Lessons Learned from Aerial Dance

“It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” -Rocky Balboa

About two years ago , I had hit a slump, fitness wise. I was used to my usual routine of going to the gym about three times a week and doing  the same thing over and over – forty five minutes on the treadmill, maybe lift a weight here and there, but overall it felt a little like signing up to be a hamster.  I looked around at any fitness options that brushed the dust off but then I ran into a work associate who had just come from an aerials class.  He was sweaty and in fantastic shape, so I had to ask what he meant. Fifteen minutes later and hundreds of pictures shown from his iPhone convinced me that I had to know more. So he gave me the details of when they met, who to talk to and left me to start one of the hardest physical things I’ve ever done.

Welcome to my Saturday mornings…


Just as some background, I am one of the least athletic people you’ll ever met. Its not like I’ve never tried.  The slowest runner, the most uncoordinated, not to mention the spirit of competition is foreign to my psyche.  If you need a visual explanation of what goes into the basics of doing aerial movement, then I’ll just leave this here, which actually stars my rockstar  yet incredibly patient teacher, Kerry:

My first class was painful. Not physically, although that was strenuous, but my dignity took a hard beating. Kerry was pleasant yet tough. She instructed me to stand in between two long fabrics hanging from the high ceiling, wrap my wrists into them and invert myself. I always thought I was strong. It turns out, I was not.  She watched me try to heft my hips over my head with the sad result being, my legs barely leaving the floor, before my arms gave up and dumping me back to the floor where I came from.

What made it worse was the others in the class, the ones who had already learned how to conquer gravity and lift themselves to graceful heights, turning and flexing themselves into beautiful shapes. So I kept trying for the next hour to do something simple like lift myself up with my own body weight.

At the end of the class, I still hadn’t done it but I was drowning in sweat and exhaustion.  Not what I expected at all. I was frustrated though. I went in expecting to have a new skill, but I had run up a wall. The problem was, I had paid for five classes. So I was prepared to get up in the air by the end of the fifth lesson.

It didn’t take five lessons. It took about 30. I went two to three times a week for four months before I was finally able to invert myself using my own core strength. I almost gave up at lesson eleven, but I had already paid for four more, so I kept going.  In that time, I had learned how to climb, I learned how to put my feet in foot locks with the silk and I had even learned how to do a proper pull up, a skill that had eluded me my entire life.

When your heart says yes and your muscles say no…

The feeling of being able to lift myself, turn myself over gave me a sense of control that was empowering and exciting. If I could accomplish this first basic level, then I could accomplish whatever level came along. It was only going to get harder but at least I had a handle on the first step. After all, if you can defy gravity, what other natural law can you outsmart?

Trust me when I say, I felt this the next day.

I wish I had taken pictures of those first few lessons. The ones where I struggled to hold myself up, the ones where sweat dripped down my face as I tried to tie my foot in a knot with my other foot.   While I am nowhere near the fluid tiny grace of professional aerialists, I’m doing the things that I used to envy from down on the ground, which is a great place to see things from.

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