Stoned Enough to Dance Burlesque

As far adventuring goes, this past weekend has been a very good one! On Saturday morning I had the opportunity to have a go at some typical ‘strongman’ stuff at CrossFit Causeway.

First up was an extensive introduction to the Atlas Stones. We started light, learning how to get the stones off the floor, how to ‘hug them’ and then ‘encourage them’ up to our shoulders. (Just so you know, verbal encouragement does seem to work – as long as you have a good relationship with your stone , I reckon it’ll listen and ‘work with you’ 😎.) The heaviest I managed in practice was a 40kg stone. Here’s me in the WOD (Workout Of the Day) lifting a 35kgΒ  stone (5 1/2 stone/ 77 lbs):

We also had a go at a Zercher carry. As you can see from the images (one of me and one of Gail, a fellow competitor in the upcoming powerlifting competition), the load is held in the crook of your elbows. The load isΒ  largely in front of you and this increases the demands on the upper back, while also increasing core tension.

The session was all about strength and this wouldn’t normally appeal to me (I like a bit of the old conditioning too πŸ˜‰ ). However, I really enjoyed it (I think it was because I’d never done anything like it before and I wasn’t even sure whether I could lift any of the stones) and my body obviously got a pretty tough workout because on Sunday morning my whole body felt like it was full of concrete!

I managed a sprint session on Sunday morning (without it I don’t think I would have been able to move very much at all) before heading to Belfast for the hotly anticipated Rock Goddess Burlesque workshop, led by the brilliant Soup du Jour (Laura Firby). I was sharing this adventure with a writer friend of mine, Belinda Bennetts. We’d both studied the joining instructions very carefully and were ready to throw ourselves headlong (or whichever body part might work best 😎) into the experience. We had our outfits. We had our attitudes. And we were up for it!

Obviously, we were a little shocked when the workshop started with everyone pretty much fully dressed 🀣🀣🀣.Β  During the first part of the workshop we learned how to ‘promenade’ and practised jiggling, hip-swivelling and shimmying (which is much harder than it looks). After a while, we were invited to put on our heels – and that made a real difference: I certainly felt like more of a performer with them on. Just before the tea-break we managed our first routine!

Belinda and I took an executive decision to go the whole hog and put on all our burlesque kit for the second part of the workshop. I was keen to have the full experience and see if dancing like this offered the opportunity to experience my ‘edges’ in new ways. Once it was obvious what Belinda and I were up to, another woman started to get changed. She was about the same age as me – also post-menopausal and also filling her life with new experiences.

I was rather taken with her leather bustier, but it was her homemade nipple tassels that impressed me the most! She’d already done a few classes with Soup du Jour and had obviously found her thing. I loved the joy and playfulness in her – and she had such a free energy in her when she was dancing.

In the second part of the workshop we learned how to take off gloves, take off clothes and do floor work (also much harder than it looks and requires LOTS of flexibility). By the end of the afternoon, we’d learned and performed a second routine. And I’m so glad I changed into my outfit during the tea break: it made such a difference. I felt much more in my body, much more powerful, much more willing to ‘let go’ and try on the full-on burlesque persona. Being in a dance studio, we all faced ourselves in the mirror. As I watched myself, I kept my eye out for things I’d never noticed about myself before.

I noticed how strong I looked and I could see how my adventures have changed my body. I noticed how ‘in my body’ I was, too: I wasn’t trapped in my head. As I watched my body move, I noticed that I was not self-conscious or embarrassed in any way at all – rather, I was thrilled that my body was moving and enjoying the movement. I had invited it to dance and it had accepted the invitation ‘with knobs on’. And when it got to the floor work (I’d say you’d call that the ‘rudest bit’ 🀣), I noticed how playful my body was.

Burlesque dancing was a brilliant way of finding out where I am in my post-menopausal journey. I am happy to confirm that I feel free, confident, playful and have no hang-ups to speak of about my aging body. I actually love what my body can do – and wants to do. I love that it remembers how to do things, even when my mind has forgotten. I love that it still learns quickly (much faster than my mind). I love that it gives things a go – and keeps giving things a go until it find its own way of ‘getting the hang’ of it.

Burlesque dancing is also a brilliant way of connecting with other women. It was interesting to me that most of the group were young women (in their 20s and 30s), but there were some women there in their 40s – and at least two of us in our 50s. I felt a much stronger sense of sisterhood with the older women, and I have the feeling that if there were a class just for more mature women, it might be pretty wild!

If you’re interested in having a go at burlesque dancing, and you’re based in Northern Ireland, I strongly recommend Laura’s classes. The class I did was a single workshop, but there are courses spread over weeks too. You can do the Rock Goddess Burlesque class at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on 2 June!

I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks projectΒ here.)

JT πŸ™‚

A Wee Purple Patch!

This is what 100kg looks like

It’s just been one of those weeks, the kind where the stars are all in the right place πŸ™‚ .

Last night I went to CrossFit in a buoyant mood, the buzz of the recent 5K race still in my body. I was looking forward to the session because it included deadlifts.Β  This lift is one of the three that’ll be included in my powerlifting adventure in July and my training schedule has just upped a notch. (To be honest, when I looked at the new schedule I was nearly sick! Fortunately, the algorithm on the training spreadsheet hadn’t been tweaked to my personal settings. Once I had tweaked it, I didn’t feel soooooo sick, but the numbers still looked challenging!)

During last night’s session I had to lift 100kg (15 3/4 stone) – that’s just shy of twice my own body weight! I’ve never lifted 100kg before, but last night I did it and established a new 1RM (one rep max). Unfortunately, I don’t have a video or picture of me doing it, but I can tell you that as soon as that rep was done I was shouting ‘one hundred!’ and leaping around (and ringing the bell, which is what happens when you establish a new personal record).

If you don’t know what a deadlift is, here’s how it’s done:

This morning I was back in ‘the box’ practising split jerks. The focus was on working out which our lead leg was by experimenting with both legs (mine turned out to be my left). We also worked on dropping lower below the bar and on speed. You can see from the video below that I could probably drop a bit lower! Videoing practice sessions can help see where tweaks can be made:

Right, I think I’ve earned a wee rest. I am just going outside and may be some time. (Β (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks projectΒ here.)

JT πŸ™‚

Back in the (Human) Race

At the Purple Ladies 5K on 24 April 2019

I’m about 6 weeks away from my first track meet (for my 400m/800m sprinting adventures) and training is going well: I’m injury-free and still enjoying it – and I’ve no problems motivating myself to get out of the door and onto the road.

To spice up my training, I decided to enter a local 5K race. I’ve never raced at this distance before (the shortest I’ve raced is 10K – and the last time I raced at that distance was 1995 in Coventry). One of my current weekly runs is a speed-endurance session and I thought I’d hop along to this local 5K event and run a pacey 2K and jog the rest (which is all I needed to do to keep on track with my schedule).

Just before starting the Mourne Way Ultra in 2010

The last time I raced was in 2010: the Mourne Way Ultra in County Down, Northern Ireland. After that I went rogue and did all of my running on my own (or, when I was working towards a very tight writing deadline, not at all!). Turning up at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney to pick up my race number for the Purple Ladies 5KΒ  this Wednesday evening was a bit of a shock to the system after such a long time ‘off the circuit’.

The registration hall was a sea of club colours and I felt a bit intimidated and out of place. My nerves were calmed by the brilliant organisation of the host running club (Springwell). All competitors were given a very warm welcome and a lovely pep talk at the start line.

The man with the starter gun encouraged those aiming for a 20-minute finish time to move to the front. I thought I’d shadow the front runners as best I could for the first 2K and then ease off the pedal. I didn’t think I had a hope in hell of keeping up, but I knew that even if I could only see those front runners as specks on the horizon, just having them in my sights would keep me pushing on.

I don’t run with a wrist watch (I’m allergic to most straps and buckles), so I usually carry a stopwatch. Unfortunately, I’d left my stopwatch in the car, so I’d just have to rely on the faster runners to keep me going at a demanding pace for 2K and not worry too much about the time.

I stood back and let a layer of runners move up to the start line. The gun went and we were off! I’d warmed up really well and couldn’t believe how much I was enjoying the pace. During the first kilometre I was actually worried that something was terribly wrong. I kept asking myself ‘Why aren’t they running faster?’ and ‘Why isn’t anyone overtaking me?’ and ‘Was there actually a false start?’

After the first kilometre I thought I’d try having a wee chat with the runners next to me. (Having BIG chats is the norm in marathons and ultras, by the way.) The chatting didn’t work (as in, no one seemed that keen to chat back) so, in the end, I settled into (relatively) quiet running. (Okay. Okay. I did randomly chat every now and again. I’m a chatter, okay ? πŸ˜‰ It’s what I do: chat.)

Shelagh (in the top picture) and I ran together for about the first 3K. In the absence of chatting, I focused on the rhythm of my own breathing – and I realised that Shelagh and I were breathing synchronously. In the moment of recognising how our breathing was harmonised, I felt a lovely connection with my fellow runner. The synchronous breathing was the equivalent of chatting. We were telling each other how hard we were working, how we were doing, that we were ‘fully in the game’, that we were in this together. And in that moment I suddenly felt ‘back in the race’.

I’d say I’ve been ‘out of the race’ for the last couple of years. The human race, that is. As a writer, it’s easy to feel ‘cut off’. It’s easy to move into a different world and stay there until the job is done. It’s easy to get so used to being by yourself, that being with others feels odd. Running this 5K race, alongside Shelagh, I suddenly felt part of things again. Part of something bigger. Part of something more joyful. Part of something wildly alive.

Unfortunately, Shelagh dropped behind a little. I decided to push on and get the job done (with a sprinkling of light chat πŸ˜‰ ). I missed the 2K sign and just kept at a comfortable pace, crossing the finish line without knowing how long the 5K had taken. Shelagh came in just behind me and reckoned we’d done it in 22-something, which I was quite pleased with.

While there was very little in the way of in-race chatting, there was plenty of post-race chatting. It was lovely to talk to other runners and share congratulations. It was lovely to clap other runners across the line. I was really enjoying the whole experience! (I now realise the absence of chatting was due to the hard work being done!)

I decided to stay for the refreshments (the spread was AMAZING) and prize giving (something I’d usually avoid in my running past). I was enjoying the feeling of connection and of community – and I really wanted to stay and clap the prize winners too.

You can imagine my surprise when my name was called out as the second lady finisher in the 50+ category! I’d actually managed to clock a time of 22:26 – I was delighted πŸ™‚ . And I’d managed to finish 17th in a field of 258 runners πŸ™‚ .

I’ll tell you something for free: that old dog was wagging her tail rightly πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ .

I’m sure something changed for me as I crossed that finish line on Wednesday. I’m not exactly sure what it is yet. I feel more open to connecting with other people, that’s for sure. I feel there is less of a gap between me and the outside world. I feel closer to the surface of myself, while still being deeply rooted somewhere inside. And there’s something else … an urge to reach out, I think (I even thought about joining the local running club … and I haven’t been a club runner for about 15 years!). Something big is on the move, anyway. I’ll let you know what it is when it shows itself πŸ™‚ .

In the meantime, I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks projectΒ here.)

JT πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰ .

In my early 30s the urge to dance re-emerged when I trained to be a fitness instructor.Β  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 πŸ™‚ .

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 πŸ˜‰ ) 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 πŸ˜‰ ). 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,Β  one of the top performers in Ireland and a well respected producer throughout Europe.

Here’s Soup DuJour doing her thing πŸ™‚

Right. I suppose I’d better go and limber up then πŸ˜‰ . (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 πŸ™‚

Radio Adventure!

Last week I went along to the BBC studios to talk to Colum Arbuckle about my #OldDogNewTricks adventures. The programme is an hour long and you can listen to it here. WARNING: singing is included!

Colum Arbuckle BBC Radio Ulster

I hope you enjoy listening!

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

JT πŸ™‚

Celebrating all the Wins!

The last couple of weeks have been full of adventure, and I’m really enjoying getting things ‘under my belt’. I’m learning that the ‘having a go’ bit is where the real juice is, and whilst it’s lovely to achieve a goal, it’s the process of getting there that’s the real win for me.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I took my grade 8 Musical Theatre exam on 01 April. That was my first official #OldDogNewTricks adventure – and the results are in! *Drum roll* *Trumpets* *Dry ice* I actually got a Distinction, the top grade possible – and I was wearing my dressing gown in the exam too πŸ˜‰ (that’s the Mikado Effect πŸ˜‰ ). I’ll receive more detail about each element of the exam in due course, but in the meantime, I’m celebrating ‘the win’ πŸ™‚ .

You’ll also remember that I competed in the CrossFit Open for the very first time during February and March. CrossFit is helping me to prepare physically for my sprinting, powerlifting and swimming adventures. There were lots of things I couldn’t do during the Open (like handstand press-ups and double unders – where the rope passes twice beneath your feet between skips – and muscle ups), but there were lots of things I could (that I couldn’t do when I started CrossFit). I’m so glad I took part: it helped me to raise my game and I got to know other competing athletes at our box (gym) much better.

Here are my rankings for the CrossFit Open 2019, Female Masters (50-54). There’s another Open in October this year (due to a change in the way the Open will work in the future), so I’m going to give that a shot too. Who knows? I may be able to do handstand press-ups by then!

Emboldened by my experience of the Open, I recently gave weighted pull ups a go for the very first time – and I did it! Okay, I only managed to carry an extra 6kg, but I was thrilled with that. Here’s what a weighted pull up is – and how to do one. (And this experience really reminded me of the importance of just giving things a go because you never know what’s in you until you try something).

That’s all for now. In the meantime, I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT πŸ™‚

Making the Connection

Before I started this project, all my best ‘big thoughts’ and light bulb moments arrived during my long Sunday runs. I think it was something to do with the repetitive, rhythmic and ‘mindless’ nature of the beast. The right hypnotic conditions were present for my unconscious mind to talk to me direct, mano a mano.

Since the long Sunday runs no longer exist, my unconscious mind has been finding new ways to get its foot in the door. My dreams are changing: there are new dreamscapes for me to explore. My twice-weekly recovery swims are full of whispers from ‘the other side’ (although, when the pool is busy, the whisper becomes inaudible as I have to focus so much on avoiding collisions!). Today while I was between hill reps (this is a very short recovery interval of about 45 seconds), my unconscious mind decided it would have to keep with the programme and use the short downtime to have a wee chat πŸ˜‰ .

‘Do you know what’s really in it for you?’ it asked. I was too busy catching my breath to answer, but I was keen to listen: it had my attention because it was a ‘surprise attack’ .Β  I’m now used to the ‘flow voice’, encouraging me to keep going or to push. I’m used to the ‘direct command’. What I’m not used to (during a sprint session) is the conversational approach that I usually associate with my long run.

‘Connection is in it for you. And you’re learning something, but you don’t know what it is yet,’ it said. I turned and ran another repetition, so hard that I could only hear my heart beating – everything else went quiet, including the chat-voice of my unconscious mind.

On my recovery jog I expected to hear the voice again, but I didn’t. Instead I began to think about in how many different ways #OldDogNewTricks is helping me to connect at a deep, joyful and honest level with all sorts of people from all walks of life. I’m really enjoying meeting (face to actual face, old skool style!) people who are passionate about what they do, who are inspiring to be around and from whom I can learn all sorts of things. I’m really enjoying honouring my own instinct to reach out and connect in my own way.

As for the learning? I love following the threads of enquiry that my reading is throwing up. Matt Fitzgerald’sΒ How Bad Do You Want It? had such an impact on me that I wrote to him to let him know. He wrote back! It was lovely to experience that moment of connection πŸ™‚ .

I’ve also joined an online community of active women who are exploring sports nutrition and performance – and, as a result, I’m experimenting with a whole new range of ideas and concepts to support my sprinting and powerlifting adventures. I’m learning from the CrossFit coaches and from other athletes at my box (gym). And I’m learning more about my own edges, beliefs and drivers: I feel I’m getting closer to the core of myself. I’m learning all this,and more, but I don’t think that’s THE learning. Even typing this blog, I can sense something really big … it’s close … but I can’t see it yet. The hairs are standing on end on my arms …

Whatever it is that’s driving the energy for my adventures, I’m getting closer to it – and I think it’s letting me get closer. I think that’s an important distinction: it’s letting me. I think it may have been waiting for me for a while now πŸ˜‰ . I’ll keep you posted as I discover more.

In the meantime, I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT πŸ™‚

Upping my Game!

In today’s video-blog I share some of things I’m doing to improve my performance and optimise my adventure experiences! In the video I

  • Talk about my recent musical theatre exam and the notion of ‘faking it’.
  • Review 3 books: The Rise of Superman (Kotler), Over the Edge (Bane) andΒ How Bad Do You Want It? (Fitzgerald).
  • Talk about my current experiment with the sports supplement, creatine monohydrate.

Below the video you’ll find details of the books I mention (click on the cover image and it’ll take you straight to Amazon) and The Rise of Superman YouTube video. You can find out more about creatine monohydrate here and here.Β 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m just going outside and may be some time πŸ™‚ (Oh, and if you missed the beginning of my #OldDogNewTricks adventure series, you can read more about what I’m up to here. )

JT

Going with the Flow

Today I’m video-blogging for a change! In the video-blog I talk about some of the unusual things that have been happening over the last two weeks:

  1. Experiencing a sentient landscape.
  2. Hearing my flow voice.

I’ve popped details of the books I mention, along with info about the CrossFit Open heats and Olympic lifting sessions, below the video-blog.

Alan Garner’s Thursbitch Every inch of this book is breathtaking: from the vivid language (which you need to tune your ear to, but the effort is well worth it) to the awe-inspiring depiction of a sentient landscape (a landscape that has a presence and that can feel yours); and from the interweaving of ancient rites and echoes from the past with a shifting and uncertain present to the gradual melting of boundaries in the liminal space that is the Thursbitch valley.Β 

 

Steven Kotler’s The Rise of SupermanΒ This is all about what ‘flow’ is and how to create conditions to access it (even when you’re not an adventure sports junkie πŸ™‚ ). I’m about halfway through and just getting onto the ‘how to’ bit. I’d say you need to be prepared to wade through a lot of stuff about men doing daredevil stuff (and couched in sports-technical terms) to get to the real juice, but it is worth sticking with. (Shame more women don’t get a mention. In fact, no women mentioned so far ….)

Here’s what I’ve been learning in the Olympic lifting technique sessions over the last 2 weeks (clean and jerk):

And here are the last two heats I’ve completed in the CrossFit Open 2019. For 19.3 I managed all the lunges and box step-ups but couldn’t manage a single handstand press-up (even though I had plenty of time!). For 19.4 I managed 4 rounds plus 6 pull-ups (so 16 pull-ups in total). The pull-ups were the limiting factor for me 😦 .

 

 

I’m just going outside and may be some time πŸ™‚

JT

Living the Dream

January was a busy month for me: it takes a while to get an adventure support crew together, and it takes a while to devise a workable plan. I need to be able to train for the three physical challenges and rehearse for the musical theatre challenge – and do regular work on top of all that! I’ve also done lots of research for each adventure (more on what each adventure entails in another post πŸ™‚ ) and taken some baseline measurements, so I can keep track of the kind of progress I’m making.

And it seems my preparations have not just been of a conscious nature. If you followed my 365 Days of Adventure project, you’ll know I’m a lucid dreamer and had some insightful dream adventures back in 2014. Well, let’s just say that my dreams seem to be aligning with my new adventure reality at world record speed! And let’s just say that the nature of a dream I had in early January is really significant. (In this case, I’m yet to discover if my conscious mind is catching up with my unconscious mind – and the dream is just letting me know the catch-up is complete. Or might it be that my unconscious mind is just giving the big thumbs up to my adventure plans? I’ll keep you posted as and when I discover more …).

So, to the dream in question! For the last 35 years, I’ve had a recurring dream. In the dream, I’m crouched in starting blocks on an athletics track (yes, I know!). I can see the track. I can see my feet and my hands. I’m unaware of other runners. The gun goes off and I push hard with my legs. I can feel an incredible force going through my body, but IΒ  have real difficulty in getting out of the blocks and moving forward. Even when I get out of the blocks (which I sometimes manage), the sense of inertia is overwhelming. I push and I push, my lungs are bursting, but I never get to the upright position. The feeling that goes with the dream is a kind of fear: it feels like my life depends on getting out of the blocks. I also feel a heavy weight pushing down on me and pulling me back. There’s a sense that I could be crushed if I don’t move, and I feel winded.

Before I had this dream (from being a small child into my late teens), I had another recurring dream with the same feeling tone (fear) and a similar theme (feeling like my life depended on running but having the experience of overwhelming inertia and not being able to ‘escape’). In my childhood dream I’m in Ancient Egypt. Everything is dark but the buildings are orange and there’s sand flying everywhere. There are chariots racing through the place I’m in. I’m tiny and I risk getting caught up in the wheels of the chariots. I know I need to run, but I have the same ‘starter block’ experience. I’m trying really hard, but I can’t get any traction – and I can’t get into the upright position. I feel winded.

In the first week of January the starting block dream arrived. It’s arrival was no surprise: it’s a regular visitor! However, something strange happened. This time, the gun went off and there was no inertia. For the first time in 35 years of this dream (and a lifetime of this dream theme), there was nothing holding me back. There was no fear. I pushed hard against the blocks and flew straight out of them. I felt strong. My body was alive to the moment. There was an enormous sense of forward propulsion.

The dream had such an impact on me that I woke straight up! I don’t know what happens next in this dream because it’s not revisited me … yet. Part of me doesn’t think it’ll make a return. That’s because part of me thinks I’ve ‘got the message’ and I’m living out something that’s really important to me. What that ‘something’ is, I’m yet to fully understand. I will keep you posted, of course – and I’ll let you know if and when the dream returns.

In the meantime, I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT πŸ™‚