Running Back to Russia

Ok, so I’m not literally running to Russia. And I’m not returning until January anyway. 

But I am most certainly running! And when I think about it, I actually am running back to Russia, nonetheless figuratively.

Let me back up a bit so that I can start making some sense of this post 😉

For as far back as I can remember, I have always just known that I cannot run. There wasn’t even an inkling of a doubt in my mind – it was plain as the nose on my face that I simply cannot run, no way no how, nu-uh, not gonna do it. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, I just couldn’t run. It made my throat burn and left me breathless and coughing and I just did not like it at all. I wanted to like it, but at some point early on in my life, for some unknown, probably arbitrary reason, my mind declared running to be ‘just totally not my thing’, and out of my reach as something I am even capable of doing.

I believe the roots of my running complex, to give it a name, lies in my middle school days in California, where the horrible, awful gym class syllabus had as running a miserable mile once (or was it twice?) a week, an event that I remember dreading the entire day and passionately complaining about it at home. I have no idea why I got so worked up about it! Looking back, I don’t understand what I hated so much about running a measly mile, save for that it was no doubt difficult for me. That was before the days of my love story with ballet, and frankly before the days of even knowing what fitness, good health, and nutrition were. I was always athletic – I am told that from the very beginning I was always moving around and twirling and dancing and jumping and overall more comfortable being in a constant whirlwind of motion than sitting down and being calm. I see it in myself still now; in fact, it is partly due to this that I struggle to update my blog as often as I’d really like to – I have so much moving to do that the thought of sitting still for a good chunk of time to write, despite the great love of writing I have, makes me put it off in favor of something more active. I’m not complaining, though – we all know there is an increasingly critical problem of too little activity in the general population at the cost of our health. I know how difficult it is to force yourself into making something that does not come naturally into a habitual sort of thing. So, I am glad that at least I don’t have to worry about that 🙂

Speaking of my apparent tendency to be constantly in motion – and I’m going off on a short tangent here (as if I hadn’t already, right?) – I was amused just a short while ago by the discovery that my name, Noa, turns out to have a pretty fitting meaning for my personality. It means ‘motion’. Well, shucks 😀

/end tangent

Back to the topic of running. I just wasn’t meant to be a runner. It was something that was out of my reach because it was just too hard

Wait. Wait a minute. Too hard? 

Too hard?!

That’s a foreign concept for me, if there ever was one. I’ve never been one to turn down a challenge. I say that now, but apparently, as I’ve just realized, I had done it in the past! I believe that I never really realized that until now because I had decided I couldn’t run so early on – before I learned about the satisfaction of being dedicated to something and surpassing everybody’s expectations and your own in reaching ‘impossible’ heights and cherished goals – that it had become something I didn’t even think about anymore when it came to running. It was not up for argument, it was just ingrained in my view of myself that running is off-limits. 

And I had ways to justify it too. Subconsciously, if anything. After all, running is awful for ballerinas, isn’t it? Everybody knows that! Oh, the woes that await me as a dancer should I put that much strain on my knees and build the wrong muscles and, and, and…!

There is truth in that, of course, and as such I was more than happy to use that as justification for why i just cannot run. 

I am sure that by now you have gathered that something has changed and I am obviously now running. Nothing has changed, really, except for my mindset, which, to be fair, is actually probably the biggest/most significant type of change a person could go through. 

The bottom line is that I am out of shape. Coming home from Russia and taking over a month without much ballet (or anything at all, for that matter) in order to get better was obviously devastating for my movement-seeking self and, of course, for my ballet. I had gotten back up to reasonable shape as far as my ballet technique goes by the end of May (although still nowhere not quite at my best), and then the school year ended and I was confined to the limitations of summer break. While my technique had improved since coming back to classes after my rest, my physique itself is not how I like it to be, and I find myself back in the position of working toward a slimmer body and getting back to how I like to look! 

With both my aesthetic goals and my fitness and ballet related goals in mind, I went into summer break with a game plan in mind. Part of that game plan was to become a runner, to learn how to run. By the end of that summer, running would be part of my life, and seemingly from nowhere I was determined to make that happen! And I am happy to say that I seem to have made it happen, or am in the workings of it happening, anyway!

My teacher told me, some year ago, of a friend she had who was running a lot and lost a lot of weight. Before summer, she told me of another ballerina who was running 35 km a day while in the off season to stay in shape during her breaks. I think it was this, along with some other things and a general renewed sense of energy and motivation in me, that spurred me along to start running myself. And so, I did!

it’s been a month since I started running, give or take a week or so. I’ve lost track of it – because it just feels like something I’ve been doing all along, by now! It comes to me much more naturally than before, and I am stunned to say that I actually enjoy it. I shouldn’t be surprised, but considering my history with my lack of affinity toward the sport, I am. Well, that’s quite alright – one of my favorite feelings is the experience of being pleasantly surprised with myself for doing something I am proud to have done that maybe I didn’t realize I had it in me to do 😉

Almost two weeks ago I decided to run my first 5k with a good friend of mine. I had been training for a measly two weeks but was excited enough to take the plunge as I always tend to do, and it was so much fun! I’m not so concerned about time, not at all, actually. I just want to run! Maybe in the future that will be something I am driven to work on primarily. Not for now. Even without running on a competitive level, I am obviously tracking my times because…well…it’s just what you do! Anyway, we finished the 5k in just about 39 minutes, which I was happy about 🙂

Then a week and a half ago I found myself in a situation of being offered a number for the Peachtree Road Race, which is tomorrow! For those that don’t know (don’t worry, I didn’t know either until, er, a week and a half ago), the Peachtree is the biggest 10k in (I think?) the world, or maybe it’s just the US, with 60,000+ runners and many, many spectators, taking place on the 4th of July every year. I’ve heard it’s a really fun event! So many people register for a number, that they had to make the selection process a lottery-based one. Because of that, you are never guaranteed a spot just by registering. Knowing that, and playing a little bit of the devil’s advocate, I had absolutely zero hesitation upon saying, “YES, give me that number NOW!” And so, tomorrow morning I will rise at the crack of dawn (or possibly earlier), and head toward Atlanta to run the Peachtree! I happen to be in start wave F, which means I am ‘stuck’ with the faster runners, but I am so up for the challenge! My game plan? Playing tag! I think I’ll try to ‘tag’ onto someone and try to keep up with them. I am looking forward to it!

Oh yeah, one more update. I’ve settled on a major. I’m now officially a biology major, with a concentration in Physiology and Pre-Med! The dedication and ‘consumption’ mandated by ballet life, plus the rigors and equal lack of time for much else as a medical student?! What can I say, I’m one ambitious little lady. I can’t help it! I just cannot find it in me to ignore the few things I have a real passion for, and so I have succumbed to my eagerness and decided that I will take whatever difficulties arise in stride because, gosh darn it, if I want to be a ballerina AND study medicine, then I WILL!!

And I have to say, it’s refreshing and very satisfying to realize there is more to me than just ballet. I suspect I’ve known that all along, but it’s just clear as day to me now, and I couldn’t be happier about that! Ballerina. Doctor. Runner. Not yet, obviously, but on the path toward them all. And I have a feeling that in the future I will realize this is just the tip of the iceberg. That should be fun to see! 😀


—-RUSSIAN VERSION (English below)—-
Гимнастика учителя: Болит?
Я: Нет.
Гимнастика учителя: Ну, ладно. Так, дальше.
Гимнастика учителя: Болит?
Я: Да!
Гимнастика учителя: Хорошо! Еще, еще.

Гимнастика учителя: Ноа, шпагат с стулом. Болит?
Я: Нет.
Гимнастика учителя: Значит так, два стула. Два минут, и после другой ногой.

Gymnastics teacher: Does it hurt?
Me: No.
Teacher: Well, ok. So, go further.
Teacher: Does it hurt?
Me: Yes!
Teacher: Good! Keep going, keep going.

Teacher: Noa, oversplits on the chair. Does it hurt?
Me: No.
Teacher: Well, then, two chairs. Two minutes, and then the other foot (and then middle splits, too).

I had my first gymnastics class today! Apparently it was an “easy” class, and the other ones will be harder. The highlight for me was doing an over split with both legs on chairs! I knew I could do an over split one leg at a time, but I never knew I was capable of doing both legs. Great! And I will be sooooo sore tomorrow 🙂 

But – I can’t wait until my next gymnastics class! 

Reflections on This Week

All in all, this was one of my better breaks. Probably because I did my best to prevent it from actually being a break! I ended up going to the studio every day except for Friday (on Friday I was running on less than 4 hours of sleep and so excused myself from private practice with the [mostly] legitimate justification that I would be risking injury by going). I also ended up going to the gym every day (except for Friday), although that wasn’t something I had specifically aimed do — the opportunity arose because, what with school being out for the week, I actually had time to go each day before class, something I would do all the time if I could fit it in my schedule.

Still, I wasn’t as pleased with myself as I had hoped to be at the start of the week. My enthusiasm was sufficient, but nevertheless it was difficult to get myself in the studio and live up to my own expectations of working as hard and as long as I do in any normal class. It’s true that I was tired (thanks to the sleep deprivation that always seems to sneak up on me during long breaks!), but I simply do not consider that to be a valid excuse for not being my best.

The vision I had for ballet this week played out something like this: go to the studio after working out, do my full warm up, give myself a full class (focusing on a few particular movements I was specifically told to work on by my teacher), and then stay in the studio a while longer to stretch extra. What really ended up happening was a somewhat comical decline in actually making my vision come to life as each day passed. Monday was by far the best day, and I know that it’s because I was forced by compulsion motivated to be absolutely ready for my ‘real’ class in the evening; Tuesday found myself going to the studio after working out, doing my full warm up, and then rushing through a barre that hardly counted and a few sad center exercises. By Wednesday, I was doing only my full warm up, and on Thursday I completely lost it and somehow ended up only doing a halfhearted warm up. As I said before, on Friday I did not even go to the studio (for a good reason…eh…)

What did I learn? I need to schedule private lessons with an actual teacher during the break!

I’m actually not at all kidding! But aside from that, I discovered that I need to learn how to work as hard on my own as I do when I have an audience; I mean, whether my audience is my teacher, some parents, guests in a theater, or the girls from the younger levels, I end up with significantly more ‘fuel to my fire’ and I perform wonderfully. In contrast, as I have seen this week, when I’m on my own and I have no immediate commitments that require my being on top of things (ie. if I had a class or a performance later that day, I would behave as normal and work just as hard on my own), my focus fades slightly and leave the studio much less satisfied than I prefer to.

I guess I just need to suck it up, keep my goals in mind, and work through any laziness that unexpectedly comes my way (I will say that I am not a lazy person — a big reason, perhaps, why I didn’t know how to handle myself this week!) And, as I mentioned above, it would do me a lot of good to arrange for private lessons as least periodically during my long breaks to help me stay on track.

Still, I would like to be able to work independently, without the ‘threat’ of a teacher to keep me in line. And it bothers me a lot to admit that I don’t know how to do this yet; it bothers me because 1) working hard all the time no matter what has never been a problem for me, and 2) this means I lack one of the skills I must posses as a professional ballerina in the (non too far) future — or actually, right now, even though I am not yet dancing professionally.

So what do I do? I know the simple answer is to JUST DO. And so, that is what I must do. It is part of the discipline this art requires, and so I should follow that precedent and follow through with my own desires and goals.

I will say, though, that next time I know I will be in such a position where I must work alone, it would be wise of me to consider the excuses I might make for myself and make sure to prevent the possibility of falling back on those excuses. I mean to say — I know now that being truthfully tired is not conducive to an enthusiastic class! And so, I should strive more than usual to get a healthy night’s sleep for the days I know I will really need it.

So, tell me! How did you spend your Thanksgiving week? Have you ever been in a position where you had to give yourself a class or rehearse on your own? How do you keep going on those days where everything that happens the way you feel seems to be a reason you cannot do your best?