Re-learning to push

Push through the walls, that is.

In the last week I have discovered that I am re-learning something I didn’t fully know I had forgotten–that is pushing through walls.

By walls, I mean those moments when you are working physically and you feel like you have reached your limits, but then you dig a little deeper and find another small burst of energy to get you over the hump.

The biggest difference for me is that I find energy now when I dig deeper, which is a sign of on-going recovery. What I am having to remember is how to dig for that energy and push just that little bit more to bring myself to the next level.

This week is “week 2” of adjusting to a new schedule so I feel pretty tired, achy and worn out a little. But I am pushing through it as best I can, knowing that I will be able to rest on the weekend and that next week will be better.

It’s surprising me a little how surprised I am about rediscovering this ability, but more than that, a big part of it is realizing how much I thought I was pushing through things before but wasn’t. Although that is not entirely accurate either. I think it would be more accurate to say that I am surprised to discover that I was pushing, but I wasn’t pushing very well or as much as I really could.

I am battling through things and I know it will bring results in the long run.  The trick is knowing when I am at a wall that can be pushed through, and when I am actually done. So far, I am reaching walls I can climb and I hope it continues, but I will see what the next couple days bring.

I have a lesson again tomorrow night and in line with what I am discovering about being able to push harder than I could I have also been discovering some new things at dance too. I will try to write about them tomorrow night.

It seems I am coming into a period of discovery in general.

And that is one of the best parts of dance.

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Transcribing routines

I have a big task before me.

Before I can start working on routines, I have to have them written out. So, with the new latin routines I just received I have to take the time to go through the video and write down what I see the lady doing to make it relevant to me. Then I have to go through again and figure out how the timing fits with what I have written.

I have transcribed the rumba so far. It took me more than 3 hours to write out a 2 minute routine. There was a lot of going back and forth over the same 10 seconds of video to double check things like what foot was moving or supporting (I can be directionally challenged, so this means a lot of double checking), and then figuring out the best was to describe the movement I see in the video.

Since these are open routines, few of the steps are fully recognizable, although many are variations on popular steps. The problem is ‘sliding doors variation’ doesn’t really tell me anything.

This weekend I hope to get through either the cha cha or samba. I haven’t decided which yet as cha cha may be easier, samba is trickier because I have a harder time recognizing steps.

I hope it won’t take another 3 hours!

On the standard side, we are working through the open tango. We were able to more or less walk through it tonight from top to bottom with a couple hiccups here and there. I have the steps written out, but already there are slight variations as we work through the routine. I am waiting for the final version from Boss with the timing as that will help me start to work through it on my own.

Anyone else finding this week really long? I don’t know why, but I find it hard to believe it’s only just Friday. On the other hand, I feel like I still have a lot to do before returning to work next week! Perhaps it is just that this has been a productive week for me, but quite repetitive doing similar things every day (bit of school, bit of dance, going to the gym, repeat). My body can feel the extra activity I have been doing this week as well and it is definitely tired.

I actually expect that I will feel pretty exhausted by the end of next week, but that it will get better after that as I adjust back to my full routine.

Just keep breathing and on top of the things I need to do.

Like transcribing videos.

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!

Analytics

As much as I am a kinesthetic learner, I have some analytical tendencies too.

I am not completely analytical, as I really don’t do well with geometry and math, so I am not paying attention to things like degree of rotation. But I do find myself enjoying exploring deep details and figuring out how they all come together.

We are doing that a lot in standard right now.

The focus for standard right now is a lot about how. How I step, whether straight back or forward, on an angle, in CBMP, and how I move my upper body–what side is leading forward, how much do I rotate. It’s a lot of layers together and I am enjoying it.

The interesting thing is that it’s a lot of information, and it is not quite all coming together but it is not stressing me out as once it may have. I think that is because I have all the information I need and can feel my mind (and by extension my body) working to process it and put it all together.

We are working through tango right now. Taking the silver sequences I have and breaking them down in detail. Working through them both fast and slow. The slow stuff is great because I can fully think through all the things I need to do. The fast stuff challenges me and forces me to work on processing it faster.

It’s a different way of approaching things, but I am really enjoying it.

My lessons have been all standard lately due to the issues with the stitches in my hip, but I am ok with that. I have one more lesson tomorrow where I am told we will do the final open standard routine (quickstep) and record it, which sets us up nicely for working in the new year when my stitches will be healed up.

I have one week off of dance, then back at it. Looking forward to the break, but I am finding I am more excited for the new year than I have been in a long time. I will talk more on that soon.

Who knew analyzing could be so much fun??

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.

 

There are days…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, there are days…

Rebuilding Strength

That has been a big focus of mine lately.

It’s not just in and for dance. Since returning to activity after my last surgery I have been able to consistently get back in the habit of regular strength training and rebuilding the strength I lost through all my treatments. It’s a little overwhelming the distance I have to go, but it gets better every day.

Having energy again is a huge difference and I feel like I have more every day.

To give an example of how much I need to rebuild, where prior to getting sick I would pull 120 lbs, now I am at 70. But I started at 60 just over two weeks ago.

I enjoy strength training. There is always a goal to aim for and you have to push for your best every time to reach a new one. I take my time and it usually clears my head during the day making me more productive at work and other activities. I work on improving endurance a lot too.

When I was on the hormone therapy I had such little energy I couldn’t do strength training. During the brief 4-month period I tried, muscle weakness meant I rarely saw increases in weight.

Since the surgery it has been so different.

Dance and strength training support each other. What I am doing in dance now actually relates a lot to the strength exercises I am doing–particularly in regards to my right foot and knee.

I am doing a lot of exercises right now to build strength around my knee and increase stability and I am finding that both dance and strength training are going hand in hand for this. One of the things I have found out (through discussions with my trainer) is that on my right side, my inner and outer thigh muscles don’t quite fire the way they are supposed to meaning that my knee collapses in and I also don’t use my glute minimus muscles to stabilize myself. That leads to my foot falling out to help support my body. It’s been something I have been doing for a long time and I have to re-teach my body to correct it.

Even then, it might not be possible to ever fully correct it but I am determined to try.

Among other things, it means paying attention to how I walk on a normal basis and being conscious of keeping my knees pulled out as I walk and not allowing them to fall in.

Something I am doing seems to be making a difference. I can tell because it’s been a pain in my ass.

Literally.

Because my glute muscles are working in a different way, I am getting some DOMS on my right side. It’s tricky for having to work at a computer at work, but since it’s a positive sign, I am ok with it. I just have to keep persistent with it. I don’t think I have quite gotten my inner thighs to start engaging, but I think it is coming.

I am doing some dance exercises to work on the inner thighs, in particular controlling closing my legs in standard. I am going to keep trying to do it.

The bottom line is finally I can feel some of my strength returning and I can see potential for returning to where I was.

I have also loss 1/3 of the weight I gained during chemo–and still counting! Creeping closer to halfway.

This is me time.

Finally.

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.

Planning for the future

The other thing that happened last week was sitting down with Boss and going over the plan for moving forward until the next competition which should hopefully be in February.

Prior to the competition, we had had a preliminary conversation about where we want to go next, so there were no real surprises.

Boss sent me an outline of the plan before the lesson, which gave us a starting point to work from for our discussion. We were completely on the same page which makes things easy.

During my lesson we discussed the plan, as well as my plans for strength training which I hope to return to next week and how one can support the other an vice versa. We then took some time to look at the videos from the competition and discuss points from there.

The plan (on paper) is relatively simple. Boss has (already) developed some short closed silver sequences which will be competition routines, but more so mini-sequences with aspects of technique I need to focus on. Essentially, they are comp routines and exercises in one.

Adding to this, and where the competition training focus will mostly be will be some open routines–standard developed by Boss and Latin done with another professional couple.

We are also going to work on developing the waltz solo routine we have been trying to put together since the end of summer. The intent is to perform that solo at a local competition in January, and again at the competition in February. My restriction on that is only that the sequence needs to be choreographed before the end of November as I don’t want to be rushing to put it together. We will see how that goes.

I will start back to my lessons tonight, which I expect will begin with going over the new silver sequences to see how they go. There are some interesting combinations already and I am eager to try them out.

I have 1 month until my next surgery, which is the completion of my reconstruction and should only sideline me for 2 weeks, if not less. For myself, I would like to have the silver sequences down, the solo choreographed, and at least some of the open routines ‘mapped out’. But that is what I would like to do.

The plan, is completely Boss’s and up to him to execute 🙂

OH! I had some success in fixing the tear in my standard dress. Hopefully that will last!

Competing strong

Sorry for the delay in writing!

I have been busy beyond competing (more on that later) and this is the first opportunity I have had to write about the comp.  I did post some pics on facebook if you follow me there (www.facebook.com/bcballroomdancer).

Overall, this was my strongest competition since before I got sick. Hands down. That’s not to say it was my best dancing, but I felt prepared, my endurance (for the most part was there), I didn’t feel like I was dying after only a couple dances. I felt like I belonged on the floor and that I was competitive, not just dancing as something to do.

I won my closed gold multidance in Ballroom although it was a rule 10 and 11 win (meaning they had to split the tie twice more or less), and I am very proud of that–my first ‘win’ in closed gold! I was also 5th in both open scholarships of 6 couples and even stole a few points from those that placed above me in ballroom.

Ballroom was definitely the stronger of the two styles for me at this competition. Considering the amount of work I have been putting into it, it should have been, and it has paid off. I felt quite strong and confident in the ballroom heats, even though endurance was a challenge. I was surprised to see I received a 1 place mark in VW from one judge in a 5-dance championship that finished with the VW.

There were a lot of positives for me in standard. It took a round to settle down a little and adjust to things like my dress. At the start I was almost too relaxed in trying to keep myself calm and from trying too hard, but hit a good balance for the other rounds. Boss was really happy with how it all went, and I really have no complaints about standard. Yes, there are always little things, and lots to improve, but I was more consistent and solid in standard than I have been in any previous competition. That was a big win for me!

Latin was a much different story, and I am less impressed with my performance there. I had some very high points, and I had some lower ones. In one of my 4-dance gold multi-dances, I didn’t win the event, but I did sweep the rumba. Looking at the videos though, my styling still leaves much to be desired, and I just didn’t seem to be ‘finishing’ all my lines as I danced. My energy level was not where it needed to be for latin and I was having a hard time keeping focused.

So I own the less than stellar latin performance. It was good, but not my best. Among other things, I was having trouble feeling settled in my shoes, and I think the fatigue from standard the day before also played a role and upset my hormones a little bit (I was a hot flash queen that day).

That said, when it came to the 5-dance scholarship, I just went out and had some fun and worried less about trying to be perfect.

One of the biggest ‘wins’ I experienced overall was random strangers making an effort to tell me how much they enjoyed my dancing–seeking me out specifically in the crowd of competitors I was just on the floor with. For me, that is better than a thousand trophies and it happened after events in both standard and latin.

The biggest challenge I faced over the weekend was blisters. My shoes started out feeling wonderful, but then in the last afternoon event in standard I suddenly felt some pain. The result was 2 blisters on each foot, one on the heel, the other in the arch (which seemed a strange place). I put some blister pads on them for the scholarship and covered those with tap, but they didn’t stay in place. By the time I got to the latin scholarship, I had 11 blisters, all of which had popped, some of which were bleeding. I knew that breaking in new shoes would cause some problems (even old shoes can) and had taken some measures and preparations, but my feet seemed to just ‘give up’ in trying to keep skin. Even duct tape didn’t help. I am doing a lot of feet soaking these days.

My shoes are pretty much broken in now, but I won’t be able to tell until all the blisters heel if adjustments need to be made and where. Despite the blisters, they were more comfortable at the end of the comp. I also had issues with my feet swelling and that didn’t help either.

My latin shoes were the strangest to deal with. I had worked with them before I left and they felt fine. But at the comp the heel of my foot kept sliding out and I had a hard time getting the strap tight enough to hold it in place.  I am going to have to revisit them. I am wondering if they are too short in the end even though they are the same size as my last ones–but with a lower heel.

Hopefully in about 2 weeks I can do a good assessment with fresh feet.

The final ‘snag’ in the competition happened at the end of the standard rounds (and thankfully the end!). My dress is stretch velvet and when I am sweaty can be difficult to get the sleeves off.  I friend was helping me and when she pulled the arm I heard a ripping sound! Unfortunately, the dress tore just under the right arm, in the fabric just adjacent to the seam. Because the tear is in the fabric, I don’t know if it can be repairable without being too visible. It may be the end for that dress….an expensive tear!

In all, I am very proud of myself and how I danced this weekend–even latin. I wanted to be able to get through all my dances strongly, which I did, do well in standard (because of the focus we have been giving it), and enjoy dancing in latin. I achieved that. I know Boss is especially happy with the standard and we haven’t had a chance to discuss latin although we know there were challenges there.

The biggest achievement from the competition was being able to feel myself staying strong, and it has given us lots of feedback for the future 🙂

We should be sitting down to discuss the plan for the future over the next couple days, but mainly I am taking it easy right now. The exception, of course was that I had 3 coaching lessons with a standard coach yesterday that were a lot of fun and able to build on the competition. I will write about that shortly.

I will also write a review of the competition for those who might be interested in competing there some day. I would definitely recommend it and I think we are already making plans to return!

Achievement unlocked: Compete strong during recovery!