Then came the fun part: the aerial silk climbing. I watched as one participant climbed ten feet in the air, continually pulling her body up with her arms and wrapping the silk around her ankles and feet to keep steady. But while she moved with ease, I suffered from already weakened arms and issues with coordination. By the time I nailed down the movements and made it just three feet in the air, it was time to do more conditioning.
With my hamstrings tight and soreness already creeping into my shoulders, Smith had us do some modified pullups on a low-hanging trapeze. Then we flipped ourselves upside down on the trapeze, hanging from our knees while performing a set of upside-down situps. Frightening, yes, but I couldn’t help but imagine my three-year-old self hanging out on a playground’s monkey bars.
After another attempt on the aerial silks (I’d like to think this time I got the hang of it), we rounded out the last ten minutes with a cooldown and stretching exercises. As we stretched out our hip flexors, hamstrings, and triceps, Smith reminded us that while strength does play a huge role in the art of flying trapeze, being flexible is even more crucial: “You won’t fly if you can’t bend your back or flip yourself.”
We stayed a few minutes longer to watch the pros begin their trapeze workouts, my arms aching just watching them flip through the air. The next day (and the day after, and the day after that), I couldn’t believe how sore my shoulders, pecs, biceps, triceps—even armpits, for that matter—felt.
Sure, minus climbing the silks, the aerial conditioning class involves exercises anyone could do on their own. But there’s nothing like working out in a circus-like playground, no matter what age you are.
And that’s something Smith knows more than anyone. At the end of our class, the 49-year-old bid us adieu and scampered off, saying, “It’s time for me to go play!”
The Trapeze School New York is located at the corner of Fourth Street, Southeast, and Tingey Street. The conditioning class is offered every Tuesday and Sunday for $30. Other classes offered include flying trapeze, silks, static trapeze, trampoline, juggling, lyra, and balancing and acrobatics.