It’s the job of the aerialist to make their routine look easy – like they are floating through space with effortless grace, as if on the wings of an angel.
However by it’s very nature aerial is hard. Not only are you doing the job of a dancer but you are also lifting your body weight through space and without the use of the floor to push off. So often times it more usual to feel more like a heffalump than an angel! Yep I think it’s safe to say we have all been there.
An aerial dancer must first develop incredible strength and stamina in order to move themselves about in the air. Then they will have more energy to focus on technique, shape, choreography and musicality to make a routine look graceful and effortless.
When an aerialist gets tired, technique gets sloppy, choreography becomes harder to learn, mistakes can happen, and that’s also when injuries can occur. So it is really important when training to focus on stamina.
Here’s 10 ways to help with developing stamina and effortless grace.
1.) Cross train: To build stamina you will need to train cardio. Other activities such as swimming, running, dancing, cardio classes in the gym (especially HIIT) etc. are all great.
2.) Breath control: When your heart is beating so hard that you can practically see it beating through your chest and you are breathing so heavily the audience can hear you and you feel like you don’t have it in you to carry on. That is when you must consciously slow your breathing down.
Don’t let panic kick in – just force yourself to slow down. Take a long slow inhale breathing deep from your belly, not from your chest. Pause at the top and hold it for a second or two. Exhale a long slow exhale through a slightly open mouth. See if you can make your inhales and exhales longer. It may be uncomfortable at first because your body is demanding oxygen but you will feel less tired and your muscles will cramp less.
And like anything this takes training. Become aware of the way you breathe – pay attention to it and focus on it as much as you do other techniques such as pointing you toes and engaging your shoulders. Yoga is a great way to learn more about deep breath work and I totally recommend doing yoga as a compliment to your aerial practice.
3.) Practice when you’re tired: I know I know probably a bit controversial but hear me out. Try pushing through the tiredness to develop more stamina. If you can do your routine when you are a little bit tired imagine how easy it will feel when you are full power. Ok please note however, (before I hear you yelling at me what about safety and all that) that there is a fine line between practicing when you are tired and practicing unsafely. See if you can push beyond some of the tiredness but never to the point where it is making you unsafe. And never try new tricks or tricks you are unsure of when feeling tired.
A good way to do this is to try extending the time you normally practice – if you usually train for an hour try training for 90 mins, filling the extra time with more conditioning or moves you know you are happy with. Your body will then adapt and you will soon be training for longer quite happily.
4.) Don’t tell yourself you are tired: It’s all in the mind! It’s really easy to say ‘I’m tired’. It’s an excuse, it makes us feel important and like we worked hard. But it’s even more strengthening and encouraging to say ‘I’m not tired, I can do this again’. Train yourself to have an attitude of energy.
5.) Work on your weak areas: Remember the saying ‘it’s the exercises we avoid the most that we need to do the most’ well this very definitely applies to aerial. For example it’s oh too easy to get into the habit of just using your strong side (been there and not so proud to say got the T shirt for that one). Training both sides of your body will definitely give you more stamina since you won’t be reliant on your dominant side for most of your strength. This also applies to tricks – it may be that the reason you don’t like a certain trick is because you body needs to develop the ability to do it, and yes this will definitely make you stronger.
6.) Eat well: When I was training a lot I got into a very bad habit of having sugary energy drinks and chews for a boost of energy. Great for short term energy but very damaging over time to my body. I have now learned (the hard way!) that you must give your body the right foods if you want long term endurance.
7.) Stay hydrated: I mention this all the time – but that’s because it’s so fundamentally important! It’s common sense to replace the fluids you lose when you sweat with water, but what might not be obvious is that your body works better and harder during your workout if you drink water. Because your brain is made of around 85% water if you get dehydrated it can affect your concentration and even your short-term memory. In the same way that not drinking enough water makes your brain slow down it has the same effect on your body. For example, your muscles are around 75% water, your bones are about 22% and your blood is around 83%. If you’re dehydrated, all these body parts don’t work as well as they should meaning you lack energy and feel tired or lazy.
8.) Get a good quality nights sleep: Getting adequate sleep is definitely something that contributes to your stamina levels. And not just how much sleep but also the quality of your sleep. Your body needs time to repair itself and this only happens during a good, deep sleep. If you are stressed and sleeping badly you may wake feeling drained and as if you did not have a nights sleep at all. This will definitely affect how much stamina you have. Make sure you relax the body before sleep – take a long bath, have a massage, wind down before going to bed. Remember staying up all night on the computer will not help your training regime!
9.) Partying and aerial don’t mix: Funnily enough training and partying do not mix (believe me I’ve tried). Partying will deplete your body of the vital energy you need to build the stamina required for aerial. So sorry folks but if you like burning the candle at both ends your aerial practice will suffer. If you want that routine slick, keep your partying to a minimum. On the plus side you’re going to be a lot stronger and healthier for it!
10.) Train smart: The gradual adaption principle – that is, slowly and steadily increasing your strength and stamina. Training that routine up one week before showcase time is not gonna cut the mustard I’m afraid! For that effortless grace you need to start working that routine up months in advance.
So I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please like, share or comment if you found it of interest.