It looks good…

Today was almost hip pain free.

I started to feel a dull ache during the last 5 minutes of my lesson, with things feeling tight and tired about 20 minutes before that.

Compared to Monday, its like night and day.

Today in my lesson I didn’t hold much back. I had moments where I could feel myself being tentative because I was expecting what I was doing to cause pain and I was really surprised when it didn’t. Once I got through that first hurdle, doing it the next time was easier.

We even started with open jive and did 2 fairly good run-throughs- one slow and one more medium. We then switched to standard and ran through the silver routines, followed by the silver latin. We ended with the Quickstep and Foxtrot pieces we worked on at the end of Monday’s lesson.

Overall, a much more productive lesson than I have had in quite some time, but I am still being diligent and about icing and heating, physio and massage therapy. There is still 3.5 weeks until the comp and I don’t want to temp fate. I am also not going to be returning to the gym until after, just in case.

Small interesting fact: since I got injured and stopped going to the gym and reduced dance, I have actually lost more than 5 lbs out of the blue, putting me at the lowest I have been since chemo. Interesting that…

I have one more lesson this week on Friday and the weekend will be dance free as the rounds practice is cancelled due to a concert in the hall where it takes place. The weekend off will likely be good in the long run.

The plan is to review some of the latin styling on Friday and then do as much of a run-through as we can in the smaller hall on Monday to see how things feel. Hopefully my hip will continue to recover.

Looks like the competition is on! Words cannot express the relief I felt today throughout my lesson as I realized that I wasn’t getting pain like I was. I am feeling much more optimistic even though I am a little more sore tonight than I was after my lesson. I’ll do another round of ice and heat before bed and continue on with my routine.

Fingers still crossed.

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A Glimmer…

Of hope. But so far only a glimmer.

I got the shot blindly on Friday and from there I spent the weekend sitting on my left side doing pretty much nothing. I noticed a little bit of an increase in range of motion, but not much else.

This morning there was a definite improvement. I could walk without pain on every step, I could do back breaks without pain and many of the things that were causing huge issues last week.

I still had some pain at the extremes of movements and it was up and down throughout the day. I am still icing alternating with heat regularly and taking ibuprofen.

I had the doctor’s blessing to try dancing again today, so I did, although nothing full out and fairly slow. I tried some of the steps that gave me definite grief last week (jive swivels being one for sure) and I wasn’t getting any pain.

We started the lesson going slowly through the jive and working on the styling. I would get a very minor ‘zing’ every now and then, but for the most part things were pretty steady. About halfway through my lesson I started to get some aching on my right side, but no pulling or zinging.

After the jive, we switched to quickstep to review the steps of the last line that we started reviewing last week. Switching seemed to be a good idea, although I was still getting some aching through my left side, especially on the heel turns.

We finished with the foxtrot to go over the final piece of the routine to clarify the loop back to the beginning.

I am sore and probably where I was the day this started 2 weeks ago. Needless to say, I didn’t stay to practice and as soon as I got home I put ice on it, followed by a hot epsom salt bath.

I will ice and alternate with heat more as the evening goes on. Hopefully the injection will keep working to counter some of the inflammation from my lesson. I have physio tomorrow and massage therapy again on Wednesday. The plan for tomorrow is a lot of rest. Hopefully physio can offer some stretches or exercises to help keep things getting better.

I still haven’t completely decided whether to compete or not. I want to give the injection longer to work and see how the effects last this week. The decision will be made after rounds practice on Sunday. If I can do it and things are ok, then I should be good.

But if I get to rounds practice and I can’t get through it, then it is time to cancel competing.

But at least for now there is a glimmer of hope.

It’s been one of THOSE weeks…

Ever feel like the universe is telling you stay in bed?

Even refuse to listen and then regret it later?

That was what my week was like. Just one comedy of errors after the other.

It started with waking up on Monday and not feeling the greatest due to sinuses and an upset stomach. Despite that and my bed calling me strongly, I still resolved to go to work and to do my regular workout. That ended in a black eye (mentioned in my last post) followed by returning to my office and spilling m

y water bottle all over the office floor.

My team sent me home after that. Good people, my team.

At dance, things were going good, although I had a bit of a headache and my eye was bothering me a little when suddenly first my hip flexor started feeling tight, then later during my practice I was getting a full on pulling sensation while doing latin. I had to end my practice early when it started to get really painful and impact really bothered it.

Tuesday I woke up with a killer headache and decided to give in and went back to bed. I was surprised I slept until 1030 (really late for me!) and almost missed my physio appointment at 11. I made it and told my physio about my hip issues. He had 2 minds about it and decided to treat my back in case it was referred pain, and told me if it didn’t get better, next time he would treat my hip more.

It only got marginally better.

Wednesday and Thursday at work was quite literally one bizarre happening after the other that had to be dealt with. The kind of stuff you just can’t really make up.

Wednesday night at dance, my hip was doing a little bit better until we switched to paso and again it flared up tight and painful. We had to stop what we were doing for a while so it could calm down and Boss recommended I consider doing weekly massage therapy appointments till the comp to try and help my body recover from the volume of work we are doing right now. I was reluctant because I have to pay for it completely out of pocket, but in the end I did decide it was a good idea.

Friday was my first appointment and honestly before it I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do my lesson that night. It was a good appointment though and he was able to release a lot of the tight muscles in my hip which felt 100% better, so I did my lesson. It went well until almost the end when it flared up during Paso again. It seems to be in my hip flexors and flares some when I move my pelvis forward in Paso.

Saturday (was it only yesterday??!!) I had another dress fitting on the mainland. I had completely forgotten that it is the end of spring break, so I wasn’t able to reserve a spot on the ferry meaning I had to sail stand-by. In order to make sure I made my appointment, I had to leave home 90 minutes earlier than I would with a reservation, and I still came close to not being on the boat.

My appointment went really well though and I can see the dresses really coming together now. I will pick them up over Easter and can’t wait!

On the way home, thankfully some one was smiling and I was the second-last car to make the sailing I wanted without having to wait another hour.

Today was our first run through practice with the other couples.

My hip felt tight but not sore, so I was only minimally worries about it, but for some reason I just couldn’t get my core to engage or to lock my frame together for standard. It took a couple rounds before I was able to pull things together and I am not really sure why it was such an issue.

We are definitely not used to sharing the floor, so the practices are good to do. It took a little bit for me to get back into following when we had to adjust and the only dance that was a real problem was the silver quickstep because once we deviated from the routine I couldn’t seem to pick it back up again.

That said, the practice went better than I expected. The open latin went really well and finally I started to see them all come together.

Except for one issue. We were doing the jive and it was going well until I went to engage my core to pull myself out of a leaned back position to upright and I got a shooting pain through my hip. That pretty much sidelined us for a bit and when we went to the final round I had to take it a little easier and skipped some of the steps that had a lot of turns or twisting.

I am still not quite sure what is going on with my hip – whether its my back or the hip or both. I am off work tomorrow (I took a vacation day knowing I would be in Vancouver again) and have physio so hopefully that will help. I am going to take a week off the gym to try and rest some. After this week I will also have physio twice a week instead of once to try and get ahead of things before the competition.

So that was my crazy week – truly a week where you just have to laugh at the craziness, take it with a grain of salt and know that it can only get better next week.

Onward and upwards.

And then there were 2

2 routines that we still haven’t been able to get through top to bottom at speed with the music without a major disaster.

Not surprisingly, they are jive and quickstep.

That’s not to say the others are perfect by any means, but they are well on their way to being respectable on the floor.

That said, jive and quickstep are coming. Jive was the focus of today’s lesson and already it is going better than it was. We did get through it today once with slightly slower music.

I will say that spending almost entire lessons on either jive or quickstep can be pretty exhausting, especially when the majority of the lesson is spent running the routines or large sections of it. Its a good test of conditioning, which isn’t bad, but definitely still needs a lot of work.

I will say that I am not as concerned about either routine as I was even a week ago. I can see the progress and we are “this close” to having them together.

This week we switch from weekend lessons to weekend rounds practices with other dancers. They are the same practices we used to do way back when, so they will be really good for letting us know where we stand overall, especially in terms of endurance and conditioning.

I am looking forward to the rounds because they will give a consistent and steady run-through of all of my routines each week, which is what we really need right now. I am finding a little that as we move to focus on one routine the others suffer some. The rounds practice will help to keep them together.

Tonight’s lesson was pretty hard. We started with the open rumba which went really well then focused in on the open jive. It was already flowing better than last Friday, and I wasn’t mixing up the steps as much as I was then. It was just really obvious when my endurance starting lagging.

I should mention I have a black eye right now. I was at the gym working out and when I went to return some weight plates to the weight tree a person working at a pulley machine next to it let go of the handles without maintaining any control and it swung out and hit me hard on the corner of my left eye. I have a lovely blue goose egg I can see out of the corner of the eye and the swelling is irritating. It made it a little hard to concentrate tonight, but I am glad I got the lesson done.

We switched from open jive to silver jive to give a bit of a break (yep, that qualifies as a break!), before returning to the open jive for a couple more full run-throughs, first a little slower, then at regular speed. Some small mishaps, but we did get all the way to the end and learned the routine is 1:30.

We finished by running through the paso from top to bottom 4-5 times with only about a minute break between each one.

Unfortunately, that’s when a bit of trouble started with my body. I can’t really describe what it going on except to say I was experiencing a tight and sore feeling in my right hip. To me, that means either my back or my minor glute muscle is acting up again. Thankfully, I have physio tomorrow.

I finished my night by running through all the silver routines on my own with the music, and then some spot work in the open quickstep, jive and a change in the rumba I needed to just review for myself. My hip was pretty ok for the most part, but I did end up stopping 10 mins before I intended because my hip just got too sore.

I guess, truthfully, the jive is almost in the same place as the other open latin routines, perhaps about one lesson behind.

Which really leaves only one…

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.

Speed

I can feel myself lacking this.

On Friday after my lesson I worked on running through the silver routines, and in particular I tried to do the latin routines with the music.

Oy. That was a sobering moment.

In all the routines, except for rumba (and even moments there), I generally felt really heavy and slow. In cha cha in particular it felt like I was constantly scrambling to get my legs moving.

It was a little disappointing because I know that once upon a time I prided myself in being able to run all my routines in time with the music and speed used to be one of my greatest assets in latin.

Now I just feel like I am constantly behind and no matter how hard I try my legs just wouldn’t keep up. My body wouldn’t move and I felt a bit like a lead block. It was honestly the first time I tried to do any routine in time with the music in quite some time, so I am looking at it as a first step which will get better every time I do it.

That said, the major victory for the week was getting through the open paso in time with music up to speed without any major stops or disasters. It was rough, the styling was pretty much non-existent, but we were able to do it a few times at the end of my lesson on Friday.

The other small victory this week was that I was finally able to work through the silver standard routines on my own. I haven’t tried to put them to the music yet, but I was have constant issues just putting all the steps together in time with the music. The silver quickstep is still a bit of an issue, but at least there is a starting point.

Yesterday we focused on standard in the bigger hall during my extra lesson. We started with running the silver routines which went really well, and they we walked through the open paso and samba to see how they fit in a bigger hall for the alignments. After that, we ran through the open waltz, tango and worked some on the open quickstep to finish the lesson.

One of the issues we are encountering right now is that both our open waltz and tango had lines that were too long for the hall. We have had to cut a few steps out of each line and to realign the start a little to make them fit. Its still a bit of a work in progress, and I am sure we will finish adjusting the routines this week.

The open quickstep didn’t go too bad, but the main issue was that neither I nor Boss had worked on it in a while, so it was just rough. Its top of the list for my lessons this week.

The one routine where speed is really concerning me is jive. I just can’t imagine the routine at the speed it needs to go.

That’s actually one of the issues I am finding right now – in my head all of the routines in are slo-mode. My head can’t visualize them at the speed they need to be because in all honestly its been quite a while since I have really done any routines at the proper speed in some of the dances. The dances themselves have become slow in my head and that is not helping me get up to speed.

But the hardest part of fixing a problem is recognizing there is one. At least I have done that.

The only place to go from here is faster.

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’.

Quickstep

My lesson today was more than an hour on quickstep.

That’s a feat in itself.

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

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

My feet are not quite there yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quickstep is only the beginning.