It takes guts and grace to be able to dance in the air and that's why taking up aerial classes can be one of the most challenging things you can do. I'm not going to lie - aerial is not easy!
If it were easy everyone would be doing it and it wouldn't be half as cool.
I can guarantee that it will test you. There'll be days when you simply want to give up on it and there'll be days when you'll be dancing for joy because of it. I call these the highs and the lows of aerial.
There's also upsides and downsides to the upside downs of doing aerial.
So let's look at the ups
It’s not just the fun factor that makes us want to hang upside down. Did you know doing aerial actually provides a huge range of health benefits as well?
Here are 12 upsides to training aerial as your new found hobby
1. Physical strength. Obviously you'll gain strength, so if you want great guns and abs then this is the place to be! Upper body muscles such as arms, abs and back will all increase in muscle tone as a side effect to doing aerial.
For instance let’s add this up… when you turn yourself upside down once, this is equivalent to doing 20 sit ups, and when you climb once you're doing a full pull-up - multiply that up over a class and that’s some kick ass work out you're doing there.
2. Muscular stability. Then there's strengthening that goes beyond just the muscles to other soft tissues such as tendons and ligaments, which in turn helps prevent injuries. Yep doing aerial will make you overall a much stronger person, so you’ll be stronger when it comes to other life activities.
Shopping bags, heavy luggage, awkward furniture will all seem like a walk in the park. No more wimpy-wet-sock attitude - you're gonna be fiesty-badass-hard-as-nails after a few weeks of aerial in your system!
3. Flexibility and increase in range of movement. All aerialists train flexibility to help create a lean, supple and unusually flexible body in order to look awesome in the air. If you get into aerial in a big way you'll definitely want to add stretching to your to do list.
4. Co-ordination, increased spatial awareness and sense of balance. Jeez that’s pretty much a triple whammy! Yes whilst hanging upside down from various body parts in weird and wonderful positions you'll soon develop enhanced awareness of where you are in space, which includes increased co-ordination, spatial awareness and sense of balance.
5. Stamina. As your strength increases so does your stamina and ability to stay in the air for longer time durations. Beginners may find it impossible hanging in the air at all – if you continue training however you will soon discover that this becomes pretty much normal and actually the preferred place to be.
6. Release of tension. The act of hanging upside down is a great way to decompress the spine via the release of pressure between the vertebrae, which in turn helps aid posture for sitting and standing. It is proven that inversions help with circulation, spinal decompression and livening up your mood.
7. Weight loss. Although aerial is not a cardio sport there is significant energy expenditure during training. In fact around 300 - 400 calories per hour and with experience and increased intensity even more than this. And because you're also increasing muscle mass you'll also increase your metabolic rate, so even at rest more calories are burned.
8. Decreased stress levels. As long as we remember to breath deeply during training, there's a rise in oxygen supply to the brain, which promotes feelings of well being and decreases stress levels.
9. Mental capacity. Due to the danger factor inherent in aerial from practising at height, adrenaline is released which creates rushes of excitement. The thrills and spills we experience when we learn drops and rolls can definitely heighten and sharpen your mental capacity.
When a person’s overall mental health is on form, this in turn helps decrease the chance of a person suffering from other diseases such as a stroke, heart attacks, anxiety attacks, high blood pressure and other stress related issues. Good this innit!
10. Self-esteem and confidence. As the trust in your body’s abilities grows so does your self-esteem and confidence. Also, due to the fact that you have to overcome a lot of fear when working at a height, means that on mastering these skills there is a real sense of achievement.
11. Trust. Plus with aerial you learn to quickly develop trust in other people. This is because that person you only met just a few minutes ago in class, who is now your new training partner, is now your life support system whilst they spot you in some crazy new trick you want to try. It’s not really a normal occurrence in most gym classes for such a bond to develop since you probably don’t challenge yourself quite so much as when training aerial skills.
12. Fun factor. Aerial training is fun and having fun is definitely an actual health benefit in itself. Doing aerial is such a playful activity, it’s almost like being a kid again. Do you remember the times you played on the swings and slides in the playground. Well doing aerial is like the adult version of that - we get to play on really cool equipment and learn to slide, drop, roll, fly and spin around in space!
But then of course there's the downs…
1. Pain factor - yep aerial hurts! So you might as well know this from the start because there's no getting round it. That hard, cold, unforgiving hard metal bar can hurt. It'll hurt your hands when you start out, it'll hurt if you fall off it, it'll hurt if a limb smacks straight into it and it'll hurt when you hang off it.
And the silks well they're just as bad - the fabric can burn you, the wraps will squeeze you tight and, yes it's gonna hurt if you come out of a move or drop the wrong way. That's the plain straight truth of it and so you'd better get used to it. The good thing about this though is that you'll very soon start to toughen up. You'll get that badass feeling, like you own your space, like you can take on the world and before you know it ain't nobody gonna mess with ya.
2. It's challenging. And yes this can be demoralising at times - sometimes it will feel like you're getting nowhere and that you have elephants in your pockets and the strength of a newt. But those are the bad days and we all have bad days. In circus we learn to dust off the sawdust (I guess) and pick ourselves up and try it all over again.
3. It requires rigging points and high ceilings. Which means it's not necessarily 24/7 accessible. It's not like you can pop to the gym for a quick aerial workout - doing aerial requires aerial training spaces and these are often further afield and harder to find.
4. It requires safe practice at all times. Otherwise injuries occur which is always a massive downer for sure! However there are rules and guidelines for safe practice (see safe practice and spotting) in order to ensure that our classes are as safe as possible and injuries are avoided at all costs!
So there you have it some of the ups and the downs to the upside downs of doing aerial.
Do the up sides out way the downs - in my humble opinion absolutely and undoubtedly YES, YES, YES!!!
And going by all the other aerialists in the world today I think we are all agreed...