Still Dancing

I should edit the tagline to read: “The blog that never updates”.

I’m still dancing and trying to crank on my training, but never seem to find time for updates anymore. In the spirit of “let’s try this again”, here is the current state of affairs:

  • I’m still unhappy about my last feis and working to make it up on 1 Oct
  • We got mostly new steps for Irish Dance New Year, or end of summer for normal folks
    • The treble jig is officially boring
    • The new reel is so much fun and I love it
    • The new hornpipe is pretty great too
    • The slip jig updates are overall excellent
    • Overall, the new steps are an improvement in my book
  • I’ve advanced from Fundamentals to Beginner for my ballet class last week and it was tough/humbling – there should really be something between Fundamentals and Beginner I think!
  • I’m challenging myself to get down to a healthier weight and stick to a training schedule, it’s hit and miss so far but better than I did in June and July
  • In class last week I got two stickers and I’m proud of myself because apparently I’m a child

A few improvements I’ve made include more stamina for classes and making it halfway through the hornpipe before losing steam.

Last night’s drills class was a good indication of the progress I think I’m making. While I was breathing heavy and felt like throwing up at one point, I was able to complete all my drills except a couple early bow outs at the last rep during hard shoe at the end of class. While I did receive corrections, I also received praise for my leaps and a couple other steps we were doing.

So, onward and upward and we’ll see if I can give myself time to update consistently…


Building A Dance Floor

I benefited a lot from other blogs in designing and building my dance floor/exercise room, so I thought I’d give back by describing my process!

In theory what I did could be done in a weekend or two by someone dedicated, but due to all the other projects involved in purchasing a new house (and procrastination) I didn’t actually get around to finishing it for about six months. A lot of that time was spent collecting materials and designing. Fortunately my dance studio was expanding into a new space right around the time I bought my house, so I go a good discount on leftover materials:

  • Thick (about 3/4″) plywood boards for the dance surface
  • Dance underlayment foam
  • Shower pan liner (the cheap version of marley flooring)

I also had to purchase several materials:

  • Vapor barrier
  • 2×4’s to spring the floor
  • Hardware for assembly (screws, glue, tape, joining plates)
  • Mirrors (a great deal – $50 for 10 mirrored closet doors on Craigslist)
  • Foam flooring for the non-dance areas

All told I think I spent < $500 on the whole room. For comparison, I saw just the marley covering (proper marley, not shower pan liner) for sale for $355 in a size to cover my dance floor area, or putting up 8 new mirrors would have been around $400. It wasn’t cheap, but I tried to be thrifty!

Once we had gotten the plywood boards for the dance surface into our basement (we had to cut them in half because we have an extra small landing, which involved buying sawhorses and borrowing a circular saw), I was able to plan out the dimensions for actually springing the floor.


For my non-American readers who use a superior measurement system, there are about 2.5 centimeters in an inch, and about 30.5 cm in a foot. Also, in my defense, I really was looking for Duck Tape, which is a brand name for duct tape, because they had an electrical grade version.

I decided to go with one layer of 2×4’s with further cushioning provided by the dance floor foam underlayment. My fiancé and I went back and forth quite a bit on this one, trying to balance spring and reducing impact with providing enough support under the boards. We finally settled on the above design.

Once the boards and hardware were all purchased, we could finally start building. I first laid out the vapor barrier for the dance floor portion and then put out the boards.

20170520_171948 (1)

Before assembling the frame, I went ahead and cut out strips for each board from my roll of foam. There wasn’t quite enough from my studio’s leftovers to do both sides of the boards or to just lay it completely out under the plywood boards. We had the store cut the boards to size for us so they would fit in our car, but they weren’t particularly accurate so some adjustments were needed.


Next was putting the frame together. I used mending plates for the assembly. While good for this kind of joining, they were pretty painful to use properly. If I was doing it again, I would get the kind with holes to put nails through instead of the kind with little spikes on the back.


Once the frame was together, I glued the foam on the top using gorilla glue. If I were to do this again I would use a more instantaneous glue. Unfortunately my glue type required both clamping and several hours of set time. Progress was halted while I made some makeshift clamping attempts and let the glue dry.


Once all the foam was set, we screwed the plywood boards onto the frame. At this point I realized I had improperly measured and one set of boards was wider than the other two sets. Creative screwing was applied due to frame overlap and we declared it “good enough”, but if you build a dance floor remember to measure carefully and don’t assume things are symmetrical!


The final step for this part of the project was to cut and apply the shower pan liner (marley) covering!

To finish off the room, I wanted to set up an exercise area in the other corner of the L-shaped room using foam puzzle piece flooring and put up mirrors on as many walls as possible. That started with the vapor barrier on the basement floor.

As soon as the underlayment was down, I added the foam puzzle pieces. The ones I ordered sort of look like wood grain, which I thought was nice. These went down pretty easily though I had to cut to size in many areas. They cut with the boxcutter but it was a bit of effort due to their thickness. This flooring provides a bit of relief from the impact of weight lifting and are nice for floor work.


While I still have a few details to conquer (I want to clean the printing off the dance floor, add trophy/medal display shelving, add a short barre, and remove some of the clutter that remains), the room is mostly done, functional, and is looking way better than its previous incarnation as unfinished storage space! The foam flooring and mirrors especially help the room feel lighter and more spacious.


Loving the Studio

There are many days after work where going to dance feels like the last thing I want to do. I’m worn out, I’m hungry, there’s a million things to do at home that I’d ignore anyway if I stayed home, the usual excuses.

However, with St. Patrick’s Day coming up I knew I needed to make it to Monday class, and with a double feis next weekend I knew I needed to make it to Novice/Prizewinner class. And I’m so glad I did, because when I’m in the studio and dancing I am very happy indeed!

Monday Teams practice is especially important to attend because if you are missing, you’re not just impacting yourself but the entire team. We ran through our entire show (~30 min long) twice. Overall it was going very well and I’m confident we’ll kill it during the crazy whirlwind of shows next month! There are a few spacing and “staying in a straight line” issues to fix, but in general no major kinks.

Solo practice was hit and miss for me yesterday. Lots of stickers for the kiddos for Valentine’s Day, so we did a lot of recalls (dance once, then about 1/2 or so dance one step a second time for stickers/bragging rights). I didn’t recall (bottom 4 of 10) in the light jig despite thinking I had done well. Good marks for single jig and reel, but then I didn’t recall for the slip jig. Fortunately I got specific correction that I executed all steps properly, but needed more turn out and cross. Since that was a focus of the light jig as well, that was likely my problem there even though I thought I had nailed it. At least I know what to practice! I also got an honorable mention for best arms in the show-version of the slip jig. Adding arm motions really makes the dancing feel more like a performance and art, rather than simply a competitive sport. I love being able to both compete and perform.

Hard shoe was all around bad. I am doing better in my traditional set (St. Patrick’s Day) compared with how I’ve done traditionally, and I’m nailing butt kicks and whatnot, but I always feel messy and like I don’t have strength or know what I’m doing in the hard shoe dances. Treble jig is feeling more solid (and I got a sticker for that one), except for the new second step. Depending on how it’s going next week, I might run the old way for the feis just to increase my chances of medaling. Hornpipe still feels awful. The first step is getting more solid, but I’m a mess in my second step. I need to hurry up and build my home practice space so I can go through it slowly and just work on improving my hard shoe performance in general.

One positive though. We were drilling the end of our hornpipe step because no one was getting in all the butt kicks. It’s treble toe treble hop back, with a butt kick before the toe and on the hop back. The teacher explained there were two main issues, one being just not moving our legs fast enough. I was an example of legs not moving fast enough, but the positive was in using me as an example, she also pointed out that she could tell I was trying hard, and that I always try very hard in class, but I wasn’t getting it because my legs were still moving a bit too slow. Even though I need to improve my leg speed, being recognized for my hard work in class was very rewarding!

New Steps, Old Brain

One of my strengths in dance has always been my ability to pick up quickly on new steps. I remember them as soon as I’m shown them, and pretty quickly they make it to my feet. They don’t look good, they aren’t properly executed, but at least I know what they’re supposed to be. And while I’m still above average in that regard, I think my brain is starting to suffer from an attack of old or is too filled with old steps.

After scrambling to class after work and jumping in a few minutes late, we breezed through our light, single, and slip jigs to work on some changed in the reel. To encourage the kids, my teacher cheerfully informed us that the open champs have the same step in their reel, so aren’t we glad to have it in our novice/prizewinner step? Not me, no. But I caught on soon enough.

We drilled the right leg, then the brave children decided we should dance both right and left leg of the updated step. After a successful run through the right leg, I went into autopilot and bungled my old step with the update in my left leg. A few more runs saw it stick, but I’ll need to drill it at home to be sure. We then drilled the change in our second step, and I caught on amazingly quickly. Of course, left leg happens, but I was pleased by the end of soft shoe.

Soft shoe time always ends too soon, so we were on to changing into our hard shoes and going over the changes to the treble jig. Everything made sense in my brain, but going through to my legs is a completely different story. I also haven’t picked up on how the new steps fit in with the music. So there will be a lot of mental drilling along with physically walking those steps.

No classes for me for a while now due to going out of town for a work conference, so hopefully I’ll have the new steps somewhat engrained in my legs before I return!

Return to the Studio

This week I returned to our beautiful, newly expanded Irish dance studio. I felt like a bum being out of town and unable to help with the construction work for prepping the new addition to our studio space, but I am certainly enjoying the results. We used to have a large studio (~950 sq ft), small studio (380 sq ft), and tiny waiting/entrance space that was only about 60 sq ft, or smaller than a mid-size bedroom. As our classes grew, you can imagine it was difficult to fit 20 students plus their doting parents who insisted on making sure young Jenny tied her shoes right or needed to know what steps Kevin needs to work on at home and no, that simply cannot wait until we’re cleared out of the waiting area and beginning class inside the studio. We also couldn’t fit in a line across the back in the big studio anymore for many classes and needed two lines for drills. Our teacher has grown the studio so much in only four years!

We finally expanded into the neighboring space though, and now our small studio has become the new, spacious, amazing waiting room and our big studio is now the small one! I loved being in the new, bigger studio but I especially loved being in the big waiting room.

I was also able to get plywood, foam, and floor covering leftovers for my home studio I plan to build for a grand total of $90, saving about $300. Now I just need lumber for the framing, a glassless mirror, a ballet barre, and some foam squares for the non-dance workout area and I’ll be set in that room!

This blog is about my dancing, though, so back to that. The return to Irish went okay, but I could tell I had been off for a few weeks based on how winded I got. It was difficult to hornpipe by the end of class, and I need to remember my toe pads next time for sure! Overall, I was happy to be back, I was not completely disappointed in myself, but my exhaustion level tells me (a) I need to get back to running and (b) I’m happy I decided to postpone my next feis until February.


Coming back…slowly

Two months since my last post? Time flies when you’re adulting hard!

As I mentioned in the previous post, a lot was starting to happen in my life and something had to give. That something was dance. I didn’t completely check out for two months, but I did miss a ton of classes, gained a couple pounds, and generally let my fitness go on the downslide. It’s hard to stay on track with a job and other adult responsibilities! To summarize an update:

  • Previous status: Starting the hunt for a house, trying to plan a wedding, leading a project at work where I couldn’t get the powers that be to sign the stupid contract for us to start, and self-soothing via wine and food because trying to fit anything else in my brain was too much to handle
  • Current status: We passed the last hurdle for house-buying yesterday and should be on schedule to close next week, we pushed the wedding back to spring of 2018 due to low venue availability in fall 2017 plus the stress of trying to plan and have a reception venue booked, I got a pre-spend authority to start work, and I finally have the mental energy to clean my apartment, pack, eat better, and dance

I kicked things off with reducing my calorie intake on Saturday and running on Sunday. It was very very VERY tough because the wind was blowing like crazy! We were getting gusts to 40 mph (64 km/hr;17 m/s for my metric friends) and the first half of my run was squarely into the wind. Between that and my general lack of being in shape, it was more of a shuffle/walk than running intervals. But I finished my 2 min run/2 min walk intervals all 10 times and my heart rate recovered okay through the first 7 and not as well in the last 3. I’ll be keeping with the 2 min run/2 min walk without reducing the walk intervals until probably January, once we’ve moved into the house and my training calendar that I planned to stick to last year, but didn’t, swings around again. Then I’ll begin reducing the walking intervals as stipulated in the training plan. Even though I got further in my interval reduction this past summer, I was having a lot of trouble getting myself to recover during the shorter walks so building a better base first might do me some good.


It was too windy and cold during my run to bother taking a picture, so here’s my rice and veggies.

Meal prep Sunday made a comeback this week too. My mother-in-law made an entire turkey and only took the breast meat to Thanksgiving dinner, so she generously gave me the rest. For meal prep I just cooked up some rice and frozen veggies, then added some pre-cooked turkey to it. Took less than an hour, I have lunches for the entire week, and they’re a nice amount of calories and macro ratio.

I’d been sporadically going to my dance classes, but not faithfully. The regional Oireachtas is over and so is the Thanksgiving class break, so now is a great time to return to faithful attendance. Last night was drills and teams classes. While I did struggle, particularly towards the end of hard shoe and the very end of my two hours, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting and I’m looking forward to tonight’s class even though the kids will dance rings around me. I was particularly happy with my progress in my leaps and my leg placement and turnout during warm ups. Now if only I could maintain that turnout while trying to dance too…

With the house nearly purchased and the wedding not til 2018 (and a venue finally booked!), I can make the coming year my year to really progress in dance. I’d love to get all my dances into the Prizewinner level by the end of 2017. My teacher may have me lead one of our St. Patrick’s day performance teams, which feels like a big deal. And I’m hoping, with the wedding pushed back, that I’ll be at a level where I can attend my first major next year – the regional Oireachtas.

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.

Gear + Collage = Ready to Rock!

Although I’m not up to my desired training levels, I’ve made good progress this week. I’ve been tracking my calories, got two good dance classes in, and been up on my environmental preparations (mostly groceries and cleaning, but soon to include food prep and other time saving measures).

I’m going to keep ramping up by the week, and what better to motivate me than new gear! After my heart rate issues during my last run, I checked into my heart rate monitor and saw a lot of bad reviews, including poor accuracy. When I purchased it several years ago (2011?), it was just a combination of conveniently available in the store and not too expensive. I decided I wanted something with better reviews and potential better accuracy. After some searching, I decided to go with the Polar FT4. Unboxing below!

I wasn’t planning to run this Sunday, but I might do it just to try out my new gear!

Another motivation tool I decided to try out was a wall collage. I put it on my bedroom wall so I can see it first thing in the morning to remind myself that my goals are more important than instant gratification (skipping workouts, eating too much, general laziness). I have some inspirational photos and quotes, as well as different goals I’ve set to cross off as I achieve them. While some goals are unrealistic (like recalling at Worlds), I’m a believer in aiming far in order to push yourself. If I aim for a Worlds recall, I might make it into Open.

I need to redo the photos as there was an issue with my printer, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.


Focus on the Goal

My vacation…didn’t go as expected. I got sick the first night we were camping and had to come home. So, basically I spent half of my vacation being sick and the other half at home staying unplugged from work and most of life.

I eased back in with ballet class on Saturday. It was pretty tough since I hadn’t been very active between illness and post-illness, but I’m really glad I went. It’s important to remember I rarely if ever regret working out and attending dance class, and I always regret missing it. Since I’m coming back from such a break, this week I’m just going to focus on getting back to eating properly, attending my dance classes, and preparing my environment to really get into and stick with my training.

While sick, I didn’t do much of anything and the Olympics were in full swing with two of my favorites (gymnastics and swimming), so I watched a lot of that. It was very inspirational in two ways: I want that top of the podium feeling, and there were a lot of “old” folks kicking butt!

In the spirit of working hard and focusing on my goals, I want to briefly profile some of my inspirations from the Olympics and other sports.


Courtesy USA Today

This is Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan. She competed in the Rio 2016 Olympics in gymnastics at age 41, her 7th Olympic Games. While she placed 7th in the vault final due to a fall on the landing of perhaps the most difficult vault in the world, she qualified for the finals at age 41 and she was ranked #1 in vault in the world this year. At age 41. In gymnastics. Where one usually retires by age 25.



Courtesy CBS Sports

Anthony Ervin is 35 from the USA. He has won gold in these Rio games in both the 50m freestyle and the 4x100m freestyle relay. The former makes him the oldest individual gold medalist in swimming. Ever.


Courtesy KARE 11



And David Plummer of the USA has won a gold in the 4x100m medley relay and bronze in the 100m backstroke. At age 30, this makes him the oldest first time U.S. Olympics swimming qualifier in over 100 years.





Perhaps the biggest inspiration of all to me personally, Cathy Desmond of Ireland took up Irish dance at age 40. She qualified for Worlds at age 47, and she still recalled and medaled at All Irelands at age 50. While she did dance as a kid for 6 years (age 11 to 17), not taking it up again until age 40 and qualifying for Worlds is a huge confidence boost that, with hard work, this dream is possible.



Courtesy ITV

Doreen Pechey of the UK has just passed her Grade 6 RAD exam in ballet. At 71, she is the oldest person in the UK to ever pass Grade 6. She decided to try ballet when she reached retirement and is looking forward to tackling Grade 7 of 8.





Finally, the most bad ass of all…Ernestine Shepherd of the USA. She just retired last year from being a figure competitor. She is 80, and she still lifts heavy and runs miles per week. Her commitment to fitness started when she was 56, out of shape and overweight. It is never too late, and you are never too old. But if you want to start…start today. Tomorrow, next week, next year, and ten years from now, you’ll be so glad you did.

Current Status

I’ve been terrible about updating the blog! I’ve been in a bit of a funk recently and I’m not sure why. I’ll be going on a vacation next week, so I’m not sure if I’ll make any updates again for a couple weeks, but here’s a current status on my training.


I haven’t done any home practice the past week, but I did attend my weekly class last week and will be again tonight. We learned the second step of the (way too hard prelim champ) slip jig and worked on the treble jig some more. I’m feeling pretty good about my treble jig as it’s mostly pieces of the old one, just in a different order, and I always scored well on that dance. The slip jig we’ll have to see. My teacher will give me guidance as to how I’m doing or if I should learn/compete a different one. I’m definitely doing better with the moves, and the second step was easier than the first. I might get it by September. I’m not sure how class will go tonight as we’re learning third steps and since I’m in Novice and not going to Oireachtas, there’s no reason for me to learn a third step.

In related news, I’m taking my dress in soon for some alterations and I have plans to add bling! Right now it’s a little tight in the shoulders and dropped waist, I have to pull it on over my head which is terrible for hair and makeup, and it has no crystals aside from the number clip I made myself. I’m looking forward to a better fit and some bling.

Cross Training


I skipped this last week. I don’t really have an excuse, I just got lazy. I’m going to try for it this week since I’m out of town all next week, but we’ll see. Seems I always say that but never make it happen.


No run the previous Sunday as I had an all day activity. I did run this past Sunday, which was my 1:20 break week. I…didn’t make it. My heart rate was high before I even hit the trail and it freaked me out. My legs felt so terribly heavy and I was working so hard to try to keep my heart rate down. Since it didn’t recover much between intervals, there was just nowhere to go when I started running. I made it normally through 6 intervals, took an extra minute walking rest, then got about halfway through interval 7 before giving up and just walking the rest of the way back to my car. My heart rate came back down once I’d rested, thankfully, so I don’t know what the deal was. Stress from traffic, dehydration, it was too hot out, who knows. I still think the single best thing I could do to improve my performance is lose the extra weight.


Still hit or miss here. Last week I had 9k-10k steps 4 days out of the week, but my other 3 days I only hit 3500. The last couple days haven’t been very close to 10k either.


Saturday was my third ballet class. I was very pumped up after my second ballet class about all the possibilities for improving both ballet and my Irish dancing. The third class, though, was frustrating. I experienced something similar with Irish though in that my second Irish class was so incredibly frustrating trying to keep up. Clearly that ended well, and I’m still excited to stick with ballet. The teacher thinks it could be great for my turnout and hip stability – particularly the IT band tightness, and I totally concur. One of the greatest things is I’m moving in all directions, not just the few used in Irish, and I think that will be great for flexibility and my performance as well. I’m strugglebussing trying to point backwards or use my arms and head motions, but even that will be useful come performances!

One great thing about my ballet teacher is that she has given me instructions for exercising to increase my hip stability, which a lack thereof is what makes me list to one side when balancing on one leg. I’m so glad I found a studio with a great adult program, because I really think ballet is one of the greatest cross training activities I’ve tried.

The vocabulary of ballet is still taking some work, and I don’t always understand what the teacher is saying. But I’m getting there and have learned some new words:

  • First and second position arms
  • Coupé: The foot is curled around the calf with leg raised, knee bent, and turned out
  • Effacé: Turned slightly to the side, but both hips still visible from the front
  • Croisé: Like effacé except the legs are crossed from the front view rather than open from the front view
  • Demi-plié: Like a plié except only going down halfway compared to the plié
  • Relevé: Rising up on toes from a position where both toes and heels are on the floor
  • En croix: Doing an exercise to the front, the side, the back, and then the same side again

I’m sure I’ve heard more, but I haven’t retained it all yet!


This one is a tale of the good and the bad!

From July 11 to July 25, I did a great job of tracking my calories and with the exception of one day, I hit my daily goal. I was so happy with myself, dropped to my lowest weight in the past year, and hit 5 pounds lost!

From July 26 to today, I’ve only counted and properly hit my target one of those days. The good news is I’m still almost 5 pounds down from my highest weight. I weighed myself this morning and was pleasantly surprised to see I was only up 1 pounds from my lowest on the 21st. I’m going to try to get it together and get back on tracking for the rest of the week, not worry about it much over my vacation, then buckle down again when I get back.