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™‚

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™‚

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™‚

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

Feeding the Beast

Today I’m talking a little bit about how I’m eating to support my adventure goals. My training schedule is intense and that means that I’ve had to work hard to make my nutrition work for me πŸ™‚ . It might also surprise you to know that I also have to fuel up for my musical theatre lessons: they are very physical indeed! I treat those singing lessons just like any other workout – and if I’m not well fuelled, I just don’t have the energy to support my voice.

In the video-blog I describe a typical day’s eating and mention some of my favourite ‘finds’. The recipes I talk about are listed below the video (with either full recipe details or a link to a recipe). If you think my eyes look a bit weird, don’t worry! I’m just out of the pool and my goggle-marks take ages to fade πŸ™‚ .

Just so you know, I also don’t drink alcohol, I aim for 6-8 portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and I avoid processed foods. I make my own scones, wheaten loaf and bread as often as I can. I’ve been following a phytoestrogen-rich way of eating to support my menopausal and post-menopausal experience for a while now (I can recommend The Natural Menopause Cookbook)Β and I am pleased to say that I’ve weathered the whole transition without a single hot flush, headache or any weight gain whatsoever. My diet is usually largely vegetarian, but (at the moment) I do eat red meat once or twice a week, oily fish twice a week and white fish once a week. I only eat whole grains too (so wholewheat pasta, wholemeal spelt bread, brown rice etc.). Oh, and I take filter coffee by the bucketful πŸ˜‰ .

Porridge
Soak a cup of oats and a tsp of oat bran in water overnight. In the morning add three handfuls of frozen berries (I like a mix of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries) to the saucepan, along with extra water if required. When the porridge starts to bubble, serve with a handful of chopped nuts (I like Brazil nuts best of all with porridge) and a heaped tsp of ground flax seeds or chia seeds. Add a shake of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey and you are good to go! (Honestly, this is my favourite meal of the day πŸ™‚ .)

Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup
This recipe from the BBC GoodFood website is completely reliable and freezes really well. I eat it with a sandwich/wholewheat baguette. It works really well with a melted blue cheese and rocket sandwich! Also good with an egg or ham sandwich.

Protein Shake
I blend the following and drink immediately. By the way, I like a very thick shake. If you prefer ‘thin’, add milk! 1 banana, 1 slice of pineapple, 1 tbsp of natural yoghurt, 1 heaped tsp of nut butter, 1 scoop of protein powder (I sue egg white protein or whey isolate). When blended, sprinkle on some cinnamon and enjoy!

Banana Ice Cream
Peel a banana and freeze for 3-4 hours. Remove from freezer and blend with a tsp of nut butter. Eat! (It tastes much better than it looks πŸ™‚ )

 

Wholemeal Wheaten Bread
This recipe is really reliable. I replace all the white flour with wholemeal spelt (makes it denser but I prefer it this way) and I replace the sugar with a tsp of honey. Don’t skimp on the salt! This loaf is beautiful topped with peanut butter and banana. Also works well with cheese and honey, and homemade lemon curd and butter.

In case you were curious about the fifth and final heat for the CrossFit Open (which I’m completing tonight), here are the details:

 

And here’s what a thruster looks like!

Right. I think I need a little lie-down before 19.5, tonight’s CrossFit heat. And maybe a wee piece of wheaten bread πŸ˜‰ .

I am just going outside and may be some time.

JT πŸ™‚

Tales of the Unexpected #2

Since my last post, I’ve been to my weekly musical theatre lesson, trained in the pool, completed another powerlifting session and been out sprint training. Since my last post, I’ve also added some new questions to my original list and the answers are eye-opening (and heart-and-mind-opening too πŸ™‚ )

My new list of questions is:

  1. How old do you feel right now?
  2. What makes you say that?
  3. Who or what are you being when you’re doing this?
  4. Where are you really when you’re doing this?

When I’m adventuring, I ask these questions and I wait for an answer to pop into my head, which usually comes in the form of an image (in NLP we call this an IR or an internal representation).

Question 3 is what you might call an ‘identity enquiry’. The more expansive your identity (compare ‘I’m just a mum’, a restricted identity, with ‘I can grow human beings in my own body’, an expansive identity), the more ‘freedom to move’ in life you might experience. So, let’s say your body is physically capable of lifting a certain weight, but at an identity level you see yourself as ‘just a wee scrawny thing’, your identity is likely to trump your capability. This means you may fail at the lift, even though youΒ  have the ability to do it. In short, an expansive identity stacks the deck in your favour! (You can find more info on the significance of identity and the NLP Logical Levels model here and here.)

Question 4 might give me more clues about the motivation behind each of my adventures. The answers to this question might also let me know if I’m ‘trapped’ somewhere in my personal history.

So, what do I know now that I didn’t know a few days ago? *Spoiler Alert* MY MIND IS BLOWN! Here’s what came up for me:

Musical Theatre / Performing
1. I’m 16 years old (the year ‘the Call to Adventure‘ was probably at its loudest).
2. I can see myself in my school uniform, wearing a mulberry-coloured jumper. I wore that in my final year of secondary school.
3. I’m the universe. (Now that’s what I call expansive!) In fact, I’m the multiverse. I’m everything at once. I’m old. I’m young. I’m at the beginning, the middle and the end of all possibilities – all at the same time. I’m swirling galaxies all about me … riding supernovae …. #SuperCool #OutOfThisWorld No wonder I feel so alive when I’m singing or storytelling or performing!
4. I’m really in a tiny church on the outskirts of Coventry. It’s a hot afternoon. I’m performing a recorder solo (that was ‘my instrument’) – treble. I’m playing Bononcini followed by Telemann. It’s all in a minor key. I love minor keys. My body is in the church, but I’ve played myself out of my body and into deep space! The memory is vivid now. I was reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while rehearsals were going on. It was my last school concert. In fact, it was the very last time I played solo recorder in concert. It was the very last time I let ‘The Call’ tempt me. #ShouldHaveFollowedIt. I can’t find what I was playing, but it would have been something like this:

Sprinting
1. I’m not me, but who I am being is in their late teens / early 20s.
2. (See the next answer. #CuriouserAndCuriouser)
3. I’m being my father or the part of me that is my father.
4. I’mΒ really doing rather well in a muddyΒ  cross-country race. I’m running like the wind. (My dad narrowly missed securing a GB vest. He went on to become a very talented long-distance runner and was also very difficult to keep up with on the football pitch. Now in his 70s, he’s still really physically active and in rude health). I think it’s a perfect memory to be ‘trapped’ in for my sprinting adventure – even if it isn’t exactly my own!

Powerlifting
1. I’m a teenager.
2. I can see my Adidas trainers! They’re white with green stripes. #SuperTrendy
3. I’m being a total failure, even though I’m trying really hard. I’m tiny and everyone else is big. I’m weak and everyone else is strong and powerful.
4. I’m really on the school sports field. It’s sports day. I’ve volunteered to do the events that no one else will because I want to help out Streather, my house. (We’re not a sporty house at all. Raison is the sporty house and Bennel is the clever house. We’re the ‘misfit’ house.) I fail on the first attempt at the high jump (I collapse UNDER the bar), come last in the long jump, and nearly drop the shot on my foot. I feel humiliated and I decide that the sports field is not for me. #TrueStory (This is really good information. I’m finding the powerlifting the hardest and I’ve no doubt the younger me could do with a bit of help breaking out of this memory!)

Swimming
1. I’m 12 or 13.
2. I have the haircut I had then – a Purdey cut.
3. An Olympic hopeful. (Yep! You read that right).
4. I’m really poolside with David Wilkie (Olympic breaststroker). ‘ had my picture taken with him at the Pingles in Nuneaton. He toured schools in the late 70s and early 80s, inspiring children to take up swimming as a sport. (So I’m not trapped in that humiliating butterfly experience I’ve mentioned before; I’m actually at the beginning of a BIG dream. Just happens that the dream got ‘cut down’ before I really got going. The energy is still there though. And I’m going to use it! In fact, it’s probably what I feel when I’m doing my recovery sessions in the pool right now: it’s a feeling of alignment, of purpose and of drive – even though I’m just swimming for recovery!)

(And just out of interest) Writing
1. I’m as old as time itself.
2. I’m watching the universe get made. (I get to see the best things!)
3. I’m the Song of all Things. (I feel very emotional writing those words – and I have used those words in one of my new stories). Good to have such an expansive writing identity! I LOVE it πŸ™‚
4. I’mΒ really at the very beginning of time, watching the moon get hung in the sky. (Really. I was actually there.) I’m seeing the beginning of every story that will ever get told.

So it looks like I’m mostly stacking the deck in my favour, although I have a little work to do for my powerlifting adventure!I’m also beginning to see some of the ‘why’ behind this year’s adventures. I’m going to let the insights settle – and see what comes up next. And you? What answers come up for you when you ask these questions about your daily work, your passions, your interests – and even the things you don’t really enjoy?Β 

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

JT πŸ™‚

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™‚