Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Challenges

A mark of age is the accumulation of experiences that make you understand others better.  Some call this empathy. I always considered myself empathetic, but it wasn’t until my brain surgery that I truly became empathetic. I quickly realized we all have challenges (time, financial, health…) and we’re all in a state of recovery (recovering from a medical crisis, getting over heart-break, dealing with addiction…). While challenging, hopefully, we handle our circumstances with energy that keeps us moving forward.

Spring brought hurdles: The short film I was in development on received a note that forced unforeseen rewrites and consequently push back the shooting schedule. In part, the short was my rationale for not putting a race on the books. Time to run and create became further illusive when I booked a big freelance job working on a book trailer. I love freelancing, but with the longer than 8 hour day and unpredictable hours, adds scheduling challenges. Despite the frustration, I love it; this is a lifestyle I’ve built for myself.

I’m excited about living and probably have gone a little overboard at the buffet of life: Day job, freelancing, and I have a love affair with ballroom dancing.  It has given me a mental and physical challenge that I haven’t had since my childhood when I was taking physical therapy in addition to the regular elementary school curriculum. I might not be running 40+ miles a week like I did while marathon training, but I’m getting in 2+ hours of cardio in 3-5 times a week running or dancing. The dancing is building synapses, mending shaky confidence and helping tremendously with PTSD. There are days are that are easier than others. Some days, I’m near tears. One instructor pointed out that I look too safe when I dance. It’s true, but with the recognition of this, it helps me let go and just enjoy the music. Away from the dance floor, I try to visualize (like an Olympic athlete) executing the moves perfectly and then work on the kinks with the pros at the studio.
My first challenge came April 6 with a pro-am performance. I forgot how much I loved performing. The high is similar to the excitement that I got with acting— I couldn’t sleep for days. But, dancing is a whole new way of expressing myself that I never experienced. I loved performing so much, I signed up for the studio’s recital at the end of May. (One of my studio teachers convinced me to do another routine.)

Running another endurance race is gnawing at me. I don’t know if I want to set out to PR, but getting another goal on the books feels like the right thing to do. I’m currently looking at November races when I’ll be past my now-annual MRI and beyond the fall wedding season. In the mean time, the cross-training continues at LA Ballroom Studio. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Unexpected Cross-Training

I have forward momentum with launching a new cooking/dating blog www.stuffeddatesblog.com and developing several projects both with my producing partner and others with my writing partner.

Forward momentum in life is great, but forward momentum without logging miles to give you optimum cardiovascular health to continue the career momentum for years to come isn’t a good long-term plan. I have stumbled, and sometimes I feel closer to the person I was before I was introduced to endurance running. When the alarm goes off, I wake up thinking, “Oh my gosh, I have so much to do,” and then focus on doing & creating rather than going outside and doing one thing I enjoy, running. Despite encouragement from friends to get a race on the books, nothing has appealed to me and pre-planning all the way to May is something I can’t comprehend since I am directing and producing a short that will be shot in May. Running felt & sometimes feels like an indulgence.

One day, in mid-January, I received a call from Matt Patrick at LA Ballroom Studio. He explained that the studio I took group classes at changed ownership. He invited me to come in for a lesson to see what the new owners were doing. I struggled in the group classes I took last year (prior to change in ownership) and while the classes exposed me to new dances and excited me, I left with more frustration than anything. I took Matt up on his offer for a private lesson; I was in love. Matt’s teaching style was just what I needed and I actually realized that I could get this dancing thing. He asked me my goals and I told him that when I go I want to be one of the best dancers (not competitive at all). He appreciated the honesty and while it did take me several lessons to talk about the brain surgery (which proved as difficult as talking to someone you’re dating) he knows now. And, like any good partner/teacher, he didn’t give me sympathy. It was as simple as me telling him I like coffee.

I have learned so much in these few weeks of ballroom dancing, and it is more than just beginner dance steps. He has showed me how to improve movement in my daily life so I am more centered.  (Among the things, he pointed out I walk too quickly and showed me how to walk properly… which is far harder than it sounds. With my voracious need to understand and be good, he has given me exercises to improve core, balance, and things that will help with steps that would be good for everything from Swing to Waltz.

When I was dipping my toe into ballroom dancing, I was told that it is a better workout than running. I thought it might be an exaggeration. But, the time I spend dancing usually surpasses the time I spend on short training runs. With the dancing, I have experienced fatigue in muscles I didn’t know I have…

I am re-introducing running and with all the dancing, it’s like I took no time off.  It’s some of the best cross-training I’ve experienced. It is also turning me into a more poised individual. Ballroom dancing is changing my life more than I could have ever imagined. Growing up, I struggled with movement, and this was only exacerbated by the brain tumor. Ballroom dancing is better than any physical therapy I ever took growing up and thanks to all the work with Matt I am now able to experience something that has been denied to me for years.

Do I have a race on the books? No. But, I will be performing a ProAm (Pro-Amateur) routine in April.