Flying trapeze provides stellar workout for the upper body and core strength.
All eyes on me in the center of the ring, just like a circus…
Well all eyes were certainly on me, but that could be due to the slur of profanities escaping my screaming lips.
My stomach felt as if it had leaped from the trunk of my body to the summit of the arched ceiling at the Trapeze School of New York.
Initially I had no clue I was screaming. It was one of those surreal moments when you are lost in what’s actually going on. In a matter of three seconds, I was slapped back into reality when my instructor sternly commanded me to stop screaming. I was suddenly entirely aware of my freaked-out-fit and settled myself down.
I stuck my lips together tight enough where no sound had a chance of escaping. I then began taking deep breaths, trying to gather myself. I soon realized another tricky task was at hand: letting go of the trapeze and plunging into the net below.
Countless thoughts began brewing in my head. What if the net breaks? What if somehow I bounce so high that I fling myself out of the net and into the wall? What if my arms become detached from my body? My trip on the trapeze was almost up and my arms began feeling heavier than sandbags.
In due time, my fingertips surrendered their grasp on the bar and I was gently dumped into the net without a single scratch. I began making my way towards the rest of the class, with a silly, proud smile on my face like I just rode my bike for the first time without training wheels. I threw up my hands in jubilee and exclaimed, “I’m all right,” so pleased with myself that I just mastered this initial flight.
I was soon informed I did not exactly master my first encounter with the trapeze. I took a peek at the video of my first take-off and was instantly horrified. My legs were flailing, I was screaming cuss words that I must have made up and I basically did not accomplish any of the technique we had just gone over in ground school.
Failure to the max!
Although it may have been a failure in the eyes of a true trapeze artist, I was ecstatic inside. I honestly thought there was a pretty good chance I would back out of this fitness challenge. Even the split-second before I leaped into the unknown on the trapeze, I figured I would be heading down the same way I got up: the ladder.
So, I dare anyone to say my first attempt was a failure. In my mind, I knocked it out of the park.
Overcoming the Fear of the Trapeze
I mean come on, this is the girl who despises the log ride at theme parks because she cannot stand the feeling of her stomach being “tickled” (or whatever that sensation is called). Not being able to feel my feet, having my stomach disjoined from the body and screaming bloody murder is not my idea of a swell time. If anything, it’s torture.
So, heck yes I am proud of conquering my fear and swinging from that trapeze like I was a genuine, trapeze artist.
This first trapeze experience was captured at the Trapeze School of New York in New York City. In an effort to constantly give my fitness routine a jolt, I decided to flavor it up with a trapeze class. So I ventured from Dallas to New York City for a chance to conquer both a physical and emotional challenge.
Now, I must admit I was worried how this task was logistically going to play out. I never did the monkey bars as a little kid. When it came to big jungle gyms, my experience was pretty much limited to the tire swing. To my surprise, the result of this class was much better than anticipated.
Although my entire body was shaking after my first lift-off, I was able to climb back up that ladder and actually focus on the technique I learned in ground school, attempting to perform what I learned correctly. It just took a moment to get over the initial shock of jumping off the platform and being flung back and forth.
There were a few surprises along the way – and pleasant surprises I might add.
First, when you are performing your trick on the trapeze, you execute the move at the peak of your pendulum-like motion. Therefore, you are essentially weightless and the momentum helps you transition into your next move.
Another happy surprise: the instructor offers verbal cues for every move you need to make. Simply put, if you just listen to the prompts, you will have no problem. This one is a little easier said than done. First, you must meander around the daunting idea that you are swinging through the air. Once you wrap your head around that, your brain is less clouded and you can hear your next signal. The instructors were encouraging and welcoming, which is definitely a vital ingredient in this concoction of a fresh fitness venture.
The Trend Towards Trapeze Fitness
Let’s get to the primary reason I was desperate to attempt this trapeze class.
There has been a lot of buzz about trapeze-inspired workouts. Some of the posh gyms sprinkled through out the world have Cirque du Soleil-type fitness classes. Jukari Fit to Fly classes, a new gym experience from Reebok and Cirque du Soleil, are something I definitely want to try next time I am in a city that offers them.
Oftentimes when I am flipping through entertainment or fitness magazines, I run across an article featuring celebrities exploring trapeze fitness workouts. Celebrities such as Hugh Jackman, Kim Kardashian, and Amy Winehouse have been spotted flying high in the air with the greatest of ease.
The Effectiveness of Trapeze Fitness
The fitness opportunity trapeze work possesses is extraordinary. I was sore for three days straight after my two-hour trapeze stint. Flying enthusiasts claim trapeze work builds muscle strength, stamina, balance and coordination. I can certainly attest to the muscle strengthening, particularly the work I did on the low bar.
To master the moves, the instructors guided us students through the motions on the low bar. We were working with no momentum so we were forced to pull all our own weight. This was the kicker for me. In fact, I strained my neck a bit because I kept pulling only from my shoulders and upper body. I was attempting to tuck into a ball and flip my feet over, ignoring help from my stomach muscles. This was nearly impossible unless you sucked in those abdominals and let the core assist with the lifting.
As soon as I concentrated on the core area, I soon felt the tension alleviated from my neck and I was able to complete the exercise. I could definitely feel it in my abs then, but an aftershock has been making my abs scream for the past few days. Every time I move I am reminded of my activity on the trapeze.
My pecs, arms and backs are naturally feeling the effect of the workout as they collaborated, allowing me to hold myself up and flip over the bar.
The instructors did caution us that joints could potentially fall out of place with this upper body-intensive workout. If we had injuries or joint problems, we were to make them known up front. There was also a waiver to be signed, making you a little bit more nervous about the climb up the ladder and send-off into the air.
All the cautionary tales about trapeze fitness aside, I personally felt safe. We were harnessed in at all times. From the first rung of the ladder until we were safely out of the net, we were strapped in with a harness. There were three instructors watching us the entire time. They were serious with their stunts and tricks, but they were even more serious about the safety. In our class, we had eight students so there was plenty of time to ask questions and make sure we were squared away on every little detail we needed to know. This also allowed everyone to have his or her swing on the trapeze several times.
Although I definitely saw improvement in my technique and confidence through the course of the class, I never fully mastered the moves. This just means that I will have to go back and be sure I do.
However, my great friend Cristina, a fabulous New Yorker, did master the moves and then some! She was the source of inspiration for me taking the class, as she took her first class back in December. Cristina is a daredevil by nature and has this incredible thirst for adventure so I knew I just had to have her by my side. I called her up and told her I was heading her way and the vehicle of choice was a trapeze. I was so proud to be there with Cristina. Some spectators in the room were “oo-ing and aw-ing” when she was performing a catch-and-release with one of the instructors. I felt like I was one of the cool kids because I was friends with the star student!
Why the Trapeze Makes for a Great Fitness Changeup
The most important thing I took away from this experience, besides incredibly sore arms, pecs, and abdominals (feel the burn!), is that the ride may be perceived as an impossible feat, but the payoff is bountiful.
After my two-hour class at the Trapeze School of New York, I felt completely invigorated; there had to be an extra spring in my step. I was strutting down the streets of New York with my head held high, picturing myself as this fearless gal who was up for anything. I wanted to stop strangers on the street and tell them what I had accomplished and encourage them to have their turn on the trapeze. I refrained from strangers on the street but I am telling you to go forth and take a glide on the trapeze.
In addition to the New York locations, the Trapeze School of New York has set up shop in Boston, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Look at this opportunity you have to incorporate fitness into your vacation – just trying to give you a little bang for your buck!
Not to sound dramatic, but this experience truly struck a chord with me and I feel empowered, not only with fitness but life in general. Here’s to having more empowering, encouraging, blissful moments like that. Now get out there and get swinging!
About the Author
Kimberly Westphall is the author of Blogging Fitness and a regular contributor to Midwest Sports Fans. She is a recent graduate of the University of Kansas where she majored in Journalism. She participated in a podcast with Jerod, which will help you get to know her even better.
While at KU, she was an anchor and online web producer for Jayhawk Sports Talk. Kimberly made her MSF debut in 2009 discussing the fight between Kansas’ basketball and football teams and also had her column about the Dallas Stars Ice Girls featured at Dallas Sports Fans.
She has a passion for fitness and is on the lookout for emerging fitness trends and workouts. Her favorite group exercise format is kickboxing, which she discusses in her first Blogging Fitness post today.
When she’s not hitting up the aerobics studio both as a participant and instructor, Kimberly is training for the 2010 Washington D.C. Marathon with her best friend Jackie.