What a month!

And it is barely halfway over.

When the month started, I felt like it was going to finally be a good one for me.

Turns out, I was wrong. Its been a month of one thing after another after another.

Work continues to be crazy busy, so that is not helping much. The sudden side effects and having to switch medications has also made everything harder than it needs to be. I have been transitioning from one to the other and now I am only on one but the side effects from beginning the new meds haven’t worn off yet. Its a little weird because more of the side effects involve feeling like something is happening (like a racing heart or trembling), but it actually isn’t (my fitbit doesn’t show anything other than a normal heartbeat, and I can see my hands aren’t shaking). My mind also often seems like its going in 6 different directions at once and I can’t seem to figure out how to reign it in.

Those are just the mental side effects. There are some physical ones like headaches and body aches too.

Last week was rough. I was able to get back to some activity and resume my full workout program. Things were feeling good and productive, although there was some muscle tightness and soreness. I seemed to be having some shin splints too.

At physio, I was showing good progress on my shoulder and ankle, so the therapist decided to work on trying to release my quad muscle to give some relief to my hip flexors and knees. After my appointment I asked if there were any issues with me going to do my regular sprint intervals as I was almost at the point of increasing the interval. He didn’t have any concerns.

Unfortunately, almost at the end of  my 4th sprint interval I suddenly felt a sharp and deep pain in my lower right glute almost where it joins with my hamstring. I had to stop sprinting and reduce to a jog so light I may have been walking faster. I was so angry I seriously wanted to hit something. The sprinting had been going so well there was really no reason for this sharp pain to suddenly appear. I had thought that perhaps my shoes were getting a little worn and causing the shin splints but this seemed extreme and sudden. I immediately iced it when I returned to my office and alternated heat and ice throughout the evening. It seemed to settle some, but there was still some lingering pain.

I also noticed I was experiencing some pain especially if I took a big step while walking, but I couldn’t seem to pin it down. It is still lingering and my intervals are still really light jogs with small strides.

To add insult to injury, Sunday morning I woke up and my left shoulder felt sore and stiff. My best guess is that I slept funny on it. By the mid-afternoon my shoulder had tightened up so much I could barely use it and I was in extreme pain. I put heat on it and had to take some muscle relaxants to try to settle it down. I couldn’t turn my head right barely at all. Thankfully it loosened some by the morning but I had to continue to work to loosen it all week. Its still giving some issues now and then. This is similar to the chronic issues I had been experiencing since returning to work over a year ago, but it seemed to have worked itself out more than a month ago. Again, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for why it flared up this much all of a sudden.

I return to physio tomorrow, but my therapist is then on vacation for two weeks. I am hoping he will be able to give some idea on what is going on with my glute and how to get it better. I am still getting some ‘tweaks’ now and then, but I haven’t been able to figure out a pattern to what is irritating it. For example, cha cha walks irritate it some times, but not every time.

I have been able to be consistent with my practice and I now have three routines more or less mapped out. The samba is proving the most challenging (but not a surprise) as there are some steps I have never done, and others which are done differently from what I have done. I have two lessons and a group class this weekend I am really looking forward to after a two week break. I know I have the rumba and cha cha in good condition and the pieces of the samba I know are also in passable condition. Hopefully with a little direction the rest will come together.

I am hopeful the side effects, random muscle irritations and other issues will die down and work themselves out as the month continues.

Fingers crossed.

Trying to Remember What I Used to Know

Boss made an interesting observation tonight.

It was interesting in that it vocalized what had pretty much been going on in my head since I started back to dance–particularly in standard.

What he said is that he had observed that there were things I was doing pretty consistently before my surgery which I seemed to have forgotten about since I returned.

I have to agree with that, as one thing I have noticed during my lessons, particularly in standard, is that I have this scrambled feeling in my brain–like I am trying to grab onto all sorts of thoughts at the same time and translate that into my movements. As we move through different things, my mind jumps around from technical aspect to technical aspect to try and remember some of the things that were just on the cusp of becoming habits before surgery.

Different examples include allowing my feet to roll through the movements, stepping in CBMP going into turning figures (particularly natural figures), keeping my knees flexed, not turning out too far in promenade position and keeping my ribs forward to open up my position.

Boss has mentioned some of them, and some of them have come into my head as we review (although sometimes to the point of distracting me from other things I am supposed to be focusing on). I am sure there are still more I haven’t completely remembered. The biggest step seems to be remembering, and then consciously reworking them back into my dancing to remember the habit so I don’t have to think about them so much.

I hope, at least, that as things come up and we do more reviews, the ‘almost habits’ will slowly come back more consistently and continue building on what was developing before the surgery.

That said, today was a pretty productive lesson. We started with some of the standard drills that Boss has been developing for us to do together in Waltz and Tango. Both are made up of basic steps, but the point is to work through them using full technique and paying attention to all the details. In tango, it is also about developing some sharpness to the movement, and starting to differentiate between the different dances. That was just the warm-up, and from there we picked up where we left off yesterday with the Quickstep.

Thankfully, it seems my mind did process what we were trying to do yesterday and today I was better able to do what was needed in the hover corte.  I still hesitate a little in wanting to move my weight all the way over my right foot, but it is getting there more consistent. After reviewing that, we worked on the final step I needed to learn to finish the routine, which went quite well.  It will still need work, but I seem to have at least the basic understanding and we were able to do it in time and in some context.

We finished up working on foxtrot. When we worked with the coach last week, he made some small suggestions for changes in the final line of our routine, but we hadn’t had a chance to review it since then.  Tonight we went through it and refined it some.

Throughout my lessons, there are some small things Boss is drawing my attention to that apply through all routines and it gives me some detailed things to focus on as we work. One of the things I am discovering is that for a lot of the small points, while each has its own specifics, a recurring theme tends to be to let myself relax into things a little more and to try to not limit myself and the flow of movement. I tend to get rigid in some of my movements and in doing so, I don’t quite complete them.  It’s something to think about, and I wonder if that is part of the pre- and post-surgery difference–that I was starting to get move relaxed and confident about many of my techniques and the work I was doing, and now I am back to being more tentative again. I am almost trying too hard.

Which leads me to my final point tonight. I was going to stay and practice some after my lesson tonight, but at the end of my lesson, my entire body was screaming for a break and that it was done for the week, led by my knees which are quite inflamed between the return to dance, work and everything else. I have been trying to mitigate the flare up, but my success seems to be a little limited. I do have some ice, voltaren and tiger balm on them now to try to quiet them down.  I was told to expect this, I guess I am a little disappointed about how bad it is.

I didn’t stay and headed home as I can recognize that there is some bone-weariness creeping up on me, and my body needs the break.  I want to keep pushing, but my body isn’t ready for that yet and its a little frustrating. I am trying not to worry about it and let it get me down, but it is on my mind now and then. Part of me is afraid that this might be the beginning of going back to feeling as I was before surgery, although there is a distinct difference–particularly in energy level.  While I am tire and sore, I still have energy.  I am trying to have faith that it’s all normal and that with the break of the long weekend, and some planned rest, I will be ready to get back at things on Wednesday during my next lesson.

It’s not that I feel I have a lot to do, its more that there is a lot I want to do.

A lot I want to remember.

Bending the knee

It seems Jon Snow is not the only one reluctant to do this…

We were working on quickstep tonight (which for some reason seems like something I haven’t done in two years), and after starting with some clarification in the fishtail, we moved on to the hover corte, which is a new step for me in my gold routine.

Ever have a night where it seems like your mind and body just won’t work together?

That was me tonight. My mind understood (for the most part) what I needed to do, but my body just could not figure out how to consistently make it happen. That said, I am hopeful that it will be one of those things that once my mind has an opportunity to sleep on it (literally), it will process the information and start working out.

The root of the problem though seems to stem some from my knees, particularly my right knee.

As I have mentioned before, knee issues and knee pain have been an on-going thing for me since before cancer.  I tend towards patella femoral syndrome, which is an issue that takes a lot of time and strengthening to work out.  After 6 weeks off of activity, my knees were feeling pretty good, but of course returning to activity has caused them to flare up some (which I was told to expect). My right knee tends to be the instigator, and my left joins in when it has to compensate.

So what does this have to do with dance?

When my knees get sore, my mind starts to unconsciously compensate by avoiding bending them, and in particular by avoiding allowing me to put my weight on one of them at a time while bent.  It also knows that I tend to be more unstable when standing on a bent right leg.

Particularly in standard, I had been working on moving with bent legs through all my steps and to break myself of the habit of step on mostly straight legs. Part of it is a strength issue, the other is simply breaking habits and giving myself the permission to keep my legs bent. Stepping on a straight leg was one of the biggest issues tonight. What’s interesting, is that it was an issue almost always only when stepping on the right leg and having to rise.

Exactly what my body like to avoid doing.

I had a bit of a thought after I got home tonight and did an experiment that brought interesting results.  One of the things Boss seemed to be pointing out was that I had a reluctance to move my weight completely over my right leg when I know I will be changing direction, preferring to keep my weight more to left, and particularly to tend to thrust my right hip out to the side.

So, when I got home, I tried comparing what happens when I balance on each leg with a bent knee.  The result? I am quite stable and comfortable standing on a bent left knee, and it feels perfectly natural to do so without any help from my hip.  Standing on a bent right knee is a bit of a disaster.  I have to almost consciously think to keep my hip from falling out, and I can feel my foot moving back and forth to try to keep the balance.  I can also stand for a prolonged time on my left, but after 10 seconds on my right, I can feel my hip start to tire.

Well, that tells me where my body needs some concentrated work, beginning with just building endurance for standing on a bent right knee.

It’s an exercise I remember doing at some point 2-3 years ago.

I don’t know if that will help directly with dance (it can’t hurt, I suppose), but on top of that I will have to start forcing my mind to pay attention to how I am stepping on my right in standard–especially in pivoting or rising steps to start breaking my current habit and helping my body rebuild it’s strength.

Speaking of building strength, I have started doing 15 mins of body weight exercises at home every other day, mostly to help my knees (they are all exercises I was doing on direction from my trainer and physio before the surgery). Them plus pushups against the wall seem to be a good place to start with some strength training.

I also stayed to do some practice after my lesson tonight, although I compromised with myself and limited it to 30 minutes just to review my latin routines and some of the hand work I did last week. I also took some time to work on my traveling spins in paso and keeping my elbow in front of me, which was the second half of my lesson on Monday (natural rolls in samba was the first half). I couldn’t do quite as much as I wanted as I was feeling a bit light-headed and getting dizzy, so I erred on the side of caution and stopped spinning when my balance stopped cooperating.

I am finding myself a little more tired this week, but as my body is still adjusting to the stopping of the anti-depressants, and the return to work, its not unusual.  I also had a bit of a harder time sleeping Monday and Tuesday night with a sudden heat wave.  Since it cooled off today, I hope to sleep better tonight.

Speaking of sleep, over the next couple weeks I will be working on reducing the dose of my insomnia medication, another positive step. The reduction is in my control, but it seems that I am reaching the point where it will be possible, since a lot of the insomnia increasing medications are out of my system now. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

A lot of positive things going on, and thankfully nothing unexpected coming up (knock on wood!). There are a lot of gradual increases and I am keeping an eye on things as I go along.

8 Weeks until the competition. At this point, I am not too sure about how the preparation will go.  It seems like we are not quite covering as much in my lessons as Boss hopes, although I am optimistic it will pick up momentum once we get some of the major issues cleared up and out of the way.  Other than endurance in general (which is going to be an issue for some time), there is really only one routine I am completely unsure of (quickstep), one routine I lack some confidence in (especially in my ability to do it at full speed, paso), and a few routines with the odd step I am not sure about.  Its really not a bad place to be considering its been a week since I have started back to activity.

Overall, I am doing good. Looking forward to moving further on this path.

Lots to be optimistic about!

Mixed Messages

“You can ask me any question about technique that you want.”

Except I can’t.

Boss said this last night at my lesson.  Two months ago he told me that I wasn’t allowed to ask any questions and that I should just do what he tells me, because he is the instructor and I am only the student.

(On a side note, he told me this at the same time he told me he is my instructor and not the Boss of my dancing.  I don’t think he realizes I am not his only student to refer to him this way and neither was I the first–its a habit I picked up from another of is students)

I don’t know how to ask questions without making him feel like I am undermining him as an instructor, though lord knows I have tried.

While its an interesting olive branch, history has shown me that whenever I ask questions it inevitably leads to conflict between us because one of 3 things happen (or sometimes all 3):

  1. He dismisses my question and says it either doesn’t matter or is something I ‘don’t need to worry about’.
  2. He assumes I am asking because I am trying to rush progress.
  3. He assumes that by asking I am really saying ‘Forget everything you think I should focus on and focus on only this instead because I want to’.

Very rarely is it numbers 2 or 3, and number 1 just leads me to frustration.  Whether a topic matters to him or not, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important to me and frequently on my mind (and sometimes interfering with other things I am working on).

More often than not, the question comes because I have observed something and am curious about it. Sometimes its related to a small personal project I am working on and I just need a bit of direction to know where to start to begin to work it out for myself.  Sometimes it is related to something else I am working on that my mind has latched on to and won’t let go.

An example–right now one of my exercises is rumba basic and focusing on making sure I step, then settle.  The biggest issue with this is when I step back with my right foot–I have a tendency to step there already settled with no way else to move my hip.  Its taken a lot of experimentation, but slowly I have found a way to step back on a straight leg without having my hip settled. This has led me to consider other steps where I step backwards, and to wonder about how to actually do rumba steps backwards, something I don’t recall working on in international rumba (I did it a lot in rhythm, but very different technique).  Its drawn my attention to the issue to the point that when I do figures with multiple back steps (like aida or reverse top) I find myself distracted by noticing I am not stepping right and trying to figure out how to fix it.  I have tried just walking backwards, but for whatever reason I can’t figure it out–there seems to be a big piece I am missing. In fact, it feels as though what I am doing might lead to injury of my hip as some of the movements I am trying to do are sometimes painful.

But if I ask Boss about that, he will likely think I am asking him to change my exercises or what he wants me to focus on (currently it seems to be forward steps), or he will tell me its something I don’t need to worry about right now.

But on the other hand, he has mentioned several times that my back steps in latin are not good, and while watching videos he has pointed out how others move backwards.

So I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place and mostly I just sort of wait and hope he will notice what is frustrating me and decide to address it.  Because I am not allowed to know his plan, I also have no way to know if my questions will just get naturally addressed when we get to that topic (if we get to that topic).

The rumba back steps are just one of the things I find myself wondering about and wanting to work on by myself.  I have time now since changing my practice schedule but I do feel like I don’t know where to start to work on them.  I am unsure enough that I am concerned I will teach myself wrong and develop bad habits or worse injure myself with bad technique.

But despite what Boss said at my lesson yesterday, I have been ‘bitten’ enough by questions being misinterpreted that I don’t feel I can ‘ask anything’ about technique–or anything really. I just don’t want to risk opening a giant can of worms.

So I wait and hope things will resolve themselves, and try not to let myself get too impatient or frustrated.

I can either ask questions or I can’t.

I don’t see how it can be both ways.

Latin Let-down

I am not sure why I feel so frustrated with my latin technique tonight.

I do have a theory that perhaps it is just the late hour of the class (8 pm is late for me these days), coupled with an extremely busy week at work (it’s not over yet!). The end result being that I feel like I couldn’t do anything right tonight during the class–even though I know that is not the case.  Its almost like a mini ‘crash’ after the class.

Usually I feel pretty good about my latin technique.  While there are some things I struggle with a lot, there are others that come more naturally and no matter what I do, my hips definitely move. The adjustment I have been making to my posture is becoming more ‘mainstream’ but I have to stay on top of it.  I am at the point where I ask myself if I am forward and discover that yes, I am.

Tonight in general I think I was just having endurance issues.  It’s hard to explain but I felt like everything just lacked in strength compared to how it usually feels, and my body just wasn’t as responsive as usual.  It wasn’t a lack of trying, but it just seemed to be ‘off’.

I think because of that, the things that usually frustrated me just ran a bit rampant.  By the end of the class my frustration level just seemed exceptionally high.

One thing that is just a constant source of frustration for me is jive.  I have mentioned before it is like my latin achilles heel dance, as it is the one dance where on the one hand things work out well naturally, but on the other I really have no idea how I do any of it.  And there there are some things which I have no idea how to do and quite honestly it looks ridiculous when I try.  I think I am getting in my own way by trying so hard I am actually preventing my body from moving in the way it needs to.  That’s said, it feels like everything I am doing in jive is really ‘loosey goosey’, when it should be more tight and compact (because of the speed).

Some time jive just feels like the dance I never work on.  The little bit of technique I have done in jive has been a little ‘here’ and ‘there’ and very spread out.  I have never concentrated on it–even at a basic level.

To be perfectly honest, my frustration and feeling of lacking in jive really makes me reluctant to do it right now.  I feel that compared with the amount of time and work I have spent on the other 4 dances my jive is woefully behind.

I am hoping this is just the result of a long week and fatigue and that it will pass in time.

The other thing that keeps popping in my mind is that I might not have the endurance for my medal test.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of doing 10 dances in a row because its been so long since I have actually done that.  I guess I am not feeling really confident in my strength right now.

I get my injection tomorrow, and I hopeful that with it some of these frustrations will pass.  I am also a bit stressed that I will have some mood swings following the injection as my body gets used to it again.

It’s hard to know what is real and what is just side effects right now.