Hey guys! Remember how I asked for guest posts a while back about dealing with injuries/ weight loss/ anything else inspiring and along those lines? Well, here’s my first one! Catherine is a fellow LA blogger and a fellow injury-ridden athlete, so she’s a pretty perfect guest poster for KWH. Enjoy!
Hello! My name is Catherine, and my blog is Jig and Jog. I write about my life in Los Angeles, attempting to eat and make healthy choices, and the process of training for a marathon and the path to become an Irish dance teacher. I wanted to write this guest post for Kaitlin because I’ve gone through injuries in the past and her story has really resonated with me.
Athletes of all kinds train and compete through pain and injuries. It’s a mark of strength, it measures your bad assness, right? Dancers especially are notorious for not taking care of their bodies properly, and for ignoring and dancing through injuries. I was absolutely no exception to that rule, and it took a huge toll on me both physically and emotionally.
I have spent the past 19 years of my life involved in some degree with Irish Step Dancing.
I began dancing when I was 10 years old, and found, for the first time, something I truly enjoyed doing that I also had a strong natural ability for. Irish dancing, is extremely hard on your body. It is a very high impact art/ sport, with dancers experiencing up to G force levels of pressure on their feet and joints. [Catherine gave me this articlefor you to check out.] So, considering this level of impact, I was lucky. I made it through most of my competition career with a couple of mild sprains and tendonitis in my ankles and knees which was diagnosed by the time I was 13.
When I first started dancing, Riverdance had not yet been anything more than Eurovision song contestant, and there was little if any warm up and stretching involved in my early dance education. Irish dancing has evolved at an incredibly rapid speed, sadly gaining athleticism before technique, which is a recipe for injury. In competitive Irish dancing, the highest competition you can compete at is The World Championships. This is the Olympics for Irish dancing, and qualifying is no easy feat. It took me ten years to reach my goal of qualifying to dance at the Worlds. In preparation for my big competition debut, I was taking Irish dance classes four to five nights a week, doing pilates twice a week, and taking tap, jazz, ballet and pointe at the local community college. I was doing everything I could to make sure I was ready.
So, when I went to the first local competition of the year, a mere three months before I was scheduled to leave for Scotland and twisted my ankle, I figured, it was no big deal. I dropped out of the rest of the competition, I went home, and I iced my foot. Instead of resting any more than that weekend, I went right back to my hectic routine of six days a week dancing. About a month later, I woke up and couldn’t put any weight on my left foot. A trip to the podiatrist confirmed that I had in fact, torn ligaments in my foot. The doctor looked at me and said, “No dancing for six months, and we need to get you into physical therapy right away.” My response was “I’m leaving for Scotland in 3 weeks, so you do whatever it is you need to do to get me dancing, and then I’ll think about taking a break.”
Seriously. When he realized there was no arguing with me, we did three rounds of cortisone shots and off to Scotland I went. I ended up rolling my ankle again while practicing in Scotland and danced, in a huge amount of pain. My dad walked all over Glasgow looking for Icy Hot and tape and instant ice packs, and I taped myself up and accomplished a goal ten years in the making. I danced on the stage at the World Championships. After the competition, I should have taken a break, I should have gone into physical therapy. I’m sure you can guess I did none of those things. I took maybe two weeks off, and then it was time to prepare for Nationals in July, then it was time to prepare for Regionals again in November. I was 20, and all I could see in taking time off, was my window of opportunity closing. Taking time off in your 20s seemed like dance suicide. So, instead, I powered through, and never fully healed. When I moved back to Los Angeles I decided Regionals in 2005 would be my last. I would officially retire after I qualified for Worlds again. Sadly, that didn’t happen, and I was in so much pain, I pulled out of the competition after the first round. I resolved the competition my dance school hosts in March would be me last competition, and in some ways it really was. I ended up with a huge stress fracture across the top of my foot. All because I never let myself heal properly back in 2002.
After that injury, I had a bit of an emotional breakdown. I didn’t have insurance at the time, so I could only afford about four physical therapy sessions, and it looked like I would never dance again. I took a year and a half off before I was able to go back to dance in teams only. No more solos for me, which was really difficult to come to terms with. My entire life had become Irish dancing, I didn’t know how to be someone who WASN’T an Irish dancer. In fact, I didn’t really know who I was without dance. I struggled, a lot, in the years since breaking my foot. It took several years before I was able to really accept that I wasn’t JUST an Irish dancer, and that dance didn’t need to completely define my life, and that it was okay.
In the last year and a half I have started running, which until I completed my first half marathon last September, was something I never thought I’d do.
Now, I’ve finished two half marathons, and am training for my first full marathon this October, and my third half marathon in January.
It’s been a wild ride, and even though my knees still bother me, it’s a new outlet for me, which is great. It doesn’t completely fill the void that was dance, but it certainly helps, and lucky for me, I’ve been able to go back to dance. Certainly not in the same capacity as before, but I do perform with a small company, and I am currently working toward sitting the exam to become qualified to teach Irish Step Dancing. So, my dance plans may not have always worked out exactly as I’d hoped, but in the end, I couldn’t be happier with where I am.