I am 19 entire years old and have always been downright awful at physical activity. Gasping for breath after running a short distance or going up stairs, crying out in pain after lifting something heavy, taking breaks after walking for a half hour.
Recently I was diagnosed with Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS), which explains some of the horrible agony I've been in after simple activities. Basically my brain doesn't know what my body is doing half the time and the default response to that is pain. So I'm in pain like, constantly. I also have chronic fatigue and have been shamed most of my life for not being as physically active as my peers, so doing any form of exercise is hard
, physically and mentally.
But DDR is cool as hell. So I will simply try anyway.
GROUND ZERO: First Try
I looked up tips beforehand just to know what I'm getting into, meaning I knew from the get-go to keep my feet on the side arrows and practice 'walking' the notes. I've played DDR before without knowing any of this and could never even finish one song, so knowledge was very helpful haha.
Lots of reliance on the metal bar; my wrists hurt a lot after this first attempt! I also wore big chunky boots on this day, which are not ideal dancing shoes, so my feet hurt more than I think they really should have. I finished 2 songs and failed one; that was all I had in me. I did feel like I did a big workout, though, which is really the whole point.
FIRST B RANK
I went with a friend on this day; they naturally have more stamina and coordination than I do, so it was really satisfying to see myself keep up with them! I even got a B rank!
Reading charts on stepmania has definitely helped me knowing where my feet need to go.
I was able to do 6 songs
though, with a pretty substantial break in between the two sets of 3. I failed two, and my body hurt a whole lot, but I'm definitely improving.
My physical therapist says this will be good for me as long as I don't overexert, so I'm doing my best!
A DIFFERENT DDR MACHINE
On vacation, I went to an arcade with some friends, they had a different DDR machine; I forget the exact one, but it was a lot newer than the one at my local arcade. It had Vocaloid songs that I could play!
I didn't get to do many rounds, because the arcade operates on a coin system, not the free play my local one does, and there were some regulars playing constatntly on it. But I did a few rounds and I got a B+ on a level 7 song... I don't know how that compares to the songs I normally do, though... I think the difficulty scoring is different on the newer machines. There were more 8th notes than I'm used to, though, and I did them pretty well! So I count it as a win!
Decided to finally put my stepmania practice to the test today at the arcade by increasing the difficulty on DDR Extreme. I think these songs skew harder (or at least, the level numbers understate the difficulty)
than the ones I played on vacation, so it was a good workout... I failed quite a few songs but that's okay, because I also got a C on Kind Lady on Standard mode! A bit frustrated, as I've been practicing the Heavy mode version of it on stepmania, but my feet simply don't move that fast yet.
I haven't been going to the arcade as much because I've been very busy, HOWEVER... I got two (2!!!!!!!) A ranks on songs this day! On STANDARD MODE! It's very hard to tell if my stamina is getting better or not, but my accuracy CERTAINLY is. I'm also trying to avoid the bar as much as possible to practice balance because I can no longer go to physical therapy.
It's hard. Even if my balance is fine, my legs don't have the power to move without the extra support the bar provides. No PT, combined with less time and money to go to the arcade, means that I've hit a little bit of a brick wall. It's okay though, I'll keep trying!
HEY WHATS WRONG WITH MY KNEES?
Stamina still isn't great, to be honest. I tried to turn off jumps, but couldn't find the setting. I'm not sure DDR Extreme has the option. My knees and feet are really feeling like they're taking a beating from them, though. It's easy to blame the lack of physical therapy, but we hadn't even started working on my legs yet, so I don't know. Kind of disheartening but I'm still trying.
I'm getting better at balance, I think? I'm at least getting better at distributing my weight better, which helps a lot. I did songs mostly without the bar today, on Standard level, and still got Bs and Cs, so I feel like I'm still improving. But my feet and knees hurt so badly by the end of it I was almost at the point of tears, which is unusual for me when it comes to physical pain. I've been taking more breaks.
The plan for my DDR practice is as follows:
- Go to my local arcade, which has a $15 fee to play all day as much as you want, roughly twice a week
- Bring at least one water bottle
- Dance on
'light' Standard mode (as of 06/14/2023), with a note speed of 2x
- Take breaks. Take so many breaks. I need to sit for like 20 minutes minimum after doing 2-3 songs
- If my feet/legs start to really hurt, I will stop playing DDR and go do something else until they feel better
- Ask the other DDR regulars for tips and help (they have all been incredibly nice)
- I will NOT push myself to finish a song if I can feel my legs starting to feel fuzzy or if my chest starts to hurt
FIRST C RANK
I was downright ELATED when I finally got a C rank! I wore sneakers this day and tried to use the metal bar for stability, not as a crutch. Wrists still hurt quite a bit, though.
Found out how to increase note speed to 2x this time around, and I watched some other players and realized I was moving my legs too much; I'd pull my legs like, WAY up while trying to hit the next step which was just not needed haha. Downloaded stepmania to practice reading charts while I'm at home.
Went to the arcade with my partner to show off my improving dancing skills >:) I mdae a lot of strides! I was able to do multiple sets of 3 without taking a break, even!
Though I have been mostly sticking to the same few songs (Butterfly, Speed on Beethoven, 1998, maybe like two others), I'm still really proud that I got MOSTLY B RANKS TODAY BABY!!! My 'overall' score for each set was still a C or D, but I'm pretty sure I got mostly B ranks. It also takes more songs now for my legs to start feeling awful. Very big steps, I think.
And now I'm going on vacation; unless there's a DDR machine near where I'm staying, I won't be able to practice for a little over a week. Horrifying. I'll still do Stepmania, so hopefully I don't lose progress.
Another arcade I went to on vacation had StepmaniaX, which is similar to DDR but for some reason I feel like the songs skew easier? I also just. Generally don't like the music selection. But that's not relevant right now.
I finished some HARD MODE SONGS! Pictured is the one I did the best at, but I finished about two others (and failed two as well) on top of finishing a bunch of songs at my normal difficulty
(in DDR Extreme, that's Light Mode. In StempaniaX, that's Easy+). My friends were all very impressed by my mid-rank play, as I'm sure you can imagine.
But I'm really proud of myself! I'm going to start trying to transition to higher difficulties overall, I think. Practicing runs in Stepmania to try to figure out how to read songs with more eighth notes/triplets... but damn it's confusing.
ACTUALLY NOTICABLE IMPROVEMENT
Did some more Standard level play at the arcade; it was more crowded than usual, so I had to take more breaks from DDR than usual to allow others the chance to play. Noticably, I wasn't super embarrassed and anxious playing when there were others at the arcade... I didn't care if they were watching me or not (they were not) and I didn't care what others might think of me doing so badly on mid-rank songs.
I didn't do SO
badly though... because I got a B on Kind Lady! 5 days prior I could only hit a C, so this is really good to see!! I'm also consciously trying to avoid using the bar as much... it's hard with the 8th notes and whatnot though. Trying to move my feet that fast makes me lose my balance. But it'd be nice if my wrists and arms didn't hurt so much after grabbing the bar for dear life haha.
BACK INTO IT
I've been unable to really practice lately, since I've been busy and whatnot. So I went to the arcade this day to hang out with my partner and get back into it. My stamina is still really bad, I physically couldn't move after
halfway through the third song I played and basically limped over to the bench. I kept trying though; doing a set, barely finishing, resting for 20+ minutes, going back to it. I had a fun time! And I got an A on a level 5 song, which is the highest level I've gotten an A on so far! I know S is the highest rank, but I don't think I'll be hitting that at all any time soon, so for now my goal is always to get an A :)
NO SERIOUSLY WHATS UP WITH MY KNEES?
Didn't play a whole lot of DDR today at the arcade because I was hanging out with a friend and she's not too into it but... when I DID play DDR, my knees hurt. I was playing Butterfly on Standard mode, which, while it has a lot of jumps, it's normally pretty easy for me. It's like, a warmup/warm-down song. But it hurt so badly I nearly cried. I could feel my bones grinding against each other in my knees when I made jumps. Jumps are normally kind of rough on my body, but it's been a lot worse lately.
I'm also going back to college very soon, and there are NO DDR machines there! I still have Stepmania to keep up my chart-reading skills, but as far as physical ability goes... there's nothing. So unless I get lucky and one pops up in middle-of-nowhere college town, this blog will be at a standstill.