Just before the Easter holidays a notice came up that Freedom2FlyDA (www.freedom2flyda.com) were offering a week's intensive aerial course for all levels in May. Last year I went fairly regularly to their classes on a Friday over in Hackney Wick in the warehouse space of The Hive, and I love it there. I looked at the course timings, which fit snugly within the school day, and signed up without a second thought. Then it dawned on me. I was in no fit state for circus. I hadn't done any form of training in 2017 and while I had signed up for the "beginners" group, the Freedom2Fly course was aimed at professional dancers and performers, so their starting point raised the (trapeze) bar somewhat, to say the least.
Luckily, I still had a month to play with. But how? A chance conversation with the most inspiring teacher my son has ever had (which is saying something, given he lucks out with his teachers time and again), about how she fits in training at the crack of dawn, motivated me to look around for somewhere local where I could do the same. I didn't have far to look. A five minute walk from my house is The Train Station (www.thetrainstationgym.co.uk). It has a reputation for running hard-core classes that push the limits - I've been avoiding it like the plague for years! Here's the thing: I've always assumed gyms are for sporty people. People who take sculpting their physique pretty seriously. Iron men and women with abs of steel. Not like me, however much Floradix I may plonk into the Berroca. And while I have worked out with personal trainers in the past to build up strength for aerial training, the whole idea of stepping into a community of humourless machines terrified me. It was only when I went to a night of Box B*tch at The Transition Zone in Fulham (see Chapter 181 - click here) that I realised that there are spaces out there with a chilled urban vibe that pull no punches, but are fun with it. I hoped The Train Station would be one of them, as it had classes running from 6am that would allow me to be back home in time each morning to get the kids ready and off out to school.
Maybe it was because The Train Station is another warehouse space that I liked it instantly. It has a central area where the main training takes place with various instruments of torture to hand (dumb belle here is gradually learning the names) and a mezzanine floor for the spinning class. There are also smaller rooms in the back for yoga, osteopathy and sports massage. I noticed silks and a rope tucked away in the corner and snapped a picture for posterity on Instagram, joking #circuseverywhere. It turned out the equipment belongs to Dan, an awesome aerialist I know through Flying Fantastic (www.flyingfantastic.co.uk) when she and Victoria delivered a knock-out performance for the Christmas showcase, in PVC on aerial chains (see what I mean about hard-core! See Chapter 166 - click here). And doing a spin class yesterday with one of the instructors, Louis Bernard, was a bit surreal given I last saw Louis at Leicester Square Theatre last weekend, giving a stellar performance in the sell-out Radieuse Vermine, a Philip Ridley play that Louis also translated. Also in the audience that night was francophone Two Tongue Theatre (see post on Boys Club - click here), which is how we first met. No wonder The Train Station feels just like chez nous!
My trial class was circuits-based, mixing up burpees and box jumps, weights and all sorts. I nearly died. We were paired up and my partner turned out to be another inspiring teacher with a young family, which kept me going. Gradually I began to get the hang of the moves and feel less conspicious. Now I go to classes around 5-7 times a week, cancelling my newspaper subscription (which I've had for over a decade) in the process to upgrade my membership. I balance classes between strength (circuits & weights), flexibility (dynamic yoga) and aerobic exercise (spinning). The trainers are superb: adaptable, super encouraging, and, most importantly for me (given the demands they make!), have a great sense of humour. Getting up at 5.30am has been a killer, but the endorphins pumping by the end more than compensate. I've always been a glass half full kind of person, even so, I am staggered by the difference it makes to my overall mood. It is extraordinary.
Joining The Train Station has been a tremendously positive experience that has quickly become an integral part of daily life. I have a long way to go, but still, extrapolating progress over the next six months from the one month past already, I am incredibly excited by the potential. And, while I had no idea how the week at Freedom2FlyDA would pan out, when it came to Day 1 of the course last Monday, I knew that now, at least, I was well-equipped to give it my best shot...