Fashion Masochist: Circus Workouts

For my 10th birthday, after a particularly momentous family outing to the circus, I asked for 100 hula hoops. I got just one. I’ve always felt that that jilting deserves at least part of the blame for my eventual career choice, spinning words instead of colorful plastic rings.

Now, with fitness gurus adopting circus-inspired suspension-training methods—in which pulleys, bands, and bars support acrobatic maneuvers—I’m reconsidering that old dream. As workouts go, it’s proved effective: Gwen Stefani is reportedly a fan of the TRX Suspension Trainer, while Gwyneth Paltrow banished her baby belly with the suspension-based Hybrid Body Reformer. But more to the point: Have you ever seen a fat trapeze artist?

Upon hearing that Reebok had collaborated with none other than Cirque du Soleil on its suspension-training offering, I decide to give it a whirl. Arriving at Reebok’s Canton headquarters for the class, Jukari Fit to Fly (launching at Equinox’s Back Bay gym this summer), I’m only slightly unnerved by the equipment: special trapeze bars, called FlySets, positioned at midchest. Each FlySet is fixed to the ceiling with a 360-degree swivel, which makes getting tangled in your own mess impossible. Reebok’s Jukari training director, Leslie Calvagne, plays ringmaster, orchestrating intricate moves with daredevilish names like the Hanging Carousel and, my favorite, the Woodpecker.

Most of the class is spent swinging from the FlySet, learning to straddle, tuck, and scissor. While the brochure claims to provide "the sensation of flying" in addition to improving balance, flexibility, and core strength, I find it also provides the sensation of total dread. Remember Newton’s law about objects in motion? There is no playing it cool when biceps fail and you hit the ground. (My genetically guaranteed sweaty palms don’t help.)

"To suspend your body in the air works every muscle," says Calvagne, and I feel it—along with my shoulders sliding out of their sockets. Most important, she says, Jukari is fun, and Reebok’s goal is to create a "smile while you’re sweating." If you count exercise-induced vertigo as fun, I’d say it’s a smashing (not to mention dizzying) success.

Still, I’m so caught up in the silly, self-conscious-making moves and fear of wiping out that I don’t notice when the hour’s up. That’s not something that happens when I’m pounding the treadmill, ever. The next day, I feel pangs of Jukari in my arms and lower abs (I have lower abs?). I’ve since begun experimenting with AcroYoga, a yoga-tumbling hybrid at South Boston Yoga that one online reviewer describes as "so fun! You fly on people…and stick your face near people’s bums!"

These clowns may be on to something.

TO GET STARTED

Equinox, 131 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-578-8918, equinoxfitness.com; South Boston Yoga, 141 Dorchester Ave., Boston, 617-548-2964, southbostonyoga.net.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2009/04/fashion-masochist-circus-workouts/