Aerial Arts & Muggle Jobs –Reducing injury risk when you work at a desk

  • by Seonaidh Jamieson

I’m a pole dancer. I have been for a whole decade now. It’s a huge part of my life, shaping my fitness schedules, my social life and even my sleeping and eating schedules. The aerial life is amazing dynamic and exciting but it’s not everything I do.

By day I’m a project manager for a conservation charity. I have busy work spells with little time for breaks and often spend whole days in front of spreadsheets hoping everything will eventually add up. Balancing my aerial arts life and my muggle job can be tricky and has managed to get me in trouble on a few occasions.

For a while I struggled to lean on my right arm the morning after training… Then I couldn’t move the duvet to get out of bed without pain. Then it wasn’t only the day after training. It was constant. Then I couldn’t pour the kettle… and living in Yorkshire that meant enough was enough.

I know you are probably wondering why I wasn’t worried earlier, and as a qualified personal trainer I look back and wonder too, but busy spells don’t bring out our most self-care focused sides. I had deadlines to meet, training and teaching to do, and wanted to spend money and time on fun not physio…

When I finally got to a physiotherapist my shoulder impingement was persistent enough that it’s taken around 8 months to get back to normal. This isn’t an uncommon injury in the aerial community, and for those of us who have muggle jobs too we need to take steps to ensure we aren’t at risk of annoying injuries like this.

We can balance our muggle & aerial lives. It takes some planning and consistency, but being able to hang upside down like the badass you are (and make a good cuppa) are worth the effort. Here are my 4 best muggle life & aerial life tips to keep you training at your best!

Muggle Life Tip #1 – Remember to rest

Remember to take a day only in the muggle life. Rest days are our friends. They let us grow and recover. They let us build up condition gradually and avoid over-use injuries and overtraining. The first muggle life tip is just to take days only in the muggle world!

Use these days for restorative activities like pilates, yoga or even just hiking.

Muggle Life Tip #2 – Desk stretches

My posture was a major contributory factor to my shoulder impingement. When we spend a lot of time sitting at a desk muscles in the front of our body shorten and tighten. This down regulates the muscle in the back of our body means they become long, tight and often weak. The resulting imbalance places uneven pressure on our joints meaning they are more prone to injury.

Throughout the day take time to open your chest and lengthen your hip flexors. Active flexibility drills can lengthen short muscles andwake up our glutes & back muscles which are prone to down-regulation. These don’t need to be complicated. Shoulder rolls back and down, engaging your glutes to pull your leg out behind you when standing, reaching your arms overhead… not complicated but help keep us ticking over.

Muggle Life Tip #3 – Walking Meetings

Walking is a great way of staying active and getting out of our “sitting position”. Taking your less formal meetings outside can increase collaboration and creativity, reduce stress and boost energy levels.

Of course this isn’t ideal for large or technical meetings, but adding this to your meeting hosting toolkit can help your body, your mind, and your colleagues!

Muggle Life Tip #4 – Remember you only have one body

Take note of how you move in your muggle life. If you have been sitting at a desk all day take some time to stretch off and mobilise stiff joints before aerial. If you’re like me you’ll want to get straight into exciting things after your aerial warm up… but if our body is still in sitting mode we are not only at increased injury risk due to poor posture, but also won’t be as effective!

After work take longer over those desk stretches, ask your body to open up a bit more and focus on your posture and balance. Take care of your body outside work and outside of your aerial class.

*Not recommended in most offices unfortunately...

Aerial Life Tip #1 – Train *clap* both *clap* sides!

All the instructors reading this are likely saying “well duh!”… but be honest with yourself. Do you train both sides as best you can? Training both sides not only helps with transitions and combos, but also keeps us balanced and reduces the risk of overuse injuries in our preferred side.

One tip for psyching yourself up for “bad side” training is to rename it. Bad makes us have lower expectations for it. It makes us want to stay clear. Why not call if yourinteresting side? This framing makes me curious, interested and invested in my non-dominant side and it’s successes!

Aerial Life Tip #2 – Do your conditioning

This is a big one for me. If I don’t have time to rehab, prehab or condition do I really have time to train aerial?

We need our body to last a lifetime. Pole and other aerial arts are physically demanding. Professionals prioritise their conditioning and body-self-care. When we try to emulate their movements without the back up of strong conditioned muscles and connective tissues we place ourselves at risk.

We have access to really extreme movements on social media. Remember most of us only post the big, flashy tricks… not the conditioning it takes to get there. Do your conditioning to stay in tip top shape for the fun stuff!

Aerial Life Tip #3 – Find a physio near you (just in case)

If we are already busy, it can be hard to find motivation to do the body admin we sometimes need. Ask your friends if they see a physio or massage therapist who is good for aerialists. Get their details and keep them somewhere easy to access.

The easier it is for you to reach help the more likely you are to ask for it!

Aerial Life Tip #4 – Don’t ignore aches and pains

Now you’ve got that physiotherapist on file it’s time to make use of their expertise. If something doesn’t feel right that is your body trying to tell you something. Pay attention, let it rest, and if it’s still just not right seek professional help.

Don’t be like me and lose the ability to make a cuppa!

Balancing split priorities takes practice. With a bit of conscious effort at work we can reduce the negative impacts of seated jobs, we can feel better, and we can be even better in our aerial persuits! What are your favourite ways of balancing the aerial life with the muggle life?

Seonaidh Jamieson is a L3 Personal Trainer, Bodyweight Gurus mobility instructor, Pole instructor and Project Manager. Through her business, Cherry Tree Training, she looks after people’s bodies at home & work, encouraging connection and awareness of their body, their world and their movement habits.