Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dancing Your Own Dance

The world championship of Ironman triathlon takes place in Kona, Hawaii every year in October. It is considered the holy grail of long-distance triathlon for would-be qualifiers, as well as the Big Dance on the Big Island for those who qualified.

Tomorrow, on 4 December, several key races are taking place in the Asia-Pacific region. There are the Singapore Marathon, Ironman Western Australia, Phuket Triathlon, and Angkor Wat Half-Marathon. We wish all participants a safe and memorable adventure in their personal quest!

Dancing With the Stars is a popular, prime-time, TV competition in the USA. You can watch many episodes on YouTube to appreciate the athleticism behind ballroom dance, salsa, rock & roll, and many more styles. What is salient is that the celebrities have their preferred dance-forms, as well as the ones they struggle with. In any case, they aspire to do their best to qualify for their next round with their partners (who are actual professional dancers).

Dancing teaches us many things, including rhythm, timing, coordination, cooperativeness, and teamwork. This is analogous to sports, be it running, triathlons, or swimming. Movement is one large, coordinated, synchronicity of gross muscle and fine muscle moves. When the body is educated, it has learnt new patterns of movement with respect to specific muscles that engage in these moves. Our brain is one clever organ that learns both good and bad habits quickly and takes shortcuts when it can.

A few tips before your big dance tomorrow:

1)    Do a brief session, rehearsing your event (i.e. short sprints, on-land swimming, short pool session, or quick spin on your bike).
2)    Conduct a final check on your race attire and nutritional support. Lay out your stuff before you pack them into the Transition bags.
3)    Replace faulty equipment and attire immediately; mechanical failure and wardrobe malfunction are killers to one’s mental focus.
4)    Rest your feet for the rest of the day. No shopping if you are overseas (do that the day after the race, as you’ll benefit from the walk).
5)    Stretch if you feel tense, however not too deeply to risk a strain or sprain.
6)    Attempt to sleep early. Have several naps if you have difficulty with long stretches of slumber.
7)    Focus on personal mantras that help you stay focused. Use music to help you relax, but not on race day.
8)    Avoid people who arouse anxiety for you. Just say you need to rest.
9)    Find your space. Respect other people’s space. John Cooke describes his 'quiet before the big dance'.
10) Visualise your completion of the race. Practise your finisher’s pose (Two thumbs up, waving of hands, rolling on the floor Blazeman style, leaping heel click like Crowie).

You have done the preparation. Time to relish in your execution of the race. The test is in managing yourself throughout the race. This may be the toughest examination you may have taken. You have completed two-thirds of it: training, and for showing up at the start-line. If you had your choice of dance, which would you choose? To each his/her own! Sometimes, we just have to dance to the beat of our own drum.

Enjoy your special day. It is another ‘birth-day’ for you. Appreciate every moment in the finisher’s chute. Whatever happens - you are already a winner. Think of two things: get my right-sized t-shirt and medal. Good luck!

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