Mr. P and I are in heavy training. For amateurs like us, that amounts to about two hours of "walk-through" practice at home in the living room, another ninety minutes to two hours of "run-through" practices in a dance studio, and another ninety minutes to two hours working with our coach, every week.
Each of these training modes has a specific purpose. The walk-throughs are to set the routines in our heads and bodies so that we don't have to consciously retrieve the sequences from memory. We also use this time to diagnose issues with our lines or connections. The run-throughs are to do the routines to music (when we can) or at least at tempo, using as much space as we possibly can.
Sometimes the studio where we practice is pretty empty and we're able to hog ALL the space. That's ideal. On the competition floor, we'll have to steer around other dancers, just as we do when social dancing, but for a full-power practice we want to actively and intentionally be as big in our movement as we can. The studio also has a lot of mirrors so we can see ourselves in action and fix anything wonky.
The coaching is all about learning how to create the movement we want. Our years of social dancing have not helped us to move correctly or effectively in the context of competition. In fact, when we are actively training for a competition as we are now, we hardly go social dancing at all. Our coach has spent a lot of time correcting bad habits we picked up through social dancing ... so the last thing we want to do right now is go out and practice doing things the wrong way again.
We typically don't suffer much from ordinary practice, but the coaching is a different story. Everything we do with our coach is about making the movement bigger, stronger, more emphatic, more expressive. That puts unaccustomed stresses on our bodies. On the memo line of the check, I usually write "private lecture and torture."
My Achilles tendons are sore as hell right now from holding a balance in full relevé. Even with high heels on, in order to achieve some lines the foot has to be arched and that means the full weight is on the forefoot. This compresses the Achilles tendon and puts a lot of forces into the very small muscles and other connective tissues of the ankle.
We both find ourselves with creaky backs, sore shoulders, and tight hips the day after one of these sessions. Not because we've injured anything in the traumatic sense, but because our soft tissues have been generating and absorbing forces they aren't accustomed to. Of course, the only way to get accustomed to these kinds of actions is to perform them.
In a perfect world, we could work with our coach twice a week. But that's not an option right now. So we work on Sundays, and on Mondays we recover. We stretch a lot. We use the foam rollers. We do self-massage, and occasionally recruit each other to get into really gnarly bits. And we rest.
Taking a day (at least) to recover is pretty much an essential. We're middle-aged. We're not elite athletes. If we don't give ourselves recovery time, there's a very real chance of what I would call an accumulated-stress injury.
This sport is something we do for fun, so pushing ourselves into the danger zone would just be stupid. We've both seen too many "weekend warriors" who end up in the emergency room because they outperform their training.
We're now at the point of having our choreography set for eight routines. We'll be practicing, and continuing with coaching, right up to our first competition of the season. We're in better shape for it than we were last time out. It's a good place to be. And it's good to feel that we can actually afford to take a day off.