A Return to Strength

Thursday is supposed to be strength day, but it’s usually extra rest day because I never 20171207_181216.jpgwant to do it when I get home from work. So yesterday was more about “do it before you get lazy” than actually accomplishing much of anything strength-related.

Previously I had been working through the New Rules of Lifting program. After reading Lauren Early’s Irish dance training book, though, I started to wonder if the general strength approach was really the right one. Having no other ideas where to go, I still just went with it because otherwise I was at a loss. Now, though, I’m taking a more targeted approach.

As I mentioned, yesterday was more about just getting in the habit than really accomplishing anything. I decided on my way home from work that I should go through my two Irish dance training books (pictured above) and devise a plan that would help me personally. Five minutes before I want to work out is not a good time to develop a new plan.

Fortunately Lauren Early’s book has an off season suggested weight training plan written out, so I did an abbreviated version of that combined with a balancing exercise from Peter O’Grady’s book. The off season goal is to balance my imbalances that have developed during dance to stave off injury and generally get a good structural base going into my pre-season (with in season being Oireachtas in late November – my main goal for the next year).

After five minutes of mobility and another five of core (45 sec plank, 35 sec of the horrible leg thing on each side, 1 min of lower leg raises, and 25 sec of this plank-and-raise-opposite-arms-and-legs thing), I moved on to standing rows, back extensions, weighted squats, weighted side step ups, hamstring curls, and toe lifts. I finished up with some one foot balances and five minutes of flexibility. Again, with the goal of just being there, I only did 2 sets of each exercise for 10-12 reps. I also learned that I must have a large rib cage, because I’m not particularly thin and it hurts when I lay on my stomach on the padding-over-concrete floor.

In the end it was about 25 min of strength with the total session being 40 min. Not terribly long, but I did make my goal of actually doing something. For next week I plan to have a plan…I will likely follow the Lauren Early-suggested routine with a couple extra stability-focused exercises. Today would normally be a rest day, but since Monday I was sick and Wednesday I didn’t have class and was lazy, tonight is a dance practice night.

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Stamina Work

I finally dove back into some cross training yesterday with a return to my stamina-building running intervals. The plan is to do 10 sets of a 2 minute run at 75% speed followed by a 2 minute walk. The walk interval is supposed to decrease by 10 seconds each week (or 5 seconds for those with a lower fitness base, i.e., me) until you reach a set of 2 minutes running/1 minute walking. The goal of the exercise is to improve heart rate recovery speed and set up a good fitness base. After this and closer to Oireachtas, the exercises will switch to being more sprint-based for explosiveness and lactic acid management.

I never get very far with this as it’s easy for me to get lazy about the running component of training. I like how I feel afterward, but I don’t really enjoy running and I certainly don’t enjoy getting my butt out the door to do it.

However, I had a fiancé’s help this morning and so I went, and I’m very glad. I started off pretty well with the first 5 sets, getting my heart rate back down to about 130 each walking interval. After that it was more difficult, and the last 3 sets I only got down to about 145. The problem with not recovering is there less room for the heart rate to climb, so I hit my max too soon into the run (or dance). I also felt that heavy feeling in my legs like I do in dance class and at the end of my hornpipe. But overall I’m happy with how the run went. Because there is so much time until Oireachtas, based on my training schedule I have enough time to do a couple weeks at 2 minute walks before I start decreasing each week. Since I struggle so much in class and in longer dances at the feis, stamina is something I really must build. After all, champion level dances are longer!

My new schedule also has my mobility, core, and flexibility training mashed in with my dance and other cross training sessions. I’m starting out small at only 5 minutes each as my goal.

Mobility exercises with toe raises and turnout

In Drills class this is easy because we hit all these components in the class anyway, but it can be a struggle on other days. Today right after returning home from my lovely intervals around the lake, I went downstairs and did 5 minutes of each exercise. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Baby steps until I get used to longer workout sessions.

Cross Training Ramp Up

Now that I’ve settled in with three dance classes a week (2 Irish, 1 ballet), the time has come to incorporate my cross training! I’ve been adding to my training load slowly since the beginning of the year to avoid the burn out of too much training at once.

Yesterday was my first run. Due to my backslide, I’m starting right where I did a year ago (oh dear, 2016 feels like a waste) with my intervals. I walked to a little reservoir near my house that has a nice 0.6 mile (~1 km for my metric friends) dirt path around it. It has been beautifully warm around here the last couple days. A bit of wind, sunny, and 50 F (10 C) when I was out. Fortunately no sunburn despite forgetting my sunblock! I did 10 sets of 2 min running, 2 min walking, My heart rate recovered fairy well for the first 8 sets, down to around 130 bpm or less by the end of each walking interval, but the last 2 I could only get down to around 140 bpm. I’m not sure if the path is more flat than the one I used to run before moving, or if by some miracle I’m in better shape than a few months ago, but I was pleased with how it all went.

No photos, but the trail had a gorgeous view of the mountains. I avoided all geese, and even saw some sea gulls (who are a long, long way from the sea!). Also saw a kestrel perched nearby.

Plodding Along at 5 mph

I’ve slowly been working through my cross training. As I mentioned a few days ago, I did take a break to get my act together in other areas of my training/life, but I did some work previously and another run Sunday.

I’m very behind on my weight training – I missed the last two weeks! Unfortunately I didn’t get on it this past week as I wanted. No excuse really, I just prioritized other activities.

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Squat and rows are barbell weight, others are weight of each dumbbell

Sunday marked a halfway point in my conditioning running. As soon as I hit the trail that morning I could tell it would be a tough one. Apparently eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns weren’t good running fuel! I knew it was a bad idea, but my lovely boyfriend made me breakfast so how could I resist? After the run, I thanked him again profusely but told him I can’t eat like that on running morning anymore.

(L) Caught a picture of the giant white flower (R) A slightly different perspective of the trail than usual

Overall my recovery between runs was pretty poor, with my heart rate staying higher than previous weeks (in the low 150s as opposed to in the low 130s). However, after a little research it seems that if I stick with this training I should start seeing improvements with my heart rate taking longer to elevate and recovering more quickly between sets.

I’ve been slightly improving on my walking the past week than the week previous, but I’m still falling short of my 10k step goal most days. Been around 8k most days recently though, which isn’t too bad.

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I still haven’t managed to add in my other cross training: core and flexibility/mobility. I’m hoping to do so soon but for now I’d like to focus on sticking with my main cross training activities. That continues to be enough of a struggle. Even though I do feel motivated, it can be hard convincing myself that I can and should do so much exercise. And when I’m tired after a day of work…that I do really want to train.

Ballet!

And now for something completely different…I took my first ballet class this morning!

No, I’m not switching dance styles. I decided to take up ballet once a week as a cross training exercise. I’m hoping the slow, deliberate movements and learning of ballet will help with my turn out, arch, carriage, and balance, among other things. After my trial class this morning I do think it could be useful, so I bought a 10 class punch card at the studio I attended. I was happy to find them as they have a huge adult program!

Some initial impressions:

  • I still like Irish better. It’s a bit more exciting and the music is one hundred times better. I don’t hate classical music at all, I just really prefer traditional Irish music to the soft piano of ballet.
  • There were some movements quite similar to Irish, and some completely different. The whole concept of moving my arms, moving my head, and putting my heels on the floor and bending the knees was odd. Fifth position, points, and a close first position were the most similar to my Irish steps.
  • Working at the barre was great for concentrating on the line of my legs. I’m hopeful that it will help my turn out and how I tend to list to the side when all my weight is on one leg.
  • Although there is no dress code for adults and there was no one in a leotard and tights, I was very aware that I looked different than the rest of the class. I wore my typical Irish gear, but I was the only one not in leggings, not in a tank top, and wearing socks with my shoes. Now I know for next week!
  • The studio was SO WARM. A tank top next week is a must.
  • I liked how the instructor would walk around during exercises and physically correct our placement. I’m sure it would bother some people, but I don’t always understand how to move myself into position so I appreciated that it was done for me. It helped me feel the proper positions and work to achieve them on my own.
  • Ballet language =/= English, it’s French and I will need to do some learning! Today I learned:
    • Positions: first, second, third, fourth, and fifth. Irish uses an over-crossed fifth.
    • First position arms
    • Barre: A bar you exercise at to start class
    • Center: Put the bar away and dance on the floor without it
    • Plié: basically a turned out squat
    • Tendu: same as a point in Irish
    • Dégagé (I think?): lift the point (tendu) off the ground
    • Sous-sus: Jump into fifth position up on toes. This was the most similar thing to Irish that I did today.
    • Rond de jambe: I don’t remember learning this term but we definitely drilled this movement

While I absolutely prefer Irish, I do think the ballet work will help my form and my flexibility. I could feel that my feet and my legs had gotten a good workout during the class and had moved directions they aren’t used to going!

Another thing that excited me about trying a new dance style was I got to buy new gear! I love gear and was slightly disappointed that I didn’t need to buy new dance-specific attire too (although I hate tights so I don’t know why I’m disappointed). The only thing I needed to get were ballet shoes, but that was still fun. I got a beginner full sole leather slipper. Unboxing below!

I don’t know if this counts as a proper unboxing since I tried them on before I bought them.

They feel a bit odd since they aren’t a split sole and they fit a lot looser than ghillies. I hate the color pink, but I still really dig my shoes. The elastic was pre-sown on the inside and was rubbing my foot while I was starting the breaking in process, so I covered the ends that were rubbing in athletic tape. Worked perfectly! I’m looking forward to what the next few weeks will bring and if I’ll see any improvements in both my performance in ballet class and my performance in Irish class.

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Cross Training Update

I’m still trying to work myself into keeping on schedule with my cross training. Slowly, I’m getting more in the groove. Having to dance against the kids in 75 days is motivating.

So far I’ve been sticking to weight training and running and haven’t incorporated flexibility and core yet. I’ve done my weight training session the past two weeks, and the goal is to do about 16 weeks of sessions, increasing the weight each time an exercise is done while decreasing the number of reps to encourage heavier weights. This is based on New Rules of Lifting, except only once a week instead of 3 times a week as suggested in Lauren Early‘s book.

Not much weight yet, but I’m working on it. Only squats and dead lifts are barbell weight, while the rest are the weight of an individual dumbbell. The “60 lbs” for push ups actually means 60 degrees.

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I also did my second run today. It was SO HOT out! I wish I had hit the trail earlier. First few runs and recoveries went well, but I was having trouble recovering towards the end and keeping my heart rate down in the walking segments. Still some work to do, but hopefully following my program will get me there. I was dancing horribly by the last dance of our show on Saturday, and I know speeding up my recovery ability will help with that.

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Even though it was hot, it was a beautiful day on the trail. The grass is starting to turn brown given that it’s been 90-100 deg F most days the last couple weeks, but there were still a ton of wild flowers growing. I wish I had a chance to stop and take some flower pictures, but Irish dance training waits for no one! There were some especially large white flowers that were gorgeous. The meadowlarks were out in force and singing beautifully, and I even saw a coyote in the grass today. That was much more unnerving than the beautiful meadowlark song!

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I’m also trying to keep up with getting enough steps. I’m not making my 10k goal each day, so there’s definite room for improvement. But I’m working on keeping it up and hope to start making my daily goals.

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…And Then I Get Sick

After coming out of my feis ready and motivated to mount my campaign to drop down and dominate &overs, I ended up being sick the last couple days. I’m feeling much better today, but I missed two days of dance! I know some people feel like they must attend class/workout no matter what, but this was honestly not the type of illness one should be persevering through. Also, my personal moral code states that if you’re sick, stay at damn home until you’re well and quit infecting everyone else! So, home I stayed with limited walking as that made everything worse.

I’m feeling much better today, though, and made it into the office (I’m thankful for “work from home” options!). On the schedule for today is weight lifting. And of course, focusing back on proper food intake.

Before I got sick, though, I took a rest day on Saturday and got back to running on Sunday. I’m going with my off season endurance/recovery training for about 7 weeks, then I’m going to switch to a preseason regime of sprints. That will lead into the end of the year feis season and my first feiseanna dropped down. It was my first run in a while, and I headed out fairly early to beat the heat. I tend to work out more in the afternoons/evenings, so it’s a bit tough for me to get out the door and train hard before noon. When the high is in the 90s, though? I’m motivated to go early when it’s still in the 70s and the sun doesn’t want to turn me into a tomato.

So it was 10 sets of 2 minutes running, 2 minutes walking out on the trail. I started struggling a bit towards the 7th set, but I made it through and am hopeful next week will be even better. And with all the rain we’ve been having, the trail was beautiful. The Meadowlarks were out in force, and I even saw a Bullock’s oriole!

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Beautiful day on the trail

In the interest of transparency, here are my stats from the run. Yes, I’m slow. Like, hella slow. Which is why I’m training. Because I’m überslow.

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You Were Gone Forever, I Counted

I went through a bit of a slump in May. I used moving out of my horrid apartment as an excuse, both before (I’m getting ready to move and can’t stand being here, I’ll train later) and after (I just moved, I’m tired, I’m unpacking, I’ll train later). But later never comes.

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Moving is tough

In my defense, my cat was pretty worn out from the move too and he didn’t even have to pack or haul boxes.

Then I tried getting myself back into gear, but can’t seem to manage much at a time. So I decided to hold off blogging until I was officially back to doing everything on my list. We see how that went! I never got totally on track and never came back to the blog.

But I decided the blog helped motivate me and track my progress, so I’m back anyway. I’m not doing everything in my schedule yet, but I’m working on it. And that’s okay. It might stick easier to take baby steps and it certainly is easier to get back on track without the all or nothing mentality. So with that in mind, here’s a quick round up of what I’ve been working on the last month or so.

Dance:

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    Ghillie lines = hard work, right?

    I made progress on my punches! I can officially do one with the right leg. The left leg still needs work.

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    I’m competing on Friday in the adult category and that may be my last adult competition before dropping down this fall.

  • I’m in a teams class now and loving it. I was hoping to do Oireachtas but it’s not clear if we’ll have enough older folks for a 15&over team. If the dancers want to field an adult team, I’ll wait until January of 2017 to drop down from adults. I suspect we won’t have enough competitive adults, though.
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Performance fun last weekend

Training:

  • I want to focus on getting in better shape this summer in preparation for dropping down in September. To that end, I’ll be doing my “off season” training to build that fitness baseline while I work on losing weight. I just didn’t make enough progress since January. I also restructured my week. I find it easier to have Friday off because I can motivate myself better on the weekends due to free time. If I do take a teams class this fall, it might be on Fridays and in that case Wednesday will be the new off day.
    • Monday: Dance class (2 hours)
    • Tuesday: Dance class (1.5 hours), flexibility (20 min)
    • Wednesday: Weight lifting (NROLFW), core (20 min)

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      ‘Tis the season to start wearing sunblock on running days.

    • Thursday: Dance class (1.5 hours), foam rolling
    • Friday: off
    • Saturday: Dance practice (1 hour), flexibility (20 min)
    • Sunday: Running program, core (20 min)
  • I haven’t stuck to every thing on every day. At all. But I’ve been fairly consistent with dance class. Going forward, I’m going to ramp up lifting and running before I worry about the flexibility/core pieces. They’re important, but it’s too much to get into at once.
  • I’m trying to get spun back up on all aspects of my training without taking an “all or nothing” mindset when I miss a session.

Nutrition:

  • Struggle bus! I’ve been on and off here, seemingly one day good and one day poor. But I keep coming back to it.
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Some meal prepping this week…mason jar salads

  • With a 0.75 lb loss per week rate I’d hit my goal weight around St. Patrick’s Day 2017. I thought it was a very auspicious day to have as the end goal!
  • I’m a couple pounds down from my highest, but more or less holding steady.
  • I have a really nice spreadsheet tracking weight, calories, and Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). I’m glad I found it and it helps motivate me, even if only every other day. Right now a little behind on my St. Pat’s target.

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  • Hit or miss with steps. I’m doing mediocre, but need to be more consistent.

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I won’t be lifting on Wednesday since I compete on Friday, so my main training goals this week are to keep my nutrition in check and attend all my dance classes. One last push to the feis, then settling in for summer with training for dropping down!

Done Easing In

Last week I focused mostly on easing back into my dance regimen. This was a…mixed success. There were successes, but also many lack of successes:

  • Monday: I survived 2 hours in the studio…75 min of drills class followed by 45 min of teams, which was also “just” drills. My legs and core were sore until Thursday morning. I ate 1577 calories and got 8273 steps, so overall a good day.
  • Tuesday: No class, but I did my 20 min flexibility/mobility training. 1641 calories and 11,786 steps. Another pretty good day.
  • Wednesday: No anything. I didn’t count calories at all but I did get 9914 steps.
  • Thursday: Went to my main class at the studio. Class was 90 min long, and I almost didn’t make it through our work on the hornpipe. Didn’t count calories again and only 7741 steps.
  • Friday: Nope. No training, no counting calories, only 6666 steps.
  • Saturday: Totally intended to do my run, and totally lamed out on it. Didn’t count calories and didn’t even wear my Fitbit.
  • Sunday: Rest day, right? Right. Rest day. I counted calories through dinner, when we went out for Mexican food. I think I finished with about 2100 for the day, which isn’t great but it could have been worse. I did get in my steps, total of 10,196.

But when life gives you lemons, you need to remember that you actually rather enjoy the taste of lemon, and wouldn’t these be delicious in -ade, pie, or chicken form with a generous side of vegetables, right after you finished training for your goal of being a champion dancer.

Another motivating factor was this MRI photo I saw today comparing an active person’s body composition with an inactive person’s, both in their 70’s. I was really struck by the fat between the muscles of the inactive person as well as the decreased bone density. In addition to all the goals my current planned training would achieve for me, I want to be terrorizing the retirement community when I get older, not be stuck in a chair. Being healthy in the future starts now.

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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.

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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.