Category Archives: Exercises

Awesome & Astonishing App for Aerialists!

Make gravity your bitchToday’s blog is brought to you by the letter A!

Look what I found, friends! A nifty little app called “7”. It’s a PE-style workout app that I’m loving, mainly because it’s actually getting me to work out. 😉 Thought I would pass it on!

Why I Love It

  • It alternates 30 seconds of exercise (12 sets in all = 7 minutes) with 10 seconds of rest. I usually do 3-5 rounds per day, mixing it up each time.
  • It’s free! You can either workout a lot to open additional workouts, or just buy them (like I did – I’m way too impatient) for $1.99.
  • No super weird exercises – everything is straightforward.
  • It randomizes the workout for you, so you never have to do the same thing twice.
  • No equipment necessary, so it’s perfect for travel.
  • Great for folks going through a busy spell, moms trying desperately to get exercise in before the next diaper change, etc.
  • Even on my busiest days, I can manage 7 minutes!

 

So, if you think it might be useful, have a look! Love and pull-ups, Laura
 
Google Play/Android
iPhone

 

 

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Warming Up – You’re Doing it Wrong

OK. That thing you do where you come into a class, half-heartedly reach for your toes for 30 seconds, and gossip with your besties is not a warm-up. It is not is not is not. It blows what little mind I have left when my darlings jump in the air with little more than a neck roll and a shoulder circle. Warming up is YOUR responsibility (even if your instructor leads a group warm-up), and a non-negotiable if you want to stay injury free. Miss Laura’s about to drop that hammer! (#hammertime)

 

 

Why Do I Need a Stupid Warm-Up, Miss Laura?

Because your body needs to be prepared for the feats of super-human strength I’m about to ask it to do, that’s why! A good warm-up:

  • warms the muscles and prepares them to work efficiently
  • lubes up your joints
  • takes your body through it’s anticipated range of motion
  • gives you a heads-up about “creaky bits” that may need special attention today

Why is Stretching Not a Warm-Up?

Stretching can be part of a warm-up, but stretching alone ain’t gonna do it. Sorry. I know passive stretching feels nice, and (frankly) doesn’t involve that much effort, but that’s the point: a warm-up involves a little effort. I personally like to see a teeny sheen of sweat on your little brow before you hoist your butt into the air! Here’s a good place to start from Altitude Aerials.

 

 

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard from me on this topic (shocking!!!!). Have a look at the links below if you have the sneaking suspicion that your warm-up may suck. 😉 Love and pull-ups, Laura

Quick-n-Dirty Warm-up for Aerial Warriors

Aerial Warm-Ups 101

 

 

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PostPartum Aerial Training – How Mama Gets Her Groove Back: Part 1

MamaslittlemonkeyGlorious Aerial Mamas (or Mamas to Be)! It’s the post you’ve been asking about – WOOOT!

After nine months of barfing, heartburn, waddling, waiting, and planning, your beautiful bebe is finally nestled in your arms. Now that your body is somewhat your own again, I know you’re DYING to get back in the air. But when is it safe? When should you expect your body to feel like itself again? And OH MY GOSH – the overwhelm! How does this WORK?!

 

Weeks 1-8 – Not So Fast, Sistah

If you’re still pregnant with your first, there’s no way to adequately explain to you what I lovingly call The Baby Bomb – when the wee miracle finally gets here and blows your world to smithereens. There is truly no way to communicate how dramatic a shift this is (you wouldn’t believe me anyway). But here are some things you’ll be encountering:

  • Hormones – your hormones are doing the watusi! You’ll feel elated one minute, and burst into tears 30 seconds later. You will likely have a touch of The Baby Blues (a hormone-induced depression), and, depending on your situation, you may have more than just a touch. It feels so incredibly wrong to have feelings of depression when everyone tells you that this should be the happiest time in your life, or to “relax and enjoy the baby”. Please know that you are not broken, you are not alone, and this does not mean you are not or will not be a good mother. Talk about it, and don’t be afraid to ask for all the help you need.
  • Breastfeeding – they suck the baby weight right off you! WIN! But be forewarned – no one has ever done that to your nipples (unless they have, masochist). Investing in a good breast pump can give you a bit of freedom in a few weeks to go train a bit by yourself.
  • Sleep – ha! You ain’t gettin’ none. Newborns nurse about every two hours. The ideal sleeping situation is the one in which everyone gets the most sleep. Every baby is different, every mama is different. Experiment and don’t let other people’s parenting philosophies (or one you’ve decided to adhere to) prevent you from sleuthing out what works best for you and your new family.
  • Support System – friends, partner or husband, family, Facebook, whatever. Create a support system and USE IT! There’s a ridiculous perception that the modern woman does it all herself. Bullshit. Ask for LOTS of help.
  • Lochial flow (bleeding) – thinking about jumping on those silks before 6 weeks? Think again. I tried at 4 weeks, predictably overdid it, and nearly wound up in the hospital with maternal hemorrhage. Relax. Take the time off – it’s OK. Another 14 days is not going to kill you. 🙂
  • C-Sections – getting back to exercise and training becomes a bit more complicated after major abdominal surgery. If you’ve had a C-Section, you’re looking at 8 weeks before you can start moving meaningfully again. This is a real thing for you too, Superwoman! You can set your training back months or years by not letting your abs heal.
  • Diastisis Recti – this is a separation of the rectus abdominus muscle, which occurs frequently in pregnancy. It takes time to knit that split back together. Jumping back in too soon can widen the gap – give it time. Here’s a great resource. 
  • Colic – your baby may be a super mellow cuddly cherub of an infant. Mine screamed like a banshee (we nearly called in a priest for an exorcism). Like Gump and his chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. If your baby is “spirited” or high-needs, you may find yourself too drained or overwhelmed to think much about training. It’s OK. This won’t last forever, and you WILL figure this out.
  • Productivity – are you a Type A super productive person? Not anymore, you’re not! Brace yourself. One of the toughest adjustments is the near constant interruption – diapers need changing, tummies need filling, bebehs need comforting, etc. It’s a lot. You’ll sort it out eventually, but at first, it’s all like BOOM.
  • You will pee your pants for a while. I know you don’t believe me, but if you had a vaginal birth, not only will you poop during labor, but you’ll pee your pants until your pelvic floor tightens up again. Stock up on Depends, and bid your dignity bon voyage. 😉

 

OK, so what does all this mean for training? First, know that you’re looking at 6-8 weeks before you are cleared to start exercising again. You will be tired, and, if you’re breastfeeding, your body is still cranking out mucho hormones which may contribute to laxity (looseness) in the joints. You’ll be overwhelmed, and, if you’re the first person in your tribe to pop a bun out of the oven, you may feel like nobody understands what you’re going through (hint: they don’t).

“Miss Laura, this sounds horribly depressing….”

Sorry!!! I don’t mean for it to be, truly! Let’s look at what you CAN do to set yourself up for Phase 2.

  • Heal like it’s your job. Because it is. Your vagina just exploded – let it heal. Your abs were just stretched out to infinity, too – it will take time for them to shrink back down to a place where they can function meaningfully again. Taking time to heal is one of the BEST ways of getting back in the air faster.
  • Start training your pelvic floor. Remember our friend Kegel? If you’re not familiar, it’s time to get intimately acquainted. You can start doing this as soon as you can “find” the muscles after birth.
  • Zip up that tummy! My favorite post-partum exercise was The Zipper. After a week or two, when you can start to find the muscles again, you “zip” from your pelvic floor to the top of your abs. Do a Kegel, now try to find the muscles that bring your belly button to your spine. First try it lying down, then progress to standing. It may not feel like much at first (in fact, it may not feel like anything at first). Keep at it! Here’s a great list of exercises, and here’s a great DVD from trapezista Karyne Steben. ** If you notice an increase in bleeding, or a re-occurrence of bright red bleeding, stop exercising  and call your health care provider immediately.

 

The take-away? Having a baby is overwhelming. Heal, and be gentle with yourself in this first 6-8 weeks. You’ll be ready to kick your own ass again soon. Feeling like a failure because you’re not back in performance shape in two months? Fuck that. You may fly back into the air. You may army crawl. None of that says a damned thing about how good, professional, or strong you are. You are enough, beautiful mama. 

This got kind of long, so stay tuned for Part 2 (months 2-6), where we dive into the best way to get your aerial lusciousness back, and what kind of a timetable you’re looking at for feeling like your old self again. Love and pull-ups, Laura

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THE CLAW: Hand Pain in Aerial Training and What to Do About It

GripAre you waking up with hands that have suddenly aged 50 years over night? Sore joints? Stiff fingers? THE CLAW? Yup. Either you’ve made like Rip van Winkle, or you’ve been training aerial work! What is that pain? Will it go away? Will chocolate cake help? (yes) Welcome to the world of…. arthritis.

The Most Common Cause of Hand Pain

If you’re encountering dull, achy finger joints in the morning or during training, chances are good that you are experiencing good old-fashioned arthritis**, which is quite common early in aerial work (glamorous, no?).  Simply put, arthritis is just inflammation of the joints (read more here). When we begin our training, we’re asking hands, that haven’t been asked to do much more than hold a pen or wield a tennis racket, to suddenly manipulate our body weight and, you know, keep us from falling on our heads. No biggie. Any time you ask your body to do something hard, or even very different, you may experience some inflammation. Don’t panic! You’ve got options.

** If your hand pain is severe, or located in one spot, see a doc! Speaking of doctors, I’m not one. This post is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care!

What to do About It

OK – you got this. Here we go!

  • Warm up your fingers before you train. Just like the joints and muscles of your shoulders, back, etc., your hands need some love too!
  • Stack your digits on fabrics (see the photo above). If you find your fingers sliding on top of one another, use a bit of rock rosin until your grip gets stronger.
  • Give it time! Those are muscles in there! They won’t get Herculean overnight.
  • Train your grip and hands. There are so many ways to do this! Train on your apparatus, yoga (manipulating your body weight), grip apparatus like Dyna-Flex or stress balls, free-weight training, hand exercises, etc.
  • Lotions and potions! There are a number of anti-inflammatory creams on the market if you find that the pain is following you throughout the day. I use Tiger Balm and Penetrex (that one sounds so naughty!).
  • NSAIDs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofin are also an option.
  • Acupuncture! You may feel like a human pincushion, but acupuncture is one of the most effective ways I’ve found to deal with inflammation. It may even be covered by your insurance!
  • Trip to the doc. Pain getting worse? Feeling “grind-y”? It’s worth a trip to the doctor to find out what’s happening in there.

 

Click here for a good PDF of hand stretching & strengthening exercises! 

 

Don’t worry – it won’t last forever, and you’ll be grippin’ like a ninja! Love and pull-ups, Laura

  

 

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Make Like a Ballerina – Why Dance and Circus Go Hand in Hand

TangoYou know this girl. She comes to class the first time and can’t climb (or do much of anything, really), but DANG she looks good! While some of us are heaving ourselves through the air with all the grace and daintiness of a linebacker, she looks cool and poised, even when she’s struggling. We hate her just a little (tell the truth!), but we also want to know her secret. I think you know where I’m going with this.

Why Dance Makes for Happy Aerialists & Circus Artists

Even if someone has only studied ballet for a few years, it shows. Folks with dance training under their belts:

  • have better body awareness (where their body is in space, and what it’s doing)
  • have better muscular control
  • demonstrate consistently better lines
  • have lower rates of injury thanks to better body alignment
  • tend to have greater range of motion in joints and muscles

 

I’ve Never Taken Dance, and I’m 78. Ballet is Intimidating, and What Good Will it Do Me if I Start Now?

Um, I hate to point this out, but you’re going to be 78 whether you train ballet or not. And didn’t everyone tell you that you were insane for starting circus training so late in life? Tell them to suck it. Also – we’re not aiming for the Bolshoi auditions two weeks from Saturday. We’re aiming for little improvements.

  • even a class or two a month makes a difference in your level of body awareness! This doesn’t have to be something you do three times a week unless you’re a hopeless over-achiever. Find an adult class and make with the plies!
  • it is gooooooooood to work in front of a mirror. I always think I look SO amazing until I see myself on video and it’s all Bent-Knee-Sickled-Foot-Fest-2014. Correcting your form in real time is so valuable!
  • ballet strengthens oodles of supporting muscles that keep joints happy.
  • dance training can reduce your risk of injury by creating muscle memories of correct alignment.
  • it’s great to “cross train” – moving your body (stretching, strengthening) in unfamiliar ways.
  • looking more like a linebacker than a ballerina? Time to learn some grace and, even more importantly, how to move from your core.

Don’t be intimidated – you got this!!!! If you’re here in NYC, Circus Warehouse offers a great barre class for aerialists and circus artists – check it out! Love and pull-ups, Laura

Now, for your viewing pleasure, this is one of my favorite YouTube videos of all time. You will die laughing. Enjoy!

 

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Break a Bad Aerial Habit in 20 Minutes – BAM!

toothpicMany moons ago, I had the pleasure of working with the American Mime Theater here in NYC. Among the very valuable bits and pieces I picked up was a gem I’ve recently found myself coming back to: the use of “devices” to facilitate correct form. A device, in this sense, is something you employ that prevents you from continuing a bad habit and forces you into a correct one. Seem harsh? Perhaps. But, indulge me for a moment, won’t you?

Hard Core Device Use

Paul Curtis, the late director of American Mime, shared a story with us. There was a company member who could not – COULD NOT – keep his stomach tucked in. He fought with it for over two years with no success (don’t we all know how that feels). One day, he came to class with a perfectly tucked tummy. “Holy sh*t!” said Paul. “How did THAT happen?!” The gentleman lifted his shirt to reveal a series of tiny cuts and scratches across his stomach. He had created a belt of glass over the weekend, and boom – tummy tuck.

My Bendy Arm

Now, before you all go out and say, “Miss Laura told me to make a glass belt and strap razor blades to my knees and beat myself with a hammer!” I did not. The above is an example (albeit extreme) of the power of corrective tools. Piano teachers have taped popsicle sticks to students to correct droopy wrists since the dawn of time. My (okay, sadistic) ballet mistress in college would strap yardsticks to legs to combat soft knees (she would also hold lighters under our butts if we stuck them out, but I think fire is a bridge too far, don’t you?). This ain’t new. But, you may never have thought to try it with your circus training!

I had completely forgotten about the power of devices until recently. Completely fed up with an arm that would not stop bending no matter how hard I tried to keep it straight, I taped a toothpick to the inside of my elbow, poised to impale me if I bent my arm. It actually wasn’t so bad – just enough of a prick to remind me in that second to straighten my arm. And you know what? In 20 minutes, I had a straight arm. BAM.

Your Turn!

What’s your habit? Bent knees? Sickled feet? Floppy core? How long are you willing to do battle? If you’re not gaining any ground, consider employing a device. Get creative! Think of what needs fixing, and what might help force the correction. Some examples:

  • Legs need to stay together – put a penny or a credit card between your knees and keep it there
  • Straight leg or arm – tape a popsicle stick in the joint
  • Jumping off the floor to start your climbs – climb with a book balanced on your head

However you do it, don’t destroy yourself. Get creative, stay safe, and vanquish those habits once and for all! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

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Straighten Your Damned Supporting Leg

Yes, YOU, Dear Dangler! Do you work in foot knots with a soft knee? Quit it. Straighten your damned supporting leg, and watch your work get STRONGER, with bonus fabulousness!

What’s the Big Deal?

Aside from looking sad and shriveled, a bent knee sucks the power out of your leg and makes it SO much harder to haul your butt around. Remember the “boneless two year old” experiment? Same principle. Tight, lifted limbs are easier to work with, and pinchy bits become less pinchy. So, make like a Rockette already!

bent knee

Lift Your Kneecap!

It’s not a difficult fix, but it IS tough to make it a regular thing if you’re a habitual knee-bender. Tighten the muscles on the front of the thigh (quadriceps) until you feel the knee cap (patella) lift. Your leg is now straight! You can also try pretending that you don’t have knees, or practice actively pushing through your supporting leg. **For all you hyper-mobile joint folks (do your knees bend backwards?), that’s a whole other post. **

For the record, this applies to all circus disciplines, not just aerial work. If you’re standing on a leg and it’s supposed to be straight, liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiift! If you are battling a very sticky habit of “soggy knees,” consider taking an occasional ballet class; nothing cures bent walkers faster than watching them in a mirror! A militant French ballet teacher with a stick doesn’t hurt either (actually, it does hurt…).

straight leg edit

 

Look how fancy! If you do this ONE THING, your work will make a HUGE leap forwards!!!! If saggy baggy knees are plaguing you, make a commitment to yourself to crank ’em up – what a difference it will make! 🙂 Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

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Get a Grip! 5 Ways to Improve Hand Strength for Aerial Arts

Hello Dear Danglers! Lets you and I do this one together. Once upon a time, I had a vise-like grip that (I’m sure) rivaled the Terminator. I could dangle happily by my fingertips over a shark tank, covered in Crisco, while sneezing! Well, perhaps I exaggerate (and no one ever offered to pay me to do that anyway), but you get my point. However, four years of motherhood have meant less time for “hanging around” in my preferred manner, and I’ve noticed a disheartening decrease in my grip strength. What’s a dangler to do? Buckle down, and GET A GRIP.

Why Grip Strength is Important

Aside from the obvious benefit of keeping you safely glued to your apparatus or partner, grip has a number of hidden benefits. The muscles of the hand, wrists, and forearm are small and somewhat delicate. By creating a strong web of muscles, we reduce the risk of all sorts of injuries – overuse, structural, and hyper-extensive. Weak grip also leads to sacrifices in alignment in other areas of the body to compensate, most notably through the shoulders, chest, and upper back – no bueno! Add to that the fatigue and frustration of frequent “Popeye” forearms, and you can see why training your digits is a priority.

 

5 Strategies for Grippy Goodness

 

1 – Ban spray rosin from your training. Use powdered rosin as needed or preferred, but save the spray stuff for performance. Yes, I know you love your Glamour Glue, but please spare me the argument that you “need it for safety while you train” – I don’t allow it in my classes, and my students are better for it! Spray rosin practically cements you to the apparatus, and encourages a relaxed, noodle-y grip. It’s like crack! Don’t do it.

 

2 – Set aside part of each training session to work grip. I personally like to do this early! Work close to the ground in case you need to come down quickly, and use as little rosin as you need to complete the exercises safely:

  • silks & trap – birds nest in the air – hold a silk or rope in each hand, invert to a ball position, slide your shins up the ropes as you extend your legs towards the ceiling and arch your back (newer students can wrap their wrists once or twice to give additional support)
  • silks – dangle torture – maintaining a strong, aligned shoulder, hold a strand in each hand and simply hang with extended arms
  • rope, trap, & lyra – one-handed madness – keeping shoulders pulled firmly down, practice hanging by one hand (**DO NOT** allow the shoulders to lift or rotate – keep your feet on the ground if you need help maintaining proper positioning)

 

3 – Train your grip at home. There are oodles of exercises you can do outside the studio – here are my favorites!

  • mini-silk or towel over a pull-up bar
  • squeeze a stress ball or tennis ball (great to do on the walk to training or while you’re stretching to warm up your fingers)
  • crumple newspaper page by page with one hand
  • get yourself a DynaFlex! This is a nifty little gizmo that I like a lot. Not only does it work the muscles of the hand and forearm, but it can also help with PT of the shoulder and elbow.

 

4 – Warm up your fingers before training!

 

5 – Keep nails short and lose the jewelry. Long nails and rings impair grip, so you’ll just have to choose!

 

Happy dangling, and I’ll see you in the air!!! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

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Awesome Back Bending Resource!!!

Hello Dear Danglers! Just a quick post today. A friend on the F-books (thanks Autumn!!!) pointed out a GREAT video resource to help keep your spine healthy and bend-y. It’s only free until August 18, so jump on that!

Go to www.yogatoday.com, go to Sign Up, and create a free account. Each week, they have a free class! The one this week is “Compression-Free Back Bends”. There are also paid memberships if this is your thing. I love free (and I’ll bet you do too), so YAY!

 

Enjoy! Love and pull-ups, Laura

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Inter-webs Goodies!

Hello Dear Danglers! I’m on vacation for a week (!!!!!), but I found some goodies floating around the F-Books I thought you might enjoy.  I have my own thoughts on these which I’ll share soon, but for now, I’m off to float in the lake with my ankle-biter. Read, discuss amongst yourselves. 😉 Love and pull-ups, Laura

Stop Stretching Your Hamstrings So Much – an interesting take on hamstring injury related to hyper-flexibility.

How Dancers Can Achieve a Better Body Line – if you can wade through the dancer-speak, this is a great reminder of how to keep the body long, with beautiful, elegant carriage.

Shoulder Bursitis/Rotator Cuff Tendinitis – a great overview of the most common repetetive stress injury in aerialists.

 

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