Routine Work

I had an interesting day today.

I woke up and I found myself just wanting to do some work on my routines.  I had specific things I wanted to work out, like keeping my knees bent, and doing them with the music.

So I went off to the gym and was lucky to have the entire upper gym to myself.  I just turned on some music on my ipod and got down to work.  I worked my way through QS, Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot.

It has been a long time since I have gone to just practice on my own and do what I really wanted.  I could tell all last week that the time was coming though.  It’s hard to explain.

I was finding that my other practice times at the studio seemed a little chaotic.  The studio was busy this week and while that doesn’t usually bother me, this week I was distracted by it.  I just felt unfocused and out of sorts.

Today was completely different.  I was in my ‘zone’.  I knew what I wanted to do and I got it done.  By the end of the practice, I had been able to run through all 4 routines with the music, with some shaping and keeping my knees bent–especially in quickstep.  The timing in quickstep and tango was a little off, but I couldn’t tell if I was rushing the ‘quicks’, or generally behind.

What made today so interesting is after I realized it was something I used to do, but hadn’t in quite a long time.  I just get in these moods sometimes where I just decide and determine to do something specific with all routines.  It doesn’t have to take long (today was about 40 mins), but sometimes I can get into that zone for more than an hour.  There is just something about working with no one around, no cell phone keeping track of time, no time limitations.  Just me, my ipod and what I want to work on.

I can see myself returning to doing this a little more in the future.  It was just a little piece of something I used to do that I had forgotten how to do. Getting through my routines with the timing helped my confidence.

It was healing after a hectic week.

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Confidence

It’s funny how it can make a lot of difference.

Before getting sick, there were two words that people would generally use to describe me: powerful and confident.  That of course trickled into my dancing.

From my very early days at my first studio, I had decided that I was going to be a dancer and if I was going to be a dancer I had to project an image of a dancer and KNOW I was a dancer, even if others might not think so.

Confidence.

As my dancing began to grow and develop and I felt more and more sure of my steps, I started to challenge myself to step outside my comfort zone, but to also make sure that I put everything I had into every.single.step.

Confidence.

I went to my first competition having absolutely no idea what to expect, but I knew I would step on that floor and would give everything I had to do my best, no matter how anyone else danced.

Confidence.

I was always the bigger girl on the floor, but I never let that bother me.  I knew my weight and fitness was something I was actively working on myself, and that despite how I might look I had done the training to bring everything I could to the floor.  I knew that even though I was overweight, I would be able to give everything I had from the first step to the last.

Confidence.

I knew I might fall (and in my second competition I did–in a solo!), but I knew I would get right back up again and pick up where I needed to like nothing happened.  I attacked my spins and turns and steps with so much power I sometimes overdid it.

Confidence.

Even if everything else seemed to go wrong in the dance–whether I forgot my steps, or turned the wrong way or had to adjust to other couples–I knew nothing would stop me.  I was a dancer full of strength, determination and perseverance.

Confidence.

But I have been struggling with all of those things lately, and it came to a bit of a head for me at the last competition.  Today something occurred to me, which I wanted to share, that I think explains a little why it sometimes seems like all the things I mentioned above are missing.

When I graduated from University, I was a size 28, even though I weighed almost the same as what I do now.  I was depressed, lonely and extremely out of shape.  Walking even 1 kilometre seemed hard.  Stairs were impossible.  I would get out of breath just thinking about exercise.  Shortly after, I hit rock bottom and realized I had to make some changes if I wanted to make things better in my life and be a better person.  I realized it was time to take care of me.

So I started working on me.  Talked with a trainer for strength training and cardio. Stopped allowing myself to binge eat and tried to eat healthier. Set goals for myself and looked for the tools to reach them.

It was hard work and took a very long time.  There were detours on the way, but eventually I went from a size 28 to an 18, and even though I was still quite overweight (I actually weighed more than I did at a size 28), I had a lot of muscle, strength and cardio.  I could run 5K (and enjoyed it).

My life went into flux for a bit as I changed jobs, got married, moved, got divorced, moved again.  I started to dance and then moved to where I am now.  Shortly after that I found the keys to make things work for me and I got down to a size 12 and was lighter than I had been since graduating from high school, although still overweight.

I felt good and confident.  I had a lot of power and strength and every day I was improving.  One of my biggest assets in dance was speed, especially of my legs and in my spins.

Then I got sick and everything changed. I got derailed some. Being sick and treatments negatively affected my body and fitness.  I regained 30lbs and went up to a 14. I had major surgery. For the longest time, physical activity made me sick, light-headed and dizzy, so I had to learn to be careful with what I did and how I did it.

In my reflection today, I realized what is missing is my confidence.  But more than that, I feel right now the same way I felt when I was a size 28: heavy and slow and unfit.

As I was practicing tonight, I was working on running through my routines on my own.  Things were being difficult tonight and I felt distracted and out of sorts.  I was making mistakes I don’t usually make.  But I was also trying to do things to the music.  One of the things that struck me very strongly was that I was moving a LOT slower than I used to.

Two of my latin routines are similar to my old silver ones and as I was working through them I found myself frequently getting behind the music on spins.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not make myself spin faster to stay with the music. It was just physically impossible.

But I used to be able to do it. Yes, I am doing more technique now, but not enough that it should make that much of a difference.  I think tonight is the first time I realized how much slower I am now than I was before, and I often feel like I am trying to move a tank around the dance floor.  Even though I am smaller than I was before, I have lost enough strength to make it feel like I am trying to move around more–like 200lbs more.

I think it is necessary for me to figure that out.  With that, comes the realization that I have lost confidence in my ability to move myself.  I have fallen twice in the last 3 months working on spins and that is making me a little ‘gun shy’.  I am worried to put all my power into what I am doing because I might not be able to control and I might fall.

I don’t know if it is possible to get that confidence back, but I intend to go searching for it.  It’s only Wednesday, but already this week I can feel a difference in me and my approach.  Despite the disappointments from the weekend, I haven’t let that derail me.

I know my confidence is out there–I have to find it again.

I did it before, so I know I can do it again.

Confidence.

 

Giving it all

As I mentioned yesterday I have some thoughts to add.

One of the things I have realized recently is that somewhere within my journey I stopped giving 110% in every movement I did.

The reasons for that in retrospect, are easy–I didn’t have 110% to give.  Most days I was lucky to give 80%.  Now that I am recovering though, what I am discovering is that somewhere along the way I developed a bit of a fear of going all out and losing control and exhausting myself.

One of the things I saw watching the videos of my last competitions is that everything I did seemed ‘small’.  As I watched, I could feel myself just wanting to say ‘come on girl, just push just a little bit more…’ You could actually see when I tired and that I was trying to conserve my energy.

That was only one of the issues, but certainly it was one of the biggest.  I have given it a lot of thought though since then, and one of the things I have realized is that I have to remember and figure out how to always give that much again.  To get over the fear I have developed and just ‘go for it’.

It sounds very simple, but at the same time, I find I am fearful of sending myself (and Boss) off balance, or falling, of failing. I am holding back, and it is now becoming more and more obvious as I regain my strength, and (I hope) my stamina.

Sometimes the first step in finding a solution is recognizing the problem.  I recognize the problem, but I haven’t yet figured out the solution.

That said, I have slowly begun trying to challenge myself to do more and not hold back in my lessons.  I tried to apply it today, but I can’t say I was fully successful. I don’t want to hurt myself, and most especially Boss in trying to push myself.  But push myself is something that is necessary for me to do right now, and in many ways it is something I need to relearn to do.

Mainly, it is a mind-set.  Once upon a time, I used to attack everything I did with everything I had.  But at the same time, I wasn’t able to control the power I had and the momentum that came with it.  Now, I am just not sure, and honestly lack the confidence I need to just get to that extra step.

It is like I am almost on the verge of a breakthrough, but I just can’t seem to find where that last step is.  I am on the edge…of something but I am not sure what yet.

What I do know, is that I have to figure out what 110% is again and fight through the fear to be able to put that into everything I do.  I am just not me otherwise, and that is what I saw in the videos.  I could see someone holding back, and that is not something I do.  In previous videos, the problem would actually be that I was ‘overdoing’ things and losing control.There has to be a happy medium somewhere, and I need to find it.

My journey to resetting is continuing though.  Today after my lesson I began to formulate a plan for practices and I hope that Boss agrees with, or at least provides some guidance to what I have put together.  It’s very important to me right now to get back on track and be focused in what I need to do, and slowly the steps are coming together.

I know the next two weeks will be tiring, I will be hungry, and likely quite fuzzy-headed.  But once the first two weeks are done, things will start to adjust and become more like ‘normal’.  I am feeling very motivated and committed now and all I can do is capitalize on that.

On a slightly different note, after a week of medication reduction and inconsistent dosing schedule, my body is slowly starting to adjust to the new levels and I am getting back on schedule.  I am reaching the point in my medication where I am ‘almost there’ in getting off of the one I want to get off of, and reduced to minimal levels on the other.  Eventually, I hope that the hormone therapy will be the only medication I will take regularly, with the exception of supplements like vitamin D and calcium (which are needed to help prevent osteoporosis with the hormone therapy).  I am still at least a month away from that goal, but it is getting more and more in sight as I adjust to my current doses.

Getting off those medications is almost another sign of recovery and it gives me something to focus on health-wise (other than diet and fitness at least).

I can feel a lot of pieces coming together for me, and my goals coming into focus.  I am on a cusp of moving forward and I am slowly gathering what I need to do so.

I’m Back

Well at least in Canada again.

Haven’t hit the dance floor yet, but still working on jet leg.  I worked today, but I am taking the rest of the week off in recognition that my body just needs a little more time than usual.

I was sick on the way home.  I will tell you there is nothing worse than being sick on a plane as you are stuck in your seat with an audience.  The good news is at least the plane wasn’t too full, and I had 3 seats to myself and could sleep between bumps of turbulence that just didn’t end well.

I am not too sure why I was sick, but there are several possibilities, all of which could contribute.  I have been going pretty hard for two weeks, I was dehydrated thanks to my bank card not working in China, and my medication schedule was screwed up from the jet lag.  Guess that made almost a perfect storm.

I slept more than 16 hours straight once I got home and honestly I can’t remember ever doing that since I was a teenager.  Unfortunately doing so meant missing another dose of medication, so I am still feeling the effects of that.  I am also reducing medication again, so like last time I am a little dizzy, nauseous, light-headed and fuzzy-headed.  I feel better sleep-wise today, but hope my body will adjust to regular dosing by the weekend.

It seems like nothing is easy anymore, but all I can do is adjust as I go and remember that my body has been through a lot and give it a bit of a break.

The problem is that I am a little tired of giving my body a break.

In some ways, it is harder to not be reminded I had cancer now than it was while I was being treated.  At least while I was being treated I expected to feel weak and sick.  Now, I am just over it and want to get on with my life.  Get back to normal.  Medically, I probably have another year before my body fully recovers from everything.

But despite the difficulty in recovering, I am truly proud of what I accomplished over the last two weeks.  I worked erratic hours, produced a lot of quality work and was able to get the job done.  That is an achievement and a milestone in itself and I remind myself of that.  I will take the time to recover and look forward to the next project.

I did have some time to reflect while I was away (11 hours on a plane has that effect!), and it was good to get some time away in that respect.

I have been feeling a little unmotivated lately.  Not so much with dance, but in general.  I came to realize that although I constantly adjusted my dance goals throughout this entire process, a part of me somehow figured that when all was said and done I could just pick up my life where I left off and resume those goals.  What I have realized is that is not the case and I do have to adjust those bigger goals as well–I have to recognize that the things that once motivated me are no longer what motivates me now.

One of the biggest area of my life I am struggling with right now is fitness and weight.  I am still carrying the 30 lbs I gained with chemo and I think part of me has been almost expecting it to just start to fall off at some point once I got back to things.  That part of me has forgotten how much work it was to lose weight the first time and how it took a lot of discipline, patience and hard work.  It’s not that I am not working hard now, I am just working different, and I haven’t adjusted to that.

I can feel myself resetting though, in a good way.  I see the rehab specialist on Monday and I have already told her I want to focus on rebuilding cardio and overall fitness more so than weight.  While I was away, I had a small email exchange with Boss to discuss the way ahead with dance too, as he left the decision of what to do up to me.

A plan is forming in all areas of my life and I can feel myself feeling better with it.  I have given some long hard thought to what motivates me now, what has worked in the past and what I need to do to get to my goals. It is time to shift my focus back from dance and more onto me again–as it was in a lot of ways before I got sick.  Initially, I didn’t dance just to dance, I danced for me. To improve my fitness. To be active. To be stronger.  As I got stronger, so too did my dancing.  In that respect, everything won.

So, I am resetting my goals and focus and seeing where it takes me.  I have the tools, I just need to remember how to use them again.  Monday is more or less ‘go’ day for me and I am working to have myself organized by then.  The first thing is really just developing a regular routine and giving myself meaningful ‘mini-goals’ to strive for.

On the dance front, we are going to continue to work on the open routines.  Boss has told me he is going to adjust my practice program some to combine drilling with mini-sequences, and we are going to dig more into my latin styling, which is the one thing that really stuck out to me in the videos from the competition.  I am looking forward to my first lesson back which is tomorrow.

We are also going to work to put together the smooth routines for my next competition in January.  At least I hope so.  Boss hasn’t really said much about it, but it is one thing I truly want to do, so I hope he isn’t just stalling by staying quiet.  It also means getting my third dress made.

It’s been a lot of flux lately and a lot of changes, but I am confident I will get back on track.  In the end it is just one day at a time.

One step forward and two steps back is not a disaster, it’s a cha cha.

Bed head hair

Yep, I asked Boss how he wanted my hair for the competition and his response was that his favourite was how my hair was today.  After being sick for 3 days and not brushing it–THAT is his preference (except he wants it to not move).

So apparently to prepare for this comp I only need to roll out of bed and into make-up.  Well maybe not quite that simple but I am glad I don’t have to try to control it.  It is pretty unruly and curly right now.  I figure some texturizing cream, my ‘glued’ gel and ‘freezing’ hairspray and I should be all good to go.

I am still not feeling better.   Today the cold seems to have moved to my ears so it was making me dizzy and hard of hearing.  I did make it to my lesson today, but Boss knew I wasn’t too well so he kept things simple.

We went through all of the routines except the solo in ‘easy’ mode and slow tempos and reviewed a few of the points from my last lesson.  We just focused on specific steps in a couple of the routines that are in good shape and made some small adjustments that were needed in paso and samba.

I made it through everything although Quickstep made my head spin at the end of my lesson.  I even felt better after my lesson, which I see as a good sign.  Hopefully some decongestants tonight will clear out my ears and all will be well.

The plan right now is to do a 30 min run through of all routines on Wednesday, followed by a final lesson on Thursday.  That is flexible depending on how I am feeling.  The one thing that does concern me a little is that I will be doing a 5-dance event in Standard on Saturday night and I haven’t yet made it through all 5 dances without having to stop.  I hope to rectify that on Wednesday or Thursday.

My dressmaker sent me a ‘preview’ photo of the stoning for my standard dress and I am really amazed at how it looks!  I can’t wait to see the full dress and the latin dress as well.  They should be ready Wednesday.  Both dresses are very different from my previous dresses so I can’t wait to debut them at the competition!

Fingers are crossed that I continue feeling better and the rest of the week goes as planned!

Non-Dancing Preps

My weekend got a little hijacked from me.

I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat, muscle aches and a runny nose.  By 6 I was running a fever.  Needless to say, I didn’t go to practice today.

Despite feeling sick, I did get some of my non-dance preparations in.

Yesterday was about getting a manicure and pedicure, so a little bit of pampering for me.  I also got some esthetics done to make sure I have two eye brows :).  I also tried something I have never done before and got my white-blond eyebrows tinted a very pale brown.  I wasn’t too sure about it, but I like the results.  I started ‘penciling’ in my brows during chemo, but stopped when I stopped wearing scarves.  I think it will be good for dance though.  It makes my eyes stand out for sure.

I was also going through my inventory of make-up to make sure I have all I need for the competition.  I am glad I did because I had forgotten that I had tossed some of my eye shadow sticks that were a little too old.  My plan is to go for a pink and green look, with some gold accents.

I was disappointed to miss practice today, but in the end I think it was the right decision.  Considering how I feeling, if I had gone to practice, my focus would have been on just getting through the dances and not anything really productive.  There is a time for that, but one week before a competition is not one of them.

Thankfully, I was able to reschedule the practice for Wednesday to give me a chance to do a full run through of all my routines.

I am still feeling congested today, but my throat feels better, and my body is aching less.  No fever today, so I hope that means I will be almost back to ship-shop shape tomorrow.

The plan for tomorrow is to run through the solo about 3 times, then the latin routines (which we didn’t get to on Friday), then the standard routines.

I can tell it’s getting close to competition, I had the funniest dream last night.  Boss has been working on trying to get me to use my power more in standard and not hold back, especially when I am doing forward–I have to remember to drive and travel.  In my dream, we were doing standard and when the time came for me to go forward I suddenly started making vroom-vroom noises to remind myself to ‘drive’.  In the dream I thought I was making the noises in my head, but suddenly Boss stops and gives me a strange look because I was actually making the noises out loud!  I do a lot of strange things when I dance but that was a new one.  Guess it’s a good way to remember to ‘drive’!

Final Preps

We are heading into my last 3 lessons before the competition.

This Sunday will be my last competitive practice before the competition as well.

Looking over everything, aside from endurance issues, I think I am where I want to be.

Yesterday, we focused on the solo, in running it from top to bottom, then breaking down a few parts to bring them up better.  For a break (ha ha!) we finally were able to review the newer Paso routine.  I am really glad we got to review the Paso routine because I do prefer it to the previous one.  After a couple full run-throughs in Paso, it was back to the solo and doing run-throughs.

I also had received the skirt I will wear for the solo, so it was good to try that out and make sure there are no issues and that my shoes, etc. won’t get caught in it.  All was well and despite a bit of a disastrous run at one point, it ended on a high note with a run-through that was not too bad, minus some feet missteps for me almost at the end.

We recorded the final run (cause there is nothing like adding a camera to feeling exhausted!), and I was looking at the video and there are some moments that are quite cool.  There are a couple of moments where I can see I need to do something a little ‘more’ (I appear to be just standing for no reason), but overall it was in a good place for the amount of time we have left.

I am tapering off my strength training this week, so I spent the time I would usually be training doing some light practice just to run through my routines.  I am able to go from top to bottom on my own now in almost all my routines (still some hiccups in the always elusive foxtrot!), and that too is a good place to be.

My dresses will be ready next week and I can’t wait to see them all stoned and blinged up, not to mention to try them before the competition.

I am looking forward to the practice this weekend and hope it goes smoothly without too much failing of endurance.  My endurance does seem to be improving, so that is a good sign.

I have a lesson tonight and I am not really sure what we will be doing, whether work on specific routines, or running through them, so focusing on the solo more.  I guess I will find out when I get there :).

It is hard to believe it is almost October already.  My October looks to be pretty busy with the competition, followed by some travel overseas for work.  If all gets sorted, I actually won’t have any lessons after the competition until October 26th, which will give a good break to reset and reevaluate, but also is time off.  I am expecting some changes to my strength training routine when I get back as well, so it will be a bit of a fresh start.

Still no luck on the roommate search although I do have some meetings next week.  I hope to sort it out before the competition and really before travelling overseas, as my ability to compete in January (and the future) really hinges on finding a new one.  Fingers crossed.

Autumn mapped out in dance

Finally had a lesson tonight!

To be honest, I needed the break just to let my body recharge a little.

Boss and I had an ‘armchair’ lesson on Tuesday, which is basically a lesson where we sit down together and map out the next steps and decide where we are going.  We managed to sort out the competition and what we will do until my surgery.  We also discussed some things for after surgery that I can do while I am not mobile.

The first big thing is we (meaning me, really–he just agreed) will be doing a solo at the competition.  It should be an open rumba/cha cha combo to a song I picked out way back in the spring that we had ‘mapped’ a routine to, but never put together.  So tonight, we started putting it together.  I can already tell it is going to be one of the most dramatic routines Boss and I have done and that works perfectly for it.  It’s a powerful song for all I am going through and very fitting.  As the routine evolves I will talk more about it, but for now, it’s about 3 phrases of actual steps and a lot of ideas in Boss’s head.

The solo is going to be the focus for the next little bit in my lessons and I am ok with that.  Most of my latin routines are in a pretty good place and I can do all of them to a pretty good level already.  There are mostly tweaks needed here and there which we will do, mainly in Paso (at least as far as I think).  I will get a chance to run them regularly at rounds practices, so that should keep them fresh and bring to the surface what needs work.

I decided not to do my silver medal test yet.  Latin would be no problem, but Standard just needs some more consistent work to be more solid.  Also, almost all my routines would have to be adjusted to have the proper sequence of steps according to the manual for the test, and most of them don’t do that.  So a goal for the spring after my surgery.

After the competition, we are going to work through the smooth routines to get them firmly into my feet so I can visualize them in my head.  I am big into visualization and find it infinitely useful for learning routines.  If I can see myself doing it in my head, I can usually do it on my feet.  We are also going to start adding some gold steps to my latin routines to start making them more ‘open silver’ and ‘pre-gold’ for future competitions.  Eventually, we will do gold routines, but not yet.

In preparation for my surgery, I also asked Boss if we can videotape all of my routines, so I can watch them while I am laid up.  I have done this before when I had to go away right before a showcase and it helped me to keep the routines fresh in my head, kept me motivated, and made having 1 week to finalize things easier.  My plan is to take the time to watch the routines daily as I recover from my surgery to help remind me why I need to get better.

The other thing I will do while recovering is visualize the routines to music.  Visualizing them is more than just watching them on video because the visualization includes how the movements feel.  As I mentioned before, I am a very kinetic person and learner so how things feel, and remembering that is very key in dance for me.  The more we do the routines before my surgery, the more I will be able to remember and know what they feel like for my visualizations.

That plus videos is my version of ‘armchair’ practicing.  It should help keep me focused (I hope!) when I am recovering from surgery as I have 6-8 weeks before I will be allowed to dance again.  Minimum.  That’s a long time for me to go without dancing!

Boss already has some ideas for small things I can do while recovering.  He wants me to work on ‘flamenco’ hands and arms for Paso mainly, although it will help all my latin styling and mentioned something about my Achilles tendon–either stretching or strengthening, I am not sure. I know the week before my surgery we will map out a more definitive plan to keep me busy, focused, and feeling like I am not losing time while I recover.

I am very glad I decided to do the competition to help break up my autumn.  Once I finish radiation, I won’t have much to do except recover from it (which is enough, I am sure!), which won’t keep my days very busy.  For me, that seems like a little bit too much time to spend wondering (freaking out!) about my surgery and the results of it.  I will start hormonal therapy at the end of September, briefly, but that is purely a medication therapy and doesn’t involve appointments.  It will last 5 years, minus a break before my surgery to minimize the risk of blood clots and surgical complications.

It looks like I will have a busy autumn and I am looking forward to that.  6 more radiation treatments to go!