Maintaining Aerial Fitness

Written by Lindsey Morgan

You’re training like a star and doing awesome! Your teachers at Aerial Fit have given you progressions to take you higher and further. But… sometimes we get stuck at plateaus. Oh no… what are we going to do?

With regular aerial classes and especially intensive training, rest, nutrition, and sleep are important contributors to how you feel and how your body will perform. In order to get the most out of your aerial practice, it’s a good idea to check in with how well you’re taking care of yourself outside of Aerial Fit.

We wish we could send instructors home with you all. In lieu of that, here is what we suggest you focus on for breaking through training walls and optimal circus performance.

Time out:

When we’re excited about all the new skills we’re learning, and working hard to make progress, it can be tempting to load up on more classes and training time, and forget about scheduling rest days. As much fun as that is, it can also lead to burnout and increase your risk of injury.

The science says, when increasing your training you should take into account frequency (number of classes per week), intensity (how strenuous the class is), and duration (length of training time), and only increase one at a time. 

Give yourself permission to take a day off to completely rest. This gives your body time to recover and adapt to the stresses placed on your muscles, tendons, and joints. When done properly, rest allows you to come back to the studio even stronger and ready to progress! If you find yourself at a plateau, or worse, having difficulty performing skills that were previously no problem for you, it’s possible that you’re exhausted, and that your body needs some down time.

Food as Fuel:

The topic of utilizing nutrition to optimize athletic performance could (and does) fill an entire section of the library with thick textbooks. It is a science that has been studied for many decades, and recommendations are always changing. However, the basics have stood the test of time: eat your fruits and veggies, get enough fat, carbohydrates, and protein, and stay hydrated!

“Put the expensive stuff in your body and the cheap stuff in your car.” – Clayton Woodson

Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (aka “real food”) are where we get the biggest bang for our buck, nutritionally speaking. They often are high in fiber, low in calories, and packed in essential vitamins and minerals we need for good health. It’s a great idea to plan your meals around these staples first!

All three macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) are essential to health, but in regards to athletic performance, carbohydrates deserve special attention. “Carbs” are our body’s favorite and most efficient energy source. The Institute of Medicine recommends 45-65% of our calories come from carbohydrates each day. But that doesn’t mean noshing on potato chips and twinkies.

More nutritious high carbohydrate foods are things like whole grains (such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa) and starchy fruits and vegetables (bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, and lentils). You’ll want to have some carbs earlier in the day to fuel your practice, but it’s also important to re-load after a particularly intense training session. It’s often recommended to eat a meal with a mix of both carbohydrates and protein within an hour or two of working out for optimal recovery.

Protein always seems to be a hot topic. The recommended intake of protein is about 10-15% of our daily calories. Most Americans get plenty of protein without having to give it extra thought. Even vegans, like myself, are typically getting enough protein as long as they are eating a sufficient amount of calories. However, not all proteins are created equal. It’s a good idea to rely on protein sources that are low in saturated fats (which cause inflammation of the arteries and other detrimental health effects). Some of my favorite protein sources include nuts/seeds, nut butters, beans, lentils, and quinoa.

Proper hydration is also critical for your aerial practice, especially during these hot, humid Charleston summers. Fluid lost in sweat can create an electrolyte imbalance and result in cramping and/or poor performance. Thirst may not always be the best indicator of fluid need. A good habit to develop is drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day (example: a 100lb person would drink 50oz of water per day).

Catching some Zzz’s:

It’s common sense that getting adequate sleep is imperative for recovery and optimal performance; but what can you do to improve your sleep quality? Setting a routine bed time is a good first step. Most adults do best with 7-9hrs of sleep, so set your bedtime and wake times accordingly. Also, having a bedtime ritual can help get you in a sleep-ready state (taking a bath, doing some stretches, reading a book/magazine). Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon/evening is a good idea, as they can disrupt sleep. It’s also been shown that reducing screen time in the evenings improves your sleep (so turn off the TV and put your cell phone away)! Try a few of these and see if you start flying through your dreams as well as you do on your apparatus!

The take home message…

Eat right, sleep well, and give your body grace when it comes to recovering from training. Then you’ll be primed and ready for the next big challenge!

  • You are allowed to give yourself breaks and rest. If you are bad at resting you can plan for it. Put it on your schedule and mark it as important.
  • You don’t have to go on a whole new diet.  Find a balance between high quality fuel for your body and comfort food for your mental health.
  • Get yourself to bed, especially if you are just sitting on the sofa scrolling like a zombie. We all know to set alarms to wake up on time. You can also set an alarm to go to bed on time.

If you’re curious to know more, check out the resources listed below, and feel free to talk to your aerial instructors about their own experiences in these areas!

Helpful Resources:

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