Digging Up: The Importance of Cross-Training

Digging Up is a fortnightly segment that shares advice for building your own circus practise- from a struggling artist just trying to ‘Dig Up’.

One of the most useful exercise tips I have discovered is the importance of implementing cross-training into my routine. If you have never heard the term before cross-training refers to exercising in a range of ways outside of your main training focus. Basically it means if you want to get better circus you need to more than just circus.

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So what is so important about cross-training? Firstly it can help to prevent injuries. Repetitive movements over time cause large amounts of stress to specific muscles and joints. For example I have had heaps of hip problems from overworking my hip flexers without paying any attention to the surrounding muscle groups. By exercising with different parts of the body you can reduce muscle imbalance and stress to vulnerable parts of your body. Now I focus more on ab and glut strength try to balance everything out.

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Secondly hyper-specificity makes you very strong in some areas but weak in others. For example I do a lot of strength work so am great at squats- but I hardly ever did cardio which meant I would sometimes end up struggle through a routine on stage! Or if you are an aerialist you probably focus on shoulder conditioning- which is fine until you need to use your hamstrings in a heel hang!

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The good news is cross training is really easy! I was struggling with glut and ab strength so added some ballet classes to my routine. I thought cardio was the worst until I started playing social touch football and now my cardio fitness is the best its ever been. For me the greatest part of cross training is it’s outside my usual training space. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get better and achieve in the circus sphere, but I can leave that competitiveness behind and really just enjoy the physicality of a run around the oval.

There haven’t been many studies done into the benefits of cross training so this information is coming straight to you from my own personal experience, if you are struggling with a certain type of fitness I would recommend going to talk to a physiotherapist. If you are interested in the science here is a link to a paper from the Sports Medicine Journal.

Photographs from this article where taken at EYWA Yoga Studio in Marbella. If you are ever in Spain go and check them out because their space is beautiful!

Photographer was the lovely Cristo Veber