Keep Dancing

I went to see the Strictly Come Dancing live tour in London today, and it was FAB-U-LOUS! It’s always amazing to see the professional dancers of course, but what I really love about Strictly is when they take someone who never thought in their wildest dreams that they could dance and help them to become an amazing dancer and performer.

This year it was Susan Calman who stole everyone’s hearts. She wasn’t the best dancer, but she went from zero to, well, Wonder Woman in a few short weeks and all with a fantastic positive attitude.

Susan Calman & Kevin Clifton

In today’s show she took a moment to speak to the audience and reminded us all to never let anyone tell us we can’t do something. She reminded us to accept challenges and try our best, to try to be the very best versions of ourselves that we possibly can be.

When I started dancing just over two and a half years ago I went into it much like Susan, without much belief in myself or my ability. I had never really danced, and I certainly didn’t have the typical look of a dancer. But I gave it a go, and like Susan I always try to give it my all and do my best. Sometimes I find challenges which I’m not ready for yet (like a recent dips and tricks class I took) but I just bookmark those things as something to come back to later when I’m more experienced. After all, when I started I couldn’t even do a basic mambo step.

I’m not lucky enough to have a Kevin Clifton of my own, someone dedicated to helping me improve my dance skills, but I do have a lot of fantastic friends and dance partners. We learn and experiment together, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

At the end of the day, I just have to remember that there’s nothing I can’t do, and that all I need to do is to strive to be the best possible version of me. Oh, and of course, I just need to keeeeep dancing! πŸ’ƒπŸŽΆπŸ•ΊπŸŽΆ

Why stop with dry January?

I decided to start this year with a healthy month of no alcohol, chocolate, cakes or biscuits, and I’m pleased to say I’ve made it to the end successfully! But why stop there?

As soon as January ended everyone around me was asking if my ‘diet was over’ now and if I could go out and get drunk now, and I’ve been trying to explain that it’s just not like that.

I’m not on a diet. I can have any food I want, and I can drink alcohol if I want to. I’m just choosing to limit what I put into my body at the moment.

One of the hardest things about nutrition and eating healthily is making the right decisions and not slipping into old habits. If I’m ‘trying to be good’ I find it hard to have any chocolate around me at all. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl, and if I don’t ban chocolate completely I’ll eat every chocolate in the box.

In the past I’ve been guilty of comfort eating, and that’s a habit I desperately want to break. Food shouldn’t be a reward or something I have for consolation. It should be something I have for nutrition or something I enjoy because I want it, whether alone or with friends.

Alcohol? Well I can take or leave it to be honest. I like a nice cocktail every now and then, but I honestly haven’t missed alcohol at all in the last month. So why fill my body with all of those extra calories and all that sugar? Luckily my evenings are filled with dancing, and alcohol doesn’t help me one bit when I dance – I’m better without it!

So, ‘dry January’ is over and February is here, and I’m going to try to maintain my new healthy habits. I’m not saying I’m never going to have alcohol, chocolate, biscuits and cake, but for now I’m doing just fine without them.

Running through the fear

I went for a run today. That might not seem particularly remarkable – after all, I started the year with a 5k Park Run. But it took a lot to get me out of the house today, and I nearly used every excuse in the book to persuade myself to stay home.

It was raining, which would have been a brilliant excuse not to go out for a run. But that wasn’t even the half of it. Today was about the fear of looking stupid, of people looking at me and thinking “god what does she think she’s doing?”. Because I still don’t see myself as a fit person who can stick on a pair of running shoes and a pair of leggings and go out for a run. But I am, so I did.

Run 200118

I ran 4 miles (6.4km), which is the furthest I’ve ever run to date. I took my time, I stopped to take a couple of photos, and I didn’t push my speed. Today wasn’t about running fast, it was just about running.

Bristol Harbour - a beautiful backdrop for a run, even in bad weather

Bristol Harbour – a beautiful backdrop for a run, even in bad weather

And it felt great. It was a challenge, without being too difficult, and I can honestly say I enjoyed the experience of running outside in public. One of the unexpected highlights for me was smiling at other runners. I hadn’t realised that was a thing, but it was like we were all part of some secret running club. All winning at life because we chose the run over the sofa on a soggy Saturday afternoon.

Running is a great way to exercise the body and mind. I find it very therapeutic to put on some good tunes and just run. It clears the mind, and it makes you feel good. I’m ready to take on the world now!

quote-7Today’s running soundtrack was Paloma Faith’s latest album, The Architect. Finding the right music is important I think, and this album really works for me! What music do you run to?

Cliques & Cool Kids

Isn’t it funny how, even as adults, we still have cliques and cool kids just like we did when we were at school?

Back in my school days I was never one of the cool kids. I was overweight, a bit nerdy, quite smart and into alternative music and fashion, so I never fit in with the majority. But I found my own place back then, proud of being an individual along with the other awkward misfits.

Monty Python’s The Life of Brian

I’ve always been proud of my individuality, but still desire to be amongst the popular people. That’s pretty normal really, isn’t it?

In the dance community everyone is accepted for who they are, and you really will find all sorts of people on the social dance floor. I dance with artists, accountants, doctors and lawyers. Tall people, short people, curvy and slim. Shy people, outgoing people, and everyone in between.

But despite this acceptance there’s still a small amount of cliquiness and there are definitely a handful of cool kids who only dance with the other cool kids.

The more I dance, the more I feel I’m slowly being accepted into these elite crowds, but I wouldn’t say I was there yet.

And do the cool kids even know that’s how they’re perceived? Or is it just a handful of us misfits who see them this way anyway?

Ultimately, whether you’re on the dance floor or anywhere else in life, I firmly believe it’s important to stay true to who you are. Don’t change for anyone, don’t try to fit it. If it’s meant to be, you’ll find your place.

Why I dance…Β 

Why do I dance? It’s simple really. Dancing makes me happy. I dance because I love the music. I dance because moving my body and learning new things excites me. I dance because I can. 

I love my dancing friends and family. The dance community is a truly special place and I can’t imagine life without it now.

Tonight was the first night back this year at my regular class, where it all started, Salsa Souls. Although I now dance various styles in different places, and I enjoy travelling to congresses and events elsewhere, Salsa Souls will always my dance home – where my heart is. I owe so much to the teachers there and the amazing friends I’ve met there.

This year, as I approach three years on the dance floor, I feel like I’m ready to dial it up a notch. I want to get good. So, I’ll work on my shines and footwork, I’ll try not to anticipate the lead, and yes teacher, I will learn to spot when I turn!! 

Why do I dance? Why on earth wouldn’t I? 

Foundations

Nutrition is the foundation of any healthy eating plan, or so I’m told, but it’s something I’ve struggled with a bit over the last year. A year ago I got a personal trainer at the gym and it’s made a massive difference to my health, strength and wellness, and we talk about food a lot. He’s not one of these PTs who dictates a certain diet plan or tries to get you replacing meals with shakes or anything like that – we just talk about what I eat and why I eat it.

I have issues with food, and could definitely be called an ’emotional eater’. If I have a bad, busy or stressy day, I eat. If I’m tired, I eat. If I;m sad, I eat. And when I eat, I eat all the wrong things. Chocolate being the main vice.

Over the last year I’ve tried to get into food prepping; planning my meals ahead, making a schedule for the week, and cooking healthy meals to take to work for lunches. I’ve done OK… I mean, I’ve definitely made an effort, but there have still been a number of days where I’ve given up on my healthy thoughts and gone to the local food market for a less than healthy (and very expensive) take-away lunch. In the worst cases, I’ve bought a ready-meal.

Planning and prepping food takes time, time which I don’t usually have, and I find it quite stressful. It’s boring to eat the same thing every day (I LOVE food) and expensive (and sometimes wasteful) to keep lots of varied ingredients in my fridge.

That’s why, when I popped into my favourite new healthy cafe (run by a friend’s PT) just before Christmas, the sign for a ‘Meal Prep Club’ caught my eye. I almost wrote it off as ‘bound to be too expensive’, but luckily I didn’t act too quickly and stopped to find out more.

Foundations Cafe is a great, healthy cafe on Baldwin Street in Bristol, which happens to be close to my office. They serve delicious salads, baked sweet potatoes, sandwiches, protein shakes and all sorts of things, and it’s become of of my favourite places to eat out in Bristol. The Meal Prep Club they are offering is simple, and surprisingly not at all expensive. In fact, my lunches are working out at just over Β£3 a pop!

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Smoked Salmon Box – Smoked Salmon flakes, brown rice, goats cheese Waldorf salad & fattoush salad on a bed of spinach & lettuce

This week I have have my first few lunches from Foundations Cafe, and I can honestly say each one has been delicious and, most importantly, stress free! I simply order on a Sunday for the week ahead, and collect my lunch each day. One of the things I have really enjoyed so far is the surprise each day, because by Tuesday I have completely forgotten what I ordered!

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Winter Superfood Salad – Lentil & chickpea salad, lemon & roasted veg couscous & beetroot & goats cheese salad on a bed of lettuce & spinach

My lunches have contained things I would never think about putting in my salad, such as walnuts and apricots, and things I would never include as I just wouldn’t keep them in, like feta.

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Sweet Jacket Potato with lentils & chickpeas, spiced carrot, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella & cashew pesto

Joining up to Foundations Cafe’s Meal Prep Club is one of the best decisions I’ve made this year so far! I feel like in doing this I’ve set myself up to a really good start and with a really strong foundation to have a healthy 2018. I love food, and I don’t want to go on some crazy diet or deny myself of things all year just to lose weight. I just want to eat healthily and happily.

If you’re in Bristol and want to find out more, check out the Foundations Cafe website:Β https://www.foundationscafe.com/meal-prep-club.

 

 

A reason to leave the office…

I’m lucky enough to be able to say I love what I do for a living (selling holidays to Japan) but a couple of years ago I realised there simply had to be more to life than your day job. I used to spend hours at work, in front of a computer, getting less and less productive as the night went on, and I realised I was in danger of losing my passion for my career.

I was saved by salsa. After trying a class one evening I found myself hooked, and soon started finding every chance I could to dance in order to have a reason to leave my desk at the end of the day. Getting out, meeting people, learning something new and moving my body gave me a new reason to be alive, and before long I was happier and healthier than I had ever been.

Learning salsa led me to also learn other Latin and African dances, and now I dance salsa, bachata, cha cha cha, kizomba, semba, merengue and I’ll have a go at anything else you throw at me.

I’m back at work this week after a lovely Christmas holiday and started the week with no dancing in my diary. Classes all seem to be starting again next week, so I resigned myself to probably having a week of working hard and late, and not having the usual release that dance gives me. Without a reason to leave the office, would I just end up working late? Probably.

And then I was saved. Some of my wonderful dance teachers decided to put on an impromptu kizomba social dance tonight, lots of my friends were going, and before I knew it I had a reason to leave my desk at six on the dot, and something to look forward to all night.

Tomorrow I’m booked in for a Zumba class so I can shake my funky stuff a little more, and I’ve found some salsa for Friday now too. 

Dance not only gives me a reason to leave the office, it makes me feel great, and it’s one of my reasons to live now.