If you’ve been to a Sky Candy class, you know we take our warm-ups seriously. Whether your instructor is leading you through a series of burpees or having you dance across the floor to the Footloose theme song (still a serious warm-up!), your heart rate is rising, your blood is pumping, and you’re probably starting to break a sweat. All of this is preparing your body for the hard work you’re about to do. So, what makes a good warm-up? Why do we do certain things at the beginning of class and other things, like stretching, at the end? We’re glad you asked because there is a method to our madness — and it’s designed to keep you safe, prevent injuries, and enhance your performance.
Warm It Up
Why do we place such a strong emphasis on the proper warm-up? Largely because it’s been shown to prevent injuries and increase your stamina. When you’re physically active, your muscles need increased blood flow and oxygen to meet the demands you’re putting on your body. Experts agree that raising the heart rate and breathing rate gradually is the best preparation for your body. You ask a lot of your muscles during aerial class. Not only are you hoisting yourself into the air and expecting them to support you, you’re also bending, twisting, reaching, and occasionally performing skills that require an advanced degree of flexibility. You want your muscles to be nice and pliable for all of this, which is why we follow up our leg kicks and jumping jacks with some neck and shoulder rolls, spinal twists, forward folds, etc. A good warm-up should specifically work the muscles you’re about to use, and for aerialists, that’s just about everything, especially our shoulders, rotator cuffs, necks, and backs. While we want these muscles to be nice and lubricated before we start training, we don’t want to over do it. Which brings us to . . .
Stretch It Out
Why do we save deep stretching for the end of class (or for a separate class)? Again, studies have shown that deeply stretching a muscle prior to working out can actually work against you. Think of a muscle as a piece of taffy. You can stretch it out to make it longer, but it becomes thinner as well. When we train, we often ask our muscles to contract (as in a pull-up). If we’ve done a lot of deep stretching before class, those nice long muscles don’t contract as well, and we run into difficulties. That being said, we still want to be well-prepared for the work we’re doing. So if you’re going to train flexibility-heavy skills that involve lots of splits or backbending, you will indeed want to spend some additional time stretching those areas beforehand. Otherwise, wait until you’re done in the air to focus on flexibility gains.
Put It All Together
When you’re in class, we’ve got you covered! But when you come to Open Studio or train on your own, we recommend following the same formula. Start your training session with a warm-up that includes some light cardio to make you break a sweat, as well as some exercises to wake up all the necessary muscles and joints. Next, stretch any areas that are going to be particularly taxed by the skills you’re training that day. After your workout, give your body a little treat with some gentle stretching or go full-out with a longer flexibility session. That’s it — our expert-recommended method to keep your body working at its best!