Join the circus: A fun new way to get fit

When you think of acrobatics, trampolining and the trapeze, you generally think of the circus or an amazing Cirque du Soleil show. But these tricks aren’t just for the pros anymore. Aerial arts are also a great way to get fit. Here’s why

Join the circus: A fun new way to get fit

Source: Best Health magazine, January/February 2015

Circus classes are a growing trend among fitness fanatics. Among the most popular sessions are aerial arts ‘ routines using hoops, trapeze or silks, a loop of silky fabric suspended from the ceiling.

Shannon Freud, 37, a social worker in Toronto, started aerial silks classes at Cirque-Ability four years ago and has never looked back. "I had been working out with weights for a while, but I’ve never gotten as good a workout as I do with silks." Through a combination of food choices and classes, she has gone from a size 14 to a size six, and improved her endurance, flexibility and strength.

Not only did she get fit but she also made a friend, Stephanie Quinlan, a 43-year-old corporate communications professional. The two met at a circus circuit class ‘ weight training using body weight, stability balls and aerial apparatus.

"Steph and I sweated it out together in those classes and, through laughing at each other falling over, encouraging each other and telling stories, we developed a friendship," says Freud.

The two still meet occasionally for drop-in classes. Says Quinlan: "We all chat and joke around when we’re stretching and conditioning while waiting for our turn on the apparatus. It’s like having a girls’ night every feel while also getting a great workout."

Where do I find a class?

Do an online search for recreational classes at a circus school or gymnastics centre in your city. Classes generally start at $20 and up.

What do I wear?

For ground classes like tumbling, wear regular workout clothes with bare feet, says Katie Cresswell, a certified fitness trainer and trained aerialist who teaches circus arts in and around Vancouver. ‘For aerials, wear multiple close-fitting layers over your knees and back to absorb friction. Feet and hands should be bare, hair secured and jewelry removed.’

What kind of instructor will I get?

‘There is no standardized certification for aerial instructors,’ says Cresswell. ‘Many instructors may have NCCP [National Coaching Certification Program] certification for gymnastics or trampoline, and the Canadian Pole Fitness Association is also working on standardized certification.’ Instructors may also have training through schools like the National Circus School in Montreal.