Off to Join the Circus (195th new thing).

November 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

I had a day off, started catching up with blogs, life, appointments, and at about four in the afternoon began to get that oft-present panicky feeling that I needed some new activity to try. I turned to my purchased Groupons and Living Social deals and started making plans. I had bought a circus fitness class from the latter deal website and fortunate for me, there was space in there class that very evening. So on Day One Hundred Ninety-Five I took a circus fitness class.

I’m (clearly) not too afraid of doing things alone. But taking a fitness class is certainly one of those things that gets my nerves a rattling. Besides trying to run on a (semi) regular basis, I don’t think I’m very fit. I feared the worst driving to the Circus Arts Institute over near Candler Park. Would all the other participants be swinging and dancing effortlessly from the rafters? What are the chances of me breaking something? Am I late?

I walked into the oversized loft and felt like I was entering some weird hippie haven. I followed other people’s leads and kicked off my flip flops (we wouldn’t need them) and kind of wandered slowly in until the leader asked if I was new and settled me down to sign some waiver. You know, “should you fall from twenty feet up in the air and break everything, we are not responsible.” I was getting pretty used to these. I signed with a flourish and glanced around the room at the eclectic mix of people stretching and standing and playing on a piece of fabric suspended from the high ceiling. There was a senior citizen in the corner doing a headstand, a young Asian guy all wrapped up twenty feet above the ground in the spanish web (or fabric from the ceiling). Two ladies who were clearly leaders chatted in the kitchen area while others sprawled across the floor in various stretches. I just sat there, waiting to be told what to do.

At 7 o’clock on the nose everyone gathered around in a circle for a warm-up. Lots of stretches, some jogging in place, more stretches, and a few yoga (I think) positions. The downward facing dog had my nose pressed to the carpet and wouldn’t you know, it smelled a little like feet. What had I gotten myself into??

The two newbies (me and a nice girl named Megan) were led to one side of the room to learn from the Asian man who earlier was dangling from the ceiling. It would be kind of like a private lesson, if we could understand him. We began with the trapeze, a playground staple in my childhood. This one was about three feet above the carpeted floor, and I was not nearly as agile as I remembered being in my youth.

After about three attempts to swing my feet between my body and hands to land on the wooden bar between my fingers, I reverted to the “easy” way, which involved resting a knee on the floor to gain stability. Once I finally made it up, I pulled myself into a sitting position,leaned back and twisted my ankles around the ropes supporting the swing. Then it was standing on the bar and leaning back, once, twice, three times. By the time I had made it through the motions of our basic performance, I was ready to be done with the trapeze. My arm strength was pathetic at best.

Wire Cable of Doom

Next came the tightrope, a length of wire pulled across two metal posts, about ten foot from one end to the other. Megan went first, as she had in the trapeze act. Our teacher walked along the rope next to us, giving his shoulder and arm for support should we stumble. Which we did a lot of. At my turn, I really tried to keep my balance, staring straight ahead as directed, not looking down at the carpet a foot under my wobbly legs. The wire was difficult to walk on, digging into the balls and heels of my feet. So far, circus life did not seem to suit me at all.

Finally we moved onto the spanish web, similar to what I had seen our instructor wrapped up in when I first arrived. This one, however, was made of thick rope. I went first and with help from our teacher wrapped the thick cable around my left ankle, pushing my right foot on top to keep the rope in place. And then I pulled myself up, reaching high with my hands, grabbing, and then bringing my wrapped ankle and stopper foot to a crouching position a few feet up. I stretched out, standing straight and found myself a bit higher than when I started. I repeated the process until I made it near the top and shimmied back down. Apparently my legs muscles are far more developed than those of my arms and I had found a circus activity I might actually be good at.

After we had tested out the three main activities at the circus class, we moved onto to a couple of other fun things to fill up our hour. Megan and I juggled with thin pieces of fabric and tested out a balance board. I liked the balance board, once again using my leg muscles to keep from tilting from one side to the other. Before I knew it, it was time for the cool down.

We did some more stretches and exercises and my nose found itself pressed against the feet-smelling carpet again. But the stretches felt good, especially any that worked my arms. I knew I would be sore the next day (and the next and the next), but joining the circus for an evening was worth it.

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