Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Praying What I Preach {...and dammit! I like my curves!}

Most of the time I'm in workout type clothes. Most weekday mornings find me changing from sweat drenched Zumba clothes into workout capris or leggings, a sports bra and a tank top (with a shower in between, of course). It's not that I'm addicted to working out or the clothes that go with, but rather I just change right into what I will be wearing later in the day when I teach Ballet and/or Contemporary Lyrical (3 nights a week) or a Mat Pilates class. I tend to be one of those people that, once I'm comfy in my clothes, I don't want to change. I say all that to say that I don't necessarily check in with all my jeans as frequently as one might think. I don't have that many and tend to favor certain ones. Warm weather has me lovin the Spring dresses.

So last Saturday (weekends I dress in "regular" clothes) I reached into my jeans drawer and grabbed a pair I hadn't worn in awhile. Gotta backtrack a bit here. A few years ago I made a big overhaul to how I eat and how I feed my family. While I wasn't necessarily heavy, I had definitely filled out. I had gotten rather curvy compared to my 20's early 30's self. The first thing a visiting friend of ours who hadn't seen us in a number of years said upon our reunion was, "Whoa! You have boobies now!" Which in fact I finally did! All my other squishy parts were fairly filled in as well. My friend wasn't pointing out the changes in my body as anything negative. She was just surprised. We have know each other since our teens and she hadn't seen me in quite awhile. To tell the truth, it was the first time I had ever felt really womanly and sexy. In past years, years closer to my youthful ones, I spent many of those years in a much more waif-ish state. At times, dangerously waif-ish. As well as dangerously miserable.

Like I said, I was feeling sexy, but I also starting to suspect that I was going to continue in what I termed as my  "I Finally Have A Bra Size/ Ass Expansion Program". In addition, there were some other issues that compelled me into changing my diet, and consequently how I worked out.

Anyhow, going back about three years, I lost around 25 pounds and significantly changed my body composition. I leaned out, especially in places that I'm not really prone to leaning out in, my backside. I felt pretty good about the changes in my appearance. Overall, I had dropped 4 dress sizes. Suddenly I was in a size that I hadn't been in since I was in my early 20's. Except now I was eating pretty dang healthy, getting plenty of protein, healthy fats and nutrients. I had to phase out most all of my pants and shorts and replace them with new ones (thank goodness for ROSS and the clearance rack at Target). One thing started to bug me though. I had pretty much lost my booty.

In my younger years my backside had always been one of my best features. Even more so in my older years, especially once I started filling out in my mid-30's. Once I lost the weight though, I noticed that my funk in the trunk had pretty much deflated. That's the best way I can describe it. While I had started doing more resistance training with weights, I really hadn't put focused efforts into strengthening the muscles of my glutes and quads. Plus, I started noticing some other things; if I didn't really keep track of how I was eating I would lean out a little more than I really wanted to, making me feel not quite right. I also noticed that my hair was thinning out. Yikes! I started to seriously think about trying to rock this style-

Sonya Tayeh. I love her!

I tweaked a few things since then. All's well.

So, back to me and my jeans. Last Saturday I grabbed a pair from my drawer and threw them on. Well, I didn't necessarily throw them on. Actually I broke into a bit of a sweat doing a mix of Sumo wrestler type moves and punk rock Pogo dancing. After fastening them I had to check the security of the seams by executing some squats. While presentable for public viewing, I had to think twice about any moves that would require kneeling, crouching or deep bending. I also felt a little pang of panic and started to wonder where I was going wrong, seeing as how my pants were revolting against me. As soon as possible, later in the day, I peeled (like a second skin) them off and put on comfy p.j. pants (the sun was still high in the sky). The next day, having grabbed another pair of jeans that I haven't worn in a while, the same thing; a struggle to get the opening of the pants up and over my thighs and butt. I got mid-thigh and thought, "To hell with this!" Tossed the pants aside and just as I started to go into the brain-space of failure mode I realized something. I'll get to that something in just a second.

But first...

I'm not a fan of frequently weighing one's self. Especially if you've been doing things with diet, lifestyle and exercise (especially the exercise thing if you've been doing muscle building resistance training). Most scales just tell one side of the story. Not even a side really. Just a number. I can fill a bag with dirt and another with gold, each bag equaling 10 lbs. The number on the scale tells me nothing of the value or possibilities contained in each bag. Just how much they weight.

Ever seen the difference between what a pound of fat looks like compared to a pound of muscle? Or in this case, 5 lbs.

Image source;

I know! Crazy, huh?

I tend to recommend that one should go by how their clothes fit, and not necessarily by what the scale says. I do weight myself, but only about once a month. If I even remember to.

So, in praying what I preach, what do my tight pants mean? Over the last few years I've fluctuated in a 5-7 pound range. Nothing that should be of concern, at least not to me. Especially considering the complexities of women and hormones.

So if my pants are tight, but my weight isn't drastically different, and what have I been eating, and will I have to now go up a pant size, and should I exercise more, and, and, and (cue screeching car breaks, random items crashing to the floor off of a collapsed shelf, maybe a surprised cat).

I LIKE HOW MY BUTT LOOKS! (Oh, yeah. That's the something I was talking about earlier)

Certainly if by some work of wizardry I could exchange it for a slightly different model I would certainly entertain the idea. But reality being what it is (plastic surgery is not wizardry. It has a failure rate, possible side effects and a recovery time), I'm pretty okay with what I've got to work with. Mostly because of work I've been doing to try and build up my glutes, thighs and hamstrings. Basically, my legs as a whole. Squats, lunges, step ups, dead lifts, one legged dead lifts, good mornings, Bavarian split squats, and the gluteal work I do in mat Pilates and Balletone. All of my dancing takes care of the quads. The rest, maybe I've filled out a bit. But (do I intend a pun here?) I'm okay with the results. I would say even damn happy about it. I'm not exactly where I want to be with my "Dream Booty" (seriously? I'm not sure if I can even take myself seriously with that!). My legs look strong, and most importantly for me, like they belong to a woman. Because that's what I am. A woman. Not the media or Hollywood's version, not Photo-shopped into unrealistic ridiculousness version, and definitely not a woman who's worth is determined by her jean size or weight.

The Universe doesn't care what my size or weight is when I'm laughing on the couch with my husband and kids. Or when I'm sharing special moments with family and friends. Being of a certain size and weight mean so little in the great big picture of everything that goes into what makes me me.

The exact same thing is true for you.

Yes, eating healthy, at least most of the time, is important. As is getting exercise (find something you love, stick with it. Do some resistance training whether you love it or not), getting enough sleep (raise your hand if you struggle with that one...

...yup. Me too)

and trying to reduce stress in your everyday life. Health and wellness are gifts we should all strive to give ourselves.

Before you bristle over what the scale says or how that one (or two) pair of jeans fits, stop and ask yourself if you even care. Stop and take notice of your amazingness (Urban Dictionary says it's a word). That, my friend, cannot be quantified by a mere number on a scale or item of clothing.

And find a comfortable pair of pants to wear.

Okay, funny stuff!

Thanks for hanging out and reading!

Enjoy the dance that is life!


Friday, January 31, 2014

"Royals" Dance Fitness Routine {and a Lyrical snippet}.

I've had some requests for a video of my "Royals" dance fitness routine. So, here it is! This routine was inspired by the fun, sexy and playful flavors of the Burlesque style, so once you get comfy with the steps start firing up that attitude. Although I would say go straight to working the flavor. It's just more fun that way!

In this post I also have a video snippet of a piece I've started in my Lyrical class.

"Royal" dance fitness routine. Song by Lorde.

Lyrical snippet: Part 1 "Safe And Sound". Song by Taylor Swift.

Thanks for hanging out and watching. Have a great weekend!

Enjoy the dance that is life!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Exercises For The Upper Back And Shoulders. Part 1.

Since the shoulder complex is attached to the upper back, exercises that target the upper back can benefit the shoulders as well.

Setting the shoulders in proper alignment is an important first step. Here is a link to a tutorial to help.

Opening The Front Of The Shoulders.

Now for the exercises. Following the photos is a video tutorial, so if you don't want to go through the pictorial walk through you can scroll on down to the video.

Exercise #1

Laying prone on the ground or a yoga mat, lengthen through the body. Legs are in parallel, lengthen along the tops of the feet. Fore arms are on either side of the body. Core is braced, glutes engaged, and there is a little squeeze (or engagement) in the hamstrings.
Inhale as the shoulders lift and lengthen away from the mat, staying long through the back of the neck.

Exhale as the shoulders lower back down to the mat.
Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 sets.

Exercise #2
Place the hands hand over hand underneath the forehead.

Inhale as the shoulders, upper back and arms lift away from the mat.

Exhale as you lower back down to the mat. Repeat 2 or 3 more times. You should start to feel the exercise into your lats.

Exercises #3

Inhale as you lift the upper back and shoulders.

Exhale as you straighten the arms diagonally from the shoulders.

Inhale as the arms come back in.

Exhale as you lower back down to the mat.
Repeat 2 or 3 more times.

Finish with Child's Pose as a recovery stretch. Below is a picture of the stretch. The one I do in the video is a terrible example!

Here is a video tutorial with a variation that uses a resistance band.

Thanks for hanging out and watching!

Enjoy the dance that is life!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

We All Start With "Little Moves".

We all start with "little moves". What does that mean. Well, it's my way of saying that everyone pretty much starts at the same place when it comes to movement and dance. We all start out being a little unsure and feeling pretty uncoordinated. Very young children jump in with abandon and without inhibitions, and it is a beautiful thing to see. Yet often enough, when they reach a certain age they too feel the pangs of uncertainty in their abilities. Some people take to dance and movement very naturally, but even they will come across their struggles. Often steps are learned on a small scale and then as ability and confidence grows so too does the size (or speed, height, what have you. Sometimes slowing the speed down is the challenge). A "little move" becomes a "big move", executed with confidence, strength and grace. As a dancer and as a dance teacher it is a beautiful thing to witness because I know first hand how amazing it feels.

I still remember the moment that I finally "felt" my first pique turn. Here's a nice video I found of the step I'm talking about-

Pique Turns in Classical Ballet.

I remember struggling and struggling with them. I didn't start really training in ballet with any consistency until I was about 12, so I have very clear memories of the struggles that I had in learning many of the steps in the classical ballet vocabulary. Most of the time I felt like a wagon that had lost one of its wheels. Suddenly one day in class I felt the smoothness of a completed turn with a seamless connection to the next turn. I still, to this day, remember how it felt internally. That is the feeling that I get super excited about when I see my students really feel like they have nailed a step. Especially turns, which have always been what I am weakest at. Although I'm better now, at my advanced age in ballet years, than I ever was as a younger dancer. This is due to the fact that I have a much better understanding of core strength, and thus, a much stronger core. Even though I am mostly a teacher now, I am always learning new things and peeling back new layers of understanding. All the time. I guess that is what I want anyone who does any kind of dance instruction with me  (or any instructor for that matter) to learn first; fall in love the art of learning the technique. The process over perfection.

Seeing exceptional dancers can be both inspiring and intimidating. A Zumba instructor that I got to work with for a licensing workshop who was very inspiring to me said something that I found brilliant;

"You are only as good of a dancer as the person standing next to you."

What that means is that there will always be someone better than you, and someone will probably be feeling that way about you at some point. So stay calm, focused and patient. Give yourself compassion as you push yourself further.

I remember sort of hating going to see big professional companies in S.F. I would watch and try to follow what steps they were doing. I was so wrapped up in my own frustrations with my abilities that I couldn't just sit and watch. And be inspired

Allow yourself to be inspired. Let it flow through you and it will flow from you.

Once I was able to allow myself to be inspired, and took a moment to take inventory of my own good qualities, I was also able to gain a greater understanding of what I was doing, what I wanted achieve, and eventually what I wanted to give to my audience and students. It was there that I truly found joy. I still do!

Thanks for hanging out for my rambling!

Enjoy the dance that is life!


What inspires you? I'd love to hear your story! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rolling Out The IT Band

The IIiotibial Band, otherwise known as the IT Band, is a long, non-elastic band of tissue that along the outside of the thigh. It has attachments at the hip, as well as the knee. At the top of the leg it blends into the tensor fascia lata (TFL) and the Gluteus Max. With connections at the knee and lower leg as well it is easy to see how tightness in this band can wreak havoc to the entire leg.

Image source.

Remember the first part of the description is that it is non-elastic. This makes it especially important to "lube" up the fascia of the IT Band to get some pliability throughout all those connections.

*Warning; individuals with high blood pressure and/or heart disease are to use caution when engaging in rolling exercises. This is due to the possible disruption in even breathing which can cause a further elevation in blood pressure. Please consult with your physician for more information.

Thanks for hanging out and reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Things To Get Busy With Now That It's 2014 {and some sites I recommend you check out!}

No doubt about it. We are in 2014 and the year is young. The newness of the year brings about thoughts of changes, hopes and goals for the coming 12 month cycle. I've never been one for making New Years resolutions. If a habit is worth breaking or implementing, then one should avoid holding it off and get to making a better life ASAP. With that said, the beginning of the year is still a fine time to evaluate or reevaluate goals.

My household is starting off the year with our house on the market and us looking for a rental house that will accommodate our family of six. But that is no reason to hold of some doable desires. Or at least get the ball rolling for some of them.

Get my personal trainer certification. 
I have a group ex. certification through AFAA. It was something that was recommended to Zumba instructors. I'm glad I got it, but now I would like to expand my role in the fitness field. Step one is to decide which organization to get it though. There are quite a few, but I think I have it narrowed down to either AFAA, ACSM or NASM. Hopefully I will make my choice soon and get crack'in. A great way to freshen up on all that human anatomy!

Become a better blogger.
One of the best ways to get better at something is to do it. And do it some more. I've always been intrigued by writing. For me blogging offers a great opportunity to hone my abilities. I've collected a slew of articles, mainly from BlogHer, that I just need to sit down and read, reread and perhaps employ.

Master this philosophy!
Forget Setting Goals. Focus On This Instead. Written by James Clear, this article looks at the differences between setting goals and using a system to achieve accomplishments, including why the standard practice of just "setting a goal" might be the first step to failure. It is a great article that I highly recommend reading. My mind was a little blown when I first read it. I'm excited to use this philosophy in my everyday life.

Add more of this flavor to my dance fitness routines.
Burlesque! What, what. Starting last year Zumba HQ added the L.A. Zumba Instructor Convention. Prior to the West Coast event the only other U.S. convention was held in Florida. So now there are two annual conventions. I've never been to one, East or West coast. I was hoping to get to the L.A. convention this February 2014, but with everything going on, coupled with the expense it just wasn't in the cards. Maybe next year. No biggie. But if I could've gone one of the things I was really excited about was a mini workshop exploring how to infuse the flavor of Burlesque into choreography, lead by the amazing Gina Grant (she was the instructor for my Zumba Kids licensing workshop).

It is a fun style to add some heat to an already fun and sexy workout!

I also wanted to get some Dancehall...

...with Toya and Cat (they are based out of Sacremento, so this is something I can definitely make happen in 2014!)

Pretty Ballet Hands!
Making hands ballet pretty is a lot harder that you'd think. Hands can hold quite a bit of tension, are usually on the periphery of the mental body check list and they stick out like, well, a sore thumb. I personally have the "Big Mac" habit. That is where one's thumbs stick out, because of misplaced tension, making the hand a suitable sleeve to slip a Big mac burger into. I had one old British teacher who used to threaten to cut my thumbs off. Her accent made her words more believable.
I read about this little tip... get hands like these...

Pencils are cheap. I'm sure the repeated clatter of them hitting the ground won't drive me bazonkers or anything. I think my students and i are going to have a lot of fun with this one!

Convince my husband that this will be loads of fun to do with me.
Acroyoga! Okay, so this video might be little ambitious. But we can start here...


and maybe even here...
Safety first. A spotter is recommended. "Caitlyn. Neil. Get in here!"

Acroyoga also means...

Do an unassisted handstand.
I'm getting pretty good up against a wall. It's time to go to the next level. Eek.

Get up from the bottom of a pistol squat. (Not necessary for Acroyoga. Just really bada**)
I can get all the way down, just not up. Future post. Currently hunting down an accomplice. Melanie?

Learn how to dance something remotely like this (the girl's part).
My appetite got whetted to learn how to waltz like this. Even with all of my dance training, it sorta knocks me out of my comfort zone. Which only makes more of a fun challenge! Lot's to remember and think about. Dang! They make it look so easy! I will most likely be a beginner forever.

I. Need. To Roll. More. Period.
When I say roll I mean on a foam roller and/or tennis or lacrosse ball.
I need to do way more than just this.

I want to do a back bend. From a standing position. Dammit.

Sites I recommend you check out!
Here are a couple of dance/strength training/fitness/body wellness sites I follow that I think you might want to check out.

Joel Minden: Strength and Conditioning.

Fascia Freedom Fighters.

The Dance Training Project.

All in all I think I have a pretty good list going for things to look forward to and stay busy with in 2014.

Thanks for hanging out. You can subscribe by email at the top.

Enjoy the dance that is life!


What is on your list for 2014? Anything that you would like to know more about? 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dance Fitness Round-Up Of 2013.

Between my roles as a ballet teacher, contemporary/lyrical teacher and Zumba instructor I did a lot of choreography in 2013. Most stuff I videotape (if it's my choreo then I'm almost certain to forget it unless I do it a billion times) and some of it I post. I love all the opportunities I get to create my own work, as well as learn from others (I'll never stop loving that!).

Here's a small collection of stuff I posted during 2013. Did someone just say it was time for an impromptu dance party? I'm in!

"Thrift Shop" by Macklemore. The link is to my original posting of it which also includes the uncensored video of Macklemore's music video. Yes, uncensored, so you've been warned if you click on his vid.

"Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore (my fantasy choreo boyfriend).

"Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke. (Click on the link to the original posting). Robin Thicke definitely stepped into the thick of it with this song. The song has been deemed everything from the most sexist song towards women ever made to just a song about a guy being immature and cocky. Regardless of the controversy (and I've read a great deal about it) most everyone who loves a good tune agree that this one gets one grooving. Oh, and my Zumba class freaking loves it!!

"You're No Good" by Major Lazer(Click here for my original post).

"Girl On Fire" by Alicia Keys.

Hope 2014 is filled with lot's of joy, love and DANCING!!!

Enjoy the dance that is life!