London Fitness: Aerial Fitness

What?

The idea of aerial classes was pretty much the thing that persuaded me to join Class Pass in the first place. I’d seen pictures of people doing balancing movements on silks whilst flicking through Instagram and it looked amazing. Sure, such feats will probably be outside of my realm of capabilities but could always try.

Aerial fitness basically involves doing various exercises and balances on things like silks that fall from the ceiling to the floor, hoops that hang several feet up in the air, hammocks that you can rest various body parts in and trapezes.

Wear?

You’re going to wear leggings that cover the bags of your knees to keep them protected.

Where?

Flying Fantastic

Aerial Hoops was one of the first few classes I did when I joined Class Pass it was the hardest. Several months (and many classes) later, I’d still say it was one of the hardest.

Flying Fantastic holds classes in several venues, including the Wilditch Community Centre in Battersea. The place reminded me of a village hall or school gym that I had school discos in back in the day.

The class began with some warm up exercises, involving stretches and cardio, then we were divided into groups, depending on experience, and assigned a hoop or two. I was the only person with absolutely no experience whatsoever and as such I was the only person who couldn’t get into the hoop unaided. I needed a leg up.  I hoped I’d get the hang of it during the class but the opposite happened – my below par muscles just got weaker and eventually my lower back gave up.

At first, I could hang from the hoop and just about do the pike position, which is where you hang down from the hoop with your arms and hold your legs straight over your head. After a while, I was too weak to even do that anymore. Initially, once I was hanging from the hoop by my knees, I could also pull myself up and actually shuffle into it – but I only managed that once before I needed help with that too.

Finally, it was the “man in the moon” position. We were sitting with our torsos resting against the side of the hoop, with one foot on the opposite side and the other foot up against the top then we had to hold our arms behind us. I just about managed that one – I was thrilled.

The hoops were hard and rough so I was able to grip onto them but I still managed to slip and scrape a couple of chunks out of my hands when my arm muscle gave up and I half fell out of my hoop. I also managed to bruise the backs of my knees – one was kind of puffy the next day.

Although it was technically a beginners’ class, I didn’t think it was a class you could do if you were a beginner to exercise altogether – like I was. Despite my frustrations and my resulting aches and pains. I was determined to go back and get into that hoop by myself – I just needed to spend a few months lifting weights to build those muscles first.

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Skylab Studios, Chalk Farm / Kentish Town

I’d started aerial fitness with the hoops because thought that would be easier than silks. That may have been the case but they were still beyond me, so I thought hammocks may be a better place to start. I found a class at Skylabs Studio but the only problem was getting there as the studio is in Chalk Farm. I wouldn’t get there in time after work and the alternative was 10am on a Saturday. That was too early for me. But several months after my aerial hoops class, I organised to stay with a friend who lived much closer.

When I came to book, I found that the 10am aerial yoga class, which consisted of stretches and core work in hammocks, had been separated into an aerial core workout at 10am and an aerial yoga stretch class at 11am. My friend and I tried to book onto the same class but spots went like hotcakes so I ended up on the core class and she got onto the yoga stretch class.

I had to keep my eyes peeled to find the studio. It was round the side of a building, passed a big piece of street art, and up some stairs. Helpfully there were signs. The venue was like a trendy loft conversion, complete with slanted ceiling, fairy-lights and a comfy sofa. There were also cubby holes and hangers for attendees to leave their stuff.

We started off doing some cardio work on yoga mats to warm up, then we moved into the hammocks. We did various exercises, some of which involved putting alternate legs in the hammocks and doing lifts and mountain climbers. Others involved putting the hammocks behind our lower backs, hanging down and lifting our legs up and side to side, or balancing our hips in the hammocks and balancing. We also had to do pull ups on the hammocks. I tried but who was I kidding, that was never going to happen.

My favourite part involved going upside down, mainly because after my hoop exercise I thought I’d have no chance. I was also able to pull myself up into the hammocks from a lying position on the floor. I don’t know whether it was because it was easier to get upside down in the hammocks or because I have actually managed to improve my fitness over the passed few months (this was the first evidence I had of that) but I was thrilled, even if going upside-down  did make me feel a little nauseous.

At the end of the class, the instructor took us throw an exercise usually done on silks – just for fun. This involved going upside down in the hammocks before pulling ourselves up so we ended up with the hammocks wrapped around our legs, then we needed to get our balance and let go, so we ended up in a kind of starfish pose. The pressure that put on my legs, wrapped up in the hammock, hurt but I could do it. The instructor gave me a helping hand pulling myself up but she didn’t have to help me as much as the Flying Fantastic one had to. This class was super tough but I loved it.

I had been planning to try the yoga stretch class next. Particularly because when I came to meet my friend afterwards, I walked in to find what looked like loads of hanging pods, as everyone in the class had climbed into their hammocks for their resting pose. But then she told me they hadn’t done much upside down work and that was my favourite bit so I’ll be booking on another aerial core class asap – even if it means getting up early on a Satuday – so long as I can get a space.

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