Dieting and the Aging Acrobat

 

I am on a diet.  It is not the most natural or fun thing for me; but I guess I must be getting older.  This aging manifests itself in strange ways; for example:

Strength: I still gain strength very quickly, but the retention of that strength is much attenuated.  I used to be able to maintain form for roughly a month after heavy training, but now, a week or so off and I weaken noticeably.

Flexibility: Flexibility, on the other hand, is much more difficult to develop as well as maintain.  I used to feel like if I took one week off of flexibility training, it would take me two weeks to get back to my previous level.  Now, one week off can translate to a month or two of dedicated training to get back up to speed.

Technique: Strangely enough, my handstand technique is the one aspect of training that seems to be improving with age.  It is easier for me to maintain stable handstand positions for longer periods.  Before, a shaky 10 seconds at 80% success rate in the classical one-armed position (see picture) was great.   Now, a stable 20 seconds is the norm.  It seems to support my theory that this particular acrobatic discipline is largely mental in nature.

Weight:  I have always been able to eat as much of whatever I want without gaining appreciable weight.  This is still true, but I find as though my equilibrium point has shifted a bit.  I used to settle in at around 58 kilos (128 lbs), but now my natural state seems to be at around 62 kilos (136 lbs).

So that is it.  I have not been able to exclude the possibility that some of these shifts are due to being two years out of circus school rather than being two years older as the lifestyle difference are obvious:

Circus School:

  • Average of 10 hours a day, 6 days a week of intense physical training.
  • Home-made, meager, low-fat meals.
  • Drinking only on weekends, maybe once a month.
  • Nearly insurmountable stress (external and internal).

Developing Projects in Asia:

  • Average of 2 hours a day, 5 days a week of intense physical training.
  • Restaurant food picked up on the run from meeting to meeting.
  • Drinking with friends whenever we have a free moment to meet, maybe 3 times a week.
  • Nearly insurmountable stress (only internal).

But the fact that my handstands themselves are improving is still a little mysterious to me.  Perhaps it is like riding a bike, only there is infinite room for improvement.  Perhaps it is just the different levels of stress; these two hours a day are often pure meditative joy, as compared to the often tortuous feel of my hours spent in training in Montreal.

I should also mention that after only four days of moderate dieting, I am well on my way to my goal of 58 kilos.

Diet Rules:

  • Weekends, I can eat whatever I want.
  • Weekdays, I can eat whatever I want for one meal, but:
  • No snacks at all
  • Only drink water or tea (alcohol is especially verboten, dame, interdit).
  • Moderate hunger and grumpiness at all times is a good sign.
  • The other two meals, no meat, minimal carbohydrates.
  • Weekends, I can eat whatever I want.

One I get back down to 58, I am going to forget all rules, increase my training regimen (July promises to be full time training for four weeks; no outside distractions – I must promise myself!), and switch to monitoring mode.

Anyways, all submitted for your approval.  All theories are welcome.

Big Dreams And Self-Doubts

My life right now is made up of just three things:

Meetings. 

I have so many meetings – straight up business style, e.g.  suits and money – that is it.  Fucking crazy.

Training 

Training is the most humdrum side of the life, actually, me, alone, in a crappy municipal gym.  Sure, there is some nice scenery from time to time; the foreign hostesses like to come in on their breaks and use the step machines…  but I’m really just there as short a time as possible.  Get shit done and then get on with the other 20 hours of my day.

That said, my handstand number is really getting nice.  It helps to train outside of school and outside of a show.  Just to train and do the technique because it is what you do.

Still, I wish there was more space in japan though, to move and to run around and to dance like crazy movement style…  it is nice to take an hour a day to just do flexibility, though…  it is very calm.

Writing

This writing is just a vestige of the acting days… I still feel like someday i am going to spit something out onto a piece of paper that might make someone smile or change their mind about something, and so I keep at it.  Think of it as the other half of the training.

Planning and uncertainty

Next year is taking form so much more slowly than last year… it takes a year to get anything confirmed, and I am just getting in on the ground floor of this brand-new building, so there is all this uncertainty and confusion combined with the hopeful feeling that I might be able to do something new with this place…

I guess if Taiwan is the plan, I’ll be here until mid-January, and then I’ll need to find something until March.  I was hoping to be in the States soon, after all… I am really feeling like I need a roadtrip.  it is hard to take one of those when you are on an island that is smaller than California.  And you don’t have a car.  Maybe I’ll take some time to put this one-man show together that I have been working on the last couple of months…  It could be really small, like 40 minutes, I think, but I could do it in my hometown with some other artists in the show and split the money…  just to get out of this business mode that I have been in the last six weeks.

Circus school graduates shooting promotional images

Writing A Circus Act Part 2

it is so warm out today.  i try to keep my room in shadow so that i can keep working, but it is oppressive.  but what can i do.  i need to work.  listened to over 10 hours of music today just trying to get an idea of what i’m looking for in my act.  

thought a little bit more about my costume.  i think that for at least a little while i am going to talk about all the equilibre numbers i saw this week and what my impression of them has been.   

pretty much as soon as they get on the canes, they are in preparation to get into the trick, and the trick itself is all there is to look at. 

there is a real sense of solidity and rigidness in all of the tricks. what can i do to preserve fluidity even in the held positions? 

flexibility is a major problem for me, and i need to force myself to increase it all the time, wherever and whenever.  active flexibility in particular so that i can move that more freely and controlled in the extreme positions.  i think that it is extreme, impossible looking positions that really work.

i have been playing with the idea of using live music in my act, either solo or in accompaniment with the music that i choose.  but I don’t see how to make it work yet. 

i need to make all transitions between dance and acro and handstands to be absolutely seamless.  a lot of conditioning is involved in that. 

let’s see.  there are three weeks in september, and 10 after that, i think, to work.  so i’m looking at maybe 12 for now.  the most important part for me to concentrate on in the next six week is strictly the non-handstand part of the act.  in the meantime, i will be working with byamba on the handstand technique, so i want to have music selection done as soon as possible.  i think that by the end of next weekend i need to have two minutes of music selected for the evaluation concept presentation.   

the school cabaret is coming up soon as well. 

first of all, it is a good exercise because I cannot rely too heavily on circus arts.  everyone at the school already knows what we can all do.  what can i bring to a circus audience from outside of my circus experience?  how can i involve music and theater, in other words.  the theme is “communication.”  maybe i want to have text interspersed with music?  a character that is me?  who knows.  there is a lot to think about.  ultimately, i want to express myself in a more honest way than i ever have on stage.  that will be the real task, i think.  to not be the performer, the musician, but to really be me, travelling acrobat, on stage, full of vulnerability and honest.  if i can achieve that, well, that’s something that i’ll want to preserve in my act as well.  i think that i am most interested in seeing performers who are not acting honestly, but who really are there, present and full-on there.

Circus clowns at the National Circus School of Montreal's annual show

Things That Are Interesting After 7 Months Of Circus School

years of failure at a trick can be fixed by a russian coach telling you ‘do it with no falling.  is much more beautiful for the public that way.’

after you control your fear, anything is possible.

there is nothing that is physically difficult in acrobatics.

flexibility is the most important thing in the world.

juggling does not suck.

unicycle does.

if you do a trick correctly the first time, you will never, ever, ever forget how it is done.

there is no expectations on a person that cannot be raised by their success.

sometimes, you are right.

sometimes, you even know it.

a one-armed handstand is just holding yourself up with one hand.

a standing full twisting back somersault is just jumping really high, arching your body, kicking yourself in the chest with your knees, hugging yourself while looking over your shoulder, and then straightening out.

strength is the most important thing in the world.

if you feel the responsibility that goes along with holding someone over your head and then throwing them for a back flip, there is no way that you will let them fall.

if someone you trust tells you that you can do something you have never done, they are right.  So do it.

charisma is the most important thing in the world.

if skill is developed by learning, then creativity is developed by playing.

people like seeing you do something you enjoy more than they like seeing something that is difficult.

show an acrobat a skill they have never seen and they will try it.  if they fail, they will fall in a funny way.

when a russian tells you to do a double back salto from a wall, do it. 

even if he is kidding.

sleep is the most important thing in the world.

good night!

 

Head Above Water

Just trying to keep my head above water because I didn’t get to bed until around 2:30 last night and had to get up at 7:30.  I am not sleeping well at all – wasn’t up late or anything i just couldn’t sleep.  I’m sleeping like an old person.  After a really good day of flexibility yesterday flexibility class was ok, not great, but everything keeps rolling. 

In dance we presented the 2×8 piece that The Hotshot and I did.  It wasn’t too bad but the music was faster than I remembered so we had to combine some of the things and cut some of the things which all worked out for the best in the end. 

I was thinking about skipping equilibre with Larissa based on what Isabelle had said about not doing extra work if you are tired, but in the end, i’m glad that i did because i got to do a three person high handstand column with The Clown and The Dreamer.  Byamba wasn’t there again today but Larissa also showed us some of the things that we’ll need to do and said that she wants Daniella to view our class at this evaluation. 

Acro and trampo were typical, and had equilibre with Byamba’s student whose girlfriend was a student at the school who was the victim of a car accident.  He gave me some things to think about when holding handstands against the wall like keeping your hips against the wall and not having your arm moving in space but rather moving your body relative to the arm while the arm stays completely parallel in space – that was helpful.  He also suggested that I not remove my finger when doing one arm drills on the canes. 

Then I did juggling with The Clown.  Both of our legs are really hurting because of movement, we think, so we didn’t do much with the hats but worked on our intro with the clubs.  Alex was back today and it was cool to see him around. 

The Contortionist wasn’t in dance class today because her boyfriend came back from Belgium yesterday and she was sure to tell me that they were up late “not sleeping.”  The Clown and I also talked about the personalities of The Tumbler’s unique Quebecois family.  

I really need to sleep today or I’ll just die tomorrow.  Sleep is really important but really hard for me to keep constant.

Circus acrobat doing handstand on a tower of blocks

Recentering Day – That Acrobat Feeling

So I’ve remembered what it feels like to be a circus artist now after my first saturday recentering day back after vacation.  I’m actually not in as bad shape as I thought I was going to be in as far as strength and flexibility.  I just did a lighter version of my saturday recentering stuff: only one set of each strength series and only held flexibility positions for 45 seconds instead of a minute.  My kicks are still where they were and my pike isn’t as bad as I thought as it was.  I did lose side splits but those are just not coming easily at all.

Working with The Hotshot on our 2x 8 bars was fun and I think that what we’ve  put together is pretty cool.  The women in the class are going to complain some fo the one-leg fondus.  I like working with people that you don’t have to be too polite with and who are excited about what they’re doing.  It just makes the ideas really flow very easily.  It makes working egoless so you can just focus on making something that looks cool in the end.

i also worked on some rudi’s into the pit and discovered that if you actually look at the ground make a full rotation after coming off the minitramp before wrapping tighter to get the last half around it really is much easier and you don’t have to worry about overrotating – you know exactly where you are.  I was going a little crooked but I did about 10 of them for consistency down.  I’m really trying to focus on basics with professors and then and work these more complicated skills on my own.  Trying to develop that sort of patience to let the body and the mind develop in parallel – the mind’s awareness of what the body’s doing, “air sense” essentially, is developed simultaneously.

The Contortionist and The Dreamer who were also there so it was fun to have just the three of us working in the gym.

It’s weird how it feels like at this gym I’m more motivated than at the MIT gym.  Is it the sense that you’re going to be evaluated?  That would worry me because ultimately your motivation to excel should come from within yourself.  I’m worried that in this respect going to school for circus is almost like a motivational crutch.

I was thinking about how yesterday Byamba motioned to something in the corner and shook his head “no.” I had no idea what he was talking about at the time but now I wonder if he meant that he didn’t want me to work rolla bolla anymore.  After taking a sauna for the first time in forever (which felt great) I had to ask myself if I actually would stop working it.  In a way, it gives me the opportunity to train with him on things like acrobatics which he clearly thought would be a good idea.  If he is my “master” I should go with what his instincts.

If i hadn’t gone in today (which was tempting as I had overslept a bit) I still wouldn’t be feeling like a circus artist.  This is really important because I think feeling like a circus artist is a prerequisite to actually training in the circus fashion.  It’s important stuff – glad I got a chance to recenter and remember that it is for myself that I’m in here.