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Mini-Experiment: The Circus Workout is the Most Fun I've Ever Had

Posted Aug 04 2010 6:14am

I'm running away to join the circus. You will forgive my impending abuse of hyperbolic punctuation, then: OHMYGOSH YOU GUYS I HAD SOOOOO MUCH FUN!!!!!!

Last night was my first - and definitely not last - circus class at Gleason's Gymnastics (for any of you locals looking for a fun time). For some reason nobody else signed up for my class so I got a two-hour private lesson with Shannon and Sam who are competitive circus performers. (Side note: would you not love to see a circus competition? I picture a lot of backstage nose tweaking and fake-flower water squirting.)

Circus jokes aside, this stuff is a serious workout. You should see Shannon and Sam; they are two of the buffest people I have ever met. We started off "warming up" on the trampoline where I'm impressed everyone with my mad seat-drop skillz. And my ability to carpet-burn my elbows on every single trick. The gym was unconditioned and with the heat index here in Minneapolis being about 100 degrees F, within 20 minutes I sweating so much I could barely see and I smelled like a monkey post-feces fight. Bikram Circus class!

Next up was the apparatus (apparati? apparatuses?). I did the aerial silks (pictured above and probably my favorite), the trapeze (also my favorite), the straps (would have been my favorite had it not left really angry red welts all over my arms), the tightrope (my favorite because I walked across it without falling on my very first try and was even able to kneel down and stand back up again which made me proud like Tina Turner even though the rope was only about a foot off the ground thereby saving me from crotching myself but whatever I'm done having kids anyhow), and the balance board thingy (not my favorite - there is no flying involved). We ran out of time to do the hammock, the aerial hoop and the juggling but they promised me I could try them next time I come.

Because all of the stunts are very upper body intensive, it is a killer workout for your arms, shoulders, back and lats. Nothing is more motivating to keep pushing than the knowledge that if you do let go you will plummet 35 feet to the mats below. Gives a whole new meaning to "muscle failure" - no way to cheat your sets when you're swinging upside down from a trapeze! Combined with swimming laps yesterday morning for August's Great Fitness Experiment I don't know if I've ever worked my upper body so hard. (Confession: I am going to rename this month's GFE to the Great Humility Experiment because great googley-moogely, swimming is hard. We went in to swim a half mile thinking it would be a piece of cake and 30 minutes of clawing our way through the water trying not to kick anyone in the head we finally did. Technically only Gym Buddies Allison and Megan did. I was 3 laps short and still thought I was going to die. Know what happens when you are sucking wind in the pool? You drown. All of you guys that told me I'd be sore in places I didn't know I had were so very very right. Unfortunately for me, Allison and Megan looooved it so I see a lot of lap swimming in my future. Good thing I love these girls.)

My conclusion: Not only is a circus class a fantastic workout both for cardio and strength but it is hands-down the most fun Experiment I have ever done. And I have loved me a lot of different workouts. This one truly felt like I was just having fun - I got to fly like in my dreams! - and the exercise was incidental. There was not a single moment where I felt like I had to just gut through it. Plus Shannon and Sam told me I was the best first-time student they've ever had (I climbed to the top of the silks and rang the bell on my first try!) so it appears that after being just so-so (I'm all heart but not much athletic ability, 'tis true) at most athletic endeavors, I might have found something that I have a natural aptitude for. Look for me in a circus near you! Except I refuse to eat circus peanuts; those are the nastiest candy ever created, like packing peanuts but grosser.

So tell me, what kind of workout just feels like FUN to you? Any of you love that feeling of flying through the air or are you afraid of heights? Which candy gets your vote for most disgusting?

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