I’ve been back from Florida for less than a week. It’s been a hectic time since I hit the ground running last Wednesday, with a work meeting less than 8 hours after I walked in the door of my condo at 12:30 a.m., having been away for just over three weeks.
In the spirit of trying something new in 2017, now that I’ve put triathlon on hold due to the way my road phobia has interfered with my bike training, I’ve taken on two activities that are sort of new for me: West Coast Swing dancing and spinning (yes, in a class on a stationary bicycle at the Y).
I’ve always loved to dance even though I’m not the greatest dancer. I’m not terrible, just average. A few years ago, Renald and I learned how to do West Coast Swing. It’s a type of partner dancing with leaders (usually the men) and followers (usually the women). It’s much more casual than ballroom dancing. You can do it to all sorts of popular music, so it’s the sort of thing that works well at weddings, dances, and in clubs.
We really got into it for awhile. We used to practice every single day after breakfast for at least one and sometimes two songs. We got the basics down and even managed to add a few fancy moves to our repertoire.
But that all ended when the night of our class changed and the new time conflicted with another commitment. I always wanted to start it up again, but he was less interested. But now he’s retired and living on our boat. I’m still in London. The thing about West Coast Swing is that even though it’s with a partner, you don’t need a partner to take a class. And even if you do, they rotate you through different partners so you’re never dancing with yours all night anyway.
My friend and colleague, Jessica, has been doing WCS for a couple of years now here in London and always sounds like she’s having so much fun with it. I know from the Women’s Studies and Feminist Research Holiday party that she’s a fantastic dancer. I knew Jessica didn’t go into it with a partner, so after a couple of years of being intrigued but not doing anything about it, I finally decided to ask her about it. She dances with West Coast Swing London. They’re a super welcoming group, as I found out when I went to the January dance on Sunday afternoon.
Their monthly dances include an intermediate class followed by a beginners class followed by a social dance. I watched the intermediate class, hoping to remember something from the last time (I didn’t remember much at all). West Coast Swing is great in that more experienced people are usually quite happy to help out the newbies and dance at their basic level. So between the two classes, when someone asked me to dance, I accepted the invitation. He gave me a very basic lesson and the six count (1-2-3-and-4-5-and-6) started to come back to me. That kind of warmed me up for the beginners lesson.
At my beginners lesson, there were about eight or nine couples. We learned exactly three things: the left pass, the right pass, and the sugar push. I got assigned to dance with one leader who really knows what he’s doing. I felt clumsy and not at all confident. But by the end of the hour, guess what? I could do those three things as long as I counted out loud the whole time (“one-two-three-and-four-five-and-six).
When the class ended, Jessica came and danced with me for a couple of tunes (she’s so good that she’s learning to lead, so for her that was good practice). I asked the person I’d danced with before the lesson if he wanted to dance so I could show him what I’d learned. A couple of other people asked me to dance, including an awesome woman who, like Jessica, is learning how to lead now that she’s mastered following.
My evening classes begin in February, when I’m taking four weeks of introductory lessons. I’m excited about learning how to dance. I know lots of people might hesitate to take up partner dancing without a partner, but I’ve discovered that in West Coast Swing it doesn’t matter. I’ve been practicing my steps a lot since then in the hopes that I won’t need to count out loud for very long. The more I practice the faster the muscle memory will set in. So that’s my dance classes.
Less fun but also something that I’ve been meaning to try are the early morning spin classes at the Y. Another colleague and friend, Chris, whom I’ve done a couple of triathlons with and who introduced me to her personal trainer (who is now also my personal trainer), kept telling me how great the Monday morning “group ride” class is. My Y membership has been languishing unused for a few months and I decided while I was in Florida that I either need to use it at least twice a week or let it go. It’s all well and good to subsidize other people’s memberships, but if I’m not going to use mine then I can support the Y through charitable donation instead.
So yesterday morning I made my way to the Y for the 6:30 a.m. group ride class. And what a class it was. Chris helped me get set up on my bike and showed me how they work. Though I’ve done some indoor training with my road bike, and I kind of liked it, it always seemed simpler just to go to a spin class. That way I wouldn’t have to lug my bike and a trainer around with me to set up in Coach Chris’s basement. The only other time I’ve done an actual spin class on a spin bike was when Sam and I were in Banff, ages ago.
I just have to say: spin classes are BRUTAL. He kept asking us to add tension and maintain our RPMs. I think I went out too fast, because I thought we were already doing brutal intervals and we were still sort of in the warm-up phase. What I like most about spinning is that you get to adjust your own tension and you don’t have to keep up with the group if you don’t feel you can. Outdoor group riding doesn’t have that bonus. If I’d been out on the road with an actual group instead of in the class on a stationary bike I’d have fallen way behind.
Whatever though. I worked up a sweat and finished the class feeling energized and as if I’d earned my favourite part of my Y membership: the steam room. And all this before 8 a.m.
I know it’s not all that exciting to read posts about someone else’s workouts, but once in awhile we like to share our new adventures. I’m feeling good about my winter plans, and in addition to these two new things, I’ve managed to get out to a hot yoga class, a couple of personal training sessions, and to meet up with Anita and Julie for an 8K. I love my routines, but I also like spicing them up once and awhile with some changes.
How about you? Is there anything new on the horizon for you activity-wise in 2017?