Aerial hoop is an extremely dynamic sport and requires a lot of concentration as well as strength and flexibility. As a beginner is can be easy to get carried away with what you want to try after watching Instagram videos.
It’s important to build a solid foundation when training aerial hoop so before you start wanting to try the advanced moves, you’ll need to learn the basics first.
During your first few months of training, you’ll master the basics so check some of them out below:
I’ll be the first to admit that my lifestyle used to be less than ideal… three takeaways a week, zero exercise and lots of late nights. Apart from always being tired, I hated the way I looked but didn’t have the drive to do anything about it. That’s until I decided to try something new, something just for me and that’s when I discovered aerial hoop.
So I signed myself up to a 6 week fundamentals course at Leeds Aerial Arts with the determination to stick it out and not give up after a few weeks.
Well those 6 weeks quickly turned into 6 months which turned in a year… ONE WHOLE YEAR and I have no intention of stopping. Without aerial hoop, I would still be that unhealthy person with zero fitness, zero strength and zero (body) confidence.
So if you want to find out how aerial hoop can change your life and help you get the body you want, scroll down to read more…
What is aerial hoop?
Traditionally a circus act, aerial hoop or Lyra is a suspended steel ring and is used to perform acro based routines.
Aerial hoop offers a fantastic full body workout designed to improve strength, build muscle and increase flexibility. This makes it the perfect balance of getting fit and having fun at the same time… so what’s not to love?
Super fast spins, daring drops and graceful gazelles will be part of your training but don’t worry, as a beginner you’ll learn the basics first. If you want to learn more about what to expect from your first aerial hoop class, click here.
During your first few sessions of aerial hoop, you’ll find conditioning exercises hard (I really struggled) and unless you’ve trained previously, moving your own body weight around will be a challenge.
Seated pull ups, leg raises and even straddle mounts will seem impossible but stick with it. It was months until I managed by first pull up and now 5,6 or even 7 in a row aren’t a big deal.
The more you train, the stronger you’ll get but I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s easy but when you start to see results – it’ll suddenly feel worth it.
Top tip: If you’re serious about training, invest in a gym membership. A few weight lifting based workouts each week will accelerate your progress, making hoop class a bit easier.
If you struggle to even touch your toes, no worries – the more you practice, the better you’ll get and the best part is that you might not even realise until you nearly drop into the splits or get a near perfect back bend without trying.
The shapes and flows you‘all learn and practice will push your body to new limits helping to figure out what you’re naturally good at and what needs practice. For example, my splits have come along way in a short amount of time with little training but my shoulder mobility is poor.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that regular stretching and flexibility training is important to really push your progression as well as understanding the fundamentals of how to stretch properly and safely.
No I don’t mean you can stuff yourself with crisps, bags of sweets or bars of chocolates. By eating meals packed full of the good stuff will give your body the fuel it needs to build muscle and recover. After a hard slog during your gym and aerial hoop training sessions, your body will thank you.
The misconception is that to lose “weight” is to go into a calorie deficit meaning eating less but that’s not right at all. If you want to have a more defined figure then you need to lose body fat and build muscle – ignore the scales, muscle weighs more than fat but you will look and feel slimmer.
Just to put it into perspective, when I was at my unhealthiest I weighed 63kg and was a size 12, now I weigh 65kg and currently a size 8/10.
Make sure you have a good breakfast to start the day off right followed by lunch (and a second one in my case) then a lovely big dinner. You can snack inbetween as well if you still feeli hungry but try to stop eating 3 hours before bed time – this gives your body chance to digest your food.
It’s a confidence builder
It can be daunting signing up for a class when you don’t know anyone and for many that can be a turn off. But how can you learn a new skill or meet new people if you don’t step out of your comfort zone every once in a while?
It’s important to remember that EVERYONE is in the same boat so when you arrive at your first class just smile and say hello to everyone – it’ll break the ice and before long you’ll have your own little aerial hoop family.
For those of us that spend hours hunched over laptops and desks will understand the constant shoulder tension we carry around as well as a noticeable rounding in our posture. However a few simple stretches will soon sort this out.
In the final part of The Bendy Series, yogi Claire Bell has helped put together a lovely stretch routine aimed at increasing shoulder mobility.
Claire is a true inspiration to all us wannabe bendy people so please show her your support by checking out her recent posts and following her Instagram for your daily fix.
Before stretching, it’s important to get your body warm and the blood pumping to prevent any injury. It’ll only take five minutes so find a space to begin.
Wide arm circles squeezing the shoulder blades together
Lift and drop your shoulders as quickly as you can
Now that you’ve lovely and warm, lets begin…
Basic Shoulder Stretch
Bring one arm across your body with thumb facing down. The other arm should firmly lock underneath securing the hold. Pull your arm close to your body until you can feel a nice stretch in your shoulder and hold for 20 seconds.
Release your arm and repeat but this time with your thumb facing down as this will rotate your shoulder. Make sure to do this on both sides.
Drop one arm behind your back with the elbow pointing upwards. Grab hold of your tricep (avoid tugging on your elbow) and pull it behind your head towards the opposite side. Once you feel a stretch in your tricep, hold this position for 20 seconds then repeat on the other side.
Top tip – Try to hold your own hand by joining them in the middle of your back (commonly knows as the cow face pose). You might only be able to do one side but that’s okay – it’s a good way to measure your mobility progression.
Wall Chest Stretch
Begin this stretch by facing the wall and keep your feet close to it. Place one arm against the wall and slowly twist your body around until you begin to feel a stretch. If you feel able, continue the twist to deepen it then repeat on the other side.
Standing Wall Stretch
Stand facing the wall and reach your hands up with forearms touching the wall. Step backwards and slowly begin to push your chest towards the wall as close as you can.
If this is too challenging then adjust your stance to allow your head to hang down facing your feet. By doing this you can work to get your chest to touch the wall.
For those of you that find this easy, take another step back, keeping your hands in the same place for a deeper stretch.
The aim of this is to get chin and chest to the floor!
Begin in childs pose, lifting your bum up and moving your knees closer to your chest. Do this nice and slowly until you reach your limit then hold for 20 seconds.
Variation – For an extra challenge, try reaching behind and holding onto the back of your thighs.
Backwards shoulder stretch
Sit with your legs bent and keep your hands close together (roughly shoulder width apart) then begin to slide them backwards until you feel the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and if you feel confident, move further back for an even deeper stretch.
Folded shoulder stretch
Standing upright with your feet shoulder width apart, clasp your hands together behind your back and begin to fall into forward fold position. Pull your arms towards the ground and hold for 20 seconds.
Get into the bridge pose in whichever way feels comfortable then begin to gently rock forwards and backwards. Each time to rock forwards, push your shoulders over your hands – five to ten rocks then rest.
If you need more help with your bridge pose, then read more here
Practice this short stretch routine a few times a week and you’ll really feel the difference.
You can always tell an aerialist by their hands and calluses are seen as a badge of honour but how well are you actually looking after yours?
What are calluses?
Calluses are a build up of hard skin on the parts of your hands that experience the most friction and pressure.
Usually they can be found at the bottom of your fingers and across your palms. Callusing of the hands is expected when training aerial hoop and is a form of natural protection. However without proper care, the skin can break or rip which is sometimes painful.
How to prevent rips and tears
Use chalk and rosin sparingly
Dry skin is more prone to breaks and tears so try to keep the use of chalk and rosin to a minimum. Also,after every training session, wash your hands thoroughly to ensure all remaining residue is removed. This will prevent your hands getting unnecessarily dehydrated.
File down rough skin
This is a simple yet effective tip that can be done on a daily basis. Using a coarse emery board or pumice stone, gently file down any rough skin to a smooth finish. This will stop any loose skin catching and ripping as well stopping the temptation to pick at it.
Moisturise, moisturise , moisturise
Keeping your hands moisturised will stop the skin becoming dried out and cracking. Using a nourishing cream such as O’Keeffe’s Working Hands hand cream after training will keep them lovely and soft while minimising tears.
Practice correct grip form
A full reach around grip with the middle of your palm over the hoop and thumb held firmly over your index finger will keep your hands locked on making it the idea grip position.
Sometimes after a particularly intense session or when your hands fatigue quickly, the burning sensation can make you change your grip but try to be aware of this and correct your positioning.
What to do if you get a tear
Wash your hands immediately
To prevent unwanted infection and help the healing process, wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water and pat dry. It may hurt depends on how severe the tear is but if its just a bit of rough skin, it shouldn’t hurt at all.
Don’t pull the skin off
This goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway…don’t just pull the skin off! – It’s likely to make it worse. Instead, use a clean pair of nail scissors or cuticle nippers to remove the loose skin without further damage.
Remember, prevention is better than the cure so by giving your hands the love they deserve you will be able to train harder and longer without injury!
If you’re not one for the gym but want to get fit while hanging upside down, then this discipline is definitely for you.
Not only will you get a full body work out but you’ll also develop strength, flexibility, coordination and stamina.
As a newbie, it can be nerve wracking starting a new class so we’ve put together our top 10 things you need to know.
What to wear
Comfortable gym leggings, a sports bra and a tight fitting top will be your uniform from now on. Forget wearing anything loose or skin bearing as this will hinder your performance, making your session less enjoyable. Loose clothing is likely to get caught and if you’re wearing shorts, your skin is going to get really sore and irritated.
Don’t be that person who turns up late and disrupts the session. Try to be 10 or 15 mins early which will give you enough time to find the studio(in case you get lost), change into your kit and sign any necessary disclosure forms. If you know you’ll be late then give your teacher a heads up with a quick phone call or text.
Have something to eat
You’ll be working really hard on your first lesson and doing it on an empty stomach isn’t clever. There’s no need to go all out and demolish a three course meal but a sandwich or a light snack is ideal. Also, drink lots of water before, during and after your session. Your body will thank you.
Don’t worry if you can’t straddle first time
The straddle mount is one of the first things you’ll learn and is how most aerialist get into their hoop. It can be hard and involves a lot of trust in your arms and grip. Not everyone gets it first time and some students don’t get it even after a couple of weeks. So keep practicing and don’t give up!
Your hands will super sore
Since you’ll spend 60 to 90 mins holding onto a steel hoop, your hands with inevitably hurt and possibly some skin may tear. Don’t let this put you off, as over time your hands will toughen up and you’ll develop callouses. These will prevent your hands from hurting – even if they don’t look pretty.
The day after is going to be a killer
After your first session, everything is going to hurt. You’ll also have some funky bruises to show for it as well but don’t worry, it’s all part of the fun. If you’re not used to working out, your body will need time to adjust to using all those new muscles but you’ll feel really good afterwards. The pain doesn’t last forever and you won’t be able to wait to get back on that hoop.
Put your phone away
These days, people whips their phone out to take pictures of EVERYTHING and it’s great to load up your Insta feed with all the awesome shapes and flows you learn. Since this is your first class, there won’t be any time for getting snaps as you’ll be busy learning different mounts and a few basic moves. It’ll also be distracting if you’re trying to get a selfie while your instructor is demonstrating and could lead to you hurting yourself. Once you’re confident and have a bit more experience, you will be able to take all the photos you want.
Leave your ego at home
As this is your first class and probably everyone else’s as well, you’re not expected to nail everything first time. If you manage to mount the hoop straight away or smash your transition into inside mermaid then that’s awesome! But don’t brag about it to other students, especially if they’re struggling. It’s likely to put them off and irritate your teacher. Remember, no one likes a show off…
Say hello to everyone
We know it can be scary joining a new class but it’s about making friends as well as learning a new skill. Everyone will be feeling the same so try to introduce yourself. After all, the other students will eventually become your aerial family so why not take the plunge and say hello?
Aerial hoop is all about learning, growing and developing as a person but it’s also about enjoying yourself while you do it. You might ache, be covered in bruises and have sore hands but you’ll be having so much fun and realise it’s all totally worth it.
If you fancy having a go at aerial hoop, then why not book yourself onto a taster class or fundamentals course at Leeds Aerial Arts – owned and run by Lorna Mackinder. Its only a short walk from the city centre and is one of the best or possibly THE best aerial arts studio in Leeds
So you’ve signed yourself up to start a pole class? Yay… you’re going to love it!
Pole fitness is a great way to condition your body, build up strength, improve coordination and develop flexibility.
We know it can be daunting when you’re not sure what to expect so here’s a heads up before your first class to make it a little less scary.
What to wear
For your first class, you won’t need anything more than your usual workout gear. Leggings or shorts with a sports bra and vest top will be perfect. Since you will be learning the fundamentals of spins, don’t worry about investing in expensive pole outfits, knee pads or pleasers just yet.
Try to arrive to class 10 to 15 minutes early. This will give you enough time to get changed, fill out any disclosure forms and say hello to the other newbies. It’s not a great look if you rock up late and interrupt the warm up. If you’re going to be late, let your instructor know – they will appreciate it.
It’s ok if you don’t nail each move first time
No one is expecting you to be perfect and able to nail every new move first time. It doesn’t matter if it takes one attempt or 100 attempts to get it right. Just keep at it and never say “I can’t do it”. Determination is more important than your ego so just because another student might get it first time, don’t let that put you off. Practice makes perfect after all.
Ah yes… lets talk about some of the weird and wonderful bruises you’ll get. You’ll have them on your arms, thighs, legs and feet. The best bit? The more you practice, the more you’ll get and then you’ll start comparing them with your class mates. They will be your badge of honour and you’ll be proud to show them off to anyone that will look.
Whatever you do, DON’T MOISTURISE!
Unless you fancy fighting a losing battle by slipping down the pole because you have zero grip, then don’t go near the moisturiser. Even when you get a bit sweaty, it’s hard to hold on so make wiping down your pole a habit. Trust us… we know.
You’ll get super dizzy
Practising spin after spin will inevitability leave you feeling a bit queasy. When you spin, the fluid in your ears sloshes about creating that ‘super drunk dizzy’ feeling. The secret is to alternate each side rather than training the same time continiously.
Another way is prevent dizziness is to practice ‘spotting’. Dancers train this by turning their head quicker than their body and finding one focal spot in the room. Try it – it might work for you.
Forget anything you’ve seen on Instagram
Don’t even bother trying anything you’ve seen on Instagram. More often than not, the people you see pulling epic moves on Insta have been training for a long time and make even the hardest moves look easy. Building up a solid foundation during your initial training is the best way to improve and develop a good skill set. Correct form is key to preventing injury and working your way up to those trickier moves.
Leave your ego at the door
Everyone is here to learn and no one wants to be around another student who thinks that they are better than everyone else. If you are able to nail a move straight away or have more strength than someone else then for the love of God, don’t rub it in! Being a show off won’t win you any friends and is likely to piss off your teacher as well. It’ll be awesome that you managed to do your first spin spot on so just enjoy the moment and be humble.
Forget the photoshoot
There will be plenty of time to get lots of pictures to fill up your social feed but not in your first class. Learning the basics and paying attention is more important. Being distracted by your phone will prevent you from listening and understanding the instructions from your teacher properly and at worst you might end up hurting yourself.
You’ll be sore in the morning
If you’re not used to working out or Are new to using your upper body then you’re gonna feel it in the morning. Your arms, shoulders and back are likely to hurt and will take a day or two to recover. Remember to eat lots of protein rich food, drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep.
Don’t be self conscious
Forget what you’ve seen on YouTube or social media – not everyone is super slim, rocking a 6 pack and a huge round booty. Pole is for ALL body shapes whether you’re short, tall, lean or curvy and you should be proud of how you look. Don’t worry about anyone else and flaunt what you have! If nothing else, pole will give you the confidence to strut around the studio in your sexy shorts without a care in the world.
Most importantly…have fun
Finally, just have fun. You’re not there to compete with anyone, you’re there to learn and have fun. Yes it might be tough and yes it might hurt but smiling and having a laugh will make it a lot easier.
If you’re interested in trying it out a class, then I highly recommend you check out Aerial Empire which is owned and ran by Emily Hawthorne. Located 10 mins walk from Leeds City Bus Station, Aerial Empire offer a range of classes suitable for all abilities and at very reasonable prices.