8 Tips from Kelsey for the Beginning of Your Aerial Journey
Written by Kelsey Aicher
No matter how “in shape” or “out of shape” you are, when you first start taking aerial classes, your body goes through a period of adjustment. In addition to tired muscles, you will have sore hands, unhappy feet, and more than a few scrapes and bruises. One of those bruises may even be to your ego.
Beginning aerial is tough. Fortunately, you have coaches who are here to guide you through your aerial journey. Here are some tips to help you get started:
1) Ice your hands.
After each class where you are on a trapeze and/or lyra bar, submerge your hands in a bowl of ice water–there should be chunks of ice floating in it–and try to hang out there for five to ten minutes.
About a minute in, you will probably experience some pain. It is normal. While it feels awful in the moment, icing your hands like this will reduce swelling and make your hands feel better the next time you hang on a bar.
2) Hang from other bars.
If you have access to a pull-up bar or monkey bars, find some time to do shoulder shrugs. Focus on proper alignment, breathing, and range of motion. This simple exercise will not only strengthen your shoulders, but it will also train your body to quickly find a good body position in the air.
3) Strengthen your hands.
One of the most common skills adults want to improve after their first class is their grip strength. Honestly, I don’t typically tell people to do extra work for their grip strength because it will develop just by hanging and attending aerial classes regularly.
Still, grip strengthening exercises are frequently requested and I suggest squeezing an object such as a stress ball. Work on the opposing muscles (ie. opening your hand) as well to avoid future muscle imbalances. Take a thick rubber band–like the one that holds broccoli florets together–and place it over your thumb and fingers like a banded lobster pincer. Then, open your fingers and palm as wide as you can. Repeat.
4) Get more sleep, more water, and more protein.
Even if you are very active, you are going to experience muscle growth doing aerial. Your body needs rest and nutrients to build and repair.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sleeping a little longer than you usually do.
Make sure to take in plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Eat enough protein to aid muscle rebuild.
5) Stretch regularly.
At the beginning, most students focus so much on getting stronger that they forget how much flexibility plays a role in this activity.
But guess what?
It doesn’t matter if you have the strength to lift your leg up to the bar if you don’t have the flexibility to first bring your leg that close to your face.
6) Review what you learn.
When I was a beginner, I would take the belt from my bathrobe and practice wrapping my single footlock while sitting at the edge of my bed.
Finding a time outside of class to mentally–or physically–walk through the skills you learned will keep them fresh in your mind
7) Take more than one class per week.
My first coach used to say, “Two times a week, three times as strong.” That statement is so true.
Students who take class more than once per week progress significantly faster than those who go over the material one time every seven days. Just like your brain needs review to learn, your body needs repetition to develop muscle memory.
8) Remember you are just beginning.
As I said before, aerial is difficult. It is easy to look at your instructors–even other students–and feel like you are not at their level. Truth is, you are not. Yet. You are on day one while your instructor is on year eight.
You wouldn’t expect a newborn to have the same math level of a third-grader, would you? You are learning. Embrace every mistake and every awkward foot tangle because that is where every great aerialist begins.