As I write this, the morning after the night before, my hands have not entirely recovered from the rope burn. Bruises are starting to form on my feet and the bottom of my legs. Don’t worry, not the cause of anything sinister. As part of my campaign for change this year I, perhaps foolishly and definitely impulsively, signed up for an 8 week aerial skills class at the NoFit State circus in Cardiff.
I first stumbled across this circus a few months ago when they were performing their show Bianco in a big silver top right in the heart of my adopted city. I can’t remember actually going to a circus before, maybe I did as a child, but I read a book called The Night Circus last year and adored it. So when Bianco was on, I was desperate to experience it. And what an experience it was. It was like stepping into another world. Mesmerizing and beautiful, I watched the performers put their souls into the show, making their bodies do incredible abnormal things, and enchanting the crowd as they did so. I went home blown away and giddy by what I had seen.
When I was on a Googleing frenzy a few weeks ago I discovered that NoFit State were running classes in a variety of skills for total beginners. Me, in fervent fantasy of flying, whipped the credit card out there and then for the aerial skills class. I imagined myself flipping from one flying trapeze to another, twirling my way round a hoop, wrapping myself up in silks mid-air, and thought yes, this one’s for me.
When watching a show, you obviously appreciate that the circus performers have trained really hard to be able to perform to such an amazing standard, and you understand that a serious amount of core strength and agility is required to be able to do the things they do, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I realised quite how much. And that’s by literally just pricking my finger on the top of the iceberg.
Turning up on my own with the typical worries that every other person in the class would have gone with a friend, I was surprised at how many people were there. After a decent warm up we were split into groups and told that the word ‘can’t’ wasn’t in our trainer’s vocabulary. Uh oh.
My first task was the rope. A simple ‘Classic’ climb. Hmm, simple for koalas yes. But after a few attempts I just about grasped the basics, even if my poor little size fives were suffering for it. We learnt a second ‘Russian’ climb, an upside down straddle, and eventually a foot-lock, which I didn’t quite manage. For me the most difficult part was merely holding myself up. When I’m on that rope I feel like I am the weight of a blue whale, and my arms are just too weak to keep me there for long enough. Perhaps a sign that I shouldn’t have given up crossfit…
Towards the end of the session I moved on to the trapeze, which was slightly less painful on the tootsies. The main challenge was preventing the trapeze from wobbling about too much. We made a couple of shapes from sitting and standing positions and at one point my arms just decided to fail me and I performed what one trainer described as an ‘epic dismount’. By which she meant definitely not epic.
It’s fair to say that I have an entirely new, and utmost, respect for circus performers.
After the class my hands ached so much I almost had to use both of them to put the car into reverse. When I got home Olly asked if I enjoyed myself. I did, but I hate that feeling of not being very good at something. I’ve always been competitive, especially against myself, and when I was younger I was able to do pretty much whatever I put my mind to. But this journey I’m on at the moment is all about putting myself out there, stepping outside the comfort zone, doing something new. If I don’t like it, it doesn’t matter. If I’m rubbish at it, at least I had fun trying. Just because you’re scared of the idea of something, or you don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for, do it anyway. If you don’t, are you really living?
Fingers crossed (I actually just tried and it hurts) I can see an improvement in my skills next week, and the week after that. I’ll sure as hell turn up with a positive attitude every time.