Progress is a Sneak

Tunnel Vision – we all suffer it occasionally, especially as we work hard on specific goals.  Sometimes , it’s really easy to identify the headway you are making – a swath of fabric becomes a shirt, for instance.  And sometimes, it’s really hard to see the growth; suddenly you’ve arrived at your destination after a flat landscape and countless miles.

Twice a week, I’ve been taking a fitness class.  Pair that with how much dancing, biking, lifting, and general circus skill training I’ve been doing, and one would think my physical strength would grow in leaps and bounds.  But, over the past six months, my strength, and lack of, has broken me down in the middle of training more than I care to admit.  The frustration of doing the same exercise over and over and still seeing no progress would alternate between making me incredibly angry with myself and have me biting my lip so I don’t burst into tears then and there.

The support of my peers and instructors did nothing to temper this frustration either.  “Be kind to yourself.  No judgment.  See where you are this moment.”  I have started to resent these words, resenting living in the moment and being kind to my body, when I had been kind to it for so long but the strength wasn’t improving.  I would jump down from the trapeze in irritation because my long beats just weren’t working, and I growled at my skin the cat maneuvers because I couldn’t get my shoulders to engage.  I would work my core as often as possible, and still could only manage one knee hang sit up.  I had given up being kind.  There was no progress.  It just wasn’t working.

At the suggestion of one of my primary instructors, I scheduled a private lesson with the pilates instructor in hopes of finding out why I wasn’t progressing.  Was it a strength issue?  Was it how I sequenced my muscles?  Was I even using the right muscles?  After an hour of trying out different things, taking through how my body was feeling in each exercise, and a bit of poking at different muscles, we had come up with a plan.  Turns out, I wasn’t engaging the right muscles at the right time, my breathing was off, and I had to learn how to turn off over-eager muscles.  The next day, I added an extra knee hang sit up.

At the start of this program, we had a fitness assessment.  A page of exercises and stretches, along with a number, that we had to be able to achieve by the end of the 9 months.  The requirements were taken from audition requirements for some of the top schools/companies in the industry (National Circus School in Montreal and La Reve, for instance).

Our first assessment was in September – 6 months ago.  Our mid-term assessment was yesterday.

image In September, I threw myself into this program and risked injuring my shoulder again.  A lot of exercises I was unable to complete for fear of tearing a tendon or bringing back the intense inflammation.  My hamstrings were really tight, my body was compensating, and my back muscles wanted to engage when my core couldn’t.

Yesterday, I had biked 13 miles before arriving at class and I was still recovering from the chest congesting plague.  But at the end, I looked at my numbers and was amazed.  It was not only exciting because I was able to complete most of the list, but primarily because my shoulder isn’t twinging anymore.  I did 8 push-ups!  I sat on the floor for a moment after, marveling at the fact that for the first time ever, I stopped because my muscles were tired and not because I thought I risked tearing something.

I feel like Progress is sitting back on his heels now, chuckling merrily at the prank he pulled on me.  He withheld all hints of progress and then unleashed them at once, watching my eyes bulge in astonishment as I complete each task.


There was a really wonderful moment on the trapeze today.  I could have sworn we took a picture.  I know that we did, because I looked at it and said “I suppose that works.”  But it has disappeared.


So instead I give you the quiet room, and the now still trapeze on which many girls today were fearless.  I will let you imagine any one of them shining.


One of the things I love most about teaching is witnessing my students becoming fearless. They are all amazing.



Dear Trapeze, I think I love you.


Clear for Take-Off

After two months of being grounded due to a strained shoulder, and 6 weeks of physical therapy, my PT gave me the all-clear to resume my normal aerial activities.  She even urged me to start doing what I would normally, and try hanging from just the injured shoulder and pushing myself back to my normal range of flexibility – which I had been avoiding out of fear of further injury.

Two months on the ground has been the worst feeling for me.  I started doing aerial arts four years ago as a way to work out, gain strength and flexibility, and meet people in this crazy circus world.  It quickly turned into a passion that kept me fit and flexible, but also introduced me to so many more people than I was anticipating, and people that have become dear friends, and opportunities to perform and teach and grow.  The creativity and inspiration I feel when I am hanging twenty feet in the air is intoxicating, and being able to share my passion with others, and nurture it in them, help them, and watch them fly on their own, is one of the happiest experiences I’ve ever had.

Last night, I was at the gym and I was flying.


It was wonderful to know that I was strong enough for it again, although my level of endurance has been reduced from the two months of inactivity.  By the end of class I was splayed out on the floor, exhilarated and exhausted by the workout.


I was born to fly.


And now I’m doing it again.  There was no pain last night, and none this morning, and I’ve been drinking herbal tea to ease my joints instead of popping pain killers as I had been doing previously.


I still don’t have my full range of motion, and supporting my body weight feels a bit uneasy, but I’m healing, and that’s what matters.

Hanging Around on Sunday

I am finding myself super exhausted by the end of Sunday and it’s been difficult remembering to post.  Please forgive me when I’m tardy, or if I forget altogether (like last weekend).  This weekend was an especially rough one for me, because we started choreography this weekend.  I started an hour early and spent a good deal of time in the air trying to figure out transitions, which I later demonstrated over and over again to my students.  By the end of the day, every muscle in my body was sore and my knees were in protest.  By my last class, I demonstrated one move and immediately said “Yep, that’s my limit, I can no longer do the splits today.”  This morning I woke up a bit worse for wear, but as the day progresses, I’ve been working out the tight muscles.  I still have some harsh silk burn on the backs of my knees, but those kinds of minor injuries are part of the trade, and I can live with that.  Rope burns and bruises don’t really faze me now – the joint pain still gets to me sometimes though.


Anyway, There was one moment in the middle of the day, when we were working on the silk knot, that the cutest thing happened.  I was teaching and the studio was sizing the girls for their costumes, and this student was thrilled with the new foot hang she learned.  She hung out while the studio coordinator chatted with her and handed her a leotard to try on when she righted herself again.


This girl has no fear, and an incredible pain tolerance (this is not the most comfortable position).  I was laughing my butt off watching her hanging upside down while chatting away like this was everyday for her.


I’m back to teaching aerial on the weekends again.  Last Spring, I posted a picture of something we did in class so you could enjoy the experience virtually.  This time around, it’s a bit more difficult.  I’m in the studio for 6 hours every day, and by the end I’m tired and can only think of getting home.  I have a hungry and tired youngling to drag home, feed and bath before bedtime, and I end up massaging my muscles and zoning out on the couch before finally stumbling into my own comfy bed.


This past weekend, I did remember to take a picture for you, but forgot to post yesterday.  So, here it is.  This is a double straddle that I taught my daughter yesterday.  She’s very brave, and remarkably compliant to my strange requests (“Ellette, I need you to stand on my shoulders and untie this” or “Hey Ellette, let’s learn a new doubles trick in the air”).  I am excited to see where she will end up with all of this training.

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