Dance is Hard

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I can’t keep up in dance class.

Right now I’m overwhelmed enough just getting to all my dance classes each week, so I haven’t gotten back to focusing on home practice or cross training yet. I’ll get there eventually, but in the meantime I can expect to continue having issues in class.

By the time we’re an hour in, I feel like I can’t pick my legs up anymore. They are so, so tired and, I expect, full of lactic acid. Hence my need to do some sprint-level endurance work to improve my ability to recover from said lactic acid build up.

I also lack strength in certain areas. I have trouble balancing on one foot when doing hard shoe without my heel touching the ground. No real problem in soft shoe, but trying to balance on that toe block is the end of me. I plan to look for some better hard shoes for me, but in the meantime I could use some strength increases there (feet/ankles) as well as my core. And in general with how tired my legs get, I suspect weights would help there as well. We’re doing some neat strength stuff in drills class these days, but I need to do more on my own too.

Then of course, there are technique problems. Not just maintaining turnout and cross, but also trying to do something simple like treble at the right speed (my lack of balance on my back foot in hard shoe has gotten me rushing through my trebles so I can keep from dropping my heel) and just trying to make contact with the floor on the left foot trebles. Turn out in hard shoe sucks too. My legs don’t move fast enough, particularly in hard shoe, to have good technique. In my haste to keep up with the music in hard shoe, I end up rushing the steps and losing butt kicks or proper lifting of my foot prior to a treble. So, so many things need to be practiced at home. We got a great piece of advice from one of our teachers last week: Champions need to break down and practice each piece of their choreography until they get it perfect. That sounds great to me, and I plan to structure my home practices this way should I ever get to the point when I can manage to practice at home.

Finally, flexibility and mobility. We’re supposed to be “kick our faces” on things like front clicks and I need to do things like improve my turnout and get my cuts up to hip level. This I’ve had some success in, but there’s a lot of room for improvement both in terms of ability and in terms of training time.

How am I supposed to do this when I work full time, am starting the hunt to buy a house, and have a wedding to plan? AHHHH!!!! Sometimes it feels like there is no way to catch up to the kids who are home schooled and can devote all their time to training.

Irish dance may need to go into a holding pattern until after I have a house and a husband. That includes forgoing a trip to Oireachtas next year, which will only be about a month after my wedding. Hard to swing the training needed for my first major with so much else going on.

Oh well:

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My Calves Are Sore…

…from cooking. Yes, cooking.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the key issues missing from my training program is good nutrition. I’ve also discussed weight to power ratio, which basically means I need to get to an optimal amount of body fat so that the weight I need to force into the air contains the least amount of “dead” weight possible and the most amount of useful, or muscle, weight. Lighter dancer = easier to get a good hanging leap.

While I’ve worked on getting more consistent with my training, I’ve found myself too tired to cook in the evenings after dance and too tired to clean my apartment properly (which demotivates me). I’m also just super, super hungry since I’ve ramped up the activity levels. And on days where I’m not at dance, I still feel pretty worn out. It’s a bit of a cycle,

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Our farm bounty

as proper food = more energy. When I’m tired, I eat like crap, but I’m tired in part because I eat like crap.

Enter pounds of veggies, a wedding, and a massive meal prep weekend.

A couple Saturdays ago we went to the farm, which during fall harvest hosts a deal where for $20 (or less with enough people) you hop on a trailer pulled by a tractor, get hauled out into the fields, and pick away to your heart’s delight up to five bags of veggies. My boyfriend and I got everything in the photo for $32.50, and it’s super fresh! I didn’t have a ton of time to process them after picking because I also had a feis that weekend, but I set aside the past weekend to cook.

And cook I did. I made cottage pie, chicken stew, salsa, vegetable soup, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin seeds this weekend. I still have a ton of veggies left and probably should blanch and freeze a good amount of them, but I was tired and didn’t get that far by Sunday night! I froze a bunch of the food I made this weekend and am definitely set for this week and potentially part of next week. Even though it was a lot of work, I’m hoping to make weekend meal prep part of my routine this coming year.

Why a year? Well, that’s both about the amount of time it will take me to slowly (0.5-0.75 lbs/week) lose the extra weight I’d like to lose, and it’s when I’m getting married. 🙂 I got engaged on Wednesday and we kind of had a last hoorah with a nice meal and a bunch of wine, and now both of us are looking to shape up so we can be carefree on the day and happy in our pictures.

But mostly I’m looking forward to getting in shape for dance, because we all know dance is life. I think I said “I can’t, I have dance” about 10 times in the past week!

The Irish Dance Waddle

It’s a feeling shared by so many involved in physical activity. When you dance, lift, run, climb, or whatever your sport, you feel graceful and invincible. You twirl and smile and float along with precision and strength. Then, as soon as you’re done, you hobble off to the side like you just woke up from sleeping in a cramped economy seat on a long haul flight and spend your non-sport walking in much the same hobble.

That’s me this week. Getting it done in dance class, then waddling my way through the rest of life.

I can take stairs up and down okay, but I’ve got the stiff legged, slow walk of a girl whose quads and abs burn quietly with exercise-induced muscle soreness and whose feet have a slightly swollen ache and a sad number of callouses and blisters. On Monday I learned if I don’t tape the second toe on my left foot, I will regret it for a long time.

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Like runners’ feet, dancers’ feet are not pretty. Foot padding, tape, band aids, and lovely creases from poodle socks and ghillie laces. Fortunately still have all my toenails.

Fortunately there’s no class tonight so I’ll hopefully be recovered enough for class tomorrow. The last couple days have been productive and great. I’m working hard on keeping good turnout and cross through all of our drills. We also spent only half an hour on soft shoe yesterday and a full hour on hard shoe, which allowed us to go through the slow trable jig and hornpipe steps more slowly. That was very helpful for me because the slow walk through helps with the whole “polishing” issue I had at my feis on Sunday. This weekend I plan to go through my hard shoe steps carefully to continue the polishing. If I get my steps down and my stamina up, I can concentrate more on the technique I need to start placing those dances (proper turn out, up on toes, clean trebles).

The past month has been a strong welcome to the more competitive nature of my new competition level, and now my practice needs to level up with it. Blisters and all.

Last Feis of the Year

I had my second regular/non-adult feis yesterday. Overall I guess I should be happy, though I can’t help but be disappointed. Of my 7 dance I got 2 second places, Light Jig (moved up to Prizewinner) and my Prizewinner Single Jig. So while that’s good…those are also dances that don’t matter for getting into champ level!

A big part of the disappointment is that I felt like I did well on my reel (1 point away from placing, grrr) and my slip jig (not even close to placing, 4 points off). I did have a slight mistake at the beginning of my dance, but that was only because the dancer who had just finished was in my way so I couldn’t complete my leap.

But at least my comments had a bit of variety from last time, which was across the board turnout. I did get a couple turnout comments, but also some arches and completing my ups in the back (butt kicks). Cross was another comment. I have trouble keeping the crossing on long runs (for my ballet readers, that means maintaining an exaggerated fifth position for most of the time). And my hard shoe was just bad – in small part due to the very very VERY slippery stages. Polish footwork/timing were my two comments for those, and I think hornpipe was one of the turnout comments too.

The biggest sadness, though, is that I just haven’t been putting the time into dance training. I had a lot going on in terms of not being well (urgent care a couple weeks ago – so much not fun!), end of the fiscal year making work a bear, etc. etc. etc. But I have three months until my next feis, and I want to be ready.