It’s Not Trap-Easy

Senior Keely Thompson puts her endurance to the test in a circus conditioning class in The Mustang's February Edition of Gym Buff.

Serena Saake

Story by Keely Thompson, Staff Writer

Serena Saake told me we were going to a circus conditioning class at the San Diego Circus Center in Mira Mesa taught by her sister Kelsey Saake. She’d warned me that it would be a difficult class, but I simply thought, how hard could it be to play on a trapeze and silks?

Well, as I discovered, it would be very hard. Like crazy hard. I’m a runner, which means what little bit of muscle I do have is in my legs, not my triceps, shoulders, back, forearms, and abs. However, after this class, I can tell you I did have muscles in those areas, and they were not happy. Really not happy. I couldn’t bend my arms or laugh, or sneeze, or cough for a week because I was so sore. How did I get that sore? Let me tell you.

We started with 12 minutes of strength and cardio exercises. There were six different exercises that we did for 50 seconds on and 10 seconds off and then repeated the whole cycle. These exercises included forms of planks, squats, and ab-holds.

After that, we stretched out. Well, Serena and all the circus-people stretched while I sat there in a pretzel. Upon seeing my complete lack of flexibility, Kelsey asked, “Are you a runner? I can see you’re having issues with tight hamstrings.” Yes, that’s a nice way to put it.

After our extremely challenging warm-ups and stretch routine, the main part of the workout started, and I was already really tired. Kelsey assigned a workout rotation where we worked in pairs. Serena and I started on straps, which had loops in the bottom hanging from the ceiling. In these we did pull-ups, planks, and splits (or as close as you could get, which for me wasn’t very). While Serena was taking her turn flawlessly doing the exercises, Kelsey told me to jump-rope instead of taking a break. It was really fun jumping and playing with the equipment, but it was so exhausting.

Our next rotation was just the ground. This was not very much fun. We did push-ups, squats, triceps push-ups, and all sorts of other evil bodyweight exercises.

After that torture, we moved onto the silks, pieces of stretchy fabric hanging from the ceiling. I finally got to work with the real circus stuff, and was so excited. We put our feet in a loop in the silks and proceeded to do plank holds, tucks, pike push-ups, and every type of cruel, ab-busting workouts Kelsey could dream up.

The last rotation was the trapeze, which I was terrified of. I was so tired I thought I would collapse. How was I supposed to hang on to this swinging bar miles off the ground and then do some sort of graceful exercise? The first exercise we were supposed to do was to flip upside down, put our legs over the bar, lift up off the bar, and then do upside-down pull-ups. Excuse me? What!? Yeah, well, I let Serena go first, nice friend that I am, and I just jump-roped and watched her execute the nearly impossible pull-ups and ab-holds perfectly. Then, it was my turn. My forearms, triceps, lats, neck, lower back, abs, quads, hamstrings, and all of the other muscles I didn’t even know I had were shaking and felt like they would fall off. I could barely hang on to the bar much less get my legs up over the top. I tried like a million times but to no avail. Kelsey had to help me and after a couple more attempts and nearly kicking her in the face, I got on the trapeze. Then she told me to hang upside-down. I was a shaking mess. The rest of the exercises followed suit. Serena performing seamlessly and me following her grace with a sloppy, exhausted mess.

Finally the class was over, but my pain was only starting. I was so sore for a week afterwards, unlike Serena who got over it after a day. This was honestly the hardest upper-body exercise I have ever done. My triceps are cramping as I’m typing this a week later. This is a class I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to be in crazy, insane shape and is willing to work even crazier for it.