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 Β£22.49 a month, and if I did go with it, I’d pause my Β£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 πŸ™‚

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!

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™

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!Β 

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.

Staying Occupied

_20200421_123856.JPGI’ve been working from home for a month now, but from Monday I will officially be on ‘furlough’ for a minimum of 3 weeks, under the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme.

It’s my 10th anniversary of working for this charity, and I had been thinking a few months ago that I could really do with a sabbatical…but these circumstances aren’t exactly what I had in mind. The reduction in pay is thankfully cancelled out by having stopped my travel season ticket payments. Shows just how expensive train travel is!

I’ve been asked by a couple of people what I’m going to do with the time. ANYONE who knows me knows that I ALWAYS have projects on the go! I won’t go crazy trying to do all of this list, but I have some of the following to keep me occupied:

  • My soap biz – I want to practice the cold process some more, continue to sell off old stock online and do some social media posts, as well as getting online orders out.
  • Jobs around the house – spring cleaning, replacing peeling wallpaper in our bedroom, decluttering.
  • The garden – keeping it tidy and watered. I’m also trying to grow tomatoes and propagate plants from cuttings! I was given a Garden Design online short course for my birthday, which I might have a crack at.
  • Tap dance – weekly rhythm tap classes continue from the first week of May, plus I’ll keep practising in my garage. Tap & Tea Thursdays on Zoom continue for at least another 3 weeks.
  • Exercise – I’ve been doing 80s aerobics plus some ballet barre exercises and stretching in the garage every week day around 5pm. This must continue!
  • Study – I have the final 2 modules of my HR Practice studies to complete, both of which include a filmed skills test. I’m more used to speaking to the camera since the lock-down!
  • Writing – I love to write! And obviously I’ll keep writing this blog πŸ™‚

There are also downtime things like reading books and magazines, chatting on the phone and messaging friends and family, quiz nights, jigsaws and games, catching up on TV shows and my mindfulness interior design colouring book :)) Plus we have church online at the moment.Β 

For continuity and so I don’t feel weird when I go back to work, I plan to continue joining my team’s daily catch-ups online, but just on Monday mornings.

 

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 againΒ – 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.

 

 

Gym Day

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Today I managed my second Tuesday at the gym! Although I have to say I didn’t feel pumped and energised like last week, despite making sure I was hydrated and had eaten a few energy-rich snacks mid-morning. I’m probably a bit low on iron at the moment and could also do with a few early nights where I sleep straight through. Oh, and a bowl of KALE.

I started on the cross trainer, but started to feel a bit weird, so I got myself off that immediately and went to the low bike for 5 low-intensity minutes to make sure I at least did something. Then I moved onto the abductor and adductor machines, then the quad and hamstring machines, and the chest press.

Finally I went to the yellow mats to do some gentle stretching of the quads, hamstrings, calves, feet and ankles etc.

As soon as I got back to work I wolfed down my lunch and felt a lot better!

Playlist

  • Shut up and Drive – Rihanna
  • Where Love Lives – Alison Limerick
  • Groove is in the Heart – Deee-Lite
  • I feel for you – Chaka Khan
  • Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill
  • Unfinished Sympathy – Massive Attack

On another note, after work yesterday I went for aΒ 45 minuteΒ full body holistic massageΒ at a place I discovered a while ago near work. It was fabulous, but I could have done with it today instead! (Unfortunately the therapist only works there on Mondays and Saturdays). I am aiming to have a massage once a quarter to every other month if possible for body maintenance. I’m also thinking about visiting a podiatrist for a medical pedicure for important tap dancer’s foot maintenance (TDFM), so I’m doing a bit research, and obviously this all costs money!

Pumping Iron

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Today I finally made myself go to the gym at lunchtime – YAY!

I’ve been wanting to do some strength work for several months now, due to my left knee being a bit achy and creaky during this past year of doing rhythm tap classes. I suspect it is to do with weak muscles around the knee, so I had given Pilates classes a go, but found the time constraints too much to fit it into a lunchtime. Oh, and the teacher was scary and always late!

Solution: buy a PAYG gym pass and do a 25 minute workout and stretch session at the university gym across the road.

I am choosing Tuesdays as gym day so that I have a rest day in between that and Thursday’s tap class. Hopefully I can turn this into a weekly habit and not give up when I don’t feel like it.

The gym was nice and quiet today, so no waiting for free machines – bonus! I started with a 10 minute aerobic warm-up on the cross trainer using a varied terrain, followed by a selection of weight machines, including the leg-press. I finished up with a ten minute seated and standing stretch session on the mat.

I am also massaging both knees every evening with my homemade sports massage oil, which contains peppermint, cypress and lemongrass essential oils.

Let’s see if I notice any difference this Thursday…

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*My inspiration is a lady in her 80s (you wouldn’t believe it though!) who comes into my office once a week to help with some admin and she gyms and swims 5 times a week!*

Today’s Workout

This rainy afternoon I finally got out into my garage/dance studio and did a bit of tap! β˜” I played music from my phone through the Bluetooth speaker and had a go at some drills, including flaps and lots of shuffles, especially on the left hand side which seems to miss the floor a LOT when I use my tap board. I dunno, it’s a bit slippery and I guess being confined to a square compared to using a whole studio makes it difficult. Still, it was good!

Next I did some ankle strengthening using a balance board. It’s really hard to keep it even and centred, which makes it ideal for working those ankles!

Next I did some 5kg weights, lifting them above my head, out front, behind, to the sides, and then some squats. I followed this up with crunches – it has been a while!

I finished up my sweatfest with some stretching. Maybe I’m motivated because I’ve now got 2 weeks off work πŸ™‚

My (eclectic) Playlist:

  • My Same – Adele
  • California Soul – Marlena Shaw
  • Get Off – Foxy
  • Hanky Panky – Madonna
  • Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos
  • Candy Shop – Andrew Bird
  • These Days – Take That
  • Changing – Sigma feat. Paloma Faith
  • Forget – Lianne La Havas
  • When My Baby – Bing Crosby

Home Dance Studio

During my week off work I finally got to set up my home dance studio/gym in the garage! Now I have somewhere to practise tap dance πŸ˜€πŸ‘πŸ‘

It is a great space because the people who owned the house before had installed electricity for lights and heating, plus a proper door from the garden and a window, which brings natural light. There is also plenty of light from the transparent roof.

The studio is comprised of the following:

  • Interlocking foam floor tiles (wood effect)
  • 3 over-the-door mirrors (around Β£14 each from The Range)
  • Cube unit for storing dumbbells etc
  • Foldaway ballet barre
  • Tap board
  • Motivational posters
  • Plants

I had attached some red ‘Dance’ lettering to the wall above the mirrors, but it fell down and broke overnight, so I need to find a way fix it and try to attach it more securely.

The next task is to get rid of the rest of the furniture sitting at the other end of the garage!

I’m so pleased with it because I was getting kind of frustrated with having nowhere to practise other than in the corridors and toilets at work. Yay!

Has anyone done anything similar?

Merry Christmas!Β 

Hope you have a great Christmas whatever you’re doing! We will be hosting my mum for a mini Christmas on Christmas Eve,Β  going to the in-laws for a few days and seeing my family on other days. Not sure if I will be doing a Parkrun this Christmas Day, but I am aiming to get my fitness back (or restarted 😡) during the holidays with some walking and workout dvds, of which I have MANY.

Enjoy!