Why circus skill may be the secret to fitness

Recently I tried something new. I signed up for my first ever session of aerial silks with Flying Fantastic, a London-based circus skills/fitness group.

If you don’t know what ariel silks are, try remembering back to that BBC interlude that was on television in the 90s featuring two women gracefully descending along two lengths of red fabric. If you still have no idea what the hell I’m on about, have a look at this.

Now, I’ve been wanting to give ariel silks a try for months but as my session got closer I started to seriously second-guess myself. It looked hard. Would I even be able to do it? At the beginning of the session, some old familiar voices started to raise their ugly heads.

Everyone here is skinnier than me

I’m not strong enough

I can’t do it

But as the class progressed I started to get really lost in what we were doing. The voices disappeared altogether and I really enjoyed myself. It was so much fun and, although I mostly didn’t notice it at the time, my aching arms this morning are a testament to the fact that it was a pretty decent workout too! The one-hour session absolutely flew by.

And therein lies the secret.

If you’re struggling to stay motivated with your exercise program the answer might just be a change of focus. The key is finding a form of movement you can fall in love with. I’m all for sticking it out at the gym, and I know first hand that sometimes all it takes is a little bit of perseverance and a shake-up of your training routine to go from dreading your sessions to being a genuine gym bunny. But I also think we often take too narrow a view when thinking about exercise.

If you absolutely hate a particular form of exercise, there is only so long you will be able to keep forcing yourself to go before your limited resources of motivation dry up. If you find an activity you love, you’ll want to do it in spite of the health and other benefits. You’ll want to do it for its own sake.

This is crucial because it means you will keep doing it. When you are enjoying what you do, you will do it more often. Sure, sometimes life will get in the way and you’ll skip a session but generally, you are far more likely to stick at something if you actually enjoy doing it. When you put it like that, it’s obvious really isn’t it?

Forcing yourself to keep slogging away at an exercise routine you despise is not a sustainable long-term strategy.

It’s not necessarily just about the choice of activity either. How you think about the activity plays an important role too. Mindset is so often overlooked but is a vital ingredient in success. When we view exercise as a punishment for how much food we ate, or something we have to do because we are not good enough as we are, it’s hardly surprising that our feelings about training are not going to be as positive as they could be.

Viewing your exercise as a means to an end, something you have to endure to get a body that is ‘good enough’, is a recipe for misery. Find something you love, or can learn to love, and then do it. Not as punishment, but as a way of looking after yourself.

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Are Circus Skills the Secret to Fitness? - One Complete Life
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