What I’m doing/exploring/pondering now…

I’ve been struggling through a draft of a blog post for a couple of weeks now. It’s about the principles and key ideas that underpin this idea of functional strength training for circus. The thing is, I’m feeling a bit stuck with it because normally when I write a post, it’s some combination of things I’ve been thinking about a lot and things that I keep seeing and imagine that people could benefit from learning a bit more about …and while I do think that folks can benefit from learning a bit about the why behind strength training planning, it feels a bit forced right now.

And it feels like a bit of a throwaway when I consider the bigger picture of what has been on my mind lately.

First and foremost, I continue to be moved by an Instragram post I saw from Molly Galbraith a short time ago. It went something like:

2012 Me: Women need to strength train.

2018 me: Women have autonomy over what they do with their bodies. I hope they choose strength training.”

Consequently, I am no longer going to take the stance that people need to strength train for circus. I hope they do, because I know their bodies will benefit from it, but I want to honor everyone’s right to choose what they do with their bodies.

All of that said, I still very much want to talk about intelligent, balanced, functional strength training for circus.

Anyone can cobble together a series of challenging exercises and call it a workout. And that’s fine. It’s just not optimal. It’s just not going to get you the best results. What I’m talking about is an approach to strength training that aims to simultaneously improve how you move and make you stronger and more mobile. “Corrective” exercises and “injury prevention” and “PT exercises” are what we all know about…but they represent a piecemeal approach: they are definitely good for you. They’re like a step in the right direction. They’re just not the whole picture.

For the most part, these sorts of exercises help to reduce unwanted muscle tone while increasing good muscles stiffness, “activate” the right muscles and encourage optimal joint mechanics.

But what if your strength training then took all of that stuff and helped make it stick and made your optimal mechanics stronger? That is functional strength training.

And here’s the thing: what that requires is an individualized approach, starting with an assessment, and followed with a training plan where the exercise choices reinforce and strengthen everything that the correctives and PT exercises set you up for.

But there’s more to it than that: you’ll notice that I keep saying “training plan” and not just “workout”. That’s because a training plan is made up of an evolving and changing set of workouts. And more: a training plan looks at not only your strength training, but your conditioning and your recovery and it acknowledges that your body is not static. You’re moving (or not moving) and training and your body (and mind) will need ongoing care.

Because you are an athlete. An artist-athlete, really, but today I’m talking about the athlete part.

Because you are an athlete, taking care of your body is helpful. Taking care of your body in an ongoing and proactive way is ideal.

And that means ongoing strength and conditioning work, incorporating principles and practices of sports nutrition, and becoming deliberate about recovery.

One thing that I admire about Crossfit is the way that they have built a community around the idea of improving how your body can perform. I think that in the circus arts community, we could do better with how we approach athletic development.

Perhaps a better way to put this is to say that my intention is to get us thinking and acting about this locally. My goal is to develop a more integrated approach to strength and conditioning and overall athletic development in the circus community I serve. Admittedly, I think that building out a physical space for this is going to be an important next step. Maybe not the next step, since we’re not currently in a position to buy/rent/lease/look for one…but it is definitely a key part of this equation.

And then there’s the name conundrum.

Theresa and I are joining forces, so to speak. Aerialibrium and GetCircuStrong are merging into one super power. We just need a new name (we’ve had some candidates, but nothing has screamed YES! yet).


And here’s the other thing that’s been on my mind: coaching.

Eric Cressey recently posted this. Rather than re-hashing his post, I’ll let you read it. The key takeaway, however, is that quality training matters.

Let’s back up a step: I call it strength training for a reason. It has the potential to be so much more than just doing the exercises, just picking up the weights and putting them down. Yes, I say “pick up heavy things” all the time…but quality training involves quality coaching. Detailed, meticulous coaching.

Every time I draw attention to ‘true’ hip extension (with a strong, controlled core position) during a training session, it matters. It translates into awareness of body position and better quality hip extension when the artist is in the air or performing a skill.

Every time I’m more picky about scapular movement and core position than whether you can get your arm overhead during a warm-up exercise, it matters. It engrains optimal joint mechanics into your system so that when the artist is pressing their partner overhead (or doing anything overhead), their shoulders and low-back will be safer and healthier longer.

Every time I drill body tension development before a deadlift, it matters. It improves proprioception and teaches the artist how to harness as much muscular effort as needed at any given time, without compromising their core position.

And for me to do this with circus artist-athletes, I am searching for a way to train with them more often. I know that it’s not a part of how folks think about circus training right now. I know that “going to the gym” is filed in a separate folder in the mental hard drive, and that’s fine. For now. Because that’s just where we’re at right now.

That’s all going to change, though, because I just can’t stop thinking about it and that means I’m going to find a way to do it.

Page updated June 28th, 2018