Work Out Like: A Professional Acrobat

Members of Australian circus troupe CIRCA describe their go-to routines.

Circa photo provided to Boston Magazine.

CIRCA photo provided to Boston Magazine.

Ever wonder how circus performers stay fit enough to execute their gravity-defying stunts? While they’re in town for a three-day stint at the Shubert Theatre, we asked Lauren Herley and Duncan West, longtime performers in the Australian circus troupe CIRCA, about their go-to acrobat training and diet regimen. Spoiler alert: Professional acrobats are not just like us.

Body weight training: Unsurprisingly, West and Herley say acrobatics take an incredible amount of strength. “We have to make sure we can support our teammates’ full body weights in different compromising positions,” says West, a circus veteran of more than 10 years. “We start with an hour of warm-up, working through every move in the show that involves taking other peoples’ weights.”

And, Herley says, the training is hardly one-dimensional. “At the same time we might be climbing things, tumbling, stretching, or exercising our aerial awareness,” she adds. “It’s often simultaneous.”

Handstands: And not the kind you did in childhood gymnastics lessons. “Doing handstands on a partner is a phenomenal warm-up,” West says. “You have to listen to each others’ bodies, breathing, and tempos to stay in the air.”

“Cross the Girl:” For West, this adrenaline-heavy routine is one of the most enjoyable. “We stand across from each other and swing the woman, tossing her into the air and catching her on the other side,” he explains. “It really gets the arms going.” Maybe don’t try that one at home.

Conditioning—and lots of it: “My resistance band is my best friend on tour,” Herley says, adding that the troupe practices for about eight hours each day. “We have to make sure we’re keeping our muscles healthy for the long-term.” That means thorough warm-ups, joint exercises, and keeping the feet and ankles limber.

Carbo-loading: “Simply put, we eat a lot more than other people,” West says, adding that the performers eat plenty of carbs. “Often this means two breakfasts and another dinner after the show.” Still, West insists the performers make an active effort to eat healthfully. “We cook for ourselves whenever possible on tour. It’s tempting to eat out, but give us a real kitchen, and we keep within a pretty nutritious range.”

CIRCA’s Opus with the Debussy String Quartet will perform at the Shubert Theatre, Citi Performing Arts Center, 265 Tremont St., Boston, November 13-15. Visit for tickets and more information.