All work and no exercise makes e* a grumpy girl


That's me (sans facial hair)


Work has been really busy lately: work that needs to be done ‘ASAP’, conference calls scheduled at inconvenient times (read: during my regular pole class time), client meetings which over-run… And then I was away during the weekend (equals to no ballet, and no weekend pole lesson).

So I haven’t poled, done ballet, or any kind of exercise for more than a week. And I find myself getting progressively so irritable, on edge, grumpy. I miss the endorphin high that are released… the happy, contented feeling of achievement from exerting myself, the satisfying post-workout muscle ache from poling, the calming effect of repeating the same movements and trying to improve it incrementally each time in ballet. Exercising and the resulting endorphin release can be addictive, and result in withdrawal symptoms when one stops exercising. The problem is exacerbated when the withdrawn exercise is itself enjoyable and fun.

I’m doing my best to not start snapping at people randomly or give them the evil eye when they suggest yet another inconvenient time for a sit-down / meeting / call, but I can feel myself slowly going crazy inside and getting frustrated. Hopefully tonight I will be able to break my streak of 9-consecutive days of no exercise (since 29th Jan)… fingers crossed. Otherwise, I might actually bite someone’s head off. Rawr!

– UPDATE – I had to miss the class after all due to a last-minute client call that was scheduled for the same time as my class. >:(

One step forward, two steps back

one step forward, two steps backI get frustrated quite often on my pole journey, either at how long it takes for me to build the strength to be able to do a trick, or at how easily I ‘lose’ my tricks.

For example, it took me ages to get the straddle invert, which was the missing piece of the puzzle that held me back from progressing to Level 4 from Level 3. Then in Level 4, I was struggling to get my aerial invert and aerial straddle invert, which was a precondition of progressing to Level 5 (notice a recurring theme?). My poor core strength is a real limiting factor which I need to work on improving.

I have many of the same problems with the moves in Level 5: some moves which I have learnt, if I haven’t practised them in a while, I forget how to get into them or hold the position safely (e.g. inverted swan), or I lose the ability to do moves that I’ve managed to achieve before – albeit these are moves that I’ve managed to achieve but not necessarily been able to replicate every single time (e.g. half-flag and aerial half-flag, cupid, bird, pencil mount, shoulder mount, superman).

I’m frustrated by the fact that I could do the aerial straddle invert before (albeit ungracefully), but this past weekend when I tried inverting, I couldn’t do a clean aerial straddle invert, and instead had to swing my right leg up to hook my foot onto the pole ungracefully, and haul myself up, like I was hauling up a tonne of bricks – shockingly clumsy and graceless!

I’m frustrated by the fact that I could a half-flag quite well on the floor (I could hold it for several counts, with good form), and just about do it aerially last summer, then found that I can barely keep it on the floor, and not at all aerially at the end of 2011.

I’m frustrated by the fact that during last summer, I was able to hold a pencil mount quite confidently (post pencil mount, although my mount was patchy), but unable to hold my pencil once I get into it from a hangback (hangback into pencil is something that I struggle with in any case). And then, to find, at the end of last year, that even my pencil mount has gone AWOL.

I’m frustrated by the fact that I struggled for months to get the superman. Finally managed to do it before Christmas on my better side, then went on a 3-week break, then haven’t been able to replicate it since. Partly perhaps because I’m afraid to try and really go for it.

I’m frustrated by the disappearing act of my shoulder mount: sometimes almost strong and confident, others lame and requiring a colossal hook and heave (hooking of the foot, and heaving of the body).

I guess the fact that my tricks come and go mean that I have yet to properly build up the fundamental strength /  technique to flawlessly execute the trick consistently, time and again. After all, even though I struggled with performing inversions and inside / outside angels consistently when I was learning them last year – they were often touch and go – now, there’s no doubt or hesitation when I execute these moves. So I just need to work hard and practice practice practice, until everything becomes perfect.

Bounce and chasse

ballet shoesBallet is surprisingly difficult. It’s surprising because the movements look so deceptively simple – who would’ve thought that moving your legs forward, diagonally forward, and back could be so difficult? Although it’s only difficult to do it correctly, with good form. I find myself concentrating hard on keeping my stomach tucked in, tailbone pointed down, weight in the heels, and legs straight… and I find myself perspiring, despite the fact that I’m just standing there, almost barely moving!

It’s my third week (and third day, since I’m only doing this once a week) of Absolute Beginner ballet, and we’ve started to do larger travelling movements across the room today – chassé. It was fun, chaotic, and absurd. Most of the girls were clearly still fairly shy absolute beginners (myself included), and the teacher had to get us to move to one side of the room, prompt us to get ready to chassé sideways across the room, four at a time. And there was a lot of messy, uncertain shuffling into and out of lines… some lines with five or six girls, others with only two.

I really enjoyed the chassé though… I like jumping, galloping movements… large, joyful movements that remind me of the freedom and joy of being a child. In my mind, I imagine myself jumping across a grassy field under a beautiful blue sky.

My favourite part of my three classes so far, have always been the petit saut (if that is what it is called. The teacher hasn’t named it yet) part of the class… where he puts on a cute little bouncy song, and we bounce bounce bounce bounce in first position, then do a little jump little jump little jump little jump (all in first position), after several repetitions of this, sometimes in groups (one half of the class will start first, and the second half follows in the next section of the music), we will then repeat this but in second position: we bounce bounce bounce bounce in second position, then do a little jump little jump little jump little jump (all in second position). I always end up with a silly grin on my face… I really love this bouncing and little-jumping that we’re doing… it feels a bit absurd, and yet really fun, and it’s like I’m a kid again, jumping on a bed (an imaginary trampoline)… but this time, encouraged to do so, instead of being asked to stop.

That’s what ballet does for me: it makes me feel young, and brings me back to my childhood.

Bringing sexy back


When I started out learning pole, our lessons were all done in high-heeled shoes. We would do the warm-up in bare feet, then we would put on our heels for the rest of the lesson, before removing them again for cool down. In the first two beginners’ courses, we learned how to do spins, holds, pole sits and climbs in heels, and complete a choreographed routine in heels, before progressing to the next levels. In the intermediate levels (levels 3 and 4), where we began learning to invert, and learnt more inverted tricks (e.g. leg hangs), we would learn the tricks bare feet, and the goal was to complete the respective choreographed routines in heels before progressing to the next level. However, in the upper levels (level 5 and above), the courses are focused entirely on tricks, and there is no routine as part of the courses, and so everyone trains exclusively in bare feet.

Because my pole education was a bit patchy due to work, I never formally completed the level 3 and 4 at my school. So in fact, I have never inverted in heels. I tried inverting with heels several times in class when I was still in level 3, but at that time, my inversions (without heels) were weak and I could just about get myself up. So my heeled attempts were dismal: I would knock the heel of my shoes loudly into the pole, and once, my shoes (which were open-toed mules) flew off and almost hit someone in the head! The additional weight (even though they were non-platformed heels) and necessary balance adjustments overwhelmed my inconsistent inversions. And all too soon, I was progressing to learning more advanced tricks in bare feet, and in my constant push to achieve the next pole trick, I’ve never actually gone back to trying to nail my heeled inversion.

With the progression of time, as I’ve continued learning more difficult tricks, I’m also increasingly finding that I’m missing the grace and beauty of dancing, and, more importantly, I’m missing the grace, cheekiness, and sexiness that heels bring to a pole routine. So I’ve decided that I’d like to start dancing in heels and again, and eventually put together a little routine in high-heels.

To start this off, I’m going to try inverting in heels next week: first, a baby step with a pair of lower, lighter mules (the same ones that previously flew off my feet! But this time I’ll wear clear plastic straps to keep them on me!), then, if that goes well, with my bad-ass 6-inch platform shoes! Fingers crossed…!

Splits – reference starting point


The below are my official ‘beginning of the year’ splits pictures for comparison against at the end of the year. These were taken on 8th Jan per my previous post, and only posted now because I’m a procrastinator.

At the end of the year, I would need to do c. 1o minutes of warm-up and then measure the splits I achieve at the end of the short warm-up. Because obviously it’s much easier to do splits if I do hours of warm up, so to compare apples-to-apples, I need to measure both sets of splits under similar conditions. To be precise, I did mostly ballet-style kicks and some lunges / stretches to Bruno Mars’ songs: Grenade, The Lazy Song, Marry You.

Front / back splits (left leg front):

Splits_left leg front

My better side (despite the gaping hole and bent back leg) - distance to the floor: 6cm

Front / back splits (right leg front):

Splits_right leg front

Am loving the optical illusion here! - Distance to the floor: 7.5cm

Middle / straddle splits:


More V-sit than splits for now - right heel distance to horizontal: 46.2cm; left heel distance to horizontal: 47.4cm

New year, new groove



I went for my first ever ballet class in my life today. An absolute beginner’s class at Central School of Ballet. It was a surprisingly large class, with more than 30 students (I counted 33), including 4 boys. I guess the class is likely to get a little bit bigger – as people come back from the holiday season and resolve to exercise or try a new dance class, before it gets a little bit or a lot smaller – as people drop out.

It was all new for me – new postures, new movements, new vocabulary: bras bas, first position, second position, fifth position, demi-plié, plié, tendu, glissé, port de bras, rond de jambe.

It was quite difficult to keep the tailbone down, posture straight, shoulders down, hips facing forward, while doing demi-pliés, pliés, and tendus. But it was a good challenge to try to do everything properly.

I’m not quite sure yet if I will end up sticking with ballet in the longer term, but for now, I think I’d like to continue this little journey of exploration. I hope it will bring my (almost) as much joy and sense of accomplishment as pole has done – but not too much, since I have finite amount of time and resources, and will struggle to pursue both dance forms equally energetically. I think they will complement each other though: pole to strengthen, ballet to lengthen (the muscles) and to strengthen the core.

In the evening, J came over to do some stretching (we did the Felix Cane flexibility workout) and did splits. I took the splits measurements that I would be using as reference for my new year’s dance resolutions at the end of the year.

The measurements are as follows:

1) Box splits
Distance from right heel to the horizontal: 46.2cm
Distance from left heel to the horizontal: 47.4cm

2) Front / back splits (right leg front):
Distance to floor: 7.5cm

3) Front / back splits (left leg front):
Distance to floor: 6cm

2012 pole resolutions

1)    Achieve front / back splits on both sides
2)    Make significant progress on middle / straddle splits (target: by the end of 2012, achieve at least 50% of the difference between a full split and the split achieved at the beginning of the year)
3)    Perform a pole routine at least once (preferably in a showcase, otherwise for a group of friends)
4)    Pass L5 during the year
5)    Choreograph a pole routine
6)    Video-record at least 10 pole sessions / free-styles / routines during the year
7)    Bonus: pass L6 before the year end
8)    Target: monthly lists of things to work on