This Is What Happened When We Tried Gwyneth Paltrow's Favorite Workout
Aerial fitness is harder than it looks, ok?
Generally speaking, we at Pret-a-Reporter are anti- anti-gravity. Verticality is preferred during workouts and we love getting in a sweat session without fear of literally breaking our necks. But when the opportunity arose to take a class in aerial fitness, the latest of Hollywood’s must-try workouts on par with Soul Cycle and barre, we decided to take it for a swing.
Gwyneth Paltrow, who lauded the aerial trend in a goop post dedicated to the experience, and Pretty Little Liars star Troian Bellisario, who posts weekly Instagrams of herself spinning and folding nymph-like through the air, served as celebrity role models for the evening as we tried to envision our semi-athletic selves moving with their grace. More realistically, however, we thought back to the episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians in which Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian tried the fit fad and managed to achieve something resembling proper form.
Sponsored by Lanston Sport, the class was held at AIR Aerial Fitness in West Hollywood. The cozy studio has roughly 15 fabric swings hanging from the ceiling with yoga mats arranged on the hardwood floor below them.
Things began easy enough — that is, with two feet planted firmly on the ground. A quick stretch of the wrists (“your grip is the thing that will probably get most fatigued and sore”) and the hamstrings and then we were off.
The instructor demonstrated a simple beginners sequence which began with diaper pose. As the name suggests, diaper pose was neither comfortable nor flattering (all I can say is thank goodness everyone was outfitted in their well-made Lanston sport leggings). Next, like one of those super-bendy action figures, the instructor flipped easily into pigeon pose which, unlike what its name suggests, is actually very elegant.
When it came time for us pupils to attempt these poses, however, the supposedly peaceful activity turned into a nightmarish, chaotic ordeal. The room full of beginners resembled a playground of wild toddlers, with upside down women spinning uncontrollably on their swings (“how do I stop?!”), with others becoming volatile pendulums swinging dangerously close their neighbors and at risk of creating a human Newton’s cradle.
To borrow a phrase from Paltrow, this reporter's own conscious uncoupling from the ground was less than graceful. Hibernating muscles that hadn’t been purposely flexed in years were called to action against their will. But still semi-confident in my own athleticism, I leaned back into the swing (and thus, my fate).
As I hung upside down, legs splayed with knees bent towards opposite walls, my ponytail dragging in a circle on the floor, I attempted to maneuver myself into diaper pose. All was going (relatively) well until the muscles in the arch of my foot contracted, rebelling against their forced exertion. Like a towel being wrung dry, the arch muscles contorted, twisted and spasmed in a cramp so violent and relentless that I literally could not even.
So there I was, upside down and swinging back and forth like a daisy in the wind, tears welling from pain while my mind, fuzzy from the blood rushing to my face, raced to figure out a way to come down from the my swinging imprisonment without causing major spinal damage.
Eventually, I managed to wriggle free, and the instructor mercifully moved on to core exercises in which our backs were flat against the floor.
Aside from the residual soreness (has the door always been this difficult to open?), the class was, surprisingly, excellent exercise. “Aerial fitness really engages every muscle — it’s a complete, full-body workout,” said instructor Anna Hanson.
She added, “Some people take longer to really master the poses, but it gives them incentive to keep coming back, to keep working on it, which keeps them motivated."
Though our first experience wasn’t exactly successful, we'll probably be back to try and master the art. After all, if Bellisario has proven anything, it’s that aerial fitness videos look really good on Instagram — and that’s really what exercise is all about, right?
Lanston Sport: ($66- $165)
AIR Aerial Fitness, 8474 W. 3rd St., West Hollywood; AIRFitNow.com.