really recover, and the class was less intense than my lesson (I think anything will be now!). I was happy to be able to complete it after such a hard lesson.

Boss and I had a quick talk about the group classes, as I have been trying to regularly attend them. Particularly on Mondays, I have a lesson, then usually I do some practice between my lesson and the group class. I asked what he would prefer–I cut back practice some to make the class a priority, or focus on the practice and skip the class if I am too tired. We both agreed that the class should be the priority for now. It gives me a chance to do drills I would do in practice, and it allows Boss to see things that may need to be worked on in my lesson.

Among the stress of the intervals tonight, I also had a revelation about ‘stretching back’ in standard versus ‘leaning back’ (or falling back). The first one involves stretching back from my shoulders and neck, but still keeping my ribs and chest forward. That is what I need to be doing and need to work on doing more. The second one happens when I stretch my hips forward, but let my upper body fall back from them. It brings my entire upper body behind me, hence the feeling of falling.

As we were working on foxtrot between rounds, I was able to work with this newfound knowledge and explore a bit how much stretching I could do before over doing it. There still seems to be more I can do, but doing it free up Boss some and allows us to work together a bit more in standard. I need to allow this to process more so I can apply it to the other dances.

It’s great to see a definite improvement in an area I have been working on for a while, especially when the rest of my lesson was difficult and I was bordering on exhaustion.

It’s the silver lining in many ways of my mind being freed up as my body physically grows tired. I look forward to seeing what other small improvements might be on the horizon, and seeing where the work on the conditioning takes me.

It should only ‘suck’ for 2 weeks.