Do you ever think about it? What we do? How weird it is? Because I do. One of my favorite things about instructing aerial fitness is seeing expectations fly out of the window. When I have a new student exclaim in frustration; ” I SUCK at this!” I respond back, “Why would you be good at this?” Why do we put these expectations on ourselves when it comes to physical activity? You wouldn’t be mad at yourself for struggling at learning Arabic. It’s a different language after all, and you know you’re not dumb if you’re not progressing, you just know you need to practice it more. Physical prowess, however, is carried over from our school-age days.  You’re either athletic or you’re not. You’re either clumsy or graceful, you have a background in fitness or you don’t.  I’ve said this before, and I’ll say this again: Aerial fitness does NOT feel like what it looks like. And it IS like learning a new language to your body. You can watch me do it a thousand times, but you will learn by attempting it, and then getting feedback through trial and error.  This isn’t running. This isn’t power lifting. Unless you were raised in a circus, this isn’t a sport your family was into and then influenced you with knowledge of from a young age. This, my friends, is it’s own thing. Some people definitely have an easier time than others, and general fitness is helpful, but it isn’t consistently so.  Often, it can be a detriment based on the expectations of the student. Being in shape doesn’t always matter as much as we hope it would, unfortunately. Doing aerial makes you better at aerial. I’m sorry to burst any bubbles.  But, I can say that I absolutely LOVE the antithesis of the expectation of difficulty in aerial sports.  It’s when students INSIST that there’s no way they can do something, but are immediately proved wrong. Oh my god, that is like money in the bank to me. The best. I wish I could eat that feeling. My point is, these sports are difficult to anticipate. Your skill progression can be very slow but then you can shoot off from there. You can be amazing at first and then run into a brick wall for bit.  It makes a point to humble you, and I want all of you beginners and intermediates to keep your head up. Your efforts will be rewarded and you need to concentrate on having fun and remembering to always reinforce your basic skills. Truly, the recipe for success is consistency and a keeping an open ear to help. You’re going to be having a BLAST. Trust me. Welp, that is all for you beginner/intermediate ladies now. The extra words after this are just a formality. You can go back to shopping online for leggings with pockets. 

Instructors training on hoop (Photo taken pre-COVID)

Ok, experienced students. You’ve accomplished skills that would have made beginner-you faint with jealousy and awe. You have everything you wanted and more from when you were an intermediate student (with the exception of some stupid moves that you thought were cool but in fact, they were not. They were totally stupid and they hurt and you were stupid for trying them. You’re not mad, they’re just dumb moves ok?).  But what is that? Are you feeling…. unsatisfied? Do feel like you’ve…. stagnated? Dare I say, PLATEAUED? This is one of the cruel facts about progression. It doesn’t follow the smooth, upward curve we want it to.  It makes you its bum (I don’t mean bum;-)) right off the get go, then it slowly becomes your friend and confidant.  It makes you feel good. It challenges you and makes a fool of you, while simultaneously making you feel like the coolest person ever (This is partly because only cool people take aerial classes. Change my mind.) Then all of a sudden… it’s like the “new aerial skills” portion of your brain stops responding to your texts. Ghosted. And this feeling could happen at any time. I’m talking from experience here.  This could happen very quickly in advanced, after struggling with choppers. This feeling could happen shortly after entering extreme, when your usual “try a couple times and then nail it” formula is no longer happening with every move.  You could have this happen in small doses, repeatedly, at different moments. Mini plateaus, so to speak. A lot of our struggles bleed over into other aspects of our life, so it isn’t entirely surprising that our stressful job crisis or whatever is affecting our ability to work on new skills (but we still have the balls to act surprised and mad about it). Harder moves = more time and effort to learn them. I’m sorry! As we advance in the moves we are capable of, we venture into territories of skills that are fickle.  It’s not just about grip. We already know about crappy grip days.  There’s just certain things that we can struggle for and slightly hold for moments but always seem to elude actual ownership, like our own breath. You can try to keep it all you want, but it isn’t yours to keep.  You’re only renting it.  With practice, you realize every skill, even the fickle ones, are yours to have for moments, any moments you want, and that’s an amazing feeling. The higher you go, the more frustrating the moves you are working for can be.  I can go into more detail about this in the future, but I want all of you ladies who are struggling with feelings of frustration to remember that no one’s skills are equal. No one’s journey is the same. Sometimes you don’t just stop gaining in skills, you actually lose things that were once, in your mind, 100% yours. Aerial sports giveth, and they will also taketh away. But obviously, your relationship with your goals are dependent on your behavior. If you are struggling, try the obvious: conditioning and practice. If you still aren’t improving, look externally and be kind to yourself.  If you are just in a rut, try something different to make yourself more rounded.  More of a fitness girl? Try a dance workshop! Not too keen on conditioning? Try a strength class or even a different aerial modality to expand your horizons.  Even if you hate it, it will contribute to your overall skills and will make you return to your comfort zone with open arms! Stay open and enthusiastic about what you love, and don’t forget to think critically when needed. Remember why you do this, and why you love it in the first place: because you love yourself!