The Artist Athlete Podcast Feature: The Creative Process with Fred Deb (Ep 9)

We are excited to be sharing a podcast feature brought to you by Shannon McKenna. I downloaded about 10 episodes for a recent road trip and immediately felt like I had an old aerial friend with me in the car. It was connection, nostalgic, and funny.  This was the first podcast I ever heard where I could say — this is my tribe. These are my people. It was a weird sensation. One of the podcasts I felt uncommonly connected to was this one that features an interview with my very first silks teacher, Fred Deb. In fact, most of us aerialists in our 30’s who have been doing silks for more than 10 years had Fred Deb as our teacher early in our training. It makes the community really small, and really connected when you stop and think about this. Fred Deb is a beautiful French artist who used to travel to Boulder, CO for the Aerial Dance Festival and teach all us hungry kids the ways of silks. Here is an interview that reminds me that my thoughts were shaped so much by the people that came before me as I arrived into this aerial world. But these thoughts also give you permission to be yourself, to find your own way. It’s a creative art form, after all.  –Rebekah

fred deb

DESCRIPTION:

Shannon can’t speak French but you know who can? Aerialist, choreographer, and master teacher Fred Deb. Fred is one of the founders of aerial silks as an apparatus and has been called a “precursor to French contemporary circus.” In this episode, Shannon asks her about her career, the evolution of her teaching, and her creative process. Stay tuned after the interview to hear Shannon wrestle with the question of aerial dance vs circus.

Fred Deb:

Find her on instagram: _fred.deb_

About her company, Drapes Aerians:

http://www.drapes-aeriens.com

Information about the French Aerial Dance Festival: http://www.lesrencontresdedanseaerienne.com/en/2018-aerial-dance-festival/

 

shannon white silk

Find more podcasts on http://www.theartistathlete.com

Ditch your Resolutions for Habits

Blog by McKell Anderson

As one year passes into the next, many people reflect on what the next year of life should hold. Goal setting and New Year’s Resolutions abound! Some make it through the end of the year, but many of them fall to the wayside not long after the goal was set. There is a common idea for setting goals using the SMART formula. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic, and Timely. In the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear, he makes an argument against this being the most effective way of reaching your goals. As a math-oriented person that loves specific and methodical approaches, the dismantling of this goal setting notion made me very uncomfortable.  After reading the book, I tell you what my circus friends,  I am a believer! Below are a few tidbits from the book that really resonated with me and my relationship with training aerial.


Levels of Change

When it comes to self-improvement there are three levels of change:

1. Outcome
2. Process
3. Identity

Most New Year’s Resolutions or SMART-formula goals are based on the Outcome level of change. This is an excellent start, but for lasting behavior change to occur and a habit to develop then addressing the next two levels is very important.

Outcome level

Outcome level addresses what you GET if you achieve your goal. For many aspiring aerialists, those goals will be things like straight leg inversions, flat splits, or a Kerri Kresinski level windmill.

Process Level

Process level changes address what you DO to achieve your goal. This is where you must create a plan of action that will lead you to the results you desire. This is the level where habits begin. This is where the conditioning, stretching, or creation must be defined to carry you through to the finish line.

Identity level

Identity level change addresses what you BELIEVE. This is important because if you believe you are not a flexible person, then having a goal of becoming more flexible will always clash against your identity. The hard part about identity is that it is not a simple thing to change. One of the benefits of creating consistent habits (process level) is that they can lead you to identity reformation. If you don’t believe that you are a dancer, but proceed to dance every day for at least five minutes then you will start to create a track record that undeniably defines you as a dancer.

One of the biggest things the book drives is that the outcomes you want will always be a lagging indicator of the habits you currently have. “Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits, your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits, your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits, your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits.” For circus artists, your strength is a lagging measure of your conditioning habits, your flexibility is a lagging measure of your stretching habits, your endurance is a lagging measure of your airtime training habits. Don’t underestimate the importance of making small improvements daily.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”

 

Laws of Behavior Change

Any established habits that exist in your life have developed from repeated repetitions through what is known as a Behavior Loop. Understanding the loop is what can help us manipulate our behavior to do more of what will help us meet our goals. A behavior loop consists of the following four steps:

1. Cue (Sore muscles from excess training)
2. Crave (Relief from stiffness)
3. Response (Gets a sports massage)
4. Reward (Feels much better)

The first three steps will impact what happens THIS time, but the fourth step will determine what you do NEXT time. If the massage wasn’t helpful, it is less likely that you will try that method again. If the massage did help, then it will stay an option in your future to help with sore muscles. Using this pattern, we can use this loop to help modify our behavior to take on good habits or get rid of bad habits using the Four Laws of Behavior Change.

1. Make it obvious
2. Make it attractive
3. Make it easy
4. Make it satisfying

In order to add a habit into our routine, these four steps will make it easier and help establish the plan of action needed for process level change. To initiate a habit, using environment design can help us make it obvious. Place a book on your pillow to read a page before bed, put your coffee mug on your yoga mat so that you must go to the space you do yoga before you can get coffee, pre-pack your gym clothes and put them in your car the night before work so that they are ready without thought the next morning.  Change your environment so that it automatically cues you to begin.

Making habits more attractive can be tricky. One of the things you can do is to pair a habit you NEED to do with a habit you WANT to do. In the book, the author refers to this trick as habit stacking. If there is something in your life that you already do all the time, use that frequent habit to insert another habit before/after it.

EXAMPLE: In my life, I wake up every morning between 0630-0700 to let my dogs out. While I am in the process of walking through the kitchen, I will stop and take my thyroid pill. This is a habit stack that I had unconsciously designed into my life already but can use that same pattern to insert more habits in a similar way.

The third rule is where I anticipated the book’s applications to fall apart. Circus is not easy and so clearly all my aspirations of being a contortionist were doomed. However, the habit doesn’t have to start out difficult. In fact, the author recommended that you scale down your goal to something you can do in two minutes or less. Once you have a two-minute habit established, you can grow it.

EXAMPLE: I decided that when I was working after I finished editing a video and it was exporting, I would do ONE handstand drill in my office. I’ve been doing handstand training every day for a week now. It’s not the same as setting aside an hour to train them each day, but I’m doing it consistently where I have never been able to set aside an hour to train handstands at home before. Most of all, the habit doesn’t feel hard.

A lot of time the habit done for two minutes can really set the stage for choices that follow. In the book, the author refers to this as a Gateway Habit. Maybe your habit is that when you get home from work, you put on running shoes. That takes less than two minutes, but can also decide how the next twenty minutes of your day goes even if in your mind you didn’t plan on running for twenty minutes. You just had to make the initiation easy enough to get started.

The last rule of behavior change is also one of the most difficult. Satisfaction with a habit is usually based the time immediately following a response. Many of the rewards we are looking for in circus are very LONG term in nature. If there is no reward present immediately following our action, we will ultimately fall off the wagon. Creating an immediate reward that is satisfying after doing the habit you want to build is important. This is especially important because there are more structures in the brain for WANTING than for LIKING. We will crave things much easier than we will like them when we get them. If the reward isn’t there, our brain will crave a new approach even if what we are doing is working.

Just make sure the reward fits your identity and personality. Don’t reward going to the gym with ice cream, that is an identity conflict. Don’t use a habit tracker if you are not into organization and documentation, that is a personality conflict. Sometimes the easiest way to reward yourself can be out loud, verbal praise like “I am the type of person who does the splits every day” will give the ego enough to feel rewarded with a habit. This part can be very personal and needs to be explored and thought out. “Incentives will start a habit, but identity will sustain it.”  The habit needs to be rewarding enough to make it through enough repetitions to become part of your identity.

Battling Boredom

One of the issues with establishing a habit is that eventually, you will become bored with it. Sometimes even with the right rewards and the alignment with our identity that we have created, we STILL won’t want to do “the thing.” This ladies and gentlemen is the phase that defines the successful from the unsuccessful. Professionals stick to the schedule, while amateurs let life get in the way.

“If you only do the work when it is interesting or exciting, then you will never be consistent enough to get remarkable results.”

We will all hit this wall with our pursuit of habits and the fact is that those that succeed have learned that it is important to show up even when you don’t feel like it. In fact, the best thing you can do is learn to fall in love with boredom.

Life happens and missing a day is bound to happen. Just remember that it is never the first mistake that ruins your plans. Even if you scale your habit back to the original two-minute attempt that it grew from, doing a little will always be better than doing nothing. “Missing once is an accident, missing twice is the start of a new habit.”


Additional Wisdom from the Book….
“When preparation becomes a form of procrastination you need to change something.”
• “The amount of time you’ve spent performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you perform it.”
• “A habit must be established before it can be improved. Standardize, then optimize.”
• “Sometimes success is less about making good habits easy and more about making bad habits hard.”
• “Habits + deliberate practice + mastery”

I really enjoyed this book and its approach.  Plus, it was very relevant to the time of year and that isn’t even why I bought it.  There was so much in the book that it is impossible to cover every part that I enjoyed. My recommendation is that if these ideas intrigue you, read or listen to the book. I wrote down pages of quotes, but don’t want to risk plagiarism by sharing them all. Just remember, it doesn’t take 30 days to make a habit, it takes forever. To get the benefits of the habits you need to frequently be doing them, regardless of the passage of time. While that seems overwhelming if these are identity level habits then you being who you are as a person shouldn’t be as difficult to be consistent with. Remember:

“Small habits don’t add up, they compound!”


If you enjoyed McKell’s recap of the book and want to read further, check out Atomic Habits, by James Clear on Amaon.

Stocking Stuffers for Circus Enthusiasts

Do you have someone in your life that does circus? Does their hobby brink on obsession? If you do, then this article will help you with your holiday shopping. The article is separated into types of circus folks to help guide the buying, but honestly many aerialists fall into multiple (or all) categories. Links have been included, but Born to Fly is receiving no proceeds for including them from the vendors of the items. Many were picked intentionally, but many are just quick looks via Amazon.  We’re just trying to make your holiday shopping SIMPLE as PIE! Enjoy!


The Aerial Addict

Let us begin with a more general group and move into some more specific types of practitioners. The Aerial Addict can be new to the circus, or a long-time enthusiast, but they have a burning passion for aerial and all things circus. When regular muggle things are turned into circus things, their heart soar and squeals may occur. Below is a fun list of things that you can give to help this soul rep their circus love loud and proud:

AerialAddict

Circus tanks
Leggings/leg warmers
Socks
Stickers/Decals
Water bottle/coffee mugs
iTunes/music gift card
Training notebook
Circus coloring books

These gifts are a great way to infuse circus into the everyday aspects of life. I know when I see these little things around I have found my people. These items are available in the rabbit hole that is Etsy but also fun things to creatively customize on your own for a more personal gift.


The Aches and Pains Athlete

This is our hardcore aerial addict! They are always striving to accomplish difficult things and working hard, resulting in all the muscle soreness that can be achieved by an individual. Along with aches, other pains often manifest from apparatuses “kisses” in the form of bruises, burns, or partial calluses. This person is dedicated to their work, but less so in their rest. The best gifts for this type of aerialist provide ouch assistance by helping them recover from their constant training. Consider the following:

AchesPains

o Tiger Balm
o Salonpas patches
o Tegaderm
o Bath bombs/Epsom salts
o Elbow sleeves
o Ankle booties
o Wrist wraps

Tiger balm or any type of muscle cream is great for larger areas of tenderness if an individual can’t make it home to soak their weary body in a hot bath with the relief of a bath bomb or Epsom salts for recovery. I, personally, love Salonpas patches. These are a great help for those “trouble spots” that haunt many aerialists. These give a constant tingle to a small area for a longer period. I have a spot on my upper trapezius that gets angry some days, but if I throw a patch on there, it relaxes up and doesn’t inhibit my training. Tegaderm is useful for more aggressive abrasions and scrapes that occur. These are far more helpful than Band-Aids because they stay on during high-intensity fitness activities. Ankle booties, elbow sleeves, and wrist wraps are all gear to wear during training for those painful skills these intense athletes strive for: ankle hangs, elbow circles, reverse flag, etc.


The Tool Gathering Guru

This aerialist has all the training accessories a person could ever need! Their apparatus alone will not suffice and various things get purchased to assist in developing that hard to target muscle for strengthening or flexibility. For these individuals, consider the following:

ToolGuru

Peanut/Lacrosse balls
Resistance bands/loops
Yoga blocks
Superbands
Back Warmer
Finger extensor strengtheners (rubber bands, live strong bracelets, etc)
Grip strengtheners
Rosin spray/powder/grip aids

While many of these can be purchased at a general fitness store, some of these are more obscure, like the peanut. If the aerialist your love is primarily a flyer, they might need to balance out their grip with finger extensor condition. If they are a handstands fanatic or hand-to-hand acro enthusiast, consider the reverse and give grip strengtheners. Many aerialists can be picky about their grip aids. Chalk, powder rosin, rosin spray, dry hands, dew point, etc. Invest here with a little caution, but if you know their grip aid of choice, then it’s an easy investment to include in a stocking and will get used happily.


The Budding Performer

This individual has found their expressive stage through the circus life! Signing up for every studio showcase, auditioning for every aerial slot available, this soul is meant to run away and join the circus. Taking classes is a mere tip of the iceberg for their expressive heart. Performing comes with its own list of special things and here is a good start for gifting to your circus ham:

Budding Performer

False eyelashes
Face jewels
Rhinestones
E6000 Fabrifuse (non-toxic)
Nude Fishnets
Makeup remover
Facial masks

Things that make them dazzle are key! I love using false lashes when I perform, but I’m terrible with putting them on and mess up the glue EVERY time, so I personally use magnetic falsies. Full DISCLOSURE: I am a brand ambassador for the ones linked, but am not being paid to recommend them. I will, however, share my discount code for anyone that wants to try them (MCKELL10). Rhinestones are also their own animal. Swarovski and Preciosa are the best, but glass DMC is a more budget-friendly option while maintaining decent quality. Also, since performers often have fabulous makeup on all the time, a great skin care regimen can be crucial, along with items that help maintain their beautiful faces.


The Equipment Accumulator

This individual might also be referred to as a Circus Investor. Attending classes is not enough, they want their own apparatus, they probably own a portable aerial rig, they scope out ceiling beams and carabiners with a lusty hunger in their eyes. For these folks, I recommend giving these wonderful gifts:

Equipment Accumulator

Athletic tape
Hollow blocks
Carabiners/shackles
Carabiner keepers
Swivels
Etching tool

If the circus love of your life is an equipment accumulator, beware, they are the most expensive circus artists to support. While many of these items might *fit* in a stocking, they can range significantly in price. When my husband gave me a stainless-steel Rock Exotica swivel, I swooned! Partially because it’s beautiful and spins forever, but also because it was a $200 investment, I hadn’t let myself make for ages. I do highly recommend giving the gift of an etching tool for any equipment hoarding circus dragons that love their shiny toys. Etching tools are inexpensive, but help promote long-term equipment marking and inventory management. (Is it obvious that this in my clan?)


In a very short period, this list has become very long.  Personally, I belong to most of the groups listed above and have some experience with most of the things listed.  Others (like rhinestones) I took the feedback from other glorious friends I have that use them.  Hopefully, it includes a few things that will be helpful when picking up goodies for your passionate aerial friends.  Do you have other favorites, not on this list?  Do you have a specific brand you swear by that we missed?  Comment and tell us what they are!