Sweat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regardless, it appears that sweat is good.

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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.

Scattered Pieces

My back seems to be settled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just need to pull the pieces together.

Battling On

My battle with injuries is continuing.

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

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

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

Regardless, I can feel my frustration mounting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week is going to be hard.

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

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

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

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

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

Like competing again.

Revisiting Silver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Especially as we get closer to competing again.

A Lot to Catch Up on

There has been a lot going on for me lately.

Hence the reason I haven’t posted much.

First, I wanted to share an article I wrote about my experience while I was deployed that was published on Dance Comp Review. To read it, click here.

Now that is out of the way, I am 40 today. For some reason that seems like a big milestone.

Part of it could be that I have been struggling a lot lately. I noticed I was really lacking in motivation, felt tired all the time and felt like I was forcing myself to do almost everything. I was really hating my strength training workouts and running was getting harder. Then the issues started happening.

In 2007 I fell from a wall during training and tore a disc in my lower back. It took a long time to get that injury under control and every now and then it flares up, but it hasn’t flared up since before I was sick so I wasn’t thinking about it too much.

Until about a week and a half ago. I was running and started to get a pain in my hip. At first I didn’t think much of it, but then when it kept creeping alarm bells started going off. The pain in my hip is usually a sign my back has flared up. I immediately started doing the back bend exercises that helps it feel better and as the pain moved back into my lower back that seemed to confirm it had flared up. I rested a few days, did hundreds of back bends and it seemed to be back under control.

But, I am not that lucky. I ran again yesterday and it immediately flared up again. I cut my run short, but it wasn’t good. My neck and shoulders were also acting up giving me the ‘twingy’ sensation through my neck. Overall, it was just too much. I had a bit of a breakdown and relented it was time to see the doc.

The conversation with the doc was good, but gave me a lot to think about. In particular, I am rethinking overall how I am training. Right now, my training at the gym is focused on building upper body strength and power for my PT test. Unfortunately, that is counter to pretty much all the rest of my goals. And focusing on training for my PT test is starting to break my body. It isn’t what I want to be doing and I am not making a lot of progress so it wearing on me overall.

The doc suggested I take a step back from preparing for the test and focus on what I want to do. It just makes a lot of sense right now and among other things, it would help me put my body back together since it seems a bit determined to fall apart right now.

I have an appointment with physio on Friday to have my hip, back, neck, shoulders and ankles looked at. It will also be an opportunity to discuss what I want to do for training to get some direction for what I need for myself versus what I need for the PT test. Next week I have an appointment with the adaptive fitness trainer I work with and that should give me a new program overall.

Running, unfortunately, is probably going to be completely off the table. Back to the elliptical for me most likely.

So that has been the main thing weighing on my mind – dreading my workouts and feeling like and knowing I was working hard but somehow never getting closer to my goals. When the work and the goals don’t match up, it makes sense.

The doc also pointed out that because of the radiation, chemo, side effects and surgeries my upper body muscles may never be as strong as they were and they may be permanently weak. Its something to consider at least.

I don’t know what the changes will look like, but I am looking forward to some sort of change.

Dance tonight seemed different in itself – but I will leave that for another post.

Still a lot to catch up on.

 

Returning to Competing

Yes, its official.

I have mailed off my entries and I will be competing at the Emerald Ball this May. Its a lofty goal for sure but gives me something tangible to focus on. There is a lot of work that needs to be done before then though!

After discussing with Boss, we decided to compete in silver and open. I have only competed in one competition at the silver level back in 2014 and it was only beginning silver. I haven’t really had an opportunity to see where I am compared with others at the silver level. Since Emerald is one of the biggest competitions out there, it seems like the right place to challenge myself and find out where I need to improve to get better. I don’t expect to do much at the open level considering the depth of the field, but I am hopeful I will do well in silver.

The other thing that really appeals to me about Emerald Ball is that they have events that include both standard and latin – a 6-dance and 10-dance competition. This is one of my main goals for competing and why I work on two styles – to be able to compete across both styles. I am hopeful that because I don’t really have one style where I am disproportionately stronger it will help me overall in these events.

It was a big decision to return to competing, and since it has been decided I have been trying to wrap my head around it and everything that has to be done to prepare. I am slowly working out all the details and moving my head into competition prep mode. Boss has a good plan and we should be able to work fairly consistently towards the comp.

At least, as long as my body will hold out. I had some issues last week when my back flared up worse than it has in quite some time. I am not sure what aggravated the torn disc, but by the end of my lesson on Wednesday night the pain was fully seated in my hip and constantly throbbing – a sign it needed some rest and aggressive relief. The best thing I can do is back bends so I have been averaging 100 a day and that has calmed things down to a dull ache around the disc. I had to rest by skipping practice, a run, and the group class and doing nothing over the weekend, but it seems to have done the trick. I was back at the gym today and it went well. I am hopeful this is just my back readjusting to my regular routine from being on the ship and that it will continue to work itself out.

I will just keep an eye on things and adjust as I can. It has already been suggested I reduce my overall running time by 10 mins to 25 mins instead of 35, so tomorrow I will see how that works. My back started to show signs of aggravation during running – one of the last running intervals, so hopefully it will do the trick.

As much as the competition seems to be a long way off, on the other hand I know it will get here quicker than I think.

But the big news is that competing is coming.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all – I hope the year is a good one for you.

2019 has already shaped up to be an interesting year for me and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing what is next.

I am slowly settling into a routine, or at least one that I hope will make sense once I get back to work. Today was my first day back at the gym and I had to reduce weight on a couple of exercises, but not too many. I know that I will definitely feel the work I did today tomorrow, especially in my legs, which were like jelly after.

It made my lesson a little challenging today, but it is something I will need to adjust to. In 2 weeks, my muscles will be used to working out again.

I should be competing again this year, likely in the late spring. Today’s lesson reminded me how much work it is to prepare for competing, and I could feel myself beginning to mentally rewrap my head around it.

My body will take a little bit of work, but it will slowly pull itself back into shape. Just from the lesson today it seems that my body is responding and adjusting as it needs to. I just hope it keeps itself together as we start really concentrated work.

Hopefully this weekend I will have a better idea of the plan and from there I can organize myself.

I am looking forward to preparing for a competition again. It should be helpful for me to have that to focus on – both for my dance goals and for my other fitness goals.

Lots to do and lots to focus on this year.

 

Quickstep

My lesson today was more than an hour on quickstep.

That’s a feat in itself.

It was good though because we were able to completely review the routine and work through some of the trouble spots.

Quickstep is interesting because while you need to know your steps, you also don’t really have the time to think about them, so you have to trust your feet know what they are doing as you move along.

My feet are not quite there yet.

One of the most revealing things from today was realizing that the quickstep routine is quite fragmented in my mind. I know it in sections – the sections I practice to fit in the smaller hall we normally work in. Today we were in a bigger hall that is closer to regulation size and that meant working to keep the routine moving – and immediately highlighted that once we switched to a new section my brain kept expecting to start.

I suspect there may be a similar issue in the other standard routines as well. One of the ways we will be fixing that is working in the bigger hall twice a month until competing – that should highlight all those gaps pretty quickly.

The other thing I noticed in quickstep, which I did notice in the work we did last week, was that there seems to be a lot of things coming together for me in standard right now. Its like my mind processed them over the break and they just make sense. There are a lot of ‘aha’ moments going on – especially when it comes to moving my body in standard.

For example, something that seemed to constantly elude me was my promenade position. I could hold it when I was standing on my own, but somehow whenever I put it into context it just didn’t manifest in the same way. Something was off, but I could never figure out why the two felt so different when they were meant to be the same. Somehow it pulled together for me and I know what I need to do to create the same feeling. For me, its more about thinking of pulling my left shoulder and elbow back instead of just facing forward. Somehow this thought locks the position into place. I think this has come from the tango work I did in Ottawa for some reason.

Its not consistent yet, but my mind is starting to consistently remind myself and check when I turn to promenade to see if the right feeling is there. I can feel muscle memory starting to develop. Working in quickstep today was really helpful as I feel like that is the dance where the position is the most crucial overall – without a strong position, the entire dance will fall apart due to the momentum and speed. It needs that support.

I had asked to work on quickstep specifically because I felt it was the one standard routine we just don’t quite have together yet. We haven’t really done any of it to the music and we haven’t yet gone all the way through it without a mini disaster.

Because quickstep is the last dance we do in standard and we are most tired when we do it (not to mention the momentum and pace of it), for me its really important that we have it down solid and feel confident and comfortable with it. Of all the routines, this is the one I need to know inside and out so that when I get to that point in a comp no matter how tired I am I know it is there.

Basically, I feel like if I can do the quickstep routine, then I can do any of them. The rest is almost gravy.

I predict a lot of quickstep in the future – although the progress seems to be moving quickly since we are concentrating on it. I also know that every adjustment we make in quickstep will translate into the other dances – especially the waltz and foxtrot.

Some other areas where my mind seems to be pulling things together are in my feet position (closing them just seems to happen easier now), keeping my knees bent, power, and my upper body position in general. Somehow it all seems different and better. I am not sure if its perception or perhaps just a change in focus in my mind.

Regardless, it seems like there has been a fundamental jump forward for me in standard and I am looking forward to see where it goes.

Quickstep is only the beginning.

I’m Back!

Actually I have been home just over a week, but needed some time to decompress.

It was a good sail although very tiring and stressful at times. I am glad to have it done, but it was also a rewarding experience.

Since I have been back, I have been trying to get back into the rhythm of my everyday life or at least trying to figure out what that is now. I have even had 3 lessons already as after being on the ship for so long I was eager to get back in the studio.

I am on vacation from work until Jan 8th, so in many ways that makes it a bit difficult to get back to ‘normal’. I am sure I will settle into a routine quick enough once I get back at work though. For now, I am relaxing and enjoying the break. I even have a break from school right now until January – then I start the final course of my Masters degree. In June I will graduate!!

On the dance front, Boss and I had some preliminary discussions about the next steps and we seem to be on the same page. The goal is to compete in late spring!

Returning to a competition means making a switch of mindset from development to competition preparation. There isn’t a huge difference, but it is an important one nonetheless. There is a time factor now for my goals and a lot of work to do in that time.

In many ways though, it feels good to have a comp goal again, even if a little daunting. Half the battle is setting the goal as I can tell I have fallen back into a ‘I won’t be ready’ mindset. But the way to overcome that is to know it is there, acknowledge it and understand that you will never feel ‘ready’, especially if you never set a goal for what ‘ready’ is. There will always be things to work on, but now I have set a time to put forth my best efforts at that time – whatever they may be.

I was anxious going back to my first lesson as I wasn’t sure what to expect. After 10 weeks of no studio time or work with Boss or a partner I didn’t know where I would be. I did a lot of work on the ship on very specific movements and techniques as well as some running intervals, but there really is no way to gauge how that would translate back in the studio. I wrote an article about my work on the ship and I will post it with some photos (and maybe some videos) in my next post.

It seems I did well in my work as Boss was quite pleased with the shape I was in when I got back. We reviewed a couple of latin routines and have been focusing some on standard since then. I think I processed a lot of the information from the coaching lessons I did just before I left and it is coming out in my lessons now. My first few lessons were a bit of evaluation, discussion and trial so a plan can be developed going forward.

I am still working out how I want to work in the future for dance and my fitness. As I mentioned, I did some running intervals on the ship (the treadmill was the best cardio option for me), and I was surprised that my knees tolerated it pretty well, but I hope that is the result of the work I have been doing to strengthen them. For now, my intent is to continue the running on land as much as my knees will tolerate. I run for 1:30 and walk for 1 min for 14 intervals (35 mins total). Transferring off the treadmill has taken some adjustment (its harder) but so far so good after 2 runs. We’ll see how that continues.

That is all for now, but I will write about my experience keeping up dance on the ship in my next post. The article I wrote was part of my requirements for the course I was doing for school.