Cirque du Old Lady – 8 month update

Christmas break marked the end of my third training semester and I am very happily signed up for another round. In the last 8 months on the aerial hoop I’ve progressed from beginner to solid intermediate. I wish I’d written more during the early part of the process, but my newbie excitement kept me too busy devouring every other blog I could find. One thing I learned from all that research/surfing is that I’m an anomaly. Recreational circus training is pretty new in general and like most gymnastic type activities is primarily a young person’s game. I’m certainly not the only 40 something doing this sort of thing, but I generally have about 15-20 years on most of the others taking class.

The first three months of circus classes were a wild ride. I was learning new skills and getting noticeably stronger every week. I would wake up the next day covered in bruises and aching from head to toe. The bruises continue to this day, but I’ve mostly lost the need to pop advil after every class. If it sounds like I was torturing myself, the answer is yes, but I was also having buckets of fun – still am! It takes about 12 weeks for the body to build new muscle and the vascularization to support it and that was true for me. As mentioned in the last post: I have stronger hands, established callouses and seriously improved arm definition.

I believe that circus is suitable for anyone of any skill level. However, it is also a physically demanding activity that can easily lead to injury without good instruction which I definitely have had. The aerial classes at Cirque-Ability are structured in a way that allows you to work at any ability level. This takes away any pressure to ‘keep up with the class’ which I really like. They have enough equipment stations (silks, trapeze and hoop) for each person (maximum 6) to mostly have one to themselves. For each apparatus, there is a skill book to progress through at your own rate while the instructor demonstrates new skills, answers questions and keeps an eye out for everyone’s safety. I have a background in gymnastics/trampoline and am a naturally flexible person and therefore had an advantage over a true beginner. Prior to starting I was at the higher end of normal weight for my height and had an established exercise routine of running 5k 2-3x a week and strength training or some other activity 1-2x a week. I was fit, but not unusually so.

I’ve accomplished quite a lot, but am now at a fork in the road with my training. The next set of advanced skills require more strength and flexibility than I currently have. My options are to either plateau where I am or try to see if I can take it to the next level. Plateauing is pretty attractive. Work and family commitments don’t allow for more than my once a week circus class and the 6 day break seems to help prevent any tweaks from progressing into injury. I’m in the best shape of my adult life and could happily focus on perfecting the skills I know without risking additional injury, extra workouts or changing my eating habits during the week.

Instead, my plan is to go with Door #2. Of course I am – why else would I be writing about it? First step is to maintain fitness and flexibility over the holiday break. One week in and I’ve stuck to my plan so far. Apart from time off for Christmas eve and day, I’ve managed some sort of workout each day. It’s been a mish-mash of running with the dog, trampolining with the kiddo, stretching and video workout. Next week will be more challenging when I’m back at work with less free time. Trying to improve my eating habits over Christmas seemed futile so I’m saving that for later in January when life gets back to a more normal routine.


About Renee

Fortysomething mom, wife and mechanical engineer. Currently working out plans to found a retirement home circus troupe.
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