If you are an aerial teacher, there comes a point where your priorities shift from your own development to that of developing other people. But, most of us always have a higher place we want to be when it comes to our bodies. Just because you are a teacher does not mean the work of your own body is done. This is not ballet where the teacher is assumed retired and done dancing now that they teach. A circus life never ends. Never retires. You will forever have a higher vision of where your body could take you. It’s why you started this journey in the first place, right?
As for fitting in your own training time, it must be done! And it can be HARD. In fact, I am writing this to preach to myself because I am currently skipping my own training time to write this article. I was simply demotivated to work out, and I felt like writing instead. I am hoping to uncover some hidden secrets as I write out my thoughts. If nothing else, I’ll feel like a total hypocrite if I don’t take my own advice. So telling you to work out will make me work out. haha!
First, decide which camp you are in: Do you need a separate day for your own training apart from your teaching days OR do you need to stay late and bust out a workout after your teaching hours? If you want to optimize the time in your life, it makes sense to workout on the days that you are already at the studio, plus warm from teaching class (or at least, quazi-warm). If you feel too tired or demotivated after teaching to do your own workouts, either push through anyway (you’ll get that second wind!) or come back another day.
For myself, I find that my need for days away from the studio supersedes my need for days devoted to my own training, so I have decided that I will self-train on my teaching days. That means I have 4 days of the week that I need to make it happen.
Now, you need a plan. If you don’t have a plan, guess what? You do have one — You have planned to fail. Pro-wrestlers and body-builders have a plan. They focus on a different muscle group each day. Personally, I like to set goals for aerial skills I’d like to achieve. I work on a different skill each day which ends up working a different part of my body each day. Here is a sample of my plan:
Mondays: I start with the weakest part of my body–my hamstrings. My goal is to be able to get a single knee hang on my left side. I can fake one, but I can’t do a real one with solid technique right now. I would also love to be able to do heel hangs on the trapeze or lyra. This takes a ton of hamstring strength. Even if I just do a few hamstring pulls on a resistance band, I feel like I’ve met my Monday training goal. Sometimes having a way to just do the minimum and go home is a way to make it work when you don’t feel like it.
Tuesdays: This is a day I focus on my grip. I already have hand-over-hand climbs, but I don’t yet have enough strength to simply hang on one arm with strong technique. Again, I can fake it, but it’s not safe. I want to be able to stay engaged in all the right ways while only holding with one hand. So on Tuesdays, I work on rope, doing a lot of momentum exercises and drills for grip strength.
Wednesdays: This is a day I like to focus on flexibility. After the birth of my second child two years ago, I completely lost my splits. It takes so much soak time to get more flexible; since I have the biggest time-block on Wednesdays, this is the day that I stretch. I use aerial yoga to incorporate the core and other strength exercises into my flexibility, so it’s not just passive stretching. It’s very active stretching for functional flexibility.
Thursdays: Thursdays is the day that I teach some really fun choreography classes, so this is the day that my creative juices tend to be flowing a little bit more. I use this day to focus on creativity. Right now, I am working on a trapeze piece. It’s not my home-apparatus and so I’m not as comfortable on it, but it’s fun nevertheless. I have put some hard moves in the piece that I would like to work on (can anyone say elbow circles?!) and I’ve been having a fun time putting this together. If I don’t get enough time on Thursdays to work on my piece, then I will occasionally come in over the weekend so that I can keep up my work on the piece. Having a show to work towards always helps. That’s why I have shows at my studio every 3 months. It’s very motivating for me to continuously work on new work.
All the other days: One of the keys to flexibility is self-massage. This is one of the things I very much enjoy on my days off from aerial. I love rolling on foam rollers, sitting on heating pads while in a relaxing stretch, stretching out my hamstrings with lacrosse balls, etc. This kind of time is easy for me to get done. That’s why I’ve got my splits back on at least one side. Now if only my right leg would cooperate and my right splits would come back…
Keep in mind that sometimes you can accomplish your daily goals in bits & pieces. Maybe you don’t have a full hour to devote to your training. Maybe it’s only 15 minutes between classes. That is plenty of time to burn out your hamstrings in a quick knee hang drill. Or whatever the case may be for your body and the things you are working on. Your muscle can get worked in a matter of seconds, so take advantage of any time you have and push through.
“You will get where you are headed unless you do something different.” – No idea who said this quote, but I’ve always liked it. Where are you headed? Where are your habits taking you? Is it to the place you want your body to be? If not, change what you are doing. Make it so that what you are doing leads you to where you want to be. You will magically wake up one day more flexible and stronger…if the preceding 100 days were spent working for it.