Life in fast forward

reading-925589_1920I wanted to share a quick update to let you know I’m still alive. I was hoping things would slow down after the wedding. And in a way, they did. I ended up getting sick and fighting a cold for a week or so. Likely a result of late nights and long travel days. But as I recovered, things shifted into overdrive.

This week has been fun but draining. Monday and Tuesday I had dance class. The first is a partner dance, the second is solo. Dance is a creative and emotional outlet for me and it helps with stress relief. But it’s still a social activity. Tonight, I’m skyping with an out of country friend. I’m looking forward to it but it’s still draining. Thursday is a games night at my place with a few close friends. There will only be four of us and shouldn’t be too bad. I can always check out early if I need to. Friday afternoon is free of social activity but I still have errands to run. This weekend will have a few social obligations but I’m hoping I can keep them on the shorter side. I’ve been doing my best to squeeze in quiet time before bed. But I need more time to fully recover. Right now it feels like I’m treading water. I’m planning on spending a couple of hours on Sunday going for a quiet walk along the river. I may also bring a book. I think that will help a lot.

On the plus side, the weather here has improved dramatically and it seems spring may actually be on the way. It’s also been wonderfully sunny and bright which always makes me smile.

Do you have any plans this weekend? How have you been doing?

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8 Things I’ve Learned from Dance

dance-1138553_1920It’s been about a year since I first stepped into the dance studio. I was an awkward beginner with little dance experience. Since then I’ve developed into a slightly less awkward dancer with slightly more experience. It’s been a journey full of sweat, hard work, and sore muscles. But there have been so many positive things too. I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned from taking ballroom and latin dance classes.

1. Embrace the process
Learning anything new is hard. You’re put through situations that aren’t mentally or physically comfortable. But don’t fight it. When you accept the discomfort it doesn’t necessarily make it easier. But you can see how each step contributes to making you better. It’s all leading to self-improvement.

2. Making mistakes is okay (and normal)
With dance, you’re learning to move your body in completely foreign ways. You will eventually mess up your footwork or step on some toes. Mistakes are a normal part of any learning process. So try not to get too frustrated. The only difference between you now, and what you can become, is time and experience.

3. The value of discipline
It’s not easy to show up each week and put in the work. It takes sacrifice and dedication. You might not feel like going. I usually don’t, even though I love to dance. This creates positive habits and contributes to building the discipline needed to achieve your goals.

4. Increased social skills
Partner dance provides an excellent opportunity for social interaction. Firstly, dancing is a great icebreaker. Secondly, both of you are interested in dance, so you can skip the small talk and jump straight into an animated conversation about your favourite dance style. This is especially great for an introvert who loathes small talk.

5. More confidence
I used to walk with a slouch, trying to take up as little space as possible. But over the past year, I’ve noticed that I’ve straightened up, and not just when I dance. I feel surer of myself and am more likely to contribute to group conversations. And I’m excited for the continued growth.

6. How to push out of the comfort zone
Taking my first step into the dance studio was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know if I’d have a partner. I was afraid that I’d mess up and look dumb. But we’re capable of so much more than we think. Taking that first step, regardless of how hard it was, was totally worth it. I’ve made new friends and learned a lot. The positive feedback has encouraged me to push myself even more.

7. The importance of self-care
Dancing uses a lot of muscles you don’t normally use. As a result, you end up with tight and sore muscles after most sessions. To avoid injury, you need to take care of yourself through foam rolling, gentle stretching, hot baths, massage, etc. It’s equally important to make sure you’re well-rested and have quiet time before and after dance class to prep and unwind.

8. How to be vulnerable
Dance encourages you to express yourself through movements and styling. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable to “let go”. As a reserved person, it took a long time before I felt comfortable enough to try latin dance. And even longer before I felt comfortable using arm styling and hip action. Embracing discomfort and expressing yourself honestly helps build connections and confidence.

What are some things you’ve learned through a hobby or sport?

An introvert performs

theater-1477670_1920When I first signed up for dance lessons a year ago, I never thought I’d be performing. In fact, if you had told me that, I would have walked out. But as time shifts, so does our perspective.

My dance studio puts on a showcase twice a year. One in June and one in December. It’s an opportunity for private dance students to perform in front of an audience. But there are also several group dance routines to showcase different styles.

I originally signed up for samba because there wasn’t a showcase piece planned. But after a few weeks, our instructor suggested we perform too. Although hesitant at first, I began to consider it. I would be performing with 10 others, so I wouldn’t be alone and that helped to assuage the anxiety a bit. While the idea of performing was still scary, it was starting to look doable.

Eight weeks flew by and suddenly, it was showtime. That evening I arrived early at the venue. I chatted with a few people I knew to stave off the pre-show nerves. Then I headed to the ballroom and took my seat.

I was a bit jittery as we waited to be announced. But as soon as the music began, my nerves melted away. It was so much fun! I was able to really enjoy the moment. Then it was over and we were bowing and heading back to the foyer. High fives and smiles met us as we walked back through the door. I’ve never had that much fun performing before.

After changing into something a bit nicer, I headed back to my seat in the ballroom. I got to enjoy the rest of the evening stress-free. I excused myself soon after the show ended and drove home. It was a lovely evening but I was feeling pretty burned out. I savoured the silence in the car on the ride home. Fortunately, I had the place to myself the next day which allowed me to recharge and unwind.

How is your week going so far?

My samba experience

people-2601101_1920Last week I wrote about starting a new dance class. So I thought I’d share a quick follow up.

I had no idea what to expect in my first samba class. I wore my usual ballroom attire: dance shoes and business casual. But I soon learned I had made a terrible mistake. Everyone in the studio was clad in yoga pants and running shoes. Oh well, I thought, this is fine.

I started chatting with a lady I had met the previous week. Both of us were taking samba for the first time. Then I discovered something else. Despite advertising “continuous registration”, the class officially began five weeks ago. This meant we were both five weeks behind everyone else. This was a bit intimidating but I figured I’d try my best. Our instructor was encouraging but told us to “try to keep up”. This was easier said than done.

We started the class with a warm up and I immediately knew I was out of my league. The instructor led us through various movements. I attempted to imitate him by twisting and contorting my body in ways it had never moved before. I was a sweaty mess before we even started the routine.

After the warm up, our instructor went over the routine step by step. He also added a few new steps at the end. This was great. I was starting to remember the steps and pick up a little technique. Then we did the routine at 80 percent speed. That was more challenging. I missed a bunch of steps but I thought I did an admirable job of keeping up. Then we ran through the routine at normal speed. It was intense (look up samba music and you’ll see how fast it is). I think I managed to move in the right direction most of the time but my footwork was a mess.

But despite the chaos, I’m looking forward to this week’s class. I know that with time and lots of practice, even I can feel comfortable and confident in this new dance.

What are your plans this week?

More dancing? Yes please.

pretty-woman-in-field-820477_1920When I first started looking into dance lessons I had two objectives. Learn waltz and foxtrot. That was it. I wasn’t interested in other ballroom styles and latin dance seemed intimidating. Unfortunately, you can’t always find classes for two specific dances and nothing else.

So I signed up for a rotating drop-in class instead. They taught waltz and foxtrot once a month. But tango, rumba, and cha cha classes were also mixed in. As a result, I was “forced” to try other dances. Learning a completely new dance from scratch is a challenge. Sometimes even the way you walk is different. But as I progressed I started feeling more comfortable. Waltz and foxtrot are still my top two. But I’m currently in love with tango and cha cha is a new favorite. Each dance has it’s own personality. It’s exciting to discover all the differences to each style.

I often hold myself back from trying new things. Sometimes it’s because I’m scared or unsure. Sometimes I don’t feel like it or don’t have the energy. But I’ll never grow if I don’t push outside my comfort zone. Embracing new things in dance has lead to increased confidence in other areas of life too. As an introvert, I still need to ensure I have the necessary energy. But if I’m organized that’s not an issue. I just need to schedule quiet time both before and after to recharge.

Last week my dance instructor threw out a few suggestions for upcoming dance classes. Instead of instantly writing them off, I sat down and thought about it. After a few days of deliberation, I signed up for a samba class that begins this week. It’s completely out of my comfort zone but I’m still looking forward to it. Who knows, I might gain a new favorite dance in the process.

What’s something new that you’ve tried?

The joy of dance

girl-1258727_1920I’ve been taking weekly dance lessons at my current studio for five months. It’s been such a great experience and I’m so glad I stepped outside my comfort zone. But even now, I still get twinges of nerves as I’m driving there. Perhaps it’s not knowing what material will be taught. Or not knowing if I’ll have a partner. But it’s always been worth it each time I make the effort to go. Dance has been such a wonderful and fulfilling part of my life.

Last night was a lot of fun. We were learning tango (American not Argentine) with our usual instructor. One of my newly-acquired dance friends was there so we partnered together. But we also switched partners with the other two couples who were there. Since there were so few of us, this meant we got a lot of individual attention from the instructor. He gave us advanced feedback for styling and footwork.

We had another hour of practice time after the lesson. My friend and I danced a few songs before he had to head home. I had started practicing some basics on my own when the owner of the studio walked over. He spent the next few minutes dancing with me. All the while explaining the history of tango, some of the dynamics with the footwork, and a few areas to work on. He also corrected my posture and explained where my weight should be sitting. It made a huge difference in how each step felt. It was a lot of fun and made me feel excited to practice.

I also spoke with my instructor that evening. He mentioned I should be able to move up to the next level of classes in a couple of months. This was encouraging as I’ve been doing solo practice on my own (huge shout out to Katie’s blog: The Girl with the Tree Tattoo for tons of helpful content on solo dance practice). I’m also planning to take a couple of private lessons once I’m back from my trip. This should help to improve my frame and technique as well.

Have you ever tried dance? What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Finding community

dance-430554_1920.jpgI’ve been asked a few questions recently. How do you stay motivated to keep blogging? How are you still taking dance classes? How do you work out consistently? And while there are many reasons why, the one overarching reason is community.

The reason I’m still attending dance classes is because of the people. Everyone is welcoming and inclusive. The instructor is fantastic. He’s very patient and has a great sense of humour. And while people tend to rotate in and out of the beginner class, there are a few regulars I see each class. It’s been fun to connect with them on a weekly basis and chat about dance and life. The studio also offers dance socials each weekend, and though I’ve yet to attend one, I’m planning on it eventually. Getting to spend time with people who like to dance gives me both the mental and physical contact I need.

But being part of a community doesn’t even need to happen in person. I’ve received so much kindness and support from the blogging community here. There are people I may never meet in person but still consider them good friends. Thank you so much for all the likes, comments, and follows. The only reason I’m still writing is because of all the positive feedback. It encourages me to keep going. I’ve been feeling a bit of writer’s block lately but I’m going to try to post more.

People are also surprised I’ve managed to work out for as long as I have (nearly 5 years). I don’t have a workout partner. But I don’t think you need one to be successful. It just means you need to be disciplined. But I will chat with my brother and fitness-minded friends. We’ll swap PRs, workout routines, and fitness goals. We get to connect in a shared passion and that helps to keep things fresh and exciting.

Having consistent contact with positive people is so important. When I first moved to a new city, I knew a few people but didn’t have many connections. I was living on my own, which was fantastic (and I still prefer it). But I would often feel isolated. I started blogging and working out and it helped. More recently I started dance lessons. These different avenues gave me the social connection I was missing. Community is the family and friends you discover and choose for yourself.

What communities are you a part of?