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Tatler's Gym Awards 2017 - Text summary
TATLER Gym Awards 2017 - Highly Commended
Your first glimpse of a colourful rig with 30ft ribbons suspended from the ceiling and agile ladies sprinting up and dancing down them, and your instinct might be to turn and run. But you'll soon be addicted to this form or aerial contortionism.
Your arms will bear the brunt (expect bruises), but your abs will be the surprise winner – All that balancing, lifting and mid-air posing relies on a steady core. You'll be wearing a crop top in no time!
For a strong core - take to the sky - Text summary
There was a point in my life when I was fully able to support my body weight. Aged eight, I came home from school and proudly showed my mother my blistered palms, having conquered all 10 monkey bars. I was flexible, too, and you'd often find me bending into a "crab" position during school lunchtimes.
Somewhere along the way, I lost the desire to fold backwards instantaneously - despite it being a real crowd-pleaser - and while I have dabbled in pull-ups at the gym, it's usually with the knee rest as an aid.
But then I noticed aerial aerobics classes cropping up on social media and on posters at the gym, and felt that old childlike hunger to bend, lift and fly through the air.
I got in touch with Flying Fantastic, set up in 2011 by husband-and-wife team Chris and Edel Wigan. The pair launched their own studio after returning from a year in Argentina. "It's very normal to do an aerial class over there," explains Edel. "But when we came back, we found there wasn't really anything similar."
At the time, aerial aerobics was available only as a 12-week course or a degree, but the Wigans wanted to offer more accessible drop-in classes. "Coming at it from a fitness angle, the emphasis is on how it helps your body and makes you stronger."
Flying Fantastic caters for all abilities and ages, recently hosting a 74th birthday party and regularly teaching four-year-olds in their Young Flyers class.
With four locations, including their flagship at Bankside, they offer classes in aerial yoga, hoops and, to my delight, silks. Edel describes the latter as: "one long piece of material that you climb and tie yourself up in before posing in different shapes." The concept sounds much more entertaining than pounding the treadmill.
So, one bright morning, the sun glinting through the deep-red silks hanging from the ceiling, I find myself preparing to take to the skies for a 75-minute silks class. What could possibly go wrong?
Barefoot, we begin with a warm-up: lots of jogging, star jumps and lengthy planks. Then Hayley, my instructor, splits the group in two: those with experience in silks move to the far side of the room, while I join the beginners.
"First, we're going to try climbers," Hayley says, hopping on to the crash mat, strategically placed under the silks.
"Wrap the silk around the inside of your leg," she says, letting the end trail gracefully from her left foot, "and then pull yourself up with your arms, place the right foot on top of the left and stretch your legs out in front of you".
One of two things go wrong for me almost immediately. First, I hadn't accounted for how stretchy the silks would be. I feel myself slowly sink into a knotted mess on the floor. Next time, I resolve, I must pull the silks down and then wrap.
Second, supporting my own body weight isn't as easy as it once was. I make the initial lift on to the material but when I try to shuffle up the silks, as you would a fireman's pole, I'm left twirling faster than a fidget spinner.
Take two. I manage to pull myself up, rewrap my leg a little higher around the silk and repeat, before collapsing to the mat. Unusually, it's my fingers that hurt the most, and Hayley suggests I stretch them out between moves.
"Aerial is great for all-over conditioning," explains Edel after the class, as my shaky fingers grasp a well-earned cup of tea. "You'll notice everything tones up, from your legs right through to your fingers and grip strength."
It's true: holding a pose in the air takes a lot of strength. Parts of my body that I rarely stretch - my feet and shoulders - begin to ache.
Edel assures me that with practise - and a twice-weekly class - the ache will fade. I may even be surprised by how quickly my flexibility, core and upper body strength increase. "As your brain takes it in and your muscles remember, you'll find the difference in your body is phenomenal," she smiles.
"OK, let's try something a little harder now," says Hayley, climbing back up on to the silks. She begins teaching us a sequence of moves - standing in the frame; figurehead; big step back; and bunny knot.
During her demonstration, I find myself glancing across at the experienced side of the room: a man has curled himself into a fetal position at the top of one of the silks (about six feet off the ground). Suddenly, he breaks the hold and falls, his silk catching him in a sorcerer's knot. His counterparts all gasp - it's a close call, he is hanging inches from the ground.
"We like having mixed classes because it's good to see what other people are doing and where you're heading," explains Edel. She's right: I want to be on that side of the room.
For now, it's my turn to try out the bunny knot - in which the two silks are tied together to form a swing - I lean back, and spread my arms and legs out like a starfish. At first, it feels unnatural but I begin to relax into it, moving my legs into different shapes. Cirque du Soleil, here I come.
5 of the most intense workouts - Text summary
Fancy A Challenge? 5 Of The Most Intense Workouts
All workouts are not created equal.
Sometimes, a gentle yoga class or 5K run around our favourite bit of the park ticks our wellness box for the day.
Other times, we want to sweat. And grunt. And push our bodies to the next level with a challenge that takes us to new heights. Sometimes literally.
Of course, we’re not talking about going from couch-potato land to Olympic athlete levels of fitness from one day to the next. Rather, for those of us who are already athletically inclined, there are some seriously cool, intense and unexpected workouts to shake up a staid fitness regime or get new muscles working. Which offer other unexpected benefits, too...
Here are five of the most intense workouts we’re loving at the moment. You game?
Aerial Classes: Flying Fantastic
If you’re looking for a “a kick-ass workout that makes you feel like a superhero,” then you should probably run off to the circus. Or to one of London’s Flying Fantastic studios, where you can train on aerial silks, slings, hoops, straps and trapeze. Basically, this is a great one for making all of your childhood fantasies come true. But being able to fly is a lot harder than it looks.
“Aerial workouts are intense because you have to learn to hold and manoeuvre your whole body in the air to perform tricks and drops,” explains Flying Fantastic manager, Edel Wigan. “Even the simplest of moves requires the arms to fire up, core to kick in and legs to engage!”
For lots of people, pulling their own body weight up the silk is the initial struggle.
“This ‘grip strength’ comes from your hands and your forearms. These are muscles that we take for granted and don’t regularly use with such a load (our own body weight), so many beginners will notice tight or sore forearm muscles after a lesson. However, it’s such a rewarding experience to see those arms tone and the hated bingo wings disappear, that it quickly becomes addictive.”
Another tricky move? Turning upside down in mid-air in a controlled manner, which requires a strong core.
“There’s no strong like aerial strong! We get body builders and PTs, yoga instructors, fitness professionals and time and time again we hear, ‘I didn’t think it would be this hard! I’ll be back!’” says Wigan.
The fun of the workout is that there are constantly new tricks to master - and greater heights to scale (beginners start off about 10cm from the ground).
“There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush from an aerial drop, or the satisfaction of not only being able to do a pull-up in the air, but then being able to hold yourself there to turn your effort into something amazing!”
Hanging Tough - Text summary
I get dizzy on a stepladder, so why would I ever attend an “aerial fitness class” at Flying Fantastic? Because who doesn’t want to run away to join the circus? Who doesn’t want to release their inner acrobat?
“You’ll be fine,” says a classmate as I walk into the alarmingly high-ceilinged gym. “You’ll only go up about 10ft.”
As any cat will explain, 10ft is worse than 100ft. No time to right yourself or say a little prayer.
In other parts of the facility, people are doing trapeze and circus rings, but I’m here for the silks. It’s the most popular class here, but also, as I discover soon after a punishing 15-minute warm-up, the most difficult. Once Hayley, our very bendy instructor, has put crash mats out beneath each pair of silk ribbons, she demonstrates the first manoeuvre.
All you have to do, she says, is hold the silks together above your head, pull yourself up and grab them with the soles of your feet, like this. Then, still gripping with your feet, you simply reach higher, like this. Then pull yourself up and grab again with your feet. And repeat.
Up she goes like a Mauritian coconut picker. In seconds she’s at disabled-cat height. Then it’s our turn. I pull myself up and attempt to grab the silks with my feet. This is hard. Then I attempt the next bit — gripping the silks with my feet while reaching up with my hands. This is impossible. Every time I reach up, my feet slide down. Fear of heights, it turns out, is not going to be an issue.
The other beginners, all petite women, are doing much better. The only thing more emasculating would be a jam-jar-opening class.
The second manoeuvre is for people who aren’t strong enough to do the first manoeuvre. Stage one: you loop a “french knot” around one foot and then step up onto it. Stage two: you unhook the knot, pull yourself up higher with your arms and make another knot. The longer you take hooking and unhooking, the longer your tiny biceps have to hang there.
Still, I sort of manage this and, before long, I’m a few feet off the ground, wondering how soon I should send my CV to Cirque du Soleil. Alas, there are more manoeuvres. Manoeuvre three: do the knot, climb up, split the silks, lean through them, reach up then drop forward into a figurehead position. My classmates all look like Kate Winslet hanging off the front of Titanic. I don’t.
Manoeuvre four: do the knot, climb up, split the silks, grip with your armpits and lean back. Manoeuvres five and six: fancier versions of manoeuvre four.
“Right,” says Hayley. “Now we’ll put all the positions together.”
By the end of the class, I’m several inches taller, but my arms and legs are no longer responsive. It takes a few classes to get the hang of it, says Hayley, as I gather up my limbs.
She hopes I enjoyed it. And I did.
Beginners’ classes in silks, trapeze and hoop from £19; flyingfantastic.co.uk
City of swing - Text summary
How aerial fitness classes are turning London into a city of swing
Sweat workers who are tired of hanging around the gym are going to new heights to get in shape, says Phoebe Luckhurst in Health & Fitness section of Lifestyle section of Evening Standard Lifestyle publication
Read all about it in the Evening Standard
Under The Bridge - Text summary
Article in The Resident magazine by Madeleine Howell - March 2017
Change is afoot in SE1. For too long has the South Bank reigned supreme. Now, thanks to the regeneartion of Flat Iron Square and the Old Union Yard Arches, it's time for the southerly Bank side to shine. Already home to such attractions as Borough Market, Shakespeare's Globe and the Tate Modern, the changes are set to cement its pistion as one of London's hottest spots for a day out.
It's a place where the arts sit alongside artisan food. But as one of the oldest settlements in Britain, it seems only right that newcomers should remain true to the history of the south east Londoners that reside there. Balancing change and investment with authenticity is a precareous task, but after meeting with five of the residents, I would argue that they have struck a considered balance between old and new.
Amongst these five residents is Flying Fantastic who special in aerial fitness and are makng waves in London with their fresh take infused with circus skills, tricks and acrobatics.
Co founder Edel Wigan says they offer hoops, silks, trapeze, straps, ropes and aerial yoga. They also run kids classes and mum and baby classes.
Visit flyingfantastic to see more about classes, courses, practice sessions, coporate sessions and private parties.
Stretch Yourself with Aerial Fitness - Text summary
When we were young, it was always my sister’s dream to run away and join the circus. As a kid gymnast, she was flipping and cartwheeling wherever we went, hanging upside down from everything with a bar or a branch.
I was a ballet dancer, so any bars I came into contact with were for balance only – upright, thank you very much. I always felt that my head was put on top of my shoulders for a reason and should stay that way.
As a grownup, it’s a feeling that’s hard to shake. Conquering my fear of being upside down is an ongoing process of attempting headstands only with the support of a nice, solid wall.
that I signed up for an aerial hoop class at Flying Fantastic. I’ve been trying out a variety of alternative fitness classes recently, but this sounded particularly exciting – who hasn’t dreamed about flying?
Chris and Edel Wigan discovered aerial in 2008 and founded Flying Fantastic three years later. Chris was a graphic designer and Edel a civil servant and primary school teacher before they discovered their love of being airborne. With Chris as ringmaster and Edel the director of Young Flyers (aerial for kids), they’ve built a school that prides itself on helping Londoners discover muscles they never knew they had.
And that, I can certainly vouch for. It’s now been 24 hours since I was hauling myself up into a hoop and everything hurts. Everything. But, to use a common line, it’s a good pain.
It all starts at Gymbox in Old Street, where I and two other nervous women wait as the previous class finishes off.
“I’ve just seen them,” says one of the women as I turn up, “and it looks terrifying.” The studio has five hoops suspended from the ceiling with some very welcoming crash mats under each. As soon as we’re in the room, no time is wasted as we’re instructed to jog, gallop and sprint to warm up. Knowing beforehand that this was an “all levels welcome” class, I’m a little apprehensive, but the class splits evenly into total beginners and very-much-not beginners.
I and the two women from outside are taken under the wing of Ruby Gaskell, a soon to be graduate of the National Centre for Circus Arts who has been studying circus since the age of 10.
In a fit of madness that has nothing to do with courage and everything to do with getting it out of the way, I volunteer to go first. We start with what should be the easiest part – mounting the hoop, which takes a lot of core strength and hardy hands to accomplish with any sort of grace. Some residual flexibility I’ve retained from ballet helps a bit, but right now it’s rock solid abs I need (and don’t have).
With a supporting hand from Ruby, I master the side mount and hoist myself into a sitting position, where she then tells me to hold on with my legs and let go with my hands. My expert skills of deduction suggest that this means I’ll be upside down. Luckily none of these people know how I feel about it, so I can pretend that I am a fearless gymnast,
and let go.
How relaxing it is to be suspended from a gently swinging hoop. That is until Ruby instructs me to start doing sit ups.
For the next hour, she demonstrates and helps us through a number of “basic” positions, including the man in the moon, which has me sitting sideways with no hands holding on, feet and back pressing to keep me from falling out and a bum cheek either side of the hoop. It’s not the most comfortable sport. From there, we go further so there’s no hands and only one foot, or my legs at a vertical right angle, and finally, no hands, no feet and no bum - yes, it’s possible.
Aerial arts defy the laws of physics. It makes you work against gravity with every move and, for us beginners, that’s painfully obvious. But for Ruby it looks like second nature, and she inspires you to really try as hard as you can until it feels just that bit better.
Enough to go back? Definitely, but I might get a few more muscles first.
Flying Fantastic runs aerial hoop classes at Gymbox on Old Street, Sundays at 2pm.
To book: flyingfantastic.co.uk
High Flyer - Text summary
London wouldn’t be London if it didn’t forever spawn new, extreme and ever crazier forms of exercise. In with a bullet this month comes Flying Fantastic, a new state of the art ‘Aerial Fitness School’ near London Bridge. Okay, so my attempt at the trapeze was less Cirque du Soleil than ‘Are you Okay’, but ice face excepted, being suspended upside down was fun. And challenging. Apparently an hour’s aerial session burns more calories than a spinning class.
10 Best New Fitness Classes - Text summary
From aerial acrobatics to exercising with the help of electrical pulses, these workouts will shake up your fitness routine.
Tired of doing the same old exercise class over and over? If you’re finding your regular workout is becoming dull, you’ll be pleased to know that a whole host of new workouts are out there. From aerial acrobatics to high-intensity dance routines and even working out with the help of electrical pulses, we have scoured the country for 2017’s best offerings. Read on for ten exciting new workouts to try this year.
How about getting fit while learning some impressive circus skills? With four locations across London, Flying Fantastic offer aerial fitness classes ranging from the hoop to the trapeze, with a bit of aerial yoga thrown in for good measure. The concept was launched at the end of 2016, with new classes being added all the time. Perfect to try with friends, you’ll leave having worked your core, and with a newfound strength and all-over flexibility. flyingfantastic.co.uk
Join the club - Aerial Fitness - Text summary
Join the club: Aerial fitness
By Linda Sharkey
I woke up to soreness. Every single muscle in my body aches. I can't laugh, my abs hurt.
I am feeling the burn after trying out aerial fitness, a workout that involves climbing up the silks rigged from the ceiling and performing stunts while hanging from them. It's not easy.
Picture Cirque du Soleil, but in a sparse London warehouse, where all levels of exercisers get to try out (and work out to) circus silks. If you go to watch the Cirque, its artists seem to float in the air, but it really isn't easy.
Aerial fitness manages to work almost every muscle in your body as you hang upside down like an acrobat. It hurts like hell, but the net result is that it strengthens your whole body.
The variety of moves, drops, wraps and twists are endless, but for a beginner like me, four positions were more than enough to learn in a usual hour-and-a-half class. My core was locked tight while arching backwards on the 'figure head' position, my arms were shaking as they held my body weight on the 'eaglet', and my body lost control on the 'giant steps' position. The 'French climb' was pretty much impossible – just like climbing up a rope.
The first thing you learn is the 'foot lock', which is your handbrake, or in this case, the life-break that attaches your body to the hanging silk. The good news for my vertigo was that although the silks are three metres high, your first steps are quite close to the floor – where a pad awaits if you fall.
The instructors, who have been practising aerial fitness for years, tell me this workout exists from the early Nineties, but it started to cross over the bridge (from circus to warehouse) a few years ago. Expect it to fly into your local gym soon.
Cheapskates' version: Try and climb a tree using only an M&S silk scarf. Drop-in classes cost £20 (packages available) at Flying Fantastic, in Battersea, south-west London
Let it Shine - Text summary
Great to get the boys from Drive into the yoga slings today. Best of luck in the final guys!
Global Wellness News - Text summary
Image: Flying Fantastic
London Wellness Concepts Tipped For Startup Success In 2017
BY LAURA HILL ON FEBRUARY 6, 2017
Online business resource Startups.co.uk has revealed the top business ideas for 2017 and wellness plays a major role.
The report, which combines detailed research and analysis of emerging business and consumer trends, alongside insights from leading bodies such as Mintel and the Office of National Statistics, highlights the vast number of opportunities present in the wellness industry. Several wellness-related concepts including sugar-free drinks and alternative fitness make the cut.
Commenting on the report, Tim Sawyer, CEO of The Start Up Loans Company explained that trends in the startup industry can be a great indication of what is going to thrive in the wider market, while Megan Dunsby, features editor at Startups.co.uk, encouraged aspiring start-up founders to look to the report as a source of business inspiration.
Using the sugar-free drinks category as an example, Sawyer explained that tapping into growing demand for healthy alternatives can be a recipe for success. “Looking ahead this year, we’re keen to support more businesses introducing something new to an existing market,” he revealed.
Highlighting a range of concepts from big opportunities to the more obscure, for those looking to start a business in the UK, the report reaffirms the growing role wellness is playing in our everyday lives. A $3.7 trillion market globally, today the wellness industry covers everything from healthy eating, fitness, travel and beauty to workplace wellness, alternative medicine and mindfulness.
According to Dunsby: “Despite what you might think about the current economic climate, it remains a great time to start a business.” And, these particular wellness concepts are among the best business ideas for budding entrepreneurs to pursue in 2017……
Alternative Hen Party Ideas - Text summary
Learn a circus skill
Channel your inner acrobat with an aerial silks session, courtesy of the fitness gurus Flying Fantastic. You'll be able to try some amazing moves and poses on aerial hoops, silks or even a trapeze – simply pick your favourite two for the session. While it looks challenging, this actually caters to all fitness levels, and it's brilliant fun – a great talking point for later in the evening when you're all catching up over cocktails!
See more from The Hen Planner at The National Wedding Show this Spring. Available with Flying Fantastic in London from £27pp. Book three months in advance.
Workout Wednesday - Text summary
Flying Fantastic Trapeze
I'm slightly scared of heights, so trapeze isn't exactly my first port of call when it comes to exercise. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be up there swinging from a bar, wearing a sequinned jumpsuit and make-up that would give the acts in Cirque du Soleil a run for their money, my body just won't play ball.
Thankfully, at Flying Fantastic Trapeze, height isn't an issue. The bar is within arm's reach while standing on the ground, or in my case, while standing on a cushioned blue matt. Yes, safety comes first here. Thank god!
Now, for those of you who are thinking, 'how much of a workout can you get from holding onto a bar?' let me tell you, I've never seen so many sculpted arms and thighs in my life! While regulars were pulling themselves up with ease, I was struggling to kick a leg over. Engaging your core is key.
Once I had this down-pat, I managed to follow most of the poses asked of me, including The Mermaid, The Birdcage, Hocks and Bird's Nest. I could've done this all day, it's that fun. The only thing that stopped me was my muscle fatigue. Yes, this is a serious workout.
What you need: tights and a t-shirt or vest (you don't want anything that's loose), no socks needed.
Difficulty: 4/5 - be prepared to get blisters on your hands and hit the point of muscle fatigue.
Location: Flying Fantastic, Battersea, Farringdon, Wimbledon and Old Street.
How do I book: Book through the website. Classes start from £22.