Fitness Friday

Still not sure how I feel about toe socks…

Hey! Hope you’re well? Guess what? I’ve started going to Pilates on a Monday evening with my SO at his running club! I’m really trying to get my fitness (and core muscles) back after having been mainly home-based for the last 2 years, and so what better than a Pilates class after a day at the desk! I do get out for a short walk every lunchtime, but I no longer do the daily power walk commute, I quit the gym in March and what with the rigours of tap dance, I really need the lengthening and strengthening. So many back problems can be traced back to lack of core stability, sitting down all day and bad posture.

Studio at Birmingham Royal Ballet

 

I’m also trialling a membership of the Sleek Ballet Fitness app this week. Sleek Technique is the creation of professional ballet dancers Victoria Marr and Flik Swan. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I had their DVDs and wrote reviews of their Sleek Ballet Bootcamp and Sleek Barre Technique workouts – there were 3 DVDs in the boxset, but I never got around to the third one! Membership gives you access to over 200 workouts, plus livestreamed interactive classes. The workouts are challenging and they really do get you sweating straight away. The settings vary from ballet school studio to warehouse-style brick studio to garden room to stunning beachside! They definitely sell you the lifestyle of the woman who sculpts her ballet body in affluent Thameside West London (think Chiswick or Kew) while wearing stunning Bloch leotards and shopping at Sweaty Betty

The ladies

I’ve only had a go at 2 full-body workouts so far, but I think I’m finding the same issue I found back in 2016 – the speed at which some of the exercises are carried out means I’m finding it difficult to maintain form, and I’m slightly concerned about pulling something – I’m happy operating at half-time! I think I need to have a go at some of the other types of workout before I decide. Perhaps I’ll concentrate on the lower body barre, stretch and mat exercises. Membership is £22.49 a month, and if I did go with it, I’d pause my £8.99 Rambert Home Studio membership (ballet, contemporary, Indian, street, yoga, Pilates, warm-ups, plus playlists, podcasts and other goodies) for now. However, as slick as Sleek Technique is… I’m thinking I should probably stick with Rambert, not only for financial reasons, but also because they’ve extended their offering since I first joined during the pandemic. We’ll see – I think I just need a bit of a change of routine right now.

I’m also taking a break from my Thursday rhythm tap classes once this block finishes later this month, with hopefully a return to the in-studio class in September. I’d like to spend a bit of time doing some of the many, many practise videos I’ve accumulated on things like technique, musicality, timesteps and rudiments, without having to spend that time practising a routine for weekly classes. I’m signed up for another Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation tapathon next weekend, which I haven’t yet learnt the routine for, and I have a 3-day tap dance intensive in London lined up for July 🙂

Enjoy your weekend!

ps. hope this blog post came out ok. This laptop has become very temperamental. My space bar suddenly stopped working at one point, and every now and then while I’m typing, the cursor jumps to a different line!

Why I’ve Cancelled My Gym Membership

Sad news – my SO and I cancelled our gym membership at the retirement village! We’ve been members since November and made quite good use of the gym, swimming pool and sauna, and it gave us a boost in those dark winter months of working from home, but there were a few things that brought us to the decision to end the membership this month:

  • The gym room and swimming pool are very small. Any more than 4 people would be a squeeze. Now that covid restrictions are gone, it’s getting busier.
  • Although there is a booking system via an app, people seem to be ignoring this and turning up when they feel like it – not great in a small gym!
  • There’s always a shortage of towels and shower gel in the changing rooms in the evening – not a major thing, but when they’re provided as part of your membership, you don’t want to have to bring your own.
  • Following on from the lack of towels and shower gel, the staff don’t seem to be checking the changing rooms and poolside often enough, so nearly every time I’ve been, the rubbish bin is overflowing, someone’s left their bra on the dressing counter, there’s talcum powder all over the floor and there’s often a wet towel or two left on the recliners by the pool from earlier in the day.
  • The cost of living is rocketing here in the UK for various reasons and we could do with chopping unnecessary spends. We have our own equipment we can use for free in the garage and I still have a Rambert Home Studio subscription that I’m using to do Pilates, dance cardio, contemporary and ballet classes.
  • We’ve been very busy recently with church prep and other things, so we haven’t been able to get there much as we would have liked in recent weeks.
  • My workplace is asking us to return to working in the office at least 40% of the week (at some point soon), so I may try and go back to the university gym. It’s currently £10pm as the building renovations are still ongoing, but it’ll soon be reopening in the former sports centre and then I’ll probably do pay-as-you-go via the Hussle app. (Although I don’t miss commuting, I do miss the gym-Tuesday, tap class-Thursday lunchtime routine I was in.)
  • On a side note – I also cancelled my Spotify membership last month. I mainly used it to listen to the track for my tap dance class routine, various podcasts, and maybe a jazz mix for improvisation. BUT I wasn’t using it enough to justify the spend. If I do use Spotify now, I’ll have to live with the adverts and random shuffling! I’ve basically gone back to downloading the tracks for tap class as I used to, because it works out about £1-2 every 6 weeks or so, and I own the track and have a great collection of songs that work for practise. (I originally had a Spotify membership deal of 3 months for £9.99, but when that finished it flipped to the usual £9.99 per month and I just don’t think it’s worth it for me.)

Anyway, thanks for reading, and happy weekend! Any plans? As well as chores and getting out for some walks in the sun, I’ll be attending a tap history talk on Zoom this Sunday evening with Lisa La Touche, so I’ll be sure to make some notes and give you the lowdown in the next few weeks.

Back in the Gym!

I can’t believe how excited I am to be back in the gym!! If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know that before the pandemic, I used to go to the university gym near my work every Tuesday and then to my tap class on a Thursday, and I found that worked quite well for me. I’m rarely in London anymore, still working from home, so my SO and I decided to try and find a local gym we could use. It wasn’t easy to find something nearby first of all, and then something that was affordable…but then we looked outside the box and found a great little gym (with swimming pool and sauna) in a retirement village – don’t laugh! The beauty of its location is that it is pretty deserted when we go in the evenings 🙂

I’ve had really bad nasal allergies and eczema on the tops of my feet on and off since the end of August, but since I’ve started working out more often and drinking more water, I feel like things are easing up quite a bit and I feel a lot better in myself. I don’t know why it’s so hard to make myself drink water when I’m working from home! Maybe because I’m moving around less – I was pretty good at staying hydrated in the office and refilling at the water machine quite regularly. Anyway, I’m keeping a large bottle of water by my desk every day to encourage myself to drink!

Sedentary Superbody

Guys, I’ve been really lazy recently. Like many of us at the moment, I’m working from home, sitting at a desk all day, and then I don’t really feel like doing anything energetic after work, plus I’ve been on a 3 week break from tap classes. And now England is heading into another period of lockdown! No Guy Fawkes Night celebrations this year 🙁

In the summer I was finishing my day with bouncy 80s aerobics workouts in the garage, a Rambert ballet class in my living room or a run around the block, or I was getting out into the back garden to do bits out there, but now we have shorter (and many drearier) days, I’ve not been very motivated at all! That is until Thursday when I did the SUPERBODY aerobics video on YouTube (look it up – it’s cheesy and amazing! Hahaha!). You know you’ve had a good workout when SWEAT is running into your eyes! As Maya Angelou said:

Nothing will work unless you do.

Tap class starts again this week (woohoo!) and rather than continue with the Thursday afternoon class which is (as far as we know) returning to the studio, I’ll be doing the Wednesday night class online. It should be interesting! I’m really looking forward to getting back to it. I had promised to send our teacher a video of me doing the last routine we worked on (Harlem Shuffle) – I haven’t done this yet, so I’d better get in gear and record myself later! 

My Saturday afternoon Charleston class is a mixture of both online and in-studio students, but I’m finding it a bit chaotic, and the Microsoft Teams platform is not ideal for live stream dance classes, especially as it cuts the teacher’s feet off if I pin her to full screen. It also freezes a lot, despite my laptop being connected to the broadband router by ethernet cable! Thankfully our teacher is sharing videos of the exercises and routine on our class WhatsApp group, and as I type(!) she is petitioning the college for us to be allowed to use another platform, such as Zoom or Google Meet… otherwise I’d probably be dropping out of the class. She also does some Rhythm Sessions and history talks online through her own vintage dance company, which I might check out.

Hope you are able to have a positive week amidst all this madness.

Smokin’

On Thursday we had our final tap class of the term. About 15 minutes before it was about to start, I suddenly remembered we needed to move the broadband router to the back of the house again so that I could get WiFi in the garage, where I can use my tap board. It didn’t work! And the broadband refused to work altogether… Until there was literally 4 minutes to go, and it came back on.

I RAN back into the house with the laptop and ended up joining the class from my living room, wearing plimsolls on a hard floor. Not ideal, but it was fine as a one off! (In amongst all this drama, my SO decided to make a batch of biscotti using a recipe from one of my colleagues, and burnt them, creating a load of smoke in the kitchen, which was about to set the smoke alarm off in the LIVING ROOM at any minute! I shut the door. Disaster averted!)

I was really pleased to hear that we will (hopefully) be continuing online tap classes after the Easter holidays, so we have that to look forward to. Our teacher sent us a video of our entire routine to work on during the break, and she asked us to send her videos of us doing it if we’d like to – (it doesn’t need to be perfect… and I assure you, it won’t be!) along with a video of the choreography homework she set us last time, which I’ve done already.

How has the past week been for you?

I had some wins with work, did a few workouts in the garage and enjoyed catching up with colleagues on Lifesize every morning and family and friends by WhatsApp, phone call and Zoom. I also made a delicious Chicken, leek & celery soup, topped with crispy bacon, which I’ll try and share with you later.

Hope you’re able to get outside and enjoy the sunshine ☀

Peanut Orchestra

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Entrance to my backstreet gym

I haven’t been to the gym for a few weeks. No excuses, I just couldn’t be bothered. But today I got my thang together and went! Unfortunately, going on a Wednesday rather than a Tuesday lunchtime, it was quite busy, with people hogging the free weights area and others going through their personal training session in the middle of the gym room. Still, despite this, I plugged in and did the cross trainer, overhead press, and some stretching. I feel so much better for going, having felt very negative most of this week!

I’m making sure to give my feet a good stretch every day and especially after exercise because I found they were aching A LOT during and after my tap classes the last few weeks – although I worked out that some of the ache came from wearing socks that were too thick, and then cramming my feet into my tap shoes, causing a deficit in wiggle room!

We’re learning a fun intermediate level routine to the song ‘The Peanut Vendor’ (1956 version) by Stan Kenton & His Orchestra and I’m loving it! We’re using a combination created by the legend that is Honi Coles as well as doing a 3-beat riff on both feet at the same time…Yes, I am wearing a left knee support so I don’t end up injured again! Tomorrow is the penultimate class before the 2 week half term break, and I am already signed up to the next block starting in March – YAY!

p.s. I’m giving Tap Dance Festival UK, which takes place in Manchester next weekend, a miss this year – BOO!

What I Did This Week

I only went and pulled my left shoulder while pumping iron in the gym this week! Unfortunately I was trying to even up both sides by letting my least dominant side initiate pushing (or pulling) the weights, and ended up straining the muscles and making my weaker side even worse! Anyone else done this?

Thankfully I was OK to play my ukulele at the class this week – just no playing overhead 🙂 We had a go at one of the songs we’re going to play for the end of term show in December, and also I Have a Dream by ABBA, including the finger-picking bits in the middle and end of the song – hilarious! There were only 6 out of the usual 11 of us, but it felt like those of us who were there bonded a bit more this week. (I also sat in a slightly different seat to usual, just to mix it up a bit). We played I Have A Dream again all the way through so that our teacher could record it for us to practice with at home.

There’s so many people coughing and spluttering at work and on public transport, and then I wasn’t feeling 100% the afternoon of the class, but rather than slinking off home, I made myself go along…and I had a blast!

*Shocker* – today I would have been back at Rhythm Tap Intermediates, but I emailed my teacher this morning and asked her to cancel me off this half-term. I really need to rest my troublesome left knee, and as I said in my last post, I took on ukulele lessons without dropping anything from my list of commitments. Sad face, but needs (knees) must!

Even though I won’t be dancing this term, I’m going to see the game-changing NYC tap dancer Michelle Dorrance’s company Dorrance Dance perform at Sadlers Wells next Thursday evening. SO EXCITED! I’ll will give you the full breakdown next weekend!

I have to say, since the clocks went back I’ve been dosing up on vitamin D (Vitabiotics ULTRA D), along with C plus Zinc and scoffing all kinds of fruit. I actually found the time transition a lot easier this year – how about you? I’m also wearing earplugs at night to make sure I sleep through any potentially interruptive sounds (like heavy rainfall, revving motorbikes, screeching foxes and so on). Hoping this all helps keep the germs at bay. Actually, the best thing is to just AVOID LONDON!

Why I Quit the Gym

This afternoon I got back from another session at my new gym. Yeah, I got back and then cancelled my membership. Why?

  • As usual I couldn’t get on any of the machines I wanted to use
  • Several machines were ‘out of order’ yet again
  • The machines are extremely complicated, so I’m not sure I’ll use many anyway
  • There’s hardly anywhere to stretch and stretching IS IMPORTANT
  • I’m not sure I’m really going to use the pool
  • I have to navigate at least 3 time-consuming road crossings get there – I haven’t got all day! LOL
  • My old gym was calling me back…

Out of frustration, I cut my workout short and went to my old gym at the University in its new temporary location (until around 2021), which is even closer to work, and I asked them for a quick tour. I went in, and I have to say, it is maybe a quarter smaller than it used to be, and there’s no view of the street outside (boohoo!), but all the familiar machines are there, and it seemed fairly quiet. Membership is £10 a month while it’s in this temporary state, so I’ve decided to do that instead. (£10 per month vs £6 per session PAYG – no brainer!)

Argh, what was I thinking? I think I was sucked in by the shiny new build council gym, but it just doesn’t come up to scratch. I got a massive discount because of when I signed up at the end of August but I’d never pay full price. EVER. As soon as I got back to work I cancelled my Direct Debit before the first payment deadline. They’ve had my joining fee – that’s more than enough!

Floors

In other news, we finally got our floors sorted at home! It’s a Victorian terraced house, and the existing carpets on the ground floor were in a right state. Especially as you come in off the street straight into a tiny porch and then the living room. That, coupled with the floor being concrete (and typical insensitive modernisations of Victorian cottages such as the removal of chimney breasts – these properties were built to breathe) created some moisture problems that came through the carpet. When we bought the place at the end of 2017, we also inherited a moth problem because the house hadn’t been lived in for a while. So, we had the carpets replaced on the landing (stair runner being done this Thursday) and we replaced the living/dining room carpet with Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) in ‘Colonial Oak’. It took a lot of work to get all the furniture out and we pulled up and disposed of the carpet ourselves before the floor guys came on the Monday to lay the carpet upstairs and prep the ground floor for laying the LVT the next day.

I absolutely LOVE IT. All thanks to my dear Nan who passed away just before we bought the house x

Weathered

Morning…

It’s no secret that Brits talk about the weather A LOT. It seems crazy, but when you go through all four seasons in one day, it’s kind of no wonder.

I don’t really take much notice of the weather and I make sure I get out of the office every lunchtime, in all weathers, for my own sanity and for a recharge. It’s really not good to be cooped up indoors all day. But I’ve noticed this thing with some of my colleagues. If there’s a bit of drizzle, they won’t go out. If it’s a bit windy, they won’t go out. If there’s a slight chill in the air… You get the picture. Then there’s the weather commentary throughout the day.

Sometimes I feel like screaming at them “you can’t put your life on hold because of a bit of rain!” I mean seriously, just put a coat on and grab an umbrella. It won’t kill you. You think they’d be used to it by now 🙂

Afternoon…

This week I met a friend for lunch on the day I have designated ‘Gym Tuesday’, so instead, this week I had ‘Gym Wednesday’. Although I really felt like I couldn’t be bothered, and even ate my lunch with the intention of skipping the gym for another day or not bothering at all. I think it was all psychological because:

a) I didn’t go on my usual day (i.e. Gym Tuesday)

b) I was looking forward to finishing work on Thursday for an extra long week off and was therefore demotivated to work out

But, I gave it half an hour and then MADE MYSELF GO. And I’m glad I did because I added the lat-pull machine to my weights routine. I also spent a good amount of time stretching, and I felt so much better and more energised for the rest of the afternoon.

I even told two random people at work about the gym when I got back to the office and they both said they’re going to start going or return to the gym after speaking to me!

I reiterate that it’s all thanks to my 80+ year old friend ‘S’ who is hitting the gym and pool 5 times a week – she’s amazing! And I’ve never heard her moan about the weather 😉

Power Pack

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This week is the first of three weeks with NO TAP CLASSES! OH MY! Today I hit the gym again, for the third week in a row. I did the cross trainer on the interval programme to warm up and get the heart pumping, followed by the low bike over a varied terrain. Then I did the adductor, abductor and hamstring weight machines, the pec-deck and then some serious stretching before heading back to work. I felt much better this week and actually enjoyed it!

Today’s playlist (including a couple of motivational 80s power tracks*):

  • Heaven – Emeli Sande
  • Buffalo Stance – Neneh Cherry
  • We Built this City – Starship*
  • I’m Always Here – Jim Jamison*
  • Lose my Breath – Destiny’s Child
  • La Vida Loca – Ricky Martin
  • California Soul – Marlena Shaw

Last Thursday Rhythm Tap II performed our Naughty Little Flea routine at the college’s Latin dance cabaret evening. The video and some photos were shared on our Whatsapp group and they did so well, despite a brief hitch with the music. I so wanted to be there! Unfortunately, I couldn’t take part because the rehearsals were during work time, straight after our daytime class, which meant taking something like a 3 hour lunch break; although looking back, I probably should have just done it and made the time up because most of the time I ended up being the only person in the office!

Next time, I’m doing the show no matter what!