A Mind Needs Books as a Sword Needs a Whetstone

These days I’m going to bed earlier and earlier. And as there’s nothing I like better than a good book, I’ve combined bed and books to create a ‘Horizontal Inspiration Zone’ (HIZ) 😉 . Between 9 and 10 most nights you’ll find me tucked up with a book that’s pertinent to my adventures, the kind of book that might help psychologically or practically with what lies ahead. (By the way, sometimes I don’t even realise the book is pertinent until I start reading 🙂 ).

Usually I read a lot of fiction, but at the moment I’m all over the non-fiction, creative non-fiction and memoirs. Here are a couple of stand-out books from recent visits to the HIZ:

Twelve Minutes of Love: a Tango Story This is a memoir written by a woman who discovered the ‘truth’ of herself through dance. You don’t have to be a tanguera (person who dances tango) or even have a remote interest in dance to enjoy this book. Whilst I learned a huge amount about tango ( its origins and history; the different styles; the music and songs associated with the dance; its spread across the world;  what milongas (a sort of ‘tango meet’)  are like; and the kind of people you might encounter on the dance floor), the memoir resonated with me deeply because of the parallels with my own life. This memoir, at its heart, is a quest for belonging written by an adventurous woman with itchy feet. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and it has made me very excited about my autumn tango adventure!

The Oxygen Advantage often gets mentioned in the same breath as What Doesn’t Kill Us (mentioned in a previous post). The book is an enthusiastic manifesto for the benefits of nose-breathing (as opposed to breathing through your mouth). Similar to the Wim Hof method, claims are made about improving V02 max through following the Oxygen Advantage Method.

I have actually tried the nasal breathing technique in some of my recent CrossFit classes – not with a view to increasing V02 max, but with a view to switching off the ‘fight-or-flight’ response – and have to say that I was amazed at how relaxed and unstressed I felt (and was able to load up my weighted plank with no bother!).

The one thing in this book that really piqued my interest was the protocol for simulating altitude training at sea level. This is something I will try after my sprinting adventure – along with some of the related exercises. The reason I’m not diving straight into the Oxygen Advantage Method is that it takes the body a while to adapt – and in the early stages, it’s common to see a dip in performance. With my sprinting adventures just weeks a way, I’m not that enthusiastic about a dip!

There was something about this book that niggled away at me – and made me not ‘trust’ the information completely. I’m not sure if it is because the guy who wrote it isn’t an athlete or because he had to protect the identities of his famous sporting clients. Either way, I’m still yet to be 100% convinced (but that won’t stop me having a go at the altitude training!) 🙂 . There was also a fair bit of wandering off into other territories (like meditation). I think I would have preferred him to stick to the point (but that’s probably just me – I was reading with a specific purpose in mind and deep peace wasn’t it 😉 ).

If you have read something you think I might enjoy, do let me know 🙂 . I’m always on the lookout for a good read 🙂 .

Right then. I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT 🙂

Rhythm is a Dancer!

I’m really excited to announce that I’ll be doing a fifth adventure this year! This autumn I’ll be learning to dance the tango with my non-dancing husband, coached by the brilliant Paula and Peter McAuley of Tango Northern Ireland.

I’ve always been a very enthusiastic dancer and had at one time (when I was 6) wanted to be a ballerina. I went along to ballet lessons but soon decided the gig was not for me. Here’s what stopped my dancing career in its tracks: we’d been doing this brilliant thing with skipping ropes (straight-forward-no-frills-actual-skipping), which I could actually do (unlike all the other things we were asked to do in the class), when the teacher announced that our ropes were tired and needed a rest. I looked at the other kids, my palms raised skywards and my head shaking in disbelief (well, I might not have actually done this bit). I knew there was no way that rope was an animate object, and ,therefore, there was no way it needed a rest. I then made the fatal error of pointing out the rope was not actually alive. That, dear reader, was the end of my dancing career 😉 .

In my early 30s the urge to dance re-emerged when I trained to be a fitness instructor.  Every Monday evening, after I’d run a hardcore circuit class (think Superstars), I’d channel my inner Christina Aguilera and segway into a (relatively clean) dirty dancing class. The classes were surprisingly popular, in spite of the very cheesy choreography, and everyone completely ‘went for it’.

I miss those classes and I miss the joy and freedom of dancing. When I was thinking about my #OldDogNewTricks adventures for 2019 tango came straight to mind (I’ve always wanted to have a go at it), but it took me until now to find a teacher! Big thanks to Sarah Jane Abbot (Johnston), choreographer for The Faerie Thorn stage production, who put me in contact with Peter McAuley 🙂 .

I’m completely thrilled to have found Paula and Peter. They’re going to help us develop choreography that works for both me (I’m definitely into all the leaping about 😉 ) and for my husband (who, at this stage, would prefer to just stand still and look very moody, which is a skill he has honed over the years 😉 ). We’ll be travelling down to Belfast in the autumn to join as many of the Friday night classes as we can, and we’ll have some intensive 1-1 sessions too. I think we should be ready for a final performance by the end of November/beginning of December.

To help me get into the dance mood, I’m going to undertake a mini dance adventure on 19 May. I’ve booked myself onto a ‘rock goddess burlesque’ dance workshop at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast with Soup DuJour,  one of the top performers in Ireland and a well respected producer throughout Europe.

Here’s Soup DuJour doing her thing 🙂

Right. I suppose I’d better go and limber up then 😉 . (Oh, and if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

I am just going outside and may be some time.

JT 🙂