Countdown to Embassy Ball 2019: 10 Days – Solo Practice and Stress

I’ll just tell you upfront that this isn’t one of those “do this because it works” posts. This is one of those “I’m freaking out and writing about it helps me process” posts.

I’m officially in the high anxiety part of my pre-competition journey. Less than two weeks to go!

To counter that negative start, I will also tell you that I kicked butt in my solo practice this past week. I practiced an hour to 1.5 hours Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, and then again this past Sunday. This week’s practice sessions took the form of extended rounds. I danced through each of my Smooth routines two to three times and then moved onto the next dance. Most of the time, I was dancing to proper tempo with music too.

Full-out ballroom rounds have to be one of the best forms of cardio out there. According to my heart rate monitor, I burned 547 calories in an hour and 13 minutes of solo practice! If I didn’t wear a backless dress, I’d be tempted to wear the chest strap the day of competition just so I could see what numbers I get from competition-level efforts.

The reason I fit in so many practice sessions this past week was I didn’t have any lessons. The reason I didn’t have any lessons was Teacher’s wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy! I’m not one of those people whose voice goes up two octaves whenever an infant enters the room, but this kid is legit adorable. So Teacher was understandably a little busy.

While I felt really productive getting so much practice in, it didn’t help my stress level. I’m a very independent person, but when it comes to ballroom and especially when it comes to preparing for a competition, I need partner time to ease my anxiety. I’m not preparing to dance solo, so doing nothing but solo practice feels like only half-preparing. So I’m obviously very much looking forward to Teacher returning to work!

The challenge with solo practicing these Open routines is I can’t really dance them full out because so many of the moves require counterbalancing from my partner. I can’t use my partner’s weight to go off-balance if he’s not there. On top of that, my hyper self-criticism is honing in on every wobble I have that wouldn’t necessarily be there if I was dancing with a partner. The solution is to focus on the aspects that I can dance full out on my own. We do have sections where we’re fully separated and others where we just are connected by one hand but we’re not using each other’s weight to balance ourselves.

Of course, it’s more fun for the anxiety to assume the wobbles are there because of my lacking skills as a dancer and not because I’m trying to do a partner move on my own. I wrote last week about the reportedly higher expectations at the Open level and my uneasiness at entering the unknown. I hear rejections every time I lose my balance in a trick. The logical part of my brain knows Teacher won’t just walk off the floor or they won’t stop the round and order me to leave if I wobble at Embassy. But the stressed part just rocks in its gray matter because we can’t be too sure; we’ve never done this before.

It’s not this dramatic in my head all of the time, but these high anxiety moments wear at my confidence and excitement to get to compete again. I start to think that maybe I’m not cut out for this, maybe I should drop out of this comp, or maybe I’ll be more ready in a few more months. Of course, if I waited a few more months, there would be another excuse to say I’m not ready. There’s always something that isn’t perfect and needs more work, since hello, I’m human!

So that’s where I’m at. Not feeling too good, but I haven’t dropped out. I’m still practicing on my own until my lessons resume. It’s only the first competition, so it isn’t appropriate for me to accept so much pressure to perform perfectly. Especially when my knees are still recovering. If I make it through competition day without having to limp home, it’ll be a success.

One “do this because it works” comment – if you’re stressing out like I am, it’s ok as long as you take some action. To be blunt, don’t just complain or whine. Do something about it. I’m particularly stressed about my balance because that’s what Teacher has been focusing on, but I’m not just marinating in that stress. In my two to three rounds of my dances, I’m pausing to repeat those trouble spots two or three times. I’m slowing down so I can really feel where I’m losing balance and figure out what I need to do to fix it. If I still wobble, at least it wasn’t for lack of effort.

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