The Importance of Cross-Training…Especially in the Summer Heat
I have been solidly in love with aerial dance for more than five years now. I started in 2016 with pole, and my fitness life was all about pole and nothing else for a good two years. I started experiencing back pain and other issues that were making progress difficult and it was frustrating me. A kind instructor suggested I do some cross-training to offset the muscles I used for pole dance. She said even professional pole dancers don’t pole dance every day - they engage in other fitness activities to keep their bodies balanced.
This is solid advice, and makes a big difference in your ability to sustain your fitness level, improve your skills, and avoid injury in your aerial apparatus of choice. Pole, for example, works the shoulders and lats very intensely, and tends to work one side of the body more than the other (unless you’re very regimented about practicing your moves on both sides). When I started learning lyra, it helped me strengthen my weak side since mounting the hoop and inverting to the top bar require a balanced effort on both sides of the body.
As I started learning more hoop and began spending more time on hoop than pole, I realized that hoop doesn’t have a lot of pushing motions. So I spend a lot of time lifting my body with my arms and back, but not a lot of time using my shoulders and biceps to push my body weight upward or outward. There also isn’t a lot of leg muscle work, except for in hanging positions. To offset this, I did more weightlifting - bench, shoulder, and tricep presses to work my “pushing” arm muscles, and deadlifts and squats to keep my legs and lower back in shape.
Weightlifting isn’t the only approach you can take to cross-train, however. There are many other sports you can pick up to help keep your body balanced. Many aerial dancers also do CrossFit or power lifting. There are also additional apparatuses and circus art forms you can learn like silks, trapeze, handstands, and much more.
Now we live in Southern Utah and that means that we are subject to intense heat in the summer. If you have access to a space that is temperature-controlled, or you are able to work out early in the morning (I have tried doing this many times and I’ve had to accept that early morning aerial does not work for me!!), this doesn’t affect you. If you’re like me and do not have air conditioning in your aerial space, this means 2-3 months of no aerial dance.
I actually believe it’s important to take extended breaks from aerial, so I don’t think the break itself is a huge issue. But if you stay sedentary for 2-3 months, you’ll find yourself much weaker when you pick back up again, and that can make it difficult to stay motivated. Here’s a quick list of my favorite summer workouts to cross-train and beat the heat when I can’t hit the hoop:
Early-morning mountain biking - for some reason I can do this in the morning, but not aerial. Go figure.
Boxing - it’s great cardio and also makes you feel like a badass. Win-win.
Swimming! This is huge in the summer. Get in the water, it feels great and is one of the best workouts you can get.
Kayaking and paddle boarding - I’m always shocked to discover what a good workout these activities are. They seem lazy to me, but they are actually pretty strenuous.
Video aerobics or other video workouts - I always feel like a total nerd, but my house is nice and cool so it works.
Indoor rocking climbing - this is one of the best choices because it will keep your body moving in a similar way to aerial hoop.
There are hundreds more ways to keep yourself active in the summer, but these few should be a good starting point. Regardless, make sure to get yourself involved in at least one other sport outside of aerial dance. It’ll keep you sharp during training and help your body stay balanced and healthy.