Training Troubleshooting: Make the Most of Your Open Training Sessions by Lottie Sanders

You are standing in the studio, staring at your equipment and pondering what to do next. Conditioning? Your favourite tricks? Some flow? Or will you give in to the urge to sit and scroll on your phone until your training time runs out? We have all been there. Always being at your most productive is impossible, and for every training session to be the one you make a tonne of progress and come away with ten new tricks, countless Insta-worthy videos, and an overwhelming sense of achievement that you ‘used your time well’.

To make matters worse, we are trudging our way through November, with ever-darker evenings and a notoriously busy social season around the festive period on the horizon. The will to travel to our studio haven and get our bodies moving can become less and less. In my opinion, a good training session is not always measured by the most progress made. There are countless other markers for success, or at least, indicators of what makes your training ‘good’. I’ll unpack those as we go along – so for now, sit back and enjoy some top tips on how to get the best out of your solo training – especially with the end of the year looming. (These tips are intended for your independent training in your studio hire time, not when you are in a taught class).

Body vs Mind – What Do You Feel Like Doing Today? – Approaching your training session simply by assessing what trick you might fancy giving a go, sometimes is not the best way to go. With our ever-busy lives, you cannot predict when you’ll be able to carve out that coveted training time to work on your aerial skills. You might be headed to the studio after a full day of sitting at a desk, or direct from a school run. Other times, you might have slept badly the night before. Perhaps the class you attended last night was more strenuous than you were expecting, and you’ve got a case of the DOMS. The possibilities and variables are literally endless.

So what do we do when our mind is telling us that we want to practice our deadlifts, but our body is telling us ‘no’? Sometimes, changing our plan is actually the best way to go. It is not always possible to work on your most difficult, tip-top of the list goals. And that isn’t really what training sessions are about, either. In my most recent memory, some of my most favourite times. I’ve had at the studio have been when I’ve ended up training something totally different than I had planned.

Try keeping a note on your phone (or in your notebook, if you are that kind of learner) on things you want to train – and I mean anything. Pop big crazy moves on there, combos, things from class, super specific things like ‘forward rolls with perfect lines’, stuff that you know you can do but think you could do better. The more you put into that list, the better. And it means when you have a day where what you had in your head doesn’t quite happen when you arrive at the studio, you’ve got a whole resource at your fingertips of alternatives you can do.

Pick a Side, Any Side – As Long As You Do Both! – Another common issue mthat can arise once we are left to our own devices for training is just what to do
to fill the time. In class, we may be sharing with another person, and there is time for chatting and time spent with friends. When we are in the studio for a training session, there may be less opportunity for the social side of pole and aerial.

A great way to fill this time is by making sure you do both sides. Your instructor will tell you this every single lesson, and probably remind you every single time you try a new move. But, to be a realist, we all know that occasionally you’ll try the spin once on your left side, once on your right side, then pick whichever you prefer and keep going with that until the time expires on that portion of the lesson. The main thing is, you tried, right?

In any case, use your training time to actually, genuinely evenly train both sides. And don’t forget – you can visit your trusty, tried and tested regressions for moves that are a little too tough to do on both sides. An invert on your right side and fan legs on your left side is miles better than inverting on your right and doing nothing at all on your left. And by the time you’ve completed all your moves on both sides you will be amazed how quickly the time has flown!

Follow Your Lesson Plan – Some things in life are the way they are for a reason. Ever hear the phrase, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’? We can definitely apply this to our training sessions here. Your teacher creates lesson plans week in, week out that are designed to not only be fun, but also well- structured to ease your body into a pole and aerial based workout safely.

To decide how you are going to spend your time training, you can certainly look at what your teacher has instilled in you with their classes. After completing your warm up, start out with your conditioning, and a few easier things to get used to being on the equipment. Get your body moving first, then work on your more challenging tricks and complex flow after that. If you were in class, you wouldn’t be rushing along to the biggest trick you can do, so why do it in your training time?

Find Time For Your Basics – There is nothing wrong with spending your time training movement patterns you enjoy, or practising simpler moves. Sometimes, it can feel as though there is a lot of pressure to always be ‘new’. To always be giving something different a go. Producing a brand new video or photo for the ‘Gram each time you set foot in the studio.

Aerialist life doesn’t work that way. And it certainly wouldn’t be fun if it did. We don’t check off a hypothetical box every time we achieve a move to never try it ever again. Every time you hang out in a Delilah, or sit in a pole seat, you are developing your skills as an aerialist or pole dancer. It doesn’t matter if you can also do an ankle hang or butterfly flip, and your ego is trying to push you to always do the most advanced thing you can do. Repetition is important, and you inevitably be much more well rounded by making sure you keep on top of mastering the basics as well as the brand spanking, shiny new stuff.

Safety Always Comes First – Your safety is always paramount. Even though there will most likely be an instructor present at the training session you have booked, you are ultimately responsible for yourself. Don’t try something brand new that you haven’t given a go before. If you can’t do a layback without someone spotting you – the time to give it a go without a spotter definitely isn’t in open training. Make sure you put a mat under your equipment when doing your tricks. If something isn’t working for some reason, take a breather, write down what the issue is and ask an instructor next time you are in class with them – it may be a simple fix to a professional eye, so it certainly isn’t worth risking yourself trying to work it out (and let’s face it, trying to do something over and over that isn’t quite working is also extremely frustrating, so save yourself the bother). Keep hydrated. Take regular breaks, but not the kind where you sit on your phone on the floor for twenty minutes and let your body totally cool down.

This may all seem like obvious stuff, but in class this is something your instructor will usually prompt you to do. The best sessions are always the safest sessions, and vice versa.

There you have it – some of my top tips on keeping your open training on track. And remember, ultimately, your pole and aerial journey is your own. We all progress in our own ways, at our own rate, and open training sessions can be a great way to learn a little bit about ourselves through independent training.