Over-thinking

I am getting in my own way.

I am at a point now where I am trying too hard to put everything together and capture all the little details in every thing I do. Beyond that, I am trying so hard that in some instances I am overdoing things – because my body is already what its been trained to do naturally.

Its slowing me down and making me heavy at times. I am thinking so much as I dance that my mind can’t keep up with the music. It is also making me tense through my upper body.

I just need to relax and trust that my body will do what it is trained to do.

It sounds easy, but truthfully, I am not very good at letting go. I can’t see what my body is doing and because I am so used to a lot of the movements I don’t necessarily feel my body doing them.

At my lesson tonight the problem first showed up in the open samba. Once Boss pointed out that I should just relax a little and focus on my feet instead of my body things seemed to get better. I also felt a bit faster and lighter overall. The trick was to shift my focus from my body to my legs.

Later in the lessons we reviewed the silver latin routines and the same issue seemed to be creeping up. Again, my focus was on my body and that was making me heavy, especially in my feet. Once I lightened up, it seemed to go smoother.

My body is also really starting to know the routines well – again if I would just trust it to move. I was running through all the silver routines on my own today and with the exception of Quickstep (which is still confounding me), they are really coming together on my own. I could really feel where I am getting in my own way. I ran through them all with the music except tango and foxtrot (I didn’t have any music for them with me), and once I stopped trying to think through every step they started running smoother.

What really surprised me was that once I let go of thinking too much, I suddenly found myself remembering small little details I didn’t have time to think of when I was trying to think of everything.

Funny how that works.

In general, my solo practice felt more like I was taking ownership of the routines tonight. They felt more solid and less like I was scrambling. I definitely felt more confident working through them (except the before mentioned quickstep). My next goal is to slowly start adding the open routines to my self-practice to get them also to the same level of confidence. I was there with them before and I can get there again.

If I just stay out of my own way.

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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.

Off and Running

Well, not running, but dancing.

Yesterday I had an extra lesson with Boss in a bigger hall so we could concentrate on our open standard routines.

It was a great lesson and one I really needed.

We really didn’t stop during the lesson. We were able to run through the Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot routines, as well as the silver Foxtrot (which needed some adjustments for the bigger hall).

It was a lot of starting and stopping to begin with, but slowly we were able to work through all 3 routines and we did most of them twice through without stopping during the lesson.

By the end of the lesson, I really felt like jelly. We ended by going through the Waltz which we started with and while we got through it, it was a struggle almost from the beginning of that dance to keep things together.

The best thing about yesterday’s lesson is that I felt like for the first time in a long time that I was able to start incorporating all the details we have been working on during all my lessons into the full routines. It was only a beginning it was it was like an on-going session of things clicking into place.

Essentially, the intent from now until the competition is to do more of the same – regularly running through the routines where we can. Its going to be intense, but I am looking forward to it overall. Feeling things click together in my brain and coming out as we dance is a good feeling. Its not perfect, but at least there is something happening.

For myself, I found that focusing on one or two things per dance and seeing how much I could incorporate them really helped to keep me grounded throughout the lesson.

We didn’t have time to get to the Quickstep, so that will probably be first on the list for the next lesson. We have done Quickstep in that hall before so I am not as anxious about it as I have been. I still need to review it, but I know I can do it, so that is a good start.

On Friday night, we were able to sit down briefly and go over the plan until the competition and get on the same page. We weren’t far off, we just needed to clarify some lesson schedule and the intent with the lessons overall.

Boss also asked me to flag any pieces I want to review and go over, so I am giving some thought to that today.

One thing I will say is that I am definitely still adjusting to having school done. I am not used to having so much free time! I am using it to review my routines and get them into my brain and my legs, and enjoying the time to focus on dance. Its really been a long time since I have been able to do that.

I was also able to do the entire lesson yesterday in my competition shoes. Thankfully no blisters, although by the end of the lesson I could feel a little bit of rubbing happening due to the amount my feet were sweating. I actually haven’t worn them since competing in fall 2017. They felt really good though.

I did discover one shoe woe this week. At some point during my lesson with the coach on Wednesday I actually broke one of my practice shoes! I went to wear them at my lesson on Friday and kept feeling a bump under my heel. I took them off and discovered it was one of the screws and that the heel of the shoes was almost completely falling off. I guess its off to the cobblers for me as these are my newest practice shoes that are not yet even a year old. I hope they can fix them!

Competition preparations have started and we have an ambitious plan to get there. All the pieces are coming together slowly, and it will be interesting to see how far the preps can get before we get to the competition floor.

We are off and running.

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.

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’.

Strained

My lower back muscles that is.

That was the news I got from physio today when I finally got to see him and ask what might be going on with my back. Now I am sitting in a back brace to give some support to the muscles so they can rest and heal up.

Its actually a bit of good news¬† – it does mean my torn disc isn’t acting up or anything worse. My hip is still an issue too, although my back is the priority right now as I am limited in how much I can move.

It seems that I probably injured my back on Monday doing lunges. That was probably the ‘twinge’ I felt which seemed like a stretch or tight muscles. It had a bit of a delayed reaction as I didn’t start getting really sore until Wednesday morning. Physio also thinks that as I toss and turn at night I may be aggravating it more – so it is necessary to wear the brace especially to bed. Hopefully it should only be for a week, but we will see.

I have been cleared to do some careful dance as its important to stay mobile with back injuries, but pretty much I am to rest. I am not allowed to do strength training until my back feels at least 50% better. I am allowed to do elliptical though.

Dance actually helps a little – the twisting seems to give some relief for whatever reason. The exercises I was doing to try and relieve the pain (those I do for my disc) were actually aggravating it more as well. So no more back bends till I can move around without pain.

I did have an extra lesson booked for tomorrow in a bigger dance hall to do some conditioning and work on the standard routines in a full space, but Boss and I decided to cancel. It won’t be much help to use the bigger hall if I am not able to dance full out to see how they fit.

Its a small consolation prize I guess. Once my back settles some, we can go back to helping my hip – although staying off the running (which is now WAAAAAY off the table) will help it to heal up too.

Despite the injuries, I did have a good lesson tonight. We went through the silver routines and reviewed the spots where I wasn’t sure of the steps while practicing on my own. That should set me up well for my own practice when I am healed up to get back to it.

This weekend is going to be all about schoolwork as I work on an assignment I am struggling with, with the exception of Sunday afternoon when I will go for my first fitting of my new dresses. At least there is one silver lining to all the gloom.

In the end, these are small setbacks and its better to work out the kinks now than at the end of April when we are close to heading to the competition. I am optimistic once I rest a little everything will come back together and I will be able to pull it all together so I can compete in style at the Emerald Ball.

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.

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.

 

Finishing touches

I spent a big part of my lesson learning how to bow today.

It seems so simple. Don’t we all learn it as a kid? Well, apparently not dancesport style.

As we get closer to the performance on Saturday it is time to sort out these little details. The routines we are doing are meant for competition, but this is going to be a bit of a show.

Among other things, we had to figure out what to do for an opening and closing. We kept it simple in the end, but I think it will work. As I said, the trickiest part was sorting out how to make the bow works.

Other than that the main focus was on running through the routines and cleaning up a few areas that needed a little more work.

One of the things we had to do was sort out how I was responding to the lead in a few places. Especially when the lead is on my right side, I have a tendency to lock up and restrict my movement, which then makes is really difficult for Boss to lead me through steps, especially if I have to turn anywhere.

It took some experimenting, but in the end what worked was just relaxing in some spots and letting my arm go, and in others moving to the step when I felt the lead. It will work for now, and I am sure there are other spots we need to work out.

The routines are not going to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they will still look good and be passable. Considering this is the first time we will dance them, I feel pretty good about where they are right now.

I think Boss is pretty happy with them too. He was saying today that on Wednesday he plans to do some work on the other routines as we want to record them before I head to Ottawa at the beginning of the month.

The next two weeks are going to be pretty crazy, but I am just taking it one day at a time and looking forward to the performance this weekend.

Until then, its the finishing touches to build on the foundation we have.