Figuring out the “Where”

I am finding that is a theme with dance right now.

First, on a good note, my back is doing better, although not completely pain free yet. I got permission to try without the back brace and see how things go. My physio did some aggressive needling on my back and hip today too which should help. I was able to dance quickstep more or less full out last night with only minor tweaks, as well as do my regular lower body workout.

I met with my trainer this morning as well and we made some small adjustments to my exercises to ensure I am not aggravating my back doing them. Physio also added a “clamshell” exercise to help my hip.

All of that aside, one of the things we are doing in dance right now is identifying where I need to do things.

I have reached a point where I understand more or less how to do sway in standard and twisting in latin, but I am not sure where I really need to do it.

On Monday, Boss gave me some small sequences to do as exercises in both latin and standard. Part of that includes a piece in waltz where the focus is completely on the sway to the point of purposely overdoing it to really get it in my head.

One of my biggest issues is that if I am not told to do something, I will always try to not do it. What we are working on right now is more or less enabling me to do movements. I expect as I build on this and go over more of the routines I will start picking up on other places to do it automatically.

The plan is to look at where I should be twisting my body more in my latin routines to make sure I am taking advantage and using the movement as much as I can.

We spent yesterday really digging into the open quickstep, particularly some of our runs. The focus there is keeping up on my toes and trying not to ‘bounce’ and ‘jump’ as we move. It was pretty easy to pick out the places where I am not staying on my toes when I need to – so more to work on, and yes another exercise.

I am taking it easy this week to keep my back rested, but plan to return to practice next week and see how it goes. Despite the issues I am having, we do seem to be making progress. I have 2 weeks before I am away for a week on a cruise (a vacation one, not work).

But lots of time to focus on figuring out the ‘where’.

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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.

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.

 

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.

A Successful Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Preparing to perform

So it appears we will be performing in two weeks.

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

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

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

Both routines are actually not in bad shape right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More prep to go.

Adjusting to my new body

It seems strange to say, but it’s only recently I have discovered how much my body has changed from my journey.

And it is still changing.

Some of the work I have been doing recently has really brought to light some of the challenges I am now facing due to the scar tissue and side effects of my cancer treatments and resulting surgeries. Some of these things really surprise me.

For example, today it really came home just how tight everything on my right side is – not just on my chest, but all the way down to my hip and hip flexors.

When I was doing my own practice, I was trying to focus on keeping my right side ‘up’ when working on standard because Boss made a small remark about my right side ‘still going down’. It was just one of those things I wanted to explore for myself and see what I found.

I am not sure what I found is that great. After only 15 minutes of trying to keep my right side pulled up, I felt what initially felt like a stretch at my right hip, but then turned into a pull, followed by burning. When I stopped, the burning has remained, right over my hip bone where the tissue feels incredibly tight.

Bottom line, my right side going down is a combination of me not paying enough attention to pull it up, and tightly stretched tissue working to pull it down.

It’s like the issue with my chest being constantly pulled down and irritating my neck and shoulders. I have to constantly work to try to keep pulling it up to allow the tissue to stretch so my body can adjust.

So it is apparently going to have to be for my right side too.

It’s not just in standard that this is affected. Latin is also suffering.

Aside from my range of motion through my shoulders being about half as much on my right as my left, it is also very difficult for me to keep my latin frame in front of me. We haven’t worked on that a lot until recently, but the work we have done has really surprised me with how difficult it is to the point of being mildly painful.

I know that when I cross my right arm too much across my chest the pulling has causes shooting pains across my chest muscle in the past. I am hoping it will work out in time.

There is probably another reason this has become more prominent lately, which is the other thing I am slowly trying to adjust to.

Finally, after more than a year past hormone treatment I am starting to experience consistent weight loss. I have lost almost 15 of the 40 lbs I gained through my treatments in the past 2 months and it is starting to have effects.

I wish I could say all the effects are positive, but unfortunately they aren’t. One of the effects is my body redistributing my weight, resulting in lost inches, but also leading to new places, like my hips and belly, feeling even tighter than they did before. My chest has also gone down 3 inches in size, but not evenly on each side meaning one side is heavier than the other.

The other thing that only just clued in today in conversation with my acupuncturist is that as my fat stores are being burned off, it is very likely that the toxins and hormones that have been stored in them are being released into my body. The hormones being released was something I had to deal with the first time I lost the weight before I got sick, but now there is probably some residual effects from chemo, radiation and hormone therapy.

It would explain why in the past two months I have had a resurgence of menopause symptoms after almost 4 months of them being settled down. During those 4 months, my weight sat pretty steady bouncing around the same 5 lbs up and down. Once I started consistently losing again the hot flashes started up and with it the other menopause symptoms and general feeling of not quite being well.

There is not much that can be done about it until the weight is lost, other than holding weight here and there to give my body some time to adjust and flush the toxins out. I have had to increase my water intake a little bit recently so that should also help, along with the cooler weather.

I am also experiencing something I also did with my previous weight loss which was my back injury becoming irritated every 10 lbs or so as it also tries to adjust to the new distribution of weight and new centre of gravity. That at least I know will work itself out with some exercises and about a week.

It should feel good to lose weight, but the process is really hard on your body. Essentially it is feeling starved all the time and having to use reserves it got used to having. Everything is changing including it’s shape, and as fat is being burned off what is stored in it is being released and needs to be flushed out. It’s constantly working hard and doesn’t get a lot of breaks to try to adapt to all the changes going on.

But once the weight is lost, it does get better. The body doesn’t have to work so hard to move itself. Energy levels go up as the body gets more efficient at using nutrients and repairing itself. It’s able to work better and harder with less side effects and that is really the goal.

So here is to hoping I am able to keep on track and slowly get back to the weight I was pre-diagnosis so I can finally get back to the goal I was aiming for and got derailed from – getting down to a healthy size and weight overall. I was about 25 lbs from that goal when I got sick after losing 75 already. Now I am about 50 lbs away.

What a difference that will make.

Lift off on styling

It appears Boss and I were on similar pages about what is needed for styling.

So, when I got to my lesson today, the first thing we started with was discussing arm styling and going through 3 basic exercises for me to add to my collection.

The first thing I noticed is that there is a lot of pulling at scar tissue and some of the movements hurt, although not intolerably. More like there is some very intense stretching going on through the tight muscles and scar tissue in my shoulders and upper chest.

I am optimistic that as I keep working on my arm styling the scar tissue will breakdown a little and free up my motion. There is already a noticeable lack of mobility on the right side, but I am trying to work through it. Until I start, I will never know.

After going through the basic movements we started to look at the cha cha to figure out how and where to apply them.

If I said it was a success, that would be a gross exaggeration. There is obviously a lot of work that needs to be done and of course my arms don’t want to work with my feet. But I have an idea of what I need to do in my head and I am optimistic with some work it will come together.

Oh, and we got through to the end of the second phrase. About 15 seconds of a 2 minute routine. It’s going to be quite a process, although now that both Boss and I have a better idea of how it needs to work, that should move things along a bit better.

Just the little bit of work we did today has me feeling much better about styling. I have something I can work on, so I know it can only get better. I feel like I am doing something productive to fix my styling – I am taking control of something over which I didn’t have any.

It’s certainly going to be a long term project, but since I will be traveling for work this fall and stuck in rather confined spaces without any studios to work in, 2+ months focused on arm work should go a long way.

In the mean time, I am hoping that I have enough time before the performance in Mid-September to clean up my arm work in the cha cha. After that, I can start looking at the other routines.

We finished the lesson today looking at a portion of the jive routine to try to clean it up as well.

It was a productive lesson, but more importantly, its the beginning of fixing the ‘gravy’ in my latin.