Staying Motivated

 

After having been really on it and motivated in going to the gym every Tuesday during my lunch hour, I ended up not going for 2 weeks. I am almost 3 weeks into the new rhythm tap term, so I am doing something, but I do want to keep the gym in my weekly routine for fitness, toning and important dancer’s knee maintenance. But, having given in to ‘I can’t be bothered’, it took everything I had to make myself get back to it yesterday.

At midday I went, worked out and felt great afterwards!

How to motivate yourself to hit the gym:

  • Create a manageable routine – my routine is gym every Tuesday at 12pm, tap class every Thursday at 1.30pm, with a rest day in between.
  • Don’t make your sessions so long that you can’t face going again – Because I’m squeezed by my lunch hour, I go for about half an hour to 40 minutes, which includes important stretch time.
  • Don’t set ridiculous goals that you can’t achieve – a six-pack is overrated, unless you’re into competitive bodybuilding… One of my goals was to lose a couple of kilos – done!
  • Include a variety of machines in your repertoire – I started with just a few basic machines and then I’ve been trying to add a new thing every few weeks.
  • Measure your progress – this may be weight (yours or the weights you are able to lift), body measurements, or even blood pressure readings if you’re trying to reduce your BP
  • Reward yourself on your achievements – a massage, a new piece of gym clothing
  • Find a gym buddy and go together – this might be a friend, colleague or family member
  • If you gym in the evening, go straight there from work. DO NOT go home first. You won’t leave!
  • Prep an amazing post-workout meal that you can look forward to afterwards. I make all my lunches for the week – a salad that usually consists of chicken breast, rocket, olives, feta, sweetcorn, pasta with pine nuts and spinach.
  • Create a bangin’ playlist that you look forward to listening to as you work out (as well as modern stuff, mine has a lot of 80s power tracks, which are high-tempo, cheesy and super-motivating – think Maniac by Michael Sembello)

I actually look forward to my shower at work afterwards because it’s like a bit of pampering during my working day with the shower kit I created:

  • Tropical Shower gel
  • Wash mit
  • Coarse body scrub
  • Foot file
  • Razor
  • Shea Body Butter
  • Tea tree foot gel with arnica
  • Mini bath mat
  • Towel
  • Deodorant

Yes, I scrub, shower, shave and moisturise like a mini spa treatment. A shower doesn’t have to just be practical!

What motivates you to get up and go to the gym? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Writer’s Block

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A few months ago I decided to make 2019 my year of getting back into writing. I’ve been writing this blog, plus small amounts of content for my soap biz website and social media, and I update web pages for church and work…but now I want to concentrate on improving my writing and future prospects by developing skills in particular types of writing such as:

  • copywriting
  • copy editing & proofreading
  • digital content writing
  • report writing

I have begun my ‘journey’ by enrolling on a copywriting introductory workshop, which takes place in London at the end of July, and I have been reading a great book called ‘May I Have Your Attention Please?’ by copywriting whizz Mish Slade. It’s funny – since stating my intentions a few months ago and saving off a load of writing exercises to have a go at, I suddenly find I am writing less than before!

I was going to write a blog post on one of America’s tap dance legends at the weekend and then I had a mental block. Maybe I’ve been overthinking it and getting too concerned with putting out a FANTASTIC AWARD-WINNING blog post. To be honest, it’s probably more because I’ve been doing a lot at the weekends with my soap biz now that Spring and Summer fete season is upon us! Well, as I am now 2 events down, with 2 to go (a small one this Saturday and a BIG event 22nd June), I can look forward to setting aside some time this summer to do some writing practice exercises. There are also various free creative writing workshops around my borough in the autumn as part of a local literary festival.

In other news, rhythm tap classes resume this Thursday lunchtime and I am VERY excited! I was feeling a little jaded yesterday and wondering if I need a break, but GIRL, you’ve just had a 2 week break and it’s the final stretch before the summer break (and our teacher asked me for a song suggestion)! I have also been keeping up with weekly gym sessions at the university and I feel a lot fitter. I’ve even lost about 2kg since I started training – BOOM! I’m hoping to fit a session in tomorrow as I met an ex-colleague for lunch today (Gym Tuesday). Because it’s a bit too close to tap day, I’ll probably just go easy….

:))

How to Make the Most of your Tap Dance Lessons

You may be a full time dance student or you may only have an hour of tap class a week (like me), so you have to find a way to make the most of what you have:

  • Pay attention in class! That’s right. Listen to what your teacher is saying and watch the demonstrations closely.
  • Learn from others who are more experienced or seem to know what they’re doing.
  • Ask questions when you have the opportunity. This is usually at the end of the class, but you may have opportunity during the class too (e.g. What is this step called? Which leg are we starting on? Who is your favourite tap dancer?! etc.)
  • Take the opportunity to film the routine or combination if given. Then you can become more familiar with it and practice outside of class. It helps to visualise even if you can’t physically do the steps for whatever reason, e.g. You’re on public transport or your leg is in plaster…
  • Practice as soon as you are able after your class just so it doesn’t escape your brain straight away!
  • Practice daily! Even if it’s only 5 minutes in the corridor at work. It helps cement things and keeps the muscle memory alive, so to speak.
  • Download or listen the track you’re using so you can familiarise yourself with the music, and any unusual rhythms it may have.
  • Take away one thing you can work on for next time. If you load yourself up with too many things to improve, you might stress yourself out and improve nothing.

Other general advice:

  • Watch tap dance online
  • Get to your classes early
  • Go to classes regularly
  • Read up on tap history
  • Watch tap shows at the theatre if you can
  • Read up on tap terms. Some steps have different names to what you’re used to (slurp vs closed third)
  • Attend workshops and festivals to try new stuff and meet other tappers
  • Follow tap dancers on social media
  • Join tap dance social media groups

What do you think?

I made a resolution this year to write a list of things I want to know and then try to ask my teacher a question every week, but sometimes I forget or chicken out 🙂

(We’re currently on a 2 week break from rhythm tap class, but I’m managing to keep up with my weekly workouts at the gym!)

Cottage Pie

I really fancied a hearty Sunday dinner this weekend, so I decided to make a British classic – Cottage Pie!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g lean minced beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 500ml beef stock
  • Glug of Red wine
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 2 tsp all purpose seasoning
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 10g butter
  • 50ml milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Heat oil in pan and add mince and onions. Season with salt, ground black pepper and all purpose seasoning. Fry until minced is browned and drain any excess fat.
  2. Add garlic, tomato puree, beef stock, herbs, cayenne, red wine. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Put potatoes into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for around 15 mins until soft enough for mashing. Drain well.
  4. Mash potatoes in the saucepan. Add butter, milk and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer meat mixture to an ovenproof dish.
  5. Pipe or spread mashed potato on top. Grind pepper over the top and cook in the oven for 35-40 mins until golden brown and bubbling.
  6. Voilà!

I have to say I didn’t have enough potatoes in the house, but hey ho, it was still delicious! You can also add carrots to further enhance this dish.

(Adapted from a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie in the OXO Cookbook, Quadrille, London, 2015)

Strength

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This week I made it back to the gym – yay! I did the crosstrainer to warm up, and then the low bike for about 5 minutes. I followed these up with some lower body strength work (30kg seated leg curl, 40kg seat leg press), and then some stretching of the calves, hamstrings, quads, achilles and feet. Because almost all of the lifts at work are out of order at the moment, I took my shower stuff over to the gym with me, rather than trying to climb 9 floors’ worth of stairs back at work! However, I won’t be repeating this. In the shower cubicle itself there was NOWHERE to put ANYTHING. No shelf or hooks or anything, so although I could throw my towel over the door, I had to put everything else on the wet floor. Not impressed!

Since Wednesday evening I’ve been feeling really rough with hayfever or a cold – not sure which at the moment, but I suspect it is hayfever (pollen & pollution) as I have maintained my sense of smell… I wasn’t sure if I was going to even make it to my tap class today, but I decided to dose up and soldier on! (Not something I usually advocate if rest is in order, but I really don’t want to miss any classes this time when we only have 4 in the block and today we would be filming the routine for practice purposes).

Rhythm Tap Class

We were a larger group than usual because a few people from Wednesday evening’s class joined us, plus another few who were trying out before enrolling. We worked on our around-the-world roll again and our swing-beat paddle exercise where we did:

  • 4 x 4 beat paddle (heel dig – pickup – toe – heel drop)
  • 4 x paddle minus the first heel dig
  • 4 x paddle minus the first heel dig and last heel drop – requires balance!
  • Repeat

It’s another great exercise to try and get your head around. And then you have to try and not use your head.

Quite quickly we moved straight onto our Bollywood routine as there are only 2 weeks left after today (rhythm tap to Bollywood music, rather than dancing Bollywood style). I really like this routine…but then I say that about all of them! It’s quicker than we are used to, but that’s good as it challenges us to go for it.

Thankfully the shower situation worked out when I returned to the office as I managed to get a lift very quickly. In the afternoon I had a chair based massage which was organised by the HR department, and despite everyone saying that the massage was too firm, I really enjoyed it and found it greatly beneficial to my post-tap muscles! Sadly it was only for the upper body, but I’ll take that 🙂

Studio Spring Clean

Hey, how was your weekend? This weekend I ended up tidying up my garage, which is also home to my makeshift dance practice studio!

This involved sweeping the floor and my tap floor which had accumulated leaves and garden dirt. I moved my collapsible ballet barre so that it’s in my practice space – to make sure I use it for stretching. Unfortunately there’s not enough space at present to leave it up permanently.

There’s a lot we need to get rid of, so I got a big cardboard box and filled it with items to go to the charity shop or tip. There are a lot of plant pots…including pots that were left behind by the previous owners! We also need to list an old IKEA wardrobe that’s not old at all, but we have no need of it any longer.

In addition to a spring clean, I also hung some dance related art! One piece was a poster I already had of the tap legend that is Jason Samuels Smith. I chopped it down to fit a frame and hung it above the mirrors for inspiration! I also purchased a canvas of a dancer that I spotted at The Range to add extra dance atmosphere! A trip to the tip is definitely in order this coming weekend.

Before locking up, I had a quick practice of the Around The World step we learnt on Thursday!

Around The World

After a relaxing break from work over Easter, this week I returned to the day job, my soap side gig and rhythm tap class!

I didn’t make the gym because with the Bank Holiday on Monday, there were only 2 possible days that I could go and I just couldn’t fit it in. I suppose I could have gone Wednesday, but I don’t like to work out the day before a dance class. I will get back to it next week when the schedule is back to normal.

I did do a lot of walking last week, with a weekend in Birmingham and Hughenden Manor National Trust, plus I did a New York City Ballet Workout, so I’m not too concerned about loss of fitness or anything.

Rhythm tap class was amazing as usual! I think everyone was hyped to be back, including our teacher who had been at a tap retreat in Italy over the break. Mountain views, food, wine, day trips and tap classes…So jealous!

There were some new people joining us this term; some who have moved up from beginners and some who want to refresh their steps after years away from it. This week we worked on a travelling shuffle-step exercise, which we did each way sets of eight, four, two and one. Our teacher got me to do it with her double time – that was fun!

The other main exercise was an ‘around the world roll’. This is like a cramp roll, but in a different order:

E.g. Starting on the right

R-Toe L-Toe L-Heel R-Toe

And you end with the left foot off the ground ready to start the left side:

Our routine is to a high energy Bollywood track and I’m loving it!