Top 10 Items You Need For At-Home Aerial Workouts

About 6 months ago, two things happened to me:

(1) I got a shoulder injury.

(2) My studio grew so much that it felt like I got kicked out of it. For the first time in our 4 year history, I wasn’t teaching any classes (or if I was, a student-teacher was doing all the demoing), and the rare times I came in to maybe train, I was inundated with studio-owner questions, or found the studio occupied during what used to be my “self-training” time and needless to say, training for me just wasn’t happening.

All that to say, over the past 6 months, I have become REALLY good at working out at home. So, when this whole stay-at-home-due-to-Coronavirus-shut-down happened, I got inspired to write my first blog in almost a year! (Fun fact: this is the 98th blog on this website — only 2 more till 100)!

In this blog, I’m going to share with you my TOP 10 LIST for at-home training equipment that I feel is necessary for quality home workouts.  I’m secretly hoping to convert into a lifer — someone who continues to have a home workout practice even when your access to aerial equipment returns. Because I will let you in on a shocking truth — I’m not strong because I do aerial. That may be part of it, but I could aerial all day with bad form and lazy technique. I’m strong because aerial motivates me to work hard in my home workouts, and those take place apart from my aerial technique training. It’s the reason I can walk into the studio and impress my students with 10 seconds of cold hard-core aerial any time of day.  I work hard to stay in such good shape that their hardest workout doesn’t even phase me.  Take that! (Although I have some students catching up to me now…just sayin.)

I’ve heard it said it takes 30 days to set a new habit, so join me in making this your new thing for the coming month. Start a new habit and see results that might surprise you when you return to the air!

Home Workout Item #1: A Blank Calendar

Print out a blank calendar. Write down your workout each time you train and take notes on what body part is your focus. If you come across any weakness that you need to work more on, write it down.

Example: https://www.vertex42.com/calendars/printable-calendars.html

Keeping track was one of the best things I could have done. Why? It’s like giving myself a high five for doing the workout. Getting to write down that I worked out helps me to feel accomplished as much as the workout itself. I recognize training gaps or am reminded that it’s been a while since I’ve worked my back and need to target that once again, etc.   If I identify any weak areas, I focus on them in my workouts and train in appropriate periods of rest and recuperation to allow for my muscles to grow and adapt.

Trust me. Just do it.

Home Workout Item #2: A Pull-Up Bar

Link to one from Target. 

pull up bar

Tip: I like the one (like link above) that you can hook over the door and doesn’t need to be drilled into the wall. If you’re worried about the pull-up bar leaving marks on the doorframe, add a towel underneath it for extra cushion between the bar and the door. 

If you’re looking for aerial strength-training, you need to be doing pull-ups, and it’s really hard without a pull-up bar. So just get one. Thank you.

Home Workout Item #3: Pull-Up Assist Bands

Link to bands from Walmart.

pull up assist bands

These are thicker than your typical resistance bands (which you need and are next). These are going to help you per-fect your FORM which needs more work than you think. If your pull-up looks like your trying, then you are aren’t trying hard enough. You pull-up should be so well-executed that you look like your floating upwards and everyone watching is wondering what’s happening?! How are you levitating like that?!

Are you that good yet?  If you are, tag me on instagram to show me that you’ve arrived. (@borntoflycurriculum  #aerialtraining)

How to use the pull-up assist bands: Hitch them around the pull-up bar. Put your feet in the loop and use them to help lift your weight as you do the pull-ups (and all their wonderful variations that you can learn in my online courses if you want). You can also use them as in warm-up by sitting on the ground underneath your bar and pulling down on the bands. This is also a great option if you’re just starting out and need less intensity on the pull-ups. This pictures below are from my aerial training program. I’m using a trapeze bar, but this could also be a pull-up bar you have at home.

 

 

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Home Workout Item #4: Resistance Bands

Link to set from Walmart. 

resistance band set

Resistance bands are a MUST when you want to target the smaller stabilizing muscles of the shoulder such as the external rotator cuff musclesThis is the training known as “pre-hab” and we do it to prevent the need for “rehab.”  I mentioned a shoulder injury at the start of this article. The thing that saved me was the fact that I have a quality set of resistance bands at home which I used prior to my injury (so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been) and used to help me regain strength post-injury (so that I rebuild proper strength to prevent any further or future injury).

Home Workout Item #5: Ankle Weights

Link to ankle weight from Best Buy.

ankle weights

I love my ankle weights! I have a studio set so that I can send students into the air frequently with ankle weights on. When you are first starting, body-weight might be enough, but if you’re dedicated to your sport, you will soon find that you’ll need that something extra to push you to the next level.

There are so many ways that I use weights — frequently in my flexibility training as I work end range strength or to target various muscles that are hard to get with just body-weight only.  One of my favorite things about ankles weights is the feeling of weightlessness I get when I take them off. :)

The ankle weights pictured are for the ankle weight connoisseur. They are adjustable in weight, allowing you to adjust by taking weight rods in and out. These are the ones I have, but I typically just leave them at the max weight all the time, so probably a feature not really needed. It was a nice thought though.  

HINT: The more ankle weights you own, the less you’ll need a set of hand-held weights. Just stack up the ankle weights on your arms, wrists, etc.

Home Workout Item #6: Cardboard or Paper Plates

Yeah, a break from all the spending! I really don’t want to break the bank setting up a home workout system (I would rather you spend your money on quality aerial classes afterall), so this one is nice and cheap. Take the cardboard from one of the boxes that delivered one of the above items, and cut it up until you have nice squares that you can slide around on. These are perfect for sliding into splits for active flexibility challenges or working on your core strength in plank sliders. I use these a lot in my classes, so it’s no surprise to my students to see this item listed here!

Home Workout Item #7: Foam Roller

Link to foam roller from Walmart. 

foam rollerThe last 4 items on my list here are for the more relaxing part of the workout that comes at the end or on days that are focused on recovery, stretching etc.  Both the foam roller and the next item — the lacrosse ball– are for myofascial release specifically, which is a form of massage that will help your body release after a tough workout or release tension or tightness in a muscle or the fascia surrounding it.

Home Workout Item #8: Lacrosse Ball

Link here. 

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I never knew one little lacrosse ball would be such a good friend to me.  I use it all the time to rub out my pec minor especially. I have one in the car that my 4 year old son knows I will pull out whenever we are in line somewhere. He pulls it out for me and will even start rubbing it on my shoulders for me! Yes, this Mama loves her self-care time.

One of the factors that led to my last shoulder injury was an overly tight pec minor, so I have learned first-hand the difference in shoulder health that can be had from self-massage time with this tool. I use it a lot now.

Home Workout Item #9: Yoga Blocks

Link to yoga blocks. 

yoga blockIf you do yoga, you likely already have yoga blocks already.  If you’re into being flexible, you probably do some version of yoga and therefore, my first sentence still holds.  If you’re into aerial and haven’t started getting serious about your flexibility, now’s a great time to start! Incorporate into your workouts. Blocks are a great way to help access stretches in lovely ways making your body very happy while doing them.

Blocks can double as a more conditioning-type tool when you squeeze them between your knees in various challenges or lift your leg over them in hip flexor training. I find myself using blocks all the time for all sorts of reasons, so had to include them on my list!

Home Workout Item #10: Yoga Mat

For the savasana at the end of your stretching that came after your hard-core aerial workout. It’s nice to have a mat for stretching and relaxation. You earned it.

 

WANT TO HOME-TRAIN? First, please check with your local aerial studio to see if they are hosting online classes. It’s a great way to keep supporting your local school. They will need your support to make it through this time. If your local studio isn’t providing online classes, or you’re looking to add to your schedule, I’d be happy to have you join my local group! During the month of Coronavirus-April 2020, we are going online at AerialWorks Castle Rock with our studio classes and you’re welcome to join in the fun. Follow this link to our studio calendar. Join any class that is labeled “online” and we’ll see you on zoom!

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About the Author

Rebekah Leach is the author of the entire collection of beloved aerial manuals. From hoop to sling to silks and rope, she’s covering it all! Her passion is education and her fun is torturing students to become better versions of themselves. She is the founder of Born to Fly Teacher Training Programs, AerialDancing.com, and her local studio is AerialWorks Castle Rock. 

 

 

 

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!

 

How to Be Judgmental When You Enter a New Studio

Sometimes, it’s a good thing to be judgmental. Particularly when your well-being (and maybe your very life!) depends on it. The goal of this blog is to give you practical tools so that when you walk into a studio, you can make a call for yourself: Is it safe to do aerial here? Unfortunately, sometimes the answer will be NO! It pains me to say it –because I want to believe the best from every human being and every studio–but some people have starting teaching aerial before their safety wisdom has ripened. Stay away from them bad apples.

First — Look Up & Ask Questions

Whatever the rigging is attached to should be able to handle the load capacity for EVERY point that is in operation that day doing aerial things. Here’s a great video to show how a drop can generate 900 pounds in a split second!

How safe are you going to feel on a system that is designed to hold 1,000 pounds? Um, let me answer that for you: back away slowly. OSHA recommends a safety ratio of 10:1, meaning that ideally, the system should be able to handle 9,000 pounds if you are going to be putting 900 pounds on your system. Now, generally, 5,000 pounds is acceptable in the aerial world for each rig point, but hey, higher is always better and safer!!!

Look at what you are hanging from. If you are unsure about anything, ASK QUESTIONS! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the owner is insulted, this is a red-flag! Any studio owner who has put years of research into best practices and thousands of dollars into safety is proud to talk your ear off about why their system is super safe, and how the engineers backed up their load capacity numbers well over 5,000 pounds. They didn’t just take some shady chain and loop it around the nearest trussing. (In general, aerial riggers recommend staying far away from chain. It is unpredictable in load capacity around beams and not suitable for most aerial rigging.)

Look at the Attachments

The big beam holding all your weight should look and feel sturdy. Next, we want to draw your attention to all the attachment points. If carabineers are being used, are they closed and locked? Are carabineers turned sideways or tri-loaded? Here’s an example of a carabineers that should NOT be used EVER for aerial work:

carabineer

I have seen cases of the above being used for aerial hanging. I would use this carabineer to hang my keys in my purse, not to hang my life. It’s a fine carabineer for other uses, but NOT rated for aerial. It’s working load limit is a dinky 180 pounds.

While many aerial riggers have a preference for steel carabineers, this is not law, and aluminum is okay, as long as it’s one that is rated for a minimum of 2,000 pounds (again, higher = better). Some red flags to look for no matter what carabineer is up there is side-loading. Side-loading a carabineer is a big no-no. A carabineer has different ratings based on how it is loaded and the best (not to mention safest!) is to always double check your rigging to ensure that carabineers are in their normal vertical positions.

Another no-no when it comes to carabineers is leaving them unlocked or unscrewed. This is a no brainer, but I see it happen a lot with new/less experienced riggers! No leaves it open on purpose, everyone can be forgetful. That’s why I teach my teachers that they have to go “clickity-click-click-it” every time in an annoying — but helpful for memory — way.  Having a routine that requires you to double check everything helps to avoid simple mistakes.

Screw-gate carabineers should “screw-down so you don’t screw up!” This helps for long-term safety as gravity can unravel a carabineer.

Another no-no for carabineers is tri-loading. I see it all the time, but it’s not how a carabineer is supposed to be used. It shouldn’t be done! Here is a great video from Vertical Art Dance (highly recommend their equipment and rigging services) that discuss this topic and more:

Thank you Vertical Art Dance for spreading aerial knowledge!

Tragically, this past year, Sam Panda was in a rigging accident and broke her neck from 13 feet up. I post the following video only to encourage everyone to seriously consider the consequences of faulty rigging. Thankfully, Sam Panda was generously supported and funded by the aerial community to support life-transforming surgeries and she is recovering just fine!

Warning: The following video displays the fall and may be hard to watch.

Look at the Equipment

Recently,  I visited a studio where the fabric had a ton of holes in it.  It was a high-volume, high-use studio, so it was a natural part of the game. Thankfully, it was run by teachers who knew how to conduct proper inspections of equipment. For small holes, the holes were sown up, sealed, and marked with permanent black marker. If the holes got too big or grew, then the fabric was retired. Everything was kept track of, which is an important part of running a large operation. I’ve heard all the stories including wooden bars of a trapeze breaking when someone landed with a little extra force (wooden bars are no longer used for general aerial classes), lyra breaking, rigging splitting and coming down, ropes untying, and more. You name it, I’ve probably seen or heard of it happening. Better safe than sorry. Old equipment should be retired. New equipment should be bought from trusted vendors.

Look at the Mats

First of all, make sure that mats are present!!! While mats cannot guarantee protection, they are sure going to help. When it comes to mats, aerialists prefer ones that are at least 8 inches in thickness. As always, the more, the merrier. The thicker, the better. The wider, the safer. Some mats are pretty dinky, making a small target to hope that your head lands on when you are swinging around 10 feet up. Look for generous sizes and that they are used WHENEVER possible. There is no reason to leave the safety of mats when learning new moves. Some cases are exempted when the performer becomes advanced and wishes to incorporate ground choreography and the mat gets in the way. But, this is an exception. The rule should be that in all general aerial classes, especially those were the participants are learning new moves and their feet are leaving the ground, there should be mats. And not just some thin, dinky thing that does nothing. A good, sturdy, solid mat. It’s a display of caring about the students and the studio.

Look at the Teaching Methods

The big things we are looking for here is warm-ups and proper progressions. Just holding some stretches is not a warm-up. You must do something that builds heat in the body and then you must get mobility in the joints through any variety of methods. More on great warm-ups can be found on a previous blog here.

When we look at the curriculum, what we are looking for is how assessments are made, and how moves are ordered. If day 1 for a new fabric class is cross-back straddle, this is a problem. This may have been the first move 10 years ago, but there has been a ton of progress in aerial education since then! It is now understood that cross-back straddle can be a very difficult move for many beginners and that proper care must be taken to build up the strength required for its proper execution. It goes hand-in-hand with straddle inversion strength which should be assessed for before a student works at this level. (There are always exceptions. You may have a strong gymnast who can handle a cross-back straddle in a private lesson on their first day on fabric. However, even in this case, we would assume that strength was assessed and that they are skipping levels only because strength was assessed and they passed. We are addressing the general rule of thumb for classes to the general population.)

Many aerial teachers of today are aerialists who learned fast and learned many advanced moves early in their training. When they go to teach beginners to today, they often are at fault for teaching the same moves that they learned first. Many students are not ready to go that far that fast. The more that aerial grows, the more we must grow our depth of beginning programs and beginning material because we are attracted more and more people from non-gymnastics backgrounds who may take quite the journey to find their inversion strength. We must offer them the proper strength-training regime so that they are building strength safely and slowly.

If a studio lets you learn drops on day two, this is a huge red-flag!!! Drops are the candy of aerial, and some studios think that by letting people learn them, they will be a booming aerial business. I’m sure they will, but they will also have a booming business with the nearby rehabilitation center. Drops and other high-level candy of aerial must be earned through proper progressions and body awareness growth. If you go a studio and think “This is too easy and low to the ground,” you’ve probably found a SAFE studio. Don’t worry — you’ll eventually be flying. No one is out to keep your wings clipped. Safe instructors are there to prevent you from jumping out of the nest before you have strong wings period.

Trust goes both ways. A students must trust the studio and the studio must trust the student. A studio can only trust the student by giving them one small task at a time to see how they handle it. If you are flailing at 2 feet off the ground they shouldn’t trust you to go 10 feet up. You shouldn’t get to fly 10 feet up without demonstrating you are trustworthy first. You may feel like your being babied at the beginning, but as long as you see other students who are flying high at the studio, stay with them. Once you pass the assessments and show you have the proper strength and control, you will benefit from their progression training. You will soon find yourself SOARING HIGH with wings that have been molded and chiseled in a way that only diligent training time can give you.

Some things to look for: When you train too hard too fast, your elbows will start hurting you. This means that you are putting too much weight on bent arms without first building up the strength in increments. A good instructor will have the answer to this right away. If not, e-mail me and I’ll send you my program to help prevent this and heal in the next couple weeks!!!

For parents, it is important to note that your child should not be practicing footlocks without first being assessed for proper ankle strength. When a child does too many footlocks without having firmly established ankle strength, they are at risk for deforming their growing bone structures. We have seen studios break out with an epidemic of foot problems due to having young students (under 12) on footlocks, and allowing them to sickle, not watching for strength or body awareness. Anyone can teach a footlock and a basic leg roll-up. Few people know exactly when and how to properly teach it.

As you can hopefully tell, I’m extremely passionate about proper teaching methods. That’s why I started the Born to Fly Teacher Trainings & Support Systems for teachers. While I do not believe that every teacher should be trained under our system, it can be a powerful tool out there to help raise the standard for aerial education. When looking for an aerial teacher, you can check on their certification at the following link: http://www.borntoflyaerial.com/certificate-holders.html

We have had people falsely claim to be Born to Fly Certified when they were not. It is always good to check on certifications. No one who is certified will mind. Quite the contrary. The will be overjoyed that you value their hard-earned certificate!

One last important note:

Our studio directory on this website does not endorse the listed studios, nor can it vouch for the safety or training methods at the various studios. Please become as educated as you can and start asking all the right questions as you enter a studio, listed in our directory or elsewhere. Be safe and happy flying!