Getting in a Groove

I’ve finally managed to get my diet under control in the last week. I’m feeling much better about the amounts I’m eating and not just eating out of stress. There’s still work to do with macro and micronutrients, but one thing at a time.

Best of all, I’m down 2 lbs for it! Watching what you eat works, it just involves careful tracking.

Tuesday was really the only day last week where I wasn’t diligent in my food diary. I’ve

20160229_083101

Skyr!

found I have no problem keeping in my calories with just a little bit of planning ahead, even on days when I’m sharing some pizza and wine, or like yesterday when I went out to eat after our recital. I just need to put forth the effort and find better ways of dealing with stress and anxiety than giving up and shoveling in food.

This week I’m shifting focus back on getting in all my dance classes and cross training, which I’ve been slacking on the last couple weeks. But my next step for improvement in my diet will be to focus on getting better quality foods: more fruits, veggies, lean meats rather than convenience type foods. After that, I’ll focus on my macronutrient ratios. My training book recommends high protein, high carb, and low fat for best performance. As I’m in weight loss phase, I’ve cut back to more moderate carbs, which I’ll then add back into my diet when I’m ready to maintain my weight. Right now I’m too high on fats and too low on protein.

 

The Simplest Thing is the Hardest

There is one thing I could do to increase my performance and make dance progress in a snap. It doesn’t require much effort, and the results snowball into awesomeness. And it would even save me money.

Don’t overeat. Eat properly. Lose weight. Optimize power to weight ratio. It’s simple. Eat

20160222_194241

Pasta, tomatoes, peppers, and ground turkey for dinner. One of my easy quick favorites.

less. Eat healthier. Take a couple minutes to track calories. Make your life easier during the week by prepping delicious, nutritious foods on your Sunday rest day. And hey, even save money by buying less food to eat and more vegetables and less packaged foods, and not letting those vegetables and fruits go bad.

So why can’t I do this simple thing? Why is it so hard that I can only stick to it a day at a time, maybe?

20160224_120929

Easy healthy choice at work cafeteria.

I have all the excuses. I’m tired. I haven’t gone shopping. I don’t feel like shopping. I really don’t feel like cooking. I’m busy. I don’t want to do x thing, and if I’m eating I don’t have to feel guilty about not doing x thing because I’m busy eating. I was at dance and had to shower and now it’s 8pm. I’msohungryIneedallthefoodsrightnow.

My relationship with food is complicated. But to sum it up, I can remember from at least high school that shoving food in my face helps me avoid stress. I’m not thinking about x, y, or z that is stressing me out and I don’t have to worry about the myriad of things on my to do list. Forcing my self to do things, like cook, clean, or go to dance class, can be really mentally

20160225_090150

Delicious breakfast.

exhausting for me.

I haven’t figured out how to get my shit together yet, but I’m working on it. Because I know how wonderful I feel when I get things done.

I Feel Old

As nice as the kids are at my studio (I’ve never gotten a sense of “Why are you here?” from them, and they’re really friendly and sweet), sharing classes with them really drives home the uphill battle I face as a Novice adult. Not only do kids have more time to devote to dance, since they have fewer responsibilities like work and maintaining a household, but they are bendy and energetic in a way a 30 year old, slightly overweight, casual exerciser is not. I really need to work on my endurance and flexibility and keep improving.

Class was okay overall last night. It was a workshop with our school directors, who normally teach at other studios. I got a bit of positive feedback and some good corrections that were both directed to myself and were gleaned from listening to corrections for other students. But on one of our last hard shoe drills, which focused on front clicks, I was really running out of steam and couldn’t get my leg higher as directed. Endurance! Flexibility!

A positive, though? Even though I was on the struggle bus with my front clicks, especially left leg, I could tell I was doing way better than the last time I did the drill. Progress is something. I might not be able to soar through Grades and be a champ by age 12, but there’s hope for me yet.

Tonight is normally a solos class, but our recital is this Sunday so I’m not sure if we’ll be running solos or working on recital dances. Either way, despite my old lady cracking feet and knees and my lack of endurance and flexibility, things are improving and I’m excited to keep working at it. My teacher has told me she can tell my turnout has improved, my drills feel better, and hell, I can even manage first or second place consistently in my treble jig despite all the problems I feel I have with it. Today, I am just an old Novice dancer. But next year…who knows?

Feis Update

Yesterday was my first feis with all dances at Adult Prizewinner level. I was nervous not only because I’m trying to prove my worth to drop down to &Overs, but because 4 of my dances were moved up by my teacher rather than “earned” by winning 1st of at least 5 dancers for Novice level. Not only that, three of those dances weren’t even “earned” for moving up from Beginner to Novice. I was trying to prove I belonged in the Prizewinner category in addition to trying to prove I am ready to tackle &Overs.

Overall, I am pretty happy with my results. I didn’t dominate, but I at the very least kept up.

20160221_134941

Three golds, four silvers, and a bronze!

Some highlights and individual results below. My reel, slip jig, hornpipe, and traditional set were the ones I had just moved up so I was most concerned about dancing those like they belonged in Prizewinner.

  • Compliments: I had multiple fellow competitors tell me they thought I danced at Adult Prizewinner level. Not only that, but one of the ladies was completely surprised that I had any dances left in Novice, let alone 4. Outside validation always helps with confidence!
  • 2 Hand Reel: We didn’t have any competition, but our 2 hand reel went very well and I won’t be dropping down before at least June, the next feis I can attend, so that we can dance it again.
  • Reel: I tied for 3rd out of 4, so fairly evenly matched and not dead last! Not surprising given that I fudged the ending on the left leg by doing the end of our 2 hand reel. Ooops!
  • Light Jig: Tied for 2nd of 3. The lady who won is a very beautiful dancer. I’m usually chasing her and placing above her is a major success for me. I was slightly disappointed because I thought it had gone well, but still held my own.
  • Slip Jig: Very pleased with this one…tied for 2nd out of 5.
  • Single Jig: Not too shabby here either, tied for 2nd out of 4.
  • Double Jig: Best one here, 1st out of 4! I’m glad that I’ve been consistently getting 1st
    20160220_155537

    Trebling and blurring my way to 1st!

    or 2nd place in this dance at Prizewinner level out of a decent number of other dancers.

  • Hornpipe: I wasn’t happy about this dance…we had to stand out on stage waiting forever for the fast hornpipes to finish before they played the slow music. Standing with my feet crossed that long honestly tired out my legs and my brain, and I felt like jello legs around the stage. Nevertheless, tied for 2nd out of 3, and the winner did a fast hornpipe and didn’t have to stand out with us forever.
  • Traditional Set: So excited about this one too, 1st out of 3! I often have trouble even placing in this one, so I was mega mega pleased.
  • Judge Feedback: I had the same judge the whole time (whyyyy weren’t they rotating?), so I think all the ties meant I held my own in Prizewinner level! Main feedback was I need to keep high on my toes and watch my timing and beats. I definitely have issues with dropping my heels and not hitting all my beats when trebling, so it’s something to work on.

All in all, I’m happy with how the feis went, I’m looking forward to the next one, and I’m inspired to keep putting forth the effort with my training. In the meantime, though, it’s time to shift focus onto St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

Feis Prep

Tomorrow is the day! I wouldn’t normally be very worked up about a feis, but tomorrow is my first day after my teacher moved me up to all Prizewinner (rather than me winning my Novice dances to “earn” it), and I really want to prove I belong there. I currently have 3 dances in Prizewinner, and I’ve already gotten a 1st in all of them. But the other 4 I’m a bit nervous about. This is my big chance to show I’m ready to drop down from Adult competition to &Over.

Last night’s class went pretty well. I’m feeling good about my reel and my slip jig, though more so my reel. I keep whiffing my trebles when tired and getting my legs tangled up, but

20151108_192256

Looking to repeat the blue ribbons for hard shoe tomorrow!

I’ve consistently done well in my slow treble jig in Prizewinner and I’ve gotten 2nd once and won twice the hornpipe at Novice level competitions…though only 4 people for the 2 wins so I didn’t move up. My St. Patrick’s Day leaves much to be desired still, and I can’t do a rock to save my life.

I’m also doing a 2-hand reel (2-person group dance) with my friend to start out the competition, and I hope that will settle my stage nerves before the reel and give me a nice warm up and some confidence. We got rave reviews from our teacher about our choreography we put together!

My cape for my solo dress is broken (snap fell off) and I haven’t bothered repairing it yet, so between that and not wanting to change between the 2 hand and my solos, I’m just going to wear blacks (black shirt, black skirt, black tights) tomorrow. Plus my solo is a little tight around the middle and this should be more comfortable… Anyway, I have to run out tonight after work and buy the black long sleeve shirt, as well as stock up on feis essentials like almonds, a Kind bar, and dry fruit. And ibuprofen.

I also have a goal of breaking in both sets of new shoes by the time the next feis rolls around. Floppy ghillies and tiny toe tap hard shoes need to be retired!

Nutrition is Still Missing

Why do I feel like I’m going to collapse every time I’m trying to push through the end of the slip jig or hornpipe? Easy – my power to weight ratio is off!

20150927_154143If you haven’t followed me from the beginning (and I’m assuming anyone who may be reading this has not!), I’m following a training plan based on and adapted from Lauren Early’s Training Book. My workouts follow her schedule, though I’m using New Rules of Lifting for Women for my strength training day. Another key component of the book is diet. If you want to be a champion, you have to train like a champion and eat like a champion.

Aside from all the usual reasons for wanting an optimal level of body fat (general health and well being, feeling good about one’s appearance), as an overfat Irish dancer I am trying to push around about 30 lbs of tissue that does essentially nothing for me. The fat is “dead weight”, more or less. It doesn’t contribute to my strength, flexibility, or dancing. It just means I have to work a lot harder to jump than I would if I had the optimal amount of body fat, like dancing around in a weighted vest. Of course, the reverse is also an issue: too little body fat or body weight and not only is the body not at its most healthy, but the dancer does not have the muscle and power required to perform well. As in all things, moderation.

So I did the calculations and for about 20%-25% body fat and a healthy weight, neither too high nor too low, I’m looking to lose between 25 and 30 lbs. I’ve gained over 15 lbs in the past year between major stress eating and a lovely boyfriend who always tells me I look good and am not fat. I can tell pushing through to the end of the dance is much harder than a year ago (partially due to learning more difficult steps, but to be honest some of it is probably the weight). My added leg width adds some difficulty as well with foot placement.

To reach my weight goal and support my training, I’m aiming for about 1600-1700 calories

20151107_104557

Delicious things happen when I bother cooking nutritious food.

per day (a 300 calorie deficit from what I’ve calculated my daily burn to be), with a mix of high protein, moderate carb, and low fat to help fuel my performance. On this plan, I should be losing at a slow but steady rate. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong.

I can dance, lift, core, stretch, and even cardio on a semi-regular basis, but I can’t seem to curb my eating.

There are several reasons (pronounced: excuses). I’m an emotional eater and stress eater, so it’s hard to fight the cravings. Sometimes I’m too mentally drained and just give in. I’m too tired to cook. I didn’t get home and showered until 8pm after class. I forgot to go grocery shopping, so I’ll just graze.

Might as well just own up to it. I’m lazy and unmotivated a lot. Unmotivated doesn’t work when you want to reach your goals.

20160217_084200

Tasty office breakfast today.

So, upward and onward. Yesterday I stayed under 1600 calories and while it wasn’t the most nutritionally balanced, I did get a good amount of protein. Today I will also stay in my calorie goal, and I’ll make the effort to make it a bit more nutritious than it was yesterday.

I’ll figure this out. I’m just not there yet.

Training on Point!

After struggling a bit the last couple weeks, having two good training days in a row feels great! Today was Novice/Prizewinner class at the studio. We did a mix of solos and recital/show numbers. My light jig was alright, and I’m feeling pretty good about my reel. The slip jig and single jig were okay. I think I need some more grace to my slip jig. I guess I’m more of a reel girl! My slow treble jig and slow hornpipe, though…I’m not as confident on those. The treble jig wasn’t too bad, and I’m consistently placing 1st or 2nd in that dance, but I’m less confident on the hornpipe. While I’ve been placing 1st of 3 or 4 in that dance for a while, moving up to Prizewinner puts that at a whole new level for this weekend!

Overall, I’m feeling cautious but optimistic about Saturday after today’s class. On top of the 90 min of class, I also did my scheduled 20 min of flexibility/mobility training and got over 10,000 steps in. I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to achieving the elusive splits…

My hard shoes are still slippery despite the sanding I’ve given the tips. How am I supposed to get used to wider tips when I feel like I’m dancing on bars of soap? I’ll definitely be using the old, well-worn and well-loved shoes on Saturday.

giphy2

For the non-Irish dancers, here’s a brief description of the different dances I mentioned above. Reel, light jig, slip jig, and single jig are danced with soft shoes. Treble jig, hornpipe, and set dances are danced with hard shoes.

  • Reel: Upbeat dance in 4/4 time.
  • Light jig: Danced in 6/8 time. A bit less frenzied.
  • Slip jig: A flowing, graceful dance in 9/8 time. The “ballet” of Irish dance, if you will. Men do not dance this dance at Champion level as this is the “ladies dance” due to its gracefulness.
  • Single jig: Fast, upbeat dance in 6/8 time. Bouncier with more jumps and leaps than the light jig.
  • Treble jig: In 6/8 time. Fast and upbeat. The traditional speed is faster music than the “slow” speed. Slow speeds are danced at more advanced dance levels as the slower speed of the music allows for more intricate steps. So, slower music, faster steps!
  • Hornpipe: In 4/4 time, with emphasis on the first and third beats of the measure. Slightly different steps than in the treble jig, though there is quite a bit of overlap. As with treble jig, there are traditional and slow speeds.
  • Set dance: Either a traditional or non-traditional set (Champion level only) may be danced. Set dances are chosen from an established list of songs. Traditional sets were standardized by the old Irish dance masters, are around 100 or more years old, and are danced the same across the world (with slightly different beginnings steps at each school). Non-traditional sets are choreographed by each individual school and may be tailored to a particular dancer. They must be chosen from a standard list of songs, but speed may vary.

 

Countdown to March Madness

And by March Madness I, of course, mean St. Patrick’s Day performances!

Last night our normal 1:15 long St. Pat’s class was replaced by 2.5 hours of setting up and running through a few numbers for our recital at the end of the month. One week later, I get to see both Lord of the Dance and Riverdance (finally!). Then, let the performance madness begin!

Oh, and did I mention I have to feis this weekend on top of it, too? And that this is my chance to prove to my teacher that I’m ready to drop down?

giphy1

One thing at a time. Now that rehearsal is over, I’ll just focus on the feis through this week. Then, shift track back to St. Patrick’s Day.

No Lazy Weekend Here!

While I struggled to do much of anything yesterday, I was on top of my training today!

First up was my endurance/recovery training this morning. Just 5 seconds off the walking time, so 10 sets of a 2 min run followed by 1:55 walking. Running was rough as always, but I made it and it was a beautiful day on the trail. I ran a bit faster this week than last week, which I’m guessing was due to the lack of snow on the trail this time. I was also treated to a nice view of fog mixing out over the reservoir to the north. It might be a bit difficult to see, but the white area between the houses and just above the grass line/below the mountain line is actually fog.

20160213_113038

After the cross training, a friend of mine stopped by to learn and practice the two hand reel we plan to perform at next weekend’s feis. We went over some other show dances as well. It was a lot of fun and a good burst of activity. With all that, I’ve had no problem hitting my steps today…11,000 and counting at the moment.

I also did my second foam rolling session today. It was a lot easier than last week, where I was a bit freaked out by how much it hurt in some areas. My IT band area can still only stand 4 rolls, but that’s up from not quite 3 last week and no major pain like last time. I’m feeling quite good this evening!

I also discovered today that one of the Open Champs from a neighboring school actually started out as an Adult Beginner. This really inspires me and I’m getting excited for next weekend’s competition.

The Good Kind of Hurt

Struggling to stand up out of bed in the morning because you’ve been putting in the effort to improve hurts great. We may dance like we’re very lithe, flexible, and relaxed, but off the dance floor we’re waddling around stiff as a board.

Last night’s class when fairly well. We ran through light jig and reel, which I feel good about. I even got complimented about might nice straight legs and how the end of the step is coming together. I still really need to work on my punches…just can’t figure out how to get that leg to move! We spent a good bit of time going over the slip jig and our slow hornpipe and treble jig as well.

I’m still struggling with breaking in my hard shoes. The thick tips are really hard to get used to after my previous pair. In the end they’ll be great, but I’m still adjusting. I also slid a bit on the floor, so it’s back to the sandpaper with those tips! It’s hard to balance on them and my shoes keep rotating, making it hard to balance. I’m not sure if it’s the tips or me. Eventually I changed into my old pair because the balls of my feet hurt too much.

My St. Patrick’s Day is just all around sad. I need to practice more. And I’m still painfully aware about how much harder it is to dance now vs almost 20 lbs ago. I did need to work on my stamina then, but it didn’t seem as bad as it is now. Of course, I’m also working harder in class with harder steps and trying to focus on my technique, so that’s part of it. But it’s easier to jump when you’re not trying to jump with so much weight.

By the end of the day I had over 12,500 steps on the pedometer. Now if only I could get my eating under control…