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 35kg  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 is  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 😉 ). 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 🤣🤣🤣.  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 project here.)

JT 🙂

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 🙂

Chatty Woman Goes to Cookstown

You’ve probably worked out by now that ‘organisation’ is my middle name! I don’t think I’d be able to adventure so, well … er, adventurously 😉  (and fulfil the rest of my daily commitments) without lots of up-front planning.

Getting in shape for my upcoming burlesque workshop! (I did weighted pull-ups last week 🙂 )

Next weekend (19 May) sees the arrival of my much anticipated burlesque adventure. I’ve spent the last week digging around in my ‘dressing up box’ to make sure I’m suitably equipped to get the most out of the experience. I’m going all out for this adventure, I reckon: the feather boa’s coming along (as are the all-the-way-up-the-arm gloves, the ridiculously high heels and other ‘unspeakable accessories’ 😉 ).

The burlesque outfit is very much in contrast to the powerlifting accoutrements I purchased in Cookstown yesterday. Even though the powerlifting competition isn’t until July, I need to get used to lifting in knee sleeves, wrist wraps and a belt – and I definitely need to break the belt in! (Scroll down for a wee ‘show and tell’ video blog 😉 )

Whilst I could have ordered the powerlifting kit online, I wasn’t sure about my size so I drove over to Performance Nutrition Plus in Cookstown who stock NIPF-approved gear.

Here’s Dana doing her thing!

I’m so glad I decided to get myself over to Cookstown. The folk at Performance Nutrition Plus are super friendly and totally in-the-know. I was looked after by Dana Suitor, who just happens to hold the current NI bench press record  (under-23; 72 kg class): an impressive 80kg! Dana is also representing Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in Canada this September. (Athletes don’t receive any financial support to attend the championships, by the way. If you’d like to support Dana, do visit her GoFundMe page here. #LetsGetDanaToCanada 🙂 )

You’ll know from previous posts that I’m quite the chatter. Dana is also a chatter! It was so inspiring to hear about her powerlifting journey and I loved the way she treated me as a fellow strength athlete (even though I’m only a rookie!). She asked about my own training and gave me lots of encouragement. Like a good tailor, she was able to estimate both my weight and kit-size by eye alone; and she spent lots of time showing me how to put the kit on and making sure the fit was spot on. I’d say Dana is a fabulous ambassador for the sport.

Dana is 30 years younger than me and it was brilliant having one of those across-the-generations moments with her. She’s got incredible focus, energy and something that I’ve noticed in other adventurers I’ve met along the way: a special kind of ‘denseness’or solidity.  Of course, Dana is physically dense and solid (she’s obviously very strong and muscular), but I’m not really talking about that kind of ‘denseness’ or solidity. I’m talking about the kind of denseness and solidity that comes with being totally present, totally in-the-game and all-in. I’m taking about the kind of denseness and solidity that comes with enthusiasm, passion and dedication. I’m talking about the kind of denseness and solidity that is present when who someone is (their identity) is in complete alignment with what they do.

In my experience, this kind of ‘denseness’ is quite rare, but I’ve found plenty of pockets of it since starting my #OldDogNewTricks project. I see it at the CrossFit box. I see it in the young people waiting for their music lessons (when I’m waiting for my lesson). I saw it at the 5K race I recently competed in.

When the ‘denseness’ isn’t there, I experience people like ghosts – only partially present and sometimes not present at all!

Anyway, on that philosophical note I’ll leave you to watch my video blog. And while you’re watching that, I’ll start wearing that belt in!

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 project here.)

JT 🙂

 

The Icewoman Cometh

In my last blog post I mentioned the book What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney. Today I’m posting a video blog about my own experiences of the Wim Hof Method. I’m doing the breathing exercises 5-6 days a week, and I’m managing to do the cold showers 6 days a week (sometimes multiple times a day, depending on my training schedule). Below the video blog you’ll find links to Scott’s book, to the free Wim Hof Method 3-part video series and I’ve also posted a video about Wim Hof. There’s a whole heap of stuff about Wim Hof (and others using his method) on YouTube. It’s worth doing your own research, having a go and making your own mind up about the whole process 🙂 .

Here’s one of the many interesting YouTube videos about Wim Hof:

Click on the cover image to find the book on Amazon.
Go here to access Wim Hof’s free 3-part video series.

I am off for another cold shower, and then 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 project here.)

JT 🙂

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 😉 (that’s the Mikado Effect 😉 ). I’ll receive more detail about each element of the exam in due course, but in the meantime, I’m celebrating ‘the win’ 🙂 .

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 🙂

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

In this post I’m going to talk a little bit about the significance of my musical theatre adventure, explain what it involves and give you an idea of where I’m at with it right now.

You might look at the four adventures I’ve chosen for 2019 and think that my musical theatre adventure is, somehow, the odd one out. Of course, when I follow an adventure impulse, I’m not really thinking logically; I’m not really looking for a connection. And, to be honest, if I try to look ‘consciously’, sometimes it isn’t easy to see the connection. But the connection is always there!

When I’m out on my long runs, I usually run myself into a place where insights come thick and fast. Only trouble is, I’m all out of long runs since starting my track adventures. My mind is taken up with counting lengths in the pool, so there’s no ‘idling’ time – no crack for the insights to squeeze through. And powerlifting, for me, is all focus: 100% of my mind-body is 100% on the job.

Where I am getting idling time is between sprints. It’s not much time, but it seems to be time enough for the message to be transmitted and received. Last week, during an early morning session, I was (literally) idling my way back to the start line for the next repetition, when I had the thought that my musical theatre adventure holds the essence of all my adventures – and it holds an echo of the original ‘call to adventure’ I had in my teenage years. Let me explain 🙂 .

In order to sing, you have to have full control over your instrument: your voice. Your voice is supported by your whole body, both physically and emotionally (and, yes, the more physically and emotionally fit you are, the more control you have over your instrument 🙂 ).  It takes a while to master your instrument: you have to learn how to move your voice around your body, how to pull emotions out of long-forgotten places, how to be ‘in the song’ and connect ‘through the song’ at the same time. It isn’t easy! But once you have control, you can really start to play your instrument. And that’s the insight right there: I’m remembering how to play and I’m playing full out! I’m playing the life out of myself. I’m playing as if my life depended on it – because I think it actually does. When I’m singing, I feel fully alive, connected and ‘all in’.

So playing full out is the connection between all the adventures – and that spirit of play drives the impulse for adventure. For all my physical adventures, I need to have full control over ‘my instrument’ – and that’s starting to happen as my body and mind respond to the new training loads. As my mind-body responds, I’m able to experience a kind of play. It’s not easy to explain exactly what’s going on, but the more I ‘show up’ for each of my adventures, the harder I play. And the harder I play, the more the world around me seems to play right back  and I find myself in a perpetual state of playfulness (more on this in another post!).

I think the musical theatre adventure was the first to announce itself because the part of me that’s driving these adventures is a part of me I heard, but ignored, a very long time ago. Music was my thing right from primary school days. When I was at secondary school, I was in all the school plays and loved being in the musicals, often taking the lead role. The thing is, I never took music to be a serious thing. I thought it was too easy. I thought that academic study had more value, and so when I went to 6th-form, my focus gradually shifted entirely to academic subjects, and I eventually stopped my music lessons just before going to university. (I should add that the singing part of me must have been pretty desperate for me to carry on because it made me teach myself the guitar just before leaving home, so I could keep on singing if I needed to!)

From a Hero’s Journey point of view, I’d had the call to adventure and that call was loud and clear. Up until just before I went to university, music was my life: when I was performing on my own or in an orchestra or a choir, I felt ALIVE and CONNECTED – and it felt so easy and natural to me. I knew what the call meant. I knew it would mean ‘ditching’ the academic path (which, by the way, was also a brilliant and adventurous route 🙂 ). I made what I thought was the sensible choice and ignored the call.

Now in my 50s, I realise the call never stopped. I just tuned it out and now I’m tuned back into it again. And I’m listening. And I’m hearing it properly. I’m letting it in, and I’m following it this time. And there is still time. There’s always time. And, somehow, I think if I follow this call, then everything else will follow 🙂 . (I’ll keep you posted about that theory 😉 ). What that everything else is, I don’t know – but I do know that something is there waiting for me and that it’s been waiting a very long time! And I also know (don’t ask me how!) that the other adventures are part of a readying, a ripening, a quickening – and that’s a thrilling feeling. I’m getting read to play my whole self full out: my life-concerto.

So where am I at with my musical theatre adventure at the moment? Well, I’ve entered the exam (grade 8) and I’ve chosen my pieces. The exam will be in mid-March and I’m at the stage where I’m having to let go of the manuscript and make each performance my own. For the exam, I have to perform 4 pieces (and talk about them) and a piece of libretto, and I have to sight-read a piece of libretto too. If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, you can find out more about what the exam entails here.

Here are the pieces I’ve chosen. My aim was to build a balanced programme and to sing pieces which meant something to me. First up is ‘Lili Marlene’, which I’ll be singing in German. This piece reminds me of my grandparents who used to tell me stories about their experiences in World War 2. I think of them when I’m singing it.

My second piece is ‘Send in the Clowns’ from ‘A Little Night Music.’ I chose this because I’m old enough to have regrets and to know that I’ve been a fool (on many occasions)! The first time I heard this I was a child and Bruce Forsyth was singing it. I really loved the song and I understood the clown-sadness behind his performance (there were even pierrot dancers). But the song is really not about that kind of clown at all.

My third song is full of yearning passion – and it’s from an opera (‘Marie Galante’) that completely failed! I’m all for standing up for brilliant failures: in fact, I consider myself an expert in the field of brilliant failure 😉 . The song is called ‘Youkali’ and it’s sung by a character who is a prostitute. I’ll be singing this in French.

My last song is a Gilbert and Sullivan classic from the Mikado: ‘The Sun Whose Rays are all Ablaze’. It’s really playful. It’s a bit panto-mimey and it’s a bit show-offy. So, really, it’s very me! (My required piece of libretto  is from this too.)

I’ll keep you posted about this adventure as things develop. My next posts will be about what my physical adventures entail.

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

JT 🙂

Adventure 221 ~ Watch The Wheel Of Nature Turn

As a result of adventuring on a daily basis, I’m becoming more attuned to what’s happening around me. I’m more present (that’s for certain) , but something else is emerging too : a desire to notice change, a desire to track the cycle of Nature.

I have the impression that I’ve missed a great deal over the years. One minute the blossom is on the trees, the next the leaves are on the ground. Now, I’m going to slow right down and remember what I noticed as a child : the slow turning of Nature’s wheel.

Today, I watch the wheel turning on the farm 🙂 .

I am just going outside and may be some time.

JT