Dancing Mama – Back To Basics

Taking Pilates Back to Basics

Not so relevant photo, just cute babies helping during a Pilates session!

Just had another massive realisation on my Pilates course today – many things I thought I knew about my body are verrrry different now in comparison to my pre and post-natal body. Whereas previously I would have considered myself having good bodily awareness, it took the Pilates instructors’ corrections today to tell me my body alignment has changed, my core is weaker and my proprioceptors have lost their compass as my ‘new’ body needs to be re-tuned.

It’s a fascinating concept, and possibly a great humbling  moment as I understand I now need to strip everything right back to basics and relearn correct postural alignment in different dynamic and static positions such as ‘quadruped’ (all fours) and even standing as my ribcage has slightly changed placement. Where before I may have entered into more advanced level fitness classes I’m being honest with myself, jumping off my horse from high and acknowledging there are deep core muscles that need re-training to get the same technique, and confidence, I had pre-pregnancy, before I attempt the more powerful advanced moves. I don’t see this as a backwards step. I actually see this as a valuable learning curve and in fact, a progression in my body as it enters a new phase of structure. I’m adapting to my new anatomical, physical and mental state.

I’m thinking like a lizard changes skin! I’m renewed and it’s a gift to me as I’m going to also be teaching beginners and may be able to recognise the point of view of others who may rarely workout and are not accustomed to physical activity, or indeed other athletes and dancers who are recovering themselves from pregnancy or injury. So back to the basics I go without regret but with vigour.

That said I’ve just bombed it up the long escalator to catch my train, got to the top without stopping and still managed to  engage my core and zip up my pelvic floor as I went… not entirely lost it. 😉

I heard a really relevant joke today:

– How many dancers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

– One to screw in the bulb and the rest to say they could have done it better.

…for now I’m the one reading the instructions for how to screw in the bulb.


Dancing Mama – Don’t Lose ‘Me’

Birthday Surprise – where we met…

This time last week I was on a dance floor. Sitting here on my sofa thinking about it, it’s not that crazy because that’s what people do.  That’s what I do…albeit I only had 1.5 hours to sweat it out before I had to pick up Baby-O from the babysitter, and the last real ‘Dancefloor Time’ I had was probably 9 months ago before baby arrived, but I suddenly had a realisation.  There is a danger I am becoming more ‘Mum’ than ‘Me’.  I’m losing Me!

Through no fault of my own other than natural circumstance I’m in the danger zone of letting go of the things that used to really matter to me.  I used to thrive for the moment when I would arrive at a club, take my coat off, say my hellos to the friends comprising of 80% or so of the room’s population, before starting to find that hedonistic state on the floor.  The music takes over my body, puts a big smile on my face, and before I know it I’ve sweated gallons for a good four or five hours, and not had a second thought of feeling tired or too hot. This is where I grow as a dancer, where I connect my body with my passion for music, importantly where I found my partner, and if it weren’t for this combination I may not have met Baby-O. That for me replaces any 5 mile run or boring workout at the gym by far. For that moment on the floor last Sunday, dancing with my partner, it reminded me of the carefree beings we were before Baby.

The sound system of this noisy club however is no environment for a young baby’s ears. I’d been meaning for months to make a concerted effort to prepare Baby-O for being looked after by someone other than me and her Dad so I could get back to the club.  I thought I’d not given her time to learn to fall asleep on her own with out me feeding her to sleep for example, so she can be looked after without her babysitter experiencing prolonged crying when she gets tired and doesn’t know how to comfort herself. I thought I should be leaving her for increasing periods of time so she would gradually get used to our absence. Finding the first moment to need to ask someone to look after baby for whatever reason – be it work or leisure – hadn’t been so important. We’d not had a strong external pressure, e.g. returning to work, to force us to practise.  As a result I’d not left her for more than the occasional hour or two. So last Sunday I finally trialled leaving her with my cousin.

My ‘Schoolmum’ error of forgetting the expressed milk was my first major fail, but we live and learn. I won’t forget it next time. My expert cousin (a nursery nurse/health visitor) put me at ease, took baby from my hands with a bit of Sunday roast to fulfil her in other ways and sent me on my way. I’ve then this weekend left Baby with my mum for 2 whole days whilst I’ve been on a Pilates Instructor course, and by all accounts it seems Baby-O didn’t miss me.  She had her expressed milk and her solid foods, she fell asleep without feeding from me, and that’s it. Pressure off!  Seems there wasn’t really much to worry about. Ok we’re very blessed with a lovely ‘low maintenance’ baby, but now I know we can comfortably leave Baby with our trusted babysitters, I can reinstate my identity as a person not just as a parent. I can get back to being ME!

I can confidently start getting the qualities back that made me who I was, or doing the things I loved before Baby, whilst still being Mum. My mental health and wellbeing is important too.  I’m going to be a little selfish, take a break from being mummy more often and make more time just for me or for me and my other half to re-kindle who we were pre-Baby-O.

Are we (Hu)Mum, or are we Dancer?  I’m both. 😉

Here’s a clip of me the last time on the dance floor at month 8 of my pregnancy, before Baby-O made her appearance!

 


Dancing Mama – Wear My Baby

I’ve been featured on Wear My Baby‘s blog this week, talking about using my baby carrier on the walks. Mine has been essential in helping me back to fitness.  Check us out by following the link here!

In celebration they are offering a discount code to anyone reading this blog.  See the image below for details.  Lucky us!

About Wear My Baby:

Wear My Baby makes it easy to carry your baby. We believe that learning how to carry your baby safely & comfortably is just as important as which carrier you buy.

That’s why we don’t just sell slings.

At our London Boutique you can try before you buy, hiring a sling for 2 weeks to make sure it’s right for you. We offer a range of Wear My Baby workshops each week at our Boutique, so you can get help using your current carrier or try out a range of new ones with expert guidance.

Want one-to-one support near you?

We have a team of experienced babywearing Consultants, offering one-to-one Consultations,  Sling Meet drop-in sessions and Pop Up events around London (Tooting, Beckenham & Greenwich) and the south east (Reading and Canterbury).

Follow them on Twitter and Insta @wearmybaby and on Facebook @wearmybaby.co.uk

 


Dancing Mama – Pilates Balls & Posture

Bouncing for Victory!

The best purchase by far was a pilates ball…not originally intended for pilates or my post-natal fitness routine – I bought this as I was planning a home birth, and all sorts of bouncing and hip rotations on the ball are supposed to induce birth.  Not for me – sitting on the ball during labour just didn’t have the desired effect…but that’s another story.  However, post birth and we discover that aforementioned bouncing on ball whilst holding baby not only gives a mini work out, but also helps to send Baby-O to sleep!

During my pregnancy I really worked on my posture. When I slouched everything squished inside too much and I got indigestion easier and couldn’t breath so well…I thought that by sitting without too much support at my desk at work or in the evening at. home etc. would stand me in good stead post pregnancy.  Not to be as my back muscles felt weaker.  I assume due to everything starting to shift back into place.  I also now really notice that following long periods of breastfeeding, and sleeping whilst feeding for long periods of time (I just can’t stay awake!), the top of the lumbar region of my back is really struggling and I’ve now started physio for it.

I was trying to use the ball on a daily basis to start strengthening my back again and now trying to be more mindful when I’m feeding – e.g. not slumping back into the sofa, or slouching down or over towards baby.  I’m trying to focus on drawing my shoulder blades down my back as much as possible and getting myself comfy before feeding. I’ve noticed this is hardest when LO is in a screaming fit and I’m trying to get boob to mouth as quickly as possible before she completely melts down. As I got into month two I took the (rare) moments of screaming in my stride and put myself a little bit before her needs to make sure I’m properly set up before feeding.  Besides what’s two extra minutes when I’ve got to look after my health to get stronger again for her?

My little pilates ball workout routine goes like this (with rough estimates of repetition, and trying to achieve daily):
  • 25 bounces, squeezing up pelvic floor and buttocks as I go
  • 25 hip swings side to side – I think pendulum, squeezing either side of the body at the waist as I contract to tone my waistline, and a little bounce through centre, working the legs a little too.
  • 25 pelvic isolations forward and back – as I tilt my pelvis forward squeezing buttocks, and working lower back muscles as I tilt backwards
  • 12 smooth pelvic circles round the clock each way without bouncing, and then with a gentle bounce at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock pelvic tilts
  • 25 standing ‘preparations’ – these are similar to the action of the initial moment of standing from a seated position.  With momentum a bounce rocking backwards on the ball and then a bounce rocking forward and pushing up as if about to stand. I have a rhythm playing out in my head bounce, back, bounce forward with these 3 variations:
Variation 1: At the point of standing I squeeze my butt and push the pelvis slightly forward
Variation 2: Focus on the thigh muscles helping me up.
Variation 3: each time I bounce up I switch to pushing more into right leg then left leg, so I’m kind of bouncing to either side.

I’ve actually found the last one helps when I’ve finished feeding the baby last thing at night, she has fallen asleep, and I need to do that ninja move of standing up from the sofa without changing the sleeping position of this light sleeper whatsoever to take her to her crib.  The unique talent of standing without the heave ho action, nor needing to push up with my hands. Yes.  I have got skillz.

I checked the correct ball size to suit my height and got an anti-burst ball – the knees should be lower than the hips when sitting on it. I also found an electric pump easier to blow the ball up – it came with the birthing pool pack(!) if you can get your hands on one.

Here’s a little video of the pilates ball at work (sorry it’s a bit dark – it’s the late night low light to help Baby-O to sleep!)…


Dancing Mama – Swimming Mama!

I’ve just been swimming whilst Baby-O was being looked after by grandparents for the first time. My partner and I have been a bit lazy on getting Baby-O looked after without me there, so my partner usually comes swimming to look after her in the baby pool whilst I do my lengths in the lane pool. Well – they’re getting their bonding time whilst I get my fitness back! Today though I felt like I was getting some ‘Me Time’ and could (almost) completely switch off!

I’ve loved swimming since I was a kid for many reasons:

  • it helps me to relax and wind down both physically and mentally;
  • I get a really good sleep after swimming, when baby allows of course….zzzzz;
  • it’s good therapy, almost like meditation – I just zone out and count my lengths;
  • I love the almost instant feel of all over muscle tone;
  • it’s low impact on the body, so minimises risk of injury when I need to be gentle on my body – or when I’m feeling a little delicate!

My Cupcake Water Babe

A welcome non-weight-bearing swim when I was preggers as a fairly competent swimmer – I managed 40 lengths at a time, still sticking to the slow lane (I’m usually a medium pace-er). Here’s how I coped with swimming whilst pregnant, most of which I’m going to build on with more intensity now…

Pool Lengths

Still moving both limbs and legs with trepidation – as much as my core would allow – I mixed these variations below of breastroke with lengths of backstroke and front crawl. I try to do 10 lengths of each style with a stretch in between each set. 

 

Breaststroke (Warm Up):

Variation 1: power in arms and less work in the legs

Variation 2: squeeze butt as I close the legs

Kicking on back (skulling arms if it helps balance!):

Variation 1: power from the backside with straight legs, pointed toes

Variation 2: bend from the knees to kick

Backstroke/Front Crawl: I found back stroke took the pressure off my stomach, whilst front crawl gives the cardio workout;

Variation 1: lying on my back and kicking only (no arms) or just using arms to help power along for front crawl; then

Variation 2: try to only work the arms without legs moving.

Each length I focus on emphasis on a different muscle group (arms, bum, hamstrings etc.) and for all the above there are further variations in how I do the movement:

Variation 1: kicking as quickly as is comfortable to get a bit of cardio going; or

Variation 2: kicking in smooth, slow action for a more toning action.

A bit of competition

I’m not the competitive type but I like to find someone else in my lane who’s serious about their swim…so I step up to their level too!  It’s not always about speed – I’m talking about durability.  There’s always the one who keeps moving and it motivates me to keep going too!

For the less serious swimmer and if I had time – a toning workout

There are usually non Lane sections of the pool. Suggestions for the shallow end of the open swim lane:

Warm up: 5 mins walking the length/ width of the shallow lane is a really good gradual build up – try at varying speeds to gently increase heartbeat. Or a gentle swim if you can.

Upper body: A bit of aqua aerobics, with shoulders immersed, by keeping the palms open and flat like paddles, imagining the resistance of water is the weight in the hands – bicep/triceps curls, lifting the arms up and down to water line, breast stroke action with the arms.

Lower body: Use the side of the pool to stabilise yourself either back to the side with elbows on the side, or both hands on the side on your front and kick with variations as above with the lanes. I’d also do

  • Breast stroke legs
  • Sideways leg raises

Core: Slow smooth Twisting with knees bent up towards chest, back to the side of pool. Some may not feel comfortable to twist, so only take this gently, or not at all if it doesn’t feel right.

Cool down and stretch: as per warm up, decreasing speed / intensity.  Make sure you gently stretch arms and leg muscle groups.

Now I’m off to collapse!


Dancing Mama – Reason #2 for pre- & post-natal walking

Winter Pregnancies Before Mat Leave and Vitamin D

So wet, winters, miserable weather and threat of tube strikes doesn’t always inspire a brisk walk after work, and the worry of wanting to get a head start on the home journey before it gets too late doesn’t encourage going to the gym or a dance class after work.

OPTION 1: those usually commuting by train use this time as an excuse to walk between tube stations (if you’re dressed for the rain of course), as it will probably be way quicker than ridiculous queues for the trains when they’re striking.

OPTION 2: I opted to head home to avoid getting home too late, given that I struggled to stay awake past 9pm ATM. I was staying with my great aunt closer to work when I was still working. Limited workout resources at hers meant, to her deep confusion, I’d dig out her food cupboard. Cue food tin video (in my early pregnancy days !)…

I also discovered that unborn babies carried during winter months are more susceptible to low Vitamin D levels when born as expectant mums are less likely to get daylight, especially if working throughout the day – my LO was slightly jaundiced at birth. A lunchtime walk will mean mum (and baby if he/she has arrived) is more likely to top up on the sunshine during daylight hours.  I was fortunate that at least we had a fairly dry, sunny winter, so could go for a stroll in the beautiful, hilly Greenwich park during my break time!

Likewise my group walks are now helping our little ones get their daylight time during the winter months.  The temptation is to wrap babies up – but I think, whilst they are in baby carriers and we act like hot water bottles for each other, as long as we regularly make sure babies aren’t cold on their head and it’s not too windy, there is no harm to keep their heads hat-free and let the winter sun kiss their skin for short periods!

Topping Up On Vitamin D


Dancing Mama – Getting Back in the Game

2017 was a BIG year for me in many ways. I gave birth in June. I’ve had a baby (life-changing), and I’ve gone from having lots of endless energy pre-pregnancy to feeling like an 80 year old post pregnancy. Ok, so that’s nature, but here’s my reason for writing: I’m a dancer and dance teacher.

For someone so accustomed of jumping to life when I hear the beat, of throwing myself in the air and then directly flat out to the floor in a contemporary class without a thought, or to sweating it out through high octane jazz dance rehearsals, at 7 months post-natal, that still doesn’t feel so possible. I’ve decided to document my journey from physically wild ‘soloist’ to careful, conscientious vessel carrying a mini passenger, to now: the little one has disembarked, I’ve got her in tow and I am trying to get energy, motivation and routine back.

Where It Began

My first three months of pregnancy felt like a licence to slow down. Shouldn’t I be protecting my foetus from shock by ‘not over-doing it’? The advice from the midwife; if you’re used to a very physical fitness regime then continue until it doesn’t feel comfortable. Week 10, and it didn’t feel comfortable. So early on? Maaan! My effort in my usual high impact all over again body workout contemporary dance class felt half hearted as I became suddenly extremely aware of my core. It felt weak. Well not so much weak but again – like I needed to protect my centre from sudden movement or for example anything involving floor work, bending forward, plank or ‘cobra’ style action.

Christmas arrived…a sedantry stay with parents left me, although thoroughly chilled out, with cabin fever and guilt that I had done nothing for two weeks. Dragging my partner to Kew Gardens in an effort to walk off the Christmas pounds felt good, but nonetheless did not burn fat. They say the blood thickens during pregnancy and the need to keep circulation boosted is ever more important, so I was worried. My legs were restless and I was getting antsy.

So there I was. Jan 2017. 5 month countdown until baby arrives and it was going to get harder. I know; the cliche of new year, new me, new routine, New Years resolutions to try swimming regularly, blah-di-blah – obviously that didn’t last.  Baby-O arrived in June and time to myself was far from my grasp. It would just take some time and independence training for her to be looked after (for her and me!), so I could get to the swimming pool, a dance class, rehearsals or just go to a club dance event.

Me and Baby-O on our weekly walk

Me and Baby-O on our weekly walk

My Solution:

To start a walking ‘network’ to reintroduce my body back to fitness with baby by my side and, in the meantime, practise Baby-O independence, building up again to higher impact training!

I know I will be more motivated if I have a commitment to others, to help me stay focussed, I am going to create a forum over on The Love of Dance Facebook group, aimed at women like me, who are used to physical, powerful fitness regimes, who want to sustain as closely as possible their strength and healthy lifestyle during pregnancy, whilst protecting the growth and wellbeing of the delicate baby cargo, and then to try to recuperate once baby has arrived.

So what now?

In my experience as a dance teacher, alongside that of health and fitness experts, I want to investigate:

  • the most effective and safest fitness plan that can be practically maintained, with the understanding that this will need to adapt to a changing body;
  • different forms and methods of exercise in conjunction, of course, with a healthy diet and mind-set,
  • focussing also on mental and physical preparation for the birth;
  • and look at techniques to manage fitness time with and without baby by my side;
  • all working hand in hand with a holistic journey to a healthy pregnancy helping baby’s development,
  • and ultimately so I can get quickly back into shape post baby popping out!

About Me

I’m writing from the POV of a:

37 year old;

Previously full time office worker with no routine in addition to dance teaching;

I drive;

I have no routine that I can stick to (trust me, I’ve tried. I stick to anything I have a responsibility or incentive to stick to – e.g. Rehearsals for the incentive of chance of performance or where I have to answer to someone if I don’t turn up…or where I’ve paid for the course. Fickle right?!);

My aerobic training mostly used to happen at music events – mostly house music or jazz fusion events happening in the early weekend evenings. Most attendees go to these events to dance AND SWEAT IT OUT ON THE DANCEFLOOR, not to drink. Perfect for happy feel good vibes, getting a workout without really noticing, and doubly perfect if you’re preggers…but not so perfect for baby’s sensitive ears…so what’s next to get my workout fix?

 

Here we go!

First Wedding Dance Styles | Summary

First Dance Styles in a nutshell…
Here’s an easy reference summary of our first dance styles series for you to click on and review.
If you’d like to  have an initial conversation about your dance, or book a dance consultation with one of our experienced teachers.

Visit our Contact Us page for more information.

Happy First Dance planning!

We leave you with a clip of Caroline and Tim’s First dance – a Foxtrot…


First Wedding Dance Styles | Freestyle Dance

…and all the Dance Styles in between.

This is our Wild Card Style day celebrating the first wedding dances that are a bit ‘left of centre’. The Wedding Dance YouTube videos have given rise to the phenomena of more adventurous couples wanting something a little less traditional. The Love of Dance’s teachers have massive experience in choreographing, performing and teaching in many styles of dance beyond Latin and Ballroom – we know no boundaries!

Freestyle Dance / Non-traditional First Dances

This is where your first dance gets exciting and has the potential to really thrill your guests. A fun, novelty statement routine could incorporate dance styles such as street dance or musical theatre styles – jazz or tap dance perhaps?  Or why not re-enact a famous dance scene from your favourite film, musical or music video. Don’t worry – you can still keep the romance – how about bringing a touch of Hollywood glam – think Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire!
John and Hannah wanted a medley of songs and they really went for it.  They started with the Dirty Dancing routine, into MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This, finishing with Black Eyed Peas I Got A Feeling.  It entertained us teachers for sure – imagine how their guests responded!
You bring the music you like, whether one or multiple songs, and we’ll fit the movements to it, according to your requirements. At least within the scope of what the wedding dress will allow!
 
Event Entertainment - 50th Birthday Party

Event Entertainment – 50th Birthday Party

Freestyle Partner Dance

We’ve all had the fling around the dancefloor with a friend, partner or family member to mimic partner dance steps seen done by the pros.  These are moves we throw into routines to give them a bit of wow factor, which don’t necessarily follow footwork patterns of the structured social dances, but are used to fit the music.  After all – you’re won’t be competing for the world finals (not quite yet).  The rules are there to be broken as far as your first dance is concerned!

Dance for All!

Our favourite routines involve the bridesmaids and groomsmen…or as a surprise to the couple perhaps the guests could join in flash mob style!
To finish our week of The Love of Dance styles, although not strictly a wedding event here is a routine we choreographed for a 50th birthday party to give an idea of what we can achieve with you.  The client here commissioned us to produce a routine with professional dancers to his chosen song – we fulfilled the brief and then some.  Unbeknownst to him we taught his closest friends the routine too and they jumped in halfway through the song.  They’ll had lots of fun learning the dance – and the birthday boy? He loved it.

First Wedding Dance Styles | Jive & Swing

Get the Wedding Party Started with a Swing

Swing dance styles are the more fun, vivacious dance styles to suit more up-tempo tracks – great first wedding dances to to get the party started.  There are many types of Swing Dance, including Lindy Hop, Charleston, Jive and Rock N Roll created in the 1920s-50s to accompany swing style jazz music.
The Love of Dance Jive Dance Party

Heres a throwback photo to one of our jive parties we taught at for a regular social dinner and dance!

Jive for example is classed as one of the international latin styles of dance.  It came from the US in the 1930s and has a bit of a retro vibe about it.  Your first dance song doesn’t have to be from these eras – here are some songs that we think perfectly fit Jive and Swing dance:
  • Happy – Pharrell
  • Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
  • Candy Man – Christine Aguilera
  • Sing Sing Sing – Benny Goodman
  • Do Your Thing – Basement Jaxx
Social Jive Dance basic steps consist of two slow steps on the spot and then a ‘quick quick’ rock back and forward. These styles don’t travel around a dance floor, although the size and energy of movements that can go towards the spins and sometimes jumps and lifts (for those feeling really adventurous!) can really eat up the space.  The steps should be light and bouncy and the upper body is free and responds to the usually jazzy and lively music with an air of showmanship and lots of smiles!
We’re not just about weddings. TLOD has also taught Jive and Swing dance parties for many occasions such as birthdays and commercial party events. Taster sessions in any dance style are a fun way to help guests get up to their feet and onto the dance floor. Your guests get mingling whilst learning some basic steps too – well we don’t want them feeling left out of the dancing action!