Alternative Workouts (Or, Why I Will Never Join the Circus)

I get stuck in workout ruts pretty easily.  I do pretty much the same workouts every day, enjoy them, and know what to expect.  But I know that part of challenging myself is to step out on a limb and try something new once in a while.

We started back for pre-planning last Wednesday, and at Friday’s county drama meeting we got to try out and train on various cirque apparati.  Knowing this would be really physically demanding, I decided to make it my workout for Friday to break up the week (I’d been running each day, but not doing anything else).

I am not a huge Cirque du Soleil fan, but the things the kids can do at the school that hosted our workshop are truly extraordinary and I am a big fan of them!  I am blown away every time I get to see these kids perform, so it was really neat to actually get to learn from them (what little I could learn).

The first thing I tried was the aerial straps.

Doing this one first gave me a lot of confidence because it really played to my strengths.  It is more about leg/ab strength than arms (although arms do play a part) and so I was able to hold myself upside down like the dude in the picture as well as do flips (swinging legs up and backward to the chest and then back down again).

I thought to myself, I am awesome at this!  I am going to kick butt at everything today!

But then I ran into the activities that required a LOT more upper body strength.  Now, you may recall that I made a big deal this summer out of how much better my upper body strength had gotten due to the 30 Day Shred.  However, I have not improved enough to be able to do these:

The Spanish Web

I had a lot of trouble climbing trees as a kid, so climbing a rope was really tough for me.  I am aware that this is pathetic.  The boy who was training my group taught us a trick to make the climbing easier, though: wrap the right leg around the rope and then stand on the right leg with the left.  It does relieve a little bit of the strain that’s put on the arms if you’re trying to climb with arms only (ouch).


The silks require climbing before you can do anything cool on them.  It’s basically the same principal with regard to the climb as the Spanish Web, but harder because the fabric is bigger and moves around more as you try to stabilize it to climb.  Tiring.

Chinese Pole

I actually thought this one might be a little easier to climb because it wouldn’t move around like the previous two did.  I don’t know if it was my feet sweating, my palms sweating, or my upper body deciding it was done for the day, but climbing this was actually just as tough as the others.  I was really disappointed with my inability to do this because I think it is SO cool.  Seriously.  Look at the dude in the photo.

I tried only one thing that was anywhere near the comfortability that I felt with the aerial straps, and that was the trapeze.

I tried this pretty early in the day and had a pretty easy time swinging my legs up and getting them onto the bar to hang from them.  I think my height helped me there!  However, at the end of the training when photos were being taken I had trouble replicating this (my legs were mad at me?) and so I am now in possession of an awesome photo of me folded in half with my feet and hands hanging from the trapeze (instead of hanging from my knees as I intended).  I would post said photo, but I don’t know how to take photos from text message and bring them onto my computer.  Also, it’s semi-embarrassing.

As expected, I was exhausted when I got home.  I curled up on the couch and took a nap instead of running, but felt like I got in a good workout that morning at the meeting!

So, why aren’t you joining the circus?  Aside from not being good at much of anything?
I woke up Saturday morning and pretty much could not move my arms.  Then I sat up and realized that wasn’t the worst of it… my abs were really sore, too!  I gave up on working out on Saturday when I realized I was having trouble getting dressed without cursing cirque for the pain it caused me.  Instead, I spent about a half hour stretching in the morning and another half hour in the evening.  This overall soreness made me feel totally out of shape until I saw that one of my colleagues (who was much better at the climbing than me) posted about feeling the same way!   I guess a little soreness often accompanies trying a new workout.

By Sunday, I was still a little sore, but I was able to get out there for a short run and some time on the elliptical (which really was the best thing I could do to stretch out those sore shoulders/arms).  It was a rough workout yesterday, but today I feel back to normal.

Final Verdict on Cirque as a workout:
This was a really neat alternative to my usual workouts.  I’d really recommend it, if you ever have the opportunity to take a class or workshop.  Just a quick google search brought me to sites for cirque classes in LA, NYC, and Orlando, so there are places out there where you can learn this stuff, too!  Even if you aren’t much good at it (like me), it’s still tons of fun and an awesome workout that your muscles will remember for days!

Do you ever do any “alternative” workouts (i.e. not weight training, running, etc.)?  Any favorites to suggest?

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7 Responses to Alternative Workouts (Or, Why I Will Never Join the Circus)

  1. D-Wag says:

    Handbalancing is loads of fun. If you want to try it, the L-seat’s a great beginner skill with no risk of dangerously falling over:
    Up in Athens, we have some parkour-related exercises like the Stair QM, but they’re best done in a group since you look absolutely ridiculous doing them on your own.

    • D-Wag says:

      In regards to the L-seat: it isn’t necessary to support yourself on your fingertips. Fingertip support will only come in handy if you’re going to press into a handstand from the L-seat. Then again, finger strength isn’t nearly as hard to acquire as the tutorial makes it out to be. If you can work up to 10 fingertip pushups, you’ll be well on your way to supporting your entire body on your fingertips.

      • EGL says:

        I’ve only just worked up to being able to do more than ten REGULAR push-ups (without using my knees), so this may be a long time coming!

  2. That is awesome! It sounds so fun and super challenging. The two things I hated in elementary PE were pull-ups and climbing rope because I couldn’t do either. I would love to give it a try again though. As for alternative workouts, I don’t have much experience with them. My newest thing is PiYo which is a pilates and yoga combination class. Not that alternative but different than your average strength or mind-body class.

    • EGL says:

      The first time I tried pilates, I was on the floor crying before the DVD ended. But the fabulous people with Avonex are sending me a free Yoga for MS DVD, so maybe that will help me as a gateway.

  3. Rachel Bailey says:

    When I was still in NYC, I used to oogle the flying-trapeze classes that were offered. The ones where you learn how to swing around and even jump from one trapeze to another…. So cool. And they weren’t meant as “exercise” but as like a fun outing, so they were set up not expecting people to have any significant strength or experience. *sigh* Just never made it.

    For a slightly alternative exercise, I’d highly suggest you look into Tai Chi. I’ve dabbled in it occasionally and it is amazingly soothing and centering. So much focus on which foot is holding your weight, and where you’re pushing or pulling energy with your arms. It’s not much in the way of aerobic exercise or a strength workout, but if you included it as part of your cool-down or stretching it might be a nice change of pace. And you can do it *anywhere* if you’ve memorized the routine. =D Holler if you want me to send you a DVD to try. I have a couple lying around here somewhere that I can copy.

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