As part of our Focus on Fitness campaign we’ve decided to take a look at some of the popular fitness classes and some of the lesser known fitness classes you never knew you wanted to do… until now!
We decided to quiz the people in the know to find out the ins and outs of your next favourite fitness class.
We want you to be brave! Make 2018 the year where you try something new.
If you’re looking for a fun and exciting way to get into shape, it might be time to run away with the circus. If you’re not ready to run away from your life just yet, you can try the next best thing — aerial fitness.
Aerial fitness involves a series of exercises and disciplines inspired by circus acts and the world of gymnastics. If you’ve ever watched in awe as a trapeze artist flew above your head and thought “I could do that,” this could be exactly what you’re looking for.
The various aerial fitness classes available
Flying Fantastic is an aerial fitness company based in London, and it offers several classes that are inspired by the fun of the circus.
Aerial silks involves two sturdy lengths of fabric hung from the ceiling. Participants start by climbing using both fabrics in order to build core body strength. Eventually, participants are trained to roll and glide up and down by wrapping various sections of their body around the fabric.
Aerial silks are great for strengthening and toning core muscles. They focus on back, shoulder and lat muscles in particular, as well as leg muscles such as hip flexors and abductors.
The aerial hoop is more or less what you’d think — a hoop that is suspended by a cable from the roof. Participants are trained to perform a range of acrobatic moves by gripping the hoop with various parts of the body. As strength and skill levels increase, new and more complex combinations of spins, movements and transitions are possible.
Aerial hoop is great for building strength and balance, and it also provides a great cardiovascular workout — perfect for building stamina and general fitness levels. The aerial hoop is particularly effective at developing upper body muscle groups.
The static trapeze is the classic circus-based apparatus that features a stable bar suspended in the air by two ropes. Participants start with a series of inverts and pikes, and progress to increasingly complex movements that develop balance and strength.
The static trapeze is perfect for developing core-body strength, and it also works on the lower back and the obliques. Upper-body strength develops naturally over time, thanks to the need for slow and controlled movements around the bar.
Aerial slings are large pieces of silk that hang from the ceiling to form slings. Participants climb and and down the slings using both legs and arms. Steady and deliberate moves can be executed through wrapping and manipulating the slings in various ways. There’s lots of spinning and complex transitions, which is great for improving posture, core-body strength and balance.
Corde lisse means ‘smooth rope’. A thick cotton rope is suspended from the ceiling, and participants climb up and down it using a combination of pirouettes, wraps, figures and beats. Similar in nature to aerial silks, the corde lisse is great for developing upper-body strength.
Flying Fantastic offers many more exciting classes, including aerial straps, aerial yoga and mum and baby aerial.
What are the health benefits of aerial fitness?
Aerial fitness classes offer strength and conditioning for everyone from beginners to experts. These are progressive classes, which means people gradually improve their technique over time — moving onto increasingly complex routines as they become more confident.
While certain classes focus on particular muscle groups, the team at Flying Fantastic insist that everyone gets a full body workout. The core body is always worked very hard, while different disciplines hone in on the legs, arms and shoulders to differing degrees. There are even specialist classes for older people that concentrate on issues such as spinal decompression and flexibility.
But it isn’t just the body that gets a workout; it’s the mind too. Regular participants in Flying Fantastic aerial fitness classes often talk about the sense of escapism that can be enjoyed. For 45 minutes or so, people can leave their worries at the door.
Indeed, many participants talk about how their aerial fitness classes relieve stress, anxiety and depression. These are revitalising and refreshing classes that feel more like having fun than serious exercise.
Aerial fitness classes are also lots of fun — particularly when enjoyed as part of a group. There’s a social element to these activities, which provides a great alternative to simply meeting for a coffee. And there’s also a great opportunity to meet new people, as participants are grouped together for classes. Everyone bounces off one another for support and motivation, which acts as a great ice-breaker.
Meet Flying Fantastic’s Chris Wigan
Chris Wigan describes himself as “Ringmaster and general busybody”. After attending his first class in Buenos Aires back in 2008, he immediately realised that aerial fitness would become his passion in life.
Chris gave up a successful career in graphic design to become a full-time Ringmaster, and he hasn’t regretted his decision for a moment.
He said: “I often say that getting fit is a by-product of aerial fitness. Yes, people come to us to get into shape, but their main priority is to have fun.
“Many people coming to us for the first time are nervous at first, but they always leave that first session with a real sense of achievement. The progression involved becomes addictive. As people learn more, they naturally want to push themselves.
“Personally, I gain a huge amount of satisfaction from teaching people. You’ll often hear whoops and cheering in my classes. This is a result of the huge sense of achievement people experience when they progress. It’s a big adrenaline rush.
“It doesn’t matter how fit or strong you are. We ensure that absolutely everyone gets something out of their class. We’re basically using bodyweight to build strength and conditioning, but we adapt our approach to the individual.
“I’ve always been an active person, but even I was surprised when I noticed my abs after just a few classes. This is functional exercise that feels more like having fun.”
Chris’ tips for getting started in aerial fitness
- Buy some good leggings(without zips) and a shirt with sleeves covering your shoulders.
- Ditch the shoes – you’ll be barefoot so no need to worry about the latest fashion trainers.
- Come with an open mind prepared to fly from your comfort zone.
- Bring a sense of humour – Classes are fun and sociable but also challenging and you might not get it first time!
- Challenge yourself and aim high.
Chris’ main message is one of fun, fitness and inclusivity. This is an activity that relies on progression, so strength, balance and technique are developed over time. It doesn’t matter how fit or strong you are. Whether you’re 18 or 80, aerial fitness has something very exciting and rewarding to offer.
Chris is the founder and Ringmaster of Flying Fantastic — an aerial fitness company that uses circus performance acts to develop strength and fitness. Chris lives in Wimbledon with his lovely wife and two daughters – both of whom are worryingly into Aerial Arts already!