Happy Muscle Monday! Today's exercise targets glute and hamstring strength and isolation at the same time that it develops hamstring active flexibility. It also trains knee extension and toe point, two of the most important factors for beautiful lines. We call this "hip extension" when the muscles along the back of the leg and booty pull the leg backward. One example of translation to aerial: we perform this action for a straight-leg hip key! We also use this strength to scissor our legs when we need to lock in a hip key or thigh hitch.
What I also like about this drill is that your chest and shoulders are working to stabilize the position. This is great because it prepares the upper body for apparatus work AND it's great because even you're basically getting many beautiful birds with one stone.
So here's how you do it!
To see the drill and a new exercise every Monday, follow @wakefulascentaerial
This week for Muscle Monday I'm sharing a full-body exercise that I love adding to my aerial silks ground warmup. Shoulders, pecs (chest), triceps, core, glutes, and hamstrings get a great workout from this one. It also provides an opportunity to focus on hollow body position.
The plank-forearm plank transition is also beneficial to aerialists because it incorporates elbow extension and pushing (heyyy triceps). Strength in the triceps can help you to access those strong, straight lines from shoulders to fingertips!
Start with 4 one direction and 4 the other direction. You can add multiple sets if you like.
To make these harder, lift the leg opposite of the arm that lowers first for the duration of the exercise. This emphasizes glute and hamstring engagement which is particularly good for balancing aerialist bodies because we do sooo much hip flexion! Plus, we do use those muscle groups a lot for stabilization in aerial movement.
Check out @wakefulascentaerial for the video of this exercise and tag with your best attempt!
Early this year I was on the phone with Emily Cage, a very talented and also super kind aerialist and burlesque performer. We were discussing the challenges and rewards of raising an aerial community in a small town.
We also got on the topic of sustaining energy as aerialists and teachers of aerial. I told her I was feeling pretty drained from all the teaching (I had ZERO students to demo skills because literally none of my students had done aerial before). She encouraged me to start using protein powder. "You will actually gain more muscle and have more energy," she said. I was sold, but I had no idea what protein powder to buy, only that most kinds gave me stomach aches. Commence internet surfing.
Long story short, I came across Scott from Pure Food Company. Scott is a scientist who had worked in the protein powder industry long enough to find out that most companies cut corners and use ingredients and manufacturing processes that are not ideal for our health. He set out on his own to create a protein powder that didn't cut corners, didn't disturb the GI tract, AND didn't taste bad.
Scott provides ample research into different types of protein powder. I could tell he was invested in creating a quality product. His blog is FILLED with links to peer-reviewed scientific articles.
Here are some helpful points he makes about protein powder
You can tell he's an advocate for knowledge and health and prioritizes these over profit. I love this about him. He's completely honest and isn't trying to hide anything.
Scott has done the research and concluded that "Athletes need at least 1.8 g/kg of bodyweight."
I'm 128lbs which means I need at least 104.4 grams of protein per day. One serving of this powder gets me 1/3 of the way there.
I love having such an efficient source of protein that can easily be made into healthy pancakes or a smoothie (see recipe at end of the post!). I don't eat a whole lot of meat and almost never eat soy protein products. I also don't consume much dairy. I love that this protein powder gives me an energy boost that helps me avoid eating sugar and doesn't lead to a crash later.
Why I choose Scott's Product over and over again:
It feels so right to be partnering with Scott and I'm so grateful to Emily for making the suggestion to try protein powder! I've made huge muscle gains this year and I love having the protein powder to support that as I grow as an aerialist. I am happy to spread the word and help you find the right protein powder for your needs!
Energy Protein Smoothie Recipe
Blend and enjoy! This is a great breakfast option. I don't have much of an appetite when I wake up but I find this smoothie appealing and easy to digest.
This week's Muscle Monday exercise focuses on your outer hip muscles, including the gluteus medius, piriformis, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus. The action is external rotation combined with abduction, in other words rotating your leg outward and opening it to the side. These are the muscles you use to create a wide straddle. At the last moment of the exercise the hip flexors kick in to pull the knee toward the head. This is a natural extension of the initial movement, but not being particularly strengthening, could be skipped altogether.
Try 1-2 sets of 5-8 reps on each side.
Visit @wakefulascentaerial for the video of this exercise and tag with your best attempt!
DISCLAIMER: The LAST thing I want to do is tell you how you should feel or what you should do. It is paramount to me to respect and embrace your experience just as it is. Your experience may be very different from what's outlined here and that's completely valid. That said, I also find it necessary to make generalizations in order to raise valuable discussions about this important and under-discussed topic. I do my best to inform without insisting. Please comment to share your perspective. P.S. Seeking moon apparatus pics for this blog! Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any!
Many women experience a ~30-day hormonal cycle. A very simplistic summary is that we predictably experience a rise and fall in energy during each menstrual cycle. I'll outline the biology of these phases on a very basic level (I am NOT a medical professional) and I will also pass along some other ideas about the cycle that I learned from a workshop I attended in Costa Rica as well as from personal experience. The latter are not science-based but they provide a helpful framework for understanding our menstrual cycles and our personal experiences a little bit better.
The phases of the menstrual cycle
Biology: uterine lining is shed. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop.
Experience: may prefer solitude, enjoy reflection, creative work. May experience cramps and body tension most intensely at the beginning
Biology: Time between first day of period and ovulation. Estrogen is rising, body is preparing to release an egg.
Experience: Return of energy, feeling motivated and fresh. Clarity. Eager to return to higher-intensity activities but likely to require a gentle transition in.
Biology: Uterine lining builds back up to receive an egg.
Experience: See above
Biology: Ovary releases an egg. Estrogen peaks right before, and drops soon after.
Experience: Continued rise of energy as well as confidence. May feel more outgoing, friendly, and sexy. Heightened attractiveness. Poised to get work done efficiently. Likely to feel physically well and strong relative to other phases. In short, feeling like a #bossbabe
Biology: Body prepares for possible pregnancy. Progesterone peaks and then drops.
Experience: Transition between above and below.
Biology: No, that doesn't say secretary!! Haha. Secretory, like secrete or release. During this phase, if fertilization has occurred, uterine lining produces chemicals to support development of the fetus. If not, it produces chemicals to prepare the lining to break down and shed. I'll continue on with the assumption that pregnancy does not occur.
Experience: Likely drop in energy. Possible intensification of existing anxieties, feelings of depression, and neuroses. Possible decrease in self-confidence. Heightened awareness of personal values, loss of patience and decreased willingness to put up with inequality, injustice, and difficult people. Self-critical. Feeling under-appreciated. In need of more nurturing than usual. Possible re-surfacing of unresolved past issues. Reactive.
A good time to gain clarity on one's values, but also an important time to practice self-awareness. Not a good time to make big decisions as judgement can be clouded by physical and emotional strain due to drop in progesterone and estrogen.
This is a time for preparing for a potential baby, AKA "nesting," when we feel a boost in pleasure from activities like cleaning, shopping, organizing, and making things. Likely to be a highly creative time.
A time that offers strong spiritual insight and connection if we are willing to slow down. Music, nature, art, journaling, and meditation can highlight the spiritual power and beauty of an otherwise rather physically difficult time. Self-care and rest are crucial during this time.
Your Cycle and your Training
The reality is that if you menstruate, your body has a specific set of priorities in the days before your period begins. Exercising hard is not one of them. Your body's resources are directed toward initiating the chemical reaction that will trigger the uterine lining to shed. During this time, light exercise can promote healthy circulation and improved mood, but let's face it--aerial just isn't light exercise. It's mentally, physically, and often emotionally demanding.
My favorite example of my body protesting my not-exactly-cycle-conscious training regimen was on one particularly demoralizing conditioning day. I was working on some straight-arm hip key rollups, which I've done hundreds of this year. But I felt heavy and weak and found myself literally not letting go of the pole on my way up, blocking myself with my own body, and trickling dejectedly to the ground (lol in retrospect but frustrating in the moment). My poor performance worsened my mood. I didn't feel pleasure from the training session, and I was frustrated with myself for not being on my A-game. Not an overall positive experience.
Everybody is different, and if you find it empowering and pleasurable to work out hard during your period, that's great. If however if you find yourself feeling weaker, heavier, and dejected during training, your body probably wants something different.
Since we menstruate approximately every 30 days, we can actually enjoy this time as a built-in rest period--a natural rhythm to help organize our training schedules.
My approach is to take a break from aerial training the two days before my period and the first two days of flow. I know--this means your plan depends on a consistent period. Chances are you will end up with three or four days before, and other times none. Do your best to read your body's schedule within the seven days before your next expected period. Either way, try four consecutive days of rest each month (I recommend seven consecutive days of rest every three months at least).
If you do not menstruate, you may still want to consider incorporating a 4-day body reset once a month. I have heard that women who do not have a period still have an "energy cycle" that lasts ~28 days. I have not been able to find any scientific research to support this (if you have, please send) but intuitively it sounds plausible.
Four days of rest and self-care can work wonders. To sweeten the deal, I soak in hot water for the four consecutive days of rest. Think less pain and more pleasure.
I encourage every aerialist to practice body awareness and try a variety of strategies when it comes to rest and recovery. There is no one-size-fits-all solution! You may enjoy my strategy, or it may not work for you at all. Listen to your body, ask what she wants, and try different approaches.
We are in this together! If you have questions, ideas, or other tips, please comment below!
If you tried last week's Muscle Monday drill, you are going to L O V E this week's (it's wayyyy easier.)
Today's drill helps strengthen the quadriceps, hip flexors, and calves in unison. Repeating this drill teaches these muscles to work together to create one beautiful long line from hip to toe.
Low Standing Leg Lifts combine hip flexion (raising the leg from the hip) with knee extension (keeping the knee straight). It is much easier to flex your hip when your knee is bent, which means it is verrrry tricky to convince the knee to stay straight, especially when you're feeling tired. Practicing this drill helps us banish that pesky microbend by building muscle memory around the good habits that give us strong, beautiful lines and developing the muscles we need to keep the action clean.
Tap your pointed foot on the ground and raise your leg about halfway to the height of your hip. Squeeze the quadriceps (front thighs) to keep your knee straight. Be sure to turn your lifting leg outward (external rotation) while doing this, but not to a point that you feel clicking or grinding at the hip joint. This is usually less of an issue for the low lifts and more so for the high lifts. Standing leg should be strong with a slight bend in the knee, and hips should be square. Draw belly toward spine to avoid arching.
This drill can be extremely helpful for beautifying your technique and while challenging, is much easier than the seated variety and can be incorporated into regular training. Remember, it is much easier to think about technique in your warm-up than when you're clutching the apparatus and trying to work out a tricky move. Develop your good habits and strength while you have time to focus on those details!
Visit @wakefulascentaerial to see the drill and tag with your best attempt!
This fresh condition of mind and body sets you up to have learning breakthroughs and connects you more deeply with your apparatus.
This is proooobably not what you want to hear...but here goes...
Taking more than two rest days in a row is okay.
For me, the thought of taking several days off aerial silks used to be nerve wracking. I was afraid if I missed my weekly conditioning then I would rapidly regress. I wanted to stick to my training schedule and not break my streak.
But there is actually magic in taking up to a week (or even two or three) off training. Well, it's science, but it feels like magic. And why? Full recovery from high-intensity exercise--which in your case might be an aerial class or aerial conditioning session--takes 48-72 hours. For this reason I advise my students to take at least one day off between classes. This is also why I have a week-long break between sessions at my studio.
So what happens when you take more than 72 hours off? You lose all your muscles and forget how to hip key, right?
If you don't rest enough, you might end up with an injury or fatigue that puts you out for much longer than several days. Furthermore, overtraining can lead to irritability, mood swings, depression, and even a loss of interest in the very thing you're so hell-bent on doing.
When you take more than a couple days off training, your body gets an extended opportunity to catch up with your aerial antics. Muscles and tendons have more time and energy available to recover and repair, and any injuries you've been living with can have a chance to really heal. Want to make this hiatus even more potent? Pledge to soak in hot water every one of those rest days.
Last month I took five consecutive days off (gasp).
Did I lose all my muscles?
And forget how to hip key?
I felt like a BRAND NEW PERSON. I felt happier! My body didn't hurt everywhere all day. I felt excited to train and I immediately discovered new pathways and sequences on aerial silks. I felt more cheerful and energetic overall. Now, I'm not saying you have to stop THINKING about aerial! When I rest, I stay connected to my discipline by studying aerial online and watching inspirational aerial videos on instagram.
But I know what you're thinking. Taking time off can be mentally difficult when aerial helps you feel more grounded and happy. It's also easy to get so excited about what you're working on that you don't even realize how little rest you've taken.
Perhaps the hardest situation is when you are forced by circumstances to take more rest than you'd like due to travel, sickness, simple busyness, or a particularly juicy Netflix series (ok, you have only yourself to blame for that one!).
There is no need to panic if you need to take some time off.
Research shows that it takes 7-21 consecutive days away from training to noticeably lose strength. I am recommending a mere 4-6 consecutive off days.
But it also makes a difference if you are a long-time aerialist or new to aerial arts. Athletes who have established a foundation of regular over a year or more in their sport or discipline can actually go longer without noticeable losses. If you are newer to aerial, research says you will be liable to lose your gains a little faster, but it's totally still okay to take a break. This time off doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) sedentary. Switch up the types of exercise you do and keep it light to moderate. Walks, jogs, yoga, and playing frisbee with friends are a few great options. Explore other creative outlets that interest you, such as painting, singing, or sewing.
If you still feel anxious about taking time off, let me ask you this:
Have you ever lost sight of the joy and the fun of aerial because you were so fixated on a particular goal?
Do you worry about keeping up with people around you, or aerialists you follow on social
Are you afraid of losing everything you worked for by taking a break?
These are common issues, often unconsciously promoted and reinforced through our achievement-oriented culture. This mindset actually works against your development as your own unique aerialist and also puts you at risk of injury and fatigue.
Now ask yourself:
1. Why do I do aerial?
2. What is my practice rooted in? (More on this in a future post.)
Now lets consider the benefits that rest can have on your brain and your aerial intellect.
After a period of rest you may very well find that you come back to your apparatus with a clearer head and a heightened body awareness. You might notice that you feel especially connected and you might enter a flow state more easily. During your time away your brain has been processing your recent training sessions. I have a theory that there is usually a backlog of processing, and it gets taken care of when we take a break. You then come back "more in relationship" with the apparatus, a phrase I owe to a philosophy professor friend of mine.
This fresh condition of mind and body sets you up to have learning breakthroughs and connects you more deeply with your apparatus.
So try an extended break. Rejuvenate your body, mind, and practice by spending time away from aerial.
Next Sunday I'll be sharing a piece for women about strategizing rest around your menstrual cycle. I am VERY excited to open that conversation and eager to hear your insights and ideas, so please check back in to find out how to work WITH and not against your body. If you want to be sure not to miss it, sign up for regular updates by dropping your email in the box below.
Want amazing lines in the air? It takes a lot of hard, consistent work, but it gets easier over time and it pays off! Floor drills are my favorite way to improve my aerial technique. It's quite a bit easier to pay attention to the important little details when you're not hanging onto an apparatus, whether aerial silks, aerial hoop, trapeze, rope, etc.
Repeating drills helps reinforce movement patterns that we WANT, and untrains habits (ahem, microbends) that we do NOT want! It is 100% worth the effort when you see a video or a photo of you and you've got killer knee extension and impeccable toe point.
These drills target your hip flexors, quads, and calves while also demanding engagement from your core.
Tag @wakefulascent with your best attempt!
Bicycle climb -- I am seriously in love with it. Not ONLY is it pretty, but it is also actually not particularly strenuous--once you get it down. It's a climb that can translate between rope and aerial silks. And what I SUPER love about it is that it NATURALLY changes sides. In my subjective and highly nerdy world, natural alternation is simply superior (hence why I also love opposite side inversion climb).
However, it DOES require a good deal of...er...cognition. It's a bit complex, with several things happening at once. This video breaks it down and addresses the most common mistakes I've seen students make while working on this climb.
I have also included a little-known detail for how to make it the cleanest possible (hint: how you look at the end matters!).
I have my students practice this one regularly as it is wonderful mind and body training and not overly taxing on the hands and arms. Makes a great warmup climb!
If this vid helped, tag @sara.liana.silks on the gram so I can see!
art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
ethos: the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period
I have had the great pleasure of getting to know Caitlin Wellwood over the past year. She is an inspiration to everyone at our studio. The fullness with which she embodies the art and technicality of aerial movement is striking. She is capable of moving an audience to tears through her dynamic, full-body expressions. She moves with incredible poise and precision, enhancing the beauty of her act with detailed movements and compelling facial expressions.
Furthermore, and what I think is most important of all, is the way that Caitlin is connected to her art. She doesn't do it to impress anyone. She does it, I believe, because it lives in her and she desires to provide a space for it to live outside of herself too. In sharing her art, she genuinely enriches our community. And maybe this is why I've cried upward of ten times watching her practice and perform. Yes, I'm an emotional pisces but I don't cry at just anything. You see, it effuses from her soul. It's powerful.
True to Wakeful Ascent Aerial Art's values, Caitlin is unwaveringly supportive of the people around her. She has devoted herself to her art passionately, kindly, humbly. I am honored to be a part of her aerial journey.
I hope you enjoy watching her 2019 Spring Showcase performance. We look forward to bringing you more wonderful works.