(Read part 1 here)
Everyone experiences off-seasons in aerial arts, some as short as a few weeks, some lasting for years. Returning to aerial practice after a break can be a daunting task, and there may be a lot of concerns:
- Loss of strength
- Loss of flexibility
- Forgetting skills
- Injury or reinjury
and the list goes on. You may feel tempted to train hard and often to “get back to where you were,” and this may lead to frustration, demoralization, injury, or burnout.
From my perspective, the number one thing to avoid when returning to aerial practice is going too hard too fast. On the flip side, training too infrequently could make for a rocky re-entry to your training.
To avoid either of these ends of the spectrum, read through these tips and choose the ones that make the most sense for you. But – if you didn’t read part 1 yet, be sure to do that first.
Make a plan
It doesn’t have to be an intricate plan, but sketch out the next 6 weeks of your aerial training. Decide how often you will train, when you will rest, and how you plan to adjust your training plan as you go if you end up more energetic or tired than expected on a given day. Training two days a week is plenty for getting back into training; I wouldn’t personally train more than that for the first several weeks, but if that’s something that works well for you, don’t let me hold you back–you know your body best.
Making a plan is a lot easier if you have a way to reference aerial skills, whether you have a list somewhere or use an online video library. Aerial Silks Online organizes skills be Beginner/Intermediate and Intermediate/Advanced, so you could easily filter for skills that will be more accessible for your return to training. Free trial is open now so check it out if you’re curious!
For training session number one, train below your ability level
When first coming back to aerial practice, plan a very light training session. Keep it under 90 minutes and choose a lower number of sets and reps for your warm-up and conditioning than usual. Choose skills that you know really well and have a lot of control in. Specifically avoid skills that require robust grip strength, and consider using rosin even if you normally don’t.
The goal here is to reconnect with your aerial body (meaning aerial movement patterns) and apparatus in a gentle and loving way. Don’t fall into the mental trap of being disappointed in yourself for not being where you once were.
You can walk away from this session feeling strong and empowered if you choose skills that are still easy for you. That might mean you have to dial things back quite a bit! As soon as you start to feel any strain, dial back more. You will get around to challenging yourself soon, but this session is about re-establishing the practice.
If you are returning to aerial classes where you don’t have control over the curriculum, consider joining a beginner class even if it is all review. Consider modifying an intermediate curriculum to make it easier and more accessible, even if you *can* meet the level it’s being taught at. Maybe you simply take extra rest, or do fewer reps, or opt for modifications that reduce skill difficulty.
Warm up and warm down every time
Almost too obvious to include, but I know we can all use the reminder from time to time. I don’t have much to say here, other than this is really important for keeping your body healthy. Floor warm-up and warm-downs don’t have to be long but they function to get your body prepped for aerial movement. Don’t skip unless your first return to the apparatus is minimal effort, like sitting on the apparatus to basically say hello (totally valid first session back).
Gradually increase challenge
Plan out your workouts so that you add more challenge with each session – with the exception of dialing back as needed based on energy levels – strength and stamina gains are not always linear. Keeping training sessions similar to one another is a good idea – definitely include repeat skills in each session, but you can also switch up skills to keep yourself interested and inspired. Try gradually increasing reps in your warm-up and conditioning, or moving more slowly through skills to help rebuild pathway strength.
Remember, you want to walk out of there feeling confident, not demoralized. If you jump in above your current level, you will regret it. There’s no rush, and trying to go faster and harder will most likely set you back.
Supplement with floor workouts
I’m constantly in awe of how much aerial strength can actually be built on the floor. Doing so gives you a notable advantage because you can stay longer in aerial positions on the floor than you typically can in the air, and you can get more technically specific because of that. You may not always be able to pay attention to upper, mid, and lower abdominal engagement in the air because you’ve got other things to attend to. On the floor, you get to zero in on minute details that make massive differences.
FIT4FLIGHT is a series of workouts designed for any aerialist looking to build strength, develop technique, and enhance their aerial performance on their own time and without any equipment. It is a great option to consider if you are a new aerialist or returning to aerial practice.
If you are training aerial once or twice a week, you could also add in 1-2 floor workouts per week. They can be short – 15 minutes, or up to an hour. Longer than that is probably not necessary for most people. Less is more as we ease back into training.
Consider using a tool like HRV tracking
Heart rate variability (HRV) trackers can help you know whether you are in good condition to train or if you need a rest day. You can find apps that track heart rate variability, where all you have to do is hold your finger on your phone camera for a minute and it will let you know if you should limit intensity that day based on your HRV. This is a great tool if you’re prone to overtraining and under-resting or have trouble figuring out how you feel until you’re partway through training. It can also give you a heads up if you’re coming down with something.
These are just a few ideas for making a successful transition back to training. Remember to take it slow, that less is more, and no aerial skill is more important than you having fun and feeling good from your training. 🙂
For a total master plan for returning to training, check out my 90-day program…