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.

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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…

Sweat

Seems like an odd topic for a post, but there it is.

Why? Because this is something that seems to be permeating into my dance in ways I didn’t expect.

One thing I have learned about sweat is that the fitter you are, the more you sweat and in more places. I guess as your body gets stronger it also gets more efficient at cooling itself – and that means sweat.

What is significant about sweat for me right now is the variety of places I am finding I am sweating as I work – whether in the studio or the gym.

Case in point – I am having issues right now with my side planks. Not because they are difficult, but because my forearms and elbows are sweating so much I keep sliding on the mat making them harder to hold. Its even an issue when I take the time between sets to mop off my arm and the mat.

Another place I am sweating a lot I didn’t expect are my knees. Anyone else get sweaty knees? I noticed today I had wet marks on my pants from where my knees were sweating through the fabric.

All of this to say that despite how inconvenient it may be (especially as I soak through a pair of practice shoes each night at dance making me prone to blisters), it is also a sign that my body is slowly getting stronger.

The last time I noticed myself sweating this much and in so many different places, was back well before I got sick when I lost my first round of weight. I guess in some ways I am equating them both together and that one is a sign of the beginning of a return to another.

Regardless, it appears that sweat is good.

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.

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.

A Lot to Catch Up on

There has been a lot going on for me lately.

Hence the reason I haven’t posted much.

First, I wanted to share an article I wrote about my experience while I was deployed that was published on Dance Comp Review. To read it, click here.

Now that is out of the way, I am 40 today. For some reason that seems like a big milestone.

Part of it could be that I have been struggling a lot lately. I noticed I was really lacking in motivation, felt tired all the time and felt like I was forcing myself to do almost everything. I was really hating my strength training workouts and running was getting harder. Then the issues started happening.

In 2007 I fell from a wall during training and tore a disc in my lower back. It took a long time to get that injury under control and every now and then it flares up, but it hasn’t flared up since before I was sick so I wasn’t thinking about it too much.

Until about a week and a half ago. I was running and started to get a pain in my hip. At first I didn’t think much of it, but then when it kept creeping alarm bells started going off. The pain in my hip is usually a sign my back has flared up. I immediately started doing the back bend exercises that helps it feel better and as the pain moved back into my lower back that seemed to confirm it had flared up. I rested a few days, did hundreds of back bends and it seemed to be back under control.

But, I am not that lucky. I ran again yesterday and it immediately flared up again. I cut my run short, but it wasn’t good. My neck and shoulders were also acting up giving me the ‘twingy’ sensation through my neck. Overall, it was just too much. I had a bit of a breakdown and relented it was time to see the doc.

The conversation with the doc was good, but gave me a lot to think about. In particular, I am rethinking overall how I am training. Right now, my training at the gym is focused on building upper body strength and power for my PT test. Unfortunately, that is counter to pretty much all the rest of my goals. And focusing on training for my PT test is starting to break my body. It isn’t what I want to be doing and I am not making a lot of progress so it wearing on me overall.

The doc suggested I take a step back from preparing for the test and focus on what I want to do. It just makes a lot of sense right now and among other things, it would help me put my body back together since it seems a bit determined to fall apart right now.

I have an appointment with physio on Friday to have my hip, back, neck, shoulders and ankles looked at. It will also be an opportunity to discuss what I want to do for training to get some direction for what I need for myself versus what I need for the PT test. Next week I have an appointment with the adaptive fitness trainer I work with and that should give me a new program overall.

Running, unfortunately, is probably going to be completely off the table. Back to the elliptical for me most likely.

So that has been the main thing weighing on my mind – dreading my workouts and feeling like and knowing I was working hard but somehow never getting closer to my goals. When the work and the goals don’t match up, it makes sense.

The doc also pointed out that because of the radiation, chemo, side effects and surgeries my upper body muscles may never be as strong as they were and they may be permanently weak. Its something to consider at least.

I don’t know what the changes will look like, but I am looking forward to some sort of change.

Dance tonight seemed different in itself – but I will leave that for another post.

Still a lot to catch up on.

 

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.

 

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.

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.