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Category Archives: Training

The Sometimes Student: Why Consistency Counts

Laura & Angela's Halloween show fun!

Laura & Angela’s Halloween show fun!

Are you happy with your aerial ninja progression? Seeing small but consistent gains in strength, stamina, and awesomeness? No? Hmmmmm. Are you perhaps sabotaging your success by popping in and out of training like a jack-in-the-box on steroids?

The Sometimes Student

If you train long enough, you will have to take a break, either because of life circumstances, finances, injury, pregnancy, the list goes on and on. It always cracks me up just a little when students come back after a hiatus and say, “Miss Laura! I’ve lost so much (fill in the blank – strength, stamina, hair, etc.)!” Of course you have, stop looking so shocked! If you don’t use it, you lose it. BOOM (that was the sound of some tough love being dropped). The remedy is simple – get your butt back to class and regain your Sassy Status – you’ve got this, and it is 100% doable. But, what about the Sometimes Student?

The Sometimes Student comes to class religiously for a few weeks or months, then drops off the face of the earth for a while. When they return, it’s all, “I’m going to be in class every day for the next six weeks! I can’t believe that I lost my invert! I’m going to train so hard!” Then, after a few weeks of training, ……. crickets. Aaaaaaaaand the cycle starts all over again.

A Fancy Quiz for You to Take – “Am I Consistent?”

  1. T/F  I do not stretch for weeks on end, then I have two hour marathon stretching sessions because I realized I lost my split and now I can’t walk because I overdid it and I’m fairly sure I tore my hammy.
  2. T/F  I haven’t done pull-ups in months, but I’m going to go do 100 of them as soon as I finish reading this post because I feel guilty. I will then be very sore and cancel my aerial class because OW.

It’s a short quiz. You know if this is you. 😉

Why Consistency Counts

If you’re swinging from the rafters solely for the sweet release of it all, or to torture your muscles in unconventional ways, then you won’t feel the Sting of Stuck-ness as keenly as someone who is really aiming to see meaningful progression. So, how do you get to a meaningful progression? Time and effort. There are truly no substitutes for just showing up and doing the work.

(** If you ARE coming to class regularly but not seeing the results you’d like, click here!)

We are an Instant Results culture. We want All The Things Right Now This Very Instant, and if I have to work for it, there must be something wrong with me, you, or it (confession: I fall prey to this, too – all the time). We want our internet fast, our weight loss fast, our food fast. But, circus training is kind of the slow food movement of the physical world. Muscles take time to grow, bodies take time to stretch, neurons take time to wire together to create amazing new patterns. Fast just won’t work here.

Sometimes, breaks are unavoidable. Sometimes, breaks are great and can actually push your training to the next level! But, if you’re not training consistently in the air, don’t be surprised when your results are wobbly. Consistency counts, friends! Do everything in your power to just show up. Love and pull-ups, Laura

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.


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

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.


Ride ’em, Cowgirl! Getting Back on the Horse after a Circus Injury or Scare

Duo Nexus EditA while back, Angela (my aerial partner) and I were running the release-catches in our duo act during the tech for a gig. The live-feed camera guy was trying out his equipment, and presumably wanted to test some angles for close shots. He thought it would be a great idea to shoot from underneath us. The other performers were running to grab him and tell him that it was, in fact, a terrible idea, but it was too late – his motion broke our concentration at just the right (wrong?) time, and we missed our catch. Down down down I came, and landed feet first on the stage.

As far as falls go, it wasn’t that far; as far as landings go, it was pretty good (I like to think that I even struck a graceful pose at the bottom). I came out of it with a nice sprain on one ankle, and a nasty little hitchhiker: a slap-you-upside-the-head strong mental block. Once my ankle had healed, and we were running our act again, I can still remember the progression. I would be fine right up until the two moves before the fateful catch/release. Then, the blood would start pounding in my ears, adrenaline would shoot through my body, I would start to shake, and then… nothing. I couldn’t proceed. It was as if my body just flat out refused to go there ever again. Never mind the fact that I KNEW my body’s reaction was way overblown. This fear just wouldn’t listen to reason.

If you haven’t experienced any injury or scare, great! If you think you never could or will, you’re wrong. I actually heard someone say the other day that your body won’t allow your grip to fail, that some primal self-preservation instinct takes over. Please know that that is completely stupid and 100% wrong. Your grip can indeed fail. Your concentration can falter. You can fall down. In fact, everyone who trains long enough will have a scary moment (the kind that makes you pee just a little). What comes after depends a great deal on what happened, whether you were injured, your personal fear threshold, etc. You may even find yourself where I did (and where I still often find myself when I’m training scary things on wheel). Here are a couple of things that have started things moving again (geez, sounds like a laxative commercial….)

  1. Say “thank you” to your fear. Not to get all woo-woo on you, but acknowledging that the fear is there to try to keep you safe can take it from a place of shame or frustration (“Stupid fear! WHY can’t I not be scared??!!!”) and  give it a bit of status (“Ah! My self-preservation instinct is kicking in!”). In the interest of being completely honest, I really struggle with forgiving my fear, especially when it is standing between me and training success. So, onto step 2….
  2. Step back into the driver’s seat. Fear, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to ride shotgun. Moving into a pro-active place allows you to feel some control again, and believe me – fear and feeling helpless go hand in hand. Any step you can take towards owning your training will diminish the sensation of fear.
  3. Go back to the beginning. Take the scary move all the way back to the beginning. There is no point that can be considered too early – whatever works for you. Try to find the earliest possible place that doesn’t produce debilitating fear. Now stay there until you’re ready to add the next teeny tiny step.
  4. Break the pattern. A fear response can become habitual, cued by a physical progression. Fear not letting up? Change the way you get into something if possible. When we changed the transition into the move, my fear habit didn’t get it’s usual cues and was lessened considerably.
  5. De-sensitize with time and repetition. Once you’ve started revisiting those micro-movements, stay with each one until something in you “leans into it” – really wants to go forward. Don’t give yourself a weird, arbitrary time table – don’t rush. Fear is not rational, and you can’t think it away (I’ve tried). The fear part of your brain and the rational part of your brain don’t really talk. (Thank you, Miss Alice!) Let time and repetition soothe the scared part, and use the rational bits of your brain to cheer you on.
  6. Trust your coach (maybe). Truth? I have a HORRIBLE time doing this. It is so foreign to me to trust someone else with my safety – even someone who, time and time again, has saved my butt from Certain Doom. Trust is built slowly (and destroyed quickly, but that’s another post). If you believe, after careful thought and observation, that a teacher is worthy of your trust, go for it. The more you can trust them, the more they can help you – the more you can give up and give over. Feel the fear, and do it anyway.
  7. Ask yourself – what’s the worst that can happen? Sometimes, the answer is “horrible things. Don’t fuck it up.” Sometimes, the answer is “nothing terrible”! Here’s a fun infographic & post from Chris Delgado on this.
  8. Leave it. You heard me. If you’re being tortured by a particular move, ask yourself: is it worth it? Can I just not do that move? Is it essential to progress to other things I want to do? If you can’t leave it, see steps 1-7. If it’s making you miserable and you can set it aside, even for just a little while, I hereby give you permission if you’re having trouble giving it to yourself. There are SO MANY things to do on any given apparatus – it’s OK to ease up if that’s what you need.


Eventually, Angela and I put a few modifications into the move that allowed me to feel safe again, and off we went into the sunset. But, I deal with fear all the time. All the time. Healthy brains have a vested interest in keeping your body safe. You can’t ignore or deny the fear, so acknowledge and work with it. Wishing you all SAFE training with only the fear you need to keep you gorgeous and intact (but not enough to make you pee)! Love and pull-ups, Laura


As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.


Le Cadre – French Training Goodness Part Deux

Silks training in Montreal

Silks training in Montreal

In Fabulousness Aerial classes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff you’re supposed to keep in your head at any given time.

“Point your toes!”

“Lift your kneecaps!”

“Stop squatting – you look like you’re pooping. Straighten your supporting leg!”

And on and on and on. We’ve already established that you can’t do ALL the things ALL at once FROM the beginning. So, what do you focus on now, and what do you worry about later? Mes amis, enter: le cadre.

Le Cadre – A Frame for Working

A “cadre” is a frame, box, or container. The philosophy is this: work on the few essentials in le cadre, and don’t worry about the rest right now. Seriously – you don’t worry about it at all – you completely let it go. C’est facile, oui? Oui. Until you forget that it’s only a few essentials that go in le cadre, not ALL THE THINGS. I know you.

Frames for training differ for each and every student, depending on the strengths and weaknesses they bring to their work. Examples might include:

  • Beginning student Coco – wings (elbows, shoulders) down, supporting leg straight, core engaged
  • Intermediate student Balthazar – point/un-sickle your toes, kneecaps lifted on inversions, hips and ribs connected on drops
  • Advanced student Pomegranate – try not to look so constipated (relax your face!), long arms on transitions, create levels and see what’s possible by expanding and contracting each move


What’s in Your Cadre?

What corrections do you hear the most? Remember – only three or four things, Mr or Ms Over-Achiever. If it’s a bad habit that needs to be re-trained, you can even focus on just one thing! Whatever floats your bateau – er, boat.

  1. _________________________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________________________
  4. _________________________________________________________________


Run your list by your coach and see if they agree with your assessment. Bon chance! Love and pull-ups, Laura



As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.


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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Awakening and Discovering: a French Approach to Training Part 1

Acro in front of the Eiffel Tower!

Acro in front of the Eiffel Tower!

Those who know me are also privy to my embarrassing (and completely irrational) love of the French. From the quirkiest Quebecois to the snootiest Parisian, j’adore les francais! As far as I’m concerned, they’ve nearly perfected l’erotique, creme brulee, and the delicious, zany humor I’ve come to crave from small French-Canadian circus companies. While I’ve never acquired their taste for stinky cheese, and I’m entirely too enthusiastic about, well, everything, I love their approach to early learning: awaken and discover.

If you take your bebe to swimming lessons in Paris expecting her to actually learn to swim, oh non – you will be disappointed. Instead, until around age 6, bebes are encouraged to awaken to the joys of being in the water, and discover the wonderful things floating will allow their little bodies to do. Then they learn to swim. C’est merveilleux!

My face when Angela tried to take my cheese away.....

My face when Angela tried to take my cheese away…..

The French coaches I studied with in Montreal differed quite a bit from my American and Russian coaches in a number of ways. In the infancy of my training, after learning the basics of foot knot, inversion, hip key, etc, I was also strongly encouraged to play and experiment, see how I could move, see what was possible. In the crush of our “do it now have it now need it now instant gratification must be perfect tomorrow” culture, I find this particularly refreshing, don’t you? Early on, you will be dreadful (oh trust me – you will). But, perhaps getting better immediately isn’t the point – it’s a time to acquaint yourself and your body with the apparatus. Training isn’t just a means to an end, but a journey that can be as rich as a triple creme brie….mmm, brie….

The next time you’re in class or in the studio, stop for a minute. As you climb, how does the fabric feel? What about the steel bar in your hands? The dull ache of your muscles after a tough class? Take a minute to savor the goodness of training. Try to get a sense of that spark – that ignition and possibility – that can translate into such richness in your work. Have you just begun your circus journey? Or perhaps you’re getting frustrated? Maybe the luster of training is wearing off. Time for some awakening. Time for some discovery. Time for some cheese…. er…. maybe not…. (though I’m fairly sure a gateau au chocolat is calling your name). Love and pull-ups, Laura




As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.


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!


As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.


Micro-Movements – An OCD Aerialist’s Training Dream


I’ve encountered so many different types of learners among my students. It’s profoundly exciting for me when they take charge of their training, and ask clearly for what they need (if they know what they need, that is). Today, we’re going to talk about the beauty of the micro-movement, and its ability to put the “BAM!” in your training.


Micro-movement – a very small additive training goal (straight arm, hips up, point left foot, etc). 


Story Time

It’s no secret that there are MANY aspects of learning wheel that I’ve wrestled with. So much of the struggle has been determining how I learn. With silks, I saw it, I did it. I’m strong (thanks, genetics!), and had a dance background, so fabrics came easily to me. Wheel? Oh no. Not at all.

One day during a lesson, as Chris was giving me notes, I may or may not have gently lost my sh*t. I felt so completely overwhelmed and hopeless – it was too much. I started to cry (Chris loves it when that happens….), and blubbered/snotted/hiccuped out, “I need ONE thing. Please – I can’t do ALL the things!” And then, it clicked. We knew we had just found the thing that would reliably move my training forward.


Small Victories, Courtesy of Micro-Movements!


How It Works

  1. Get a visual on the move.
  2. If possible, have your coach has help you through it near the floor or with a spot.
  3. Give it a go, or try an abbreviated version. Feel like it just needs practice? Great! Zero percent success? See Step 4.
  4. Figure out the next tiny step. It may mean going back to a basic skill that needs work (wrapping your ankles, for example), or identifying an area where you need more strength.
  5. Do the move again, trying to add in your micro-movement. Do it until you’ve successfully executed your goal.
  6. If you cannot complete the micro-movement in five or six tries, it may be a tad ambitious. Break it down further, or re-evaluate whether this move is even something you should be attempting yet. (ex: until you have an in-air inversion, working in-air hip key is kind of pointless).


This technique has COMPLETELY changed my training. Completely. I’m learning faster, and having considerably more success. Some of you may work better tackling a move all at once, but for those of us who need more of a feeling of control and focus? Give it a go!  Love and pull-ups, Laura


Psssst…. Here’s another way to break it down!


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“Hey – I Can Do That!” STOP! You’re Not as Awesome as You Think… Self Efficacy in Circus

… or, maybe you are. But one of the keys to mastering any apparatus? Having an accurate estimation of your abilities. Without that, you may think you’re more of a badass than you actually are, OR you may be way too hard on yourself without reason. Knowing “where you are” allows you to direct your training by:

  • understanding whether you’re ready to attempt moves or train by yourself
  • gaining a sense of which tricks you’re ready to tackle
  • playing to your strengths (strong shoulders, flexy back, etc.)

 The Process of Learning Circus

Learning a single move goes something like this:

“I’m excited to learn this! I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing yet (and OOOWWWW!!!!), but this is cool!

“OK – it’s not pretty, but I’m getting through it without dying! I still need a spot or eyes on me though.”

“I can do this on my own! I’m comfortable with how this goes, but my knees/feet/wrists, etc are ugly. Needs cleaning.”

“I don’t hate this on video! My lines are clean, and I’m super comfy.”

“This feels like part of me. I can trouble shoot it easily, and I want to play. Time to dance it and make it my own!”


Learning an apparatus follows a really similar arc.

“This is amazing! I am so bad! But I love it, so I don’t care.”

“Look at meeeeeeee! I can do stuff! I still suck, but I’m seeing some progress!”

“Ugh. This is hard. I am seeing no progress. I should be BETTER than this by now! I must be the worst at this. Ever.”

“HEY!!!! I GOT IT I GOT IT! That thing that I’ve been working on for 25 weeks! I got it! Maybe I don’t suck?”

“Seeing some progress! I’m not the best, but I’m surely not the worst!”

“OK! I’m working comfortably. I have a lot of vocab under my belt, my instructor doesn’t have to tell me to straighten my arm/leg/etc.”

“I’m pretty good at this! Time to create an act.”


Self Efficacy in Circus

Seems pretty straight forward, right? BUT, what happens when you get hung up in an “I suck” loop? Or, you go right from “I pointed my toes today in class!” to “I’m a pre-professional student!” Both mental states suggest that you may have an inaccurate understanding of where you fall in the learning arc. That inaccurate understanding can lead to injuries, feelings of intense defeat, and/or wildly inefficient training.

The best way to keep yourself “real”? Check in with your (professional) coaches, and talk to them about the training arc in your discipline. Video yourself. Watch the best performers you can on YouTube. Ask for feedback. Be aware of how you talk to yourself. Research your industry. Train train train. And put on your listening ears.

Here’s a fantastic article by the NY Times about how self efficacy affects training in regards to injury (you have to make an acct, but it’s quick, easy, free, and WORTH IT).

Love and pull-ups, Laura

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.


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


As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.