Knotty Yoga v3.0

After doing Knotty Yoga full time for five years, I’m currently celebrating my one year anniversary as a full time software engineer. I am thrilled to still have the studio while holding down a full time job. I am making a couple of changes to Knotty Yoga starting today / May 1st to make the studio a better place.

  • All Knotty Yoga classes are 60min
  • There are no drop in classes going forward
  • The studio is membership based only
  • There won’t be new member orientations
  • There will be occasional auditions for people to join the studio
  • I will require people to be able to do two pull-ups and fifteen push-ups to audition

The student base of the studio has been remarkably stable over the last year. I make plenty of money as a software engineer so my only goal with Knotty Yoga beyond having it pay for itself is doing bad ass acrobatics and fitness with a wonderful community. I have not lost students and have not had the desire to recruit new people. With basically the same people in every class, we have progressed to a shockingly high level overall at the studio. These changes should enable us to hit even higher levels.

New students are an investment and a distraction. If someone sticks around, works hard, and becomes a part of the community, that investment is worthwhile. If the person is just looking to satisfy a curiosity and snap a few pictures for Instagram, that investment is not worth the effort. Because of this, I am dropping drop in classes and generic new member orientations.

The beginner and weight loss fitness markets are also served by a shockingly large industry. I have no interest in serving that market. There is a place for intermediate to high end fitness and that is the market in which Knotty Yoga resides. Going forward, all new students will be required to demonstrate that they can do two consecutive, non-kipping pullups and fifteen consecutive on feet, not knees, straight to fully bent arm pushups. Existing students who don’t meet this bar will be grandfathered in, but you should hit this level quickly. For fitness, this is a very low bar but this will be beyond the reach of many people and that is by design.

There is a schism between people who just want to do fitness and people who want to do acrobatics at the studio. There are also people who want to live at the studio versus people who love the efficiency of Knotty Yoga. I also would like to be able to try harder things at the studio that really aren’t appropriate for everyone. The solution to this is making all Knotty Yoga classes 60min.

Mon-Thu 6-7pm and Sat 10am-11am Knotty Yoga classes will start and end on time. On Mon, Thu, and Sat there will be an optional, invite-only 30min add on class in which we will explore advanced conditioning, arm balances, handstands, partner acrobatics, and aerial. Even people who are eligible for the remaining extra class can choose to just stay 60min if that is what makes more sense schedule / energy wise. I honestly want a smaller group to tackle harder material with.

I’m thrilled with the level and group of people at the studio. My feeling is that making the studio more selective will also make it easier to attract and retain the right level of students. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.

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A Dollar is a Dollar

When I was a fledgling aerialist, I remember the first time someone offered me money to perform. I had been happily taking classes, training, and performing at student shows. The very thought of someone offering little old me ACTUAL money to do this thing that I loved seemed too good to be true. In reality, it was.

At the time, I was making roughly $10,000 dollars a month as a software engineer. Dividing that by the roughly 160 hours of work time in a month yields about $62.50/hr. To prep for this gig, I did a couple of private lessons at $50 a pop, had a costume made for around $100, and went to look at the venue and did a separate trip for tech rehearsal. I also spent dozens of hours training and working on my routine. Come the night of the show, I got there hours early, did my five minute piece, and then stuck it out for the whole show. I got paid $100. Factoring what I spent and what my time is worth, I probably lost over a thousand dollars for my first “paid gig.”

In my mind, I was over the moon that I had been paid to perform! It seemed like each of those dollars should have been fifty times bigger than a regular dollar. They weren’t. Going to the store to buy groceries, I didn’t get extra food because these dollars were obtained doing something I was proud of.

Even more important, I also knew dozens of people at the time (and know even more now) who earn their living off of performing. The going rate for a performance like that is somewhere between $500-$1000. My doing it as a novelty for almost free meant that someone counting on gigs to support themselves didn’t get that work. Even more, the presence of dozens of people like me willing to perform for rock bottom rates collectively drives the rates down.

There are two sides to this of course. Working as a software engineer, you are never worried that artists, well paid from regular work, are going to start coding device interoperability components for almost free and take away your ability to support yourself. Whenever someone goes into a profession that is known to pay poorly and then bitches about being poor, it’s hard to be sympathetic.

Similarly, I have at least a half dozen friends right now whose passion is photographing nude models. Specifically, hot, young, white, athletic, and conventionally attractive models… oh how they suffer for their art! They do this artistically, not pornographically (where there probably is money to be had), and lament that they have to toil along at their day jobs instead of doing their passion. Taking pictures of naked people is sexy and fun. The stuff that actually pays them money isn’t. People will always be up for taking pictures of naked sexy people for free. Yeah, you might have a nicer camera, spiffy lighting, and have taken lots of classes on composition, lighting, and makeup, but it still is hard to beat free. Enjoy that you have both something you love AND something else that pays the bills. Acrobats aren’t far removed from this.

I know multiple people who decided they wanted to get serious about aerial and have gone to expensive professional acrobatics schools to hone their skills. In my mind, education is always a great thing but people shouldn’t view this as a professional investment that will have any kind of financial return on investment. This is personal growth and an indulgence. There are two young guys around the same age who are both in school right now. One is getting his associates degree in Information Technology. It’s costing him very little because the program isn’t expensive and is well funded. Upon graduation, an average graduate in his program will make $75,000/year right out of school. Another guy is doing an expensive professional aerial program. He will graduate in debt and be lucky to make fast food wages (if he can even find work).

There was a post going around the aerial world last year by a full time acrobat blasting people who do it part-time and basically saying that an artist who has another job to pay the bills can never be as good as one who does acrobatics fulltime. I have friends who are very serious aerialists but also have day jobs who were understandably offended. My experience is that part-time people can be as good or better since they don’t have the financial pressure to do work that isn’t any more art than flipping a burger (aerial bartender anyone?) and they can afford to train, hire a coach, travel to experience new scenes, and take better care of themselves / have access to health care.

Aerial students who are getting to the level where they want to perform should stick to student shows or fundraisers for non-profits until they are ready to jump to a professional gig. When they are ready to perform professionally, they should do some research into what they should be charging (ie. Talk to their teacher) and not be afraid to ask for what they are worth. If you don’t need the money and would be happy doing it for free, keep in mind that others aren’t as fortunate so it is important to charge a fair market rate or give the gig to someone who could use the work. This is doubly so for corporate gigs.

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Partner Acrobatics at Knotty Yoga (Knotty Yoga Acro Crew)

Partner Acrobatics at Knotty Yoga (Knotty Yoga Acro Crew)

We are thrilled to kick off the next phase of Knotty Yoga Acro Crew in 2016. Knotty Yoga Acro Crew is a $40 membership add-on to the basic Knotty Yoga Unlimited Membership (like Knotty Yoga Aerial Crew). It adds the following classes to the basic membership:

  • Sunday 10am-noon Intermediate Partner Acrobatics with Orville Zharoff
  • Monday 7-9pm Partner Acro (including 8-9pm with Standing Acro with Eric Blood)
  • Thursday 7-9pm Partner Acrobatics with Mason Bendixen
  • Saturday 10am-noon Knotty Yoga and Intermediate Partner Acrobatics

In addition, students can attend Mon-Thu 6-7pm Knotty Yoga and Tue 7-8pm and Sun noon-1pm Circus Circuit to increase their conditioning via strength, flexibility, and balance training using acrobatics technique and aerial acrobatics equipment.

We have basic fitness requirements for Knotty Yoga Acro Crew:

  • Ten not on knees and from fully bent to fully extended pushups
  • Hold a tripod headstand for 20 seconds in the center of the room (flyers only)
  • Hold a belly to the wall handstand for 30 seconds (flyers only)

Knotty Yoga Acro Crew is a complete conditioning and training solution. Our goal is to quickly ramp people up to do intermediate moves like fireball, hand to hand, and assorted standing moves. We believe that the only way to make real progress is to practice several times a week with instruction and have a strong conditioning component to your training.

Price for Knotty Yoga Acro Crew is $200 per month ($160 basic Knotty Yoga Unlimited Membership plus $40 Knotty Yoga Acro Crew add-on). This includes all of the basic unlimited membership classes as well as all of the partner acrobatics programs. We offer a $160 first month special for new students ($120 New Member Knotty Yoga Unlimited Membership plus $40 Knotty Yoga Acro Crew add-on). Please come check out our studio by taking a New Member Orientation.

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Beginning Aerial Acrobatics at Knotty Yoga

Beginning Aerial Acrobatics at Knotty Yoga

Knotty Yoga has the solution to get started in Aerial Acrobatics in 2016. We are starting a beginner Aerial Crew program to get started successfully at aerial acrobatics in 2016. Aerial Acrobatics at the studio will include work on fabric, rope, hoop, sling, and trapeze. We are an unlimited membership based studio with a flexible schedule. Aerial Acrobatics is hard to get traction with unless you log a lot of hours and volume of activity to build the strength and body awareness needed to start doing acrobatics. As a bonus, you will also get in amazing shape.

To make progress, you need be height / weight proportionate and free of injury and commit to attending at least three classes a week. We have a flexible schedule to make this as easy as possible. Here is the aerial specific schedule:

  • Friday 6-8pm Beginner Aerial Acrobatics with Lauren Kettner
  • Sunday noon-2pm Circus Circuit / Open Gym with Mark Libertus
  • Tuesday 7-9pm Circus Circuit / Open Gym with Mark Libertus
  • Wednesday 8-9pm Directed Study with Lauren Kettner
  • Thursday noon-1pm Aerial Fabric with Natasha Hawthorne

The gem of this schedule is the new Friday night, two hour Beginner Aerial Acrobatics with Lauren Kettner. Lauren is a high level teacher and professional performer in aerial acrobatics, dance, and partner acrobatics. This class will focus on orienting new people to the assorted apparatus, developing technique, as well as learning tricks and conditioning. The Circus Circuit / Open Gym slots are supervised time slots to focus on climbing, working on tricks, building stamina, and working strength and flexibility. Directed Study is a small class for people to work with Lauren on what they would like to. Thursday noon-1pm is a beginner focused fabric only class.

In addition to these Aerial Crew only classes, Aerial Crew members get access to the full set of Knotty Yoga Unlimited membership classes which include Mon-Thu 6-7pm Knotty Yoga and Sat 10-11am Knotty Yoga. Knotty Yoga is a whole body conditioning program building strength, flexibility, and balance using acrobatics equipment, yoga, Thai massage and strength training principles. There are also beginner friendly partner acrobatics classes on Mon / Thu 7-8pm. There is a separate Knotty Yoga Acro Crew for people who want to drill into partner acrobatics in depth.

Pricing for Knotty Yoga Aerial Crew is $200 a month (Knotty Yoga Unlimited Membership – $160 + Aerial Crew Add-on – $40). As you progress, there are additional classes that you can start taking as well. For the ability to take unlimited classes up to seven days a week, we feel like this is an extremely good value. We also offer $40 off your first month to try it for $160. Please feel free to do a Knotty Yoga New Member Orientation to get a better feel for what the studio is and what offerings we have.

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Training Versus Exercise

Training Versus Exercise

For most people, exercise comes rooted in fear and goes hand in hand with a “diet.” People exercise to avoid becoming fat, flabby, and old. While there is a multi-billion dollar industry built around preying on these fears, it’s so much more interesting to take a goal oriented approach and focus on being able to do interesting things with your body and make continual progress. This is what training is and is the focus at Knotty Yoga.

Exercise is the domain of people who run on treadmills and have “chest” and “leg” days. Exercise is largely focused on making bodies smaller and selectively making certain body parts bigger. It largely has no focus or goal other than looking better in a swimsuit or getting “abs.”

Training is activity focused. A great example would be training to do a marathon, doing a press handstand, moving from a 3.5 to a 4.0 in tennis, or being able to climb a rope without using your legs. Instead of isolating certain muscles to work for maximal visual results, athletes set goals and create and execute on a plan for achieving those goals.

Training generally involves hiring a coach to put together a plan for you to achieve something. Some people who have been doing something for years and have a lot of experience can be their own coach, but for most people, they should work with someone who can put them on the right path. The next set is designing progressions and coming up with a training plan. People doing training also tend to have written down, concrete goals for some kind of accountability and progress tracking.

I had a breakdancing coach who would explain tricks that we wanted to learn to do in terms of hours of time spent before you would be able to do them. For instance, a handstand might be a 200 hour trick while a flare might be a 2,000 hour trick. I found it useful to think of things in terms of this, especially when you start working on something that at first seems impossible.

Progressions are what turn the impossible into reality. Almost anything interesting athletically will be nearly impossible when you first try it. To solve this, you need a set of basic progressions that are challenging but somewhat doable. The path of progressions, if done consistently and with good form, should lead you towards of achieving your goal.

In a simple case, if you can bench press 135lbs and would like to bench press 225lbs in six months, you would need to come up with a plan of increased weights that you would be at along the way (ie. I’d like to be at 150lbs in a month). You might also need some shoulder stabilization, stretching, and variety (ie. Strip sets, negatives, asymmetric  training, working at different angles, training with dumbells, etc.).

A weight lifting example is relatively simplistic example for training since you have data you can track in Excel. You can even graph goals and actual progress to visually see if you are on track for your goals.

Something like improving your tennis ranking from a 3.5 to a 4.0 is a lot more fuzzy. This would involve a coach assessing your game to determine what is holding you back from functioning at the new level and creating a plan to improve. This might be, make your backhand move powerful, make your forehand more consistent, improve your net game, and reduce double faults by developing a more reliable second serve. A plan like this is much more complicated than improving your bench press weight because there isn’t as straightforward of data to track. Also, people tend to work on new shots and tweaks in tennis in practice and spend months or years drilling new concepts and changes before they feel ready to incorporate these changes into competitive match play.

The tennis example is far more like a dancer or acrobat who is likely training a wide variety of new skills and moves but will spend a long time polishing this new material before they ever incorporate the additions into an actual performance.

At Knotty Yoga, we focus on building athletes via training. We also split the conditioning part of training from the skill part of training. For instance, we have Knotty Yoga and Circus Circuit classes to focus on building strength, stamina, balance, and flexibility. Then our skill focused aerial and partner acrobatics classes just focus on learning the skills and don’t have much in the way of conditioning in them. In many ways, our conditioning is ala carte and the most successful students go for seconds or third of conditioning in relation to how much time they spend on skills. I like to think of the conditioning classes and breakfast and lunch and the skill classes as dessert. Being able to learn skills is the reward for being in great shape but it isn’t what gets you there.

I’ve gone to many aerial or acrobatics classes and they are often two hours and include some 10-20 minute conditioning block at the end. This is dangerous since some people think that they have done enough conditioning and don’t need to do more when they really have done a trivial amount. I think it would be better to skip this entirely than to make people think that this dozen or so minutes actually means that they are “conditioned.”

The students who are the most successful at the studio do at least three Knotty Yoga / Circus Circuit classes a week. The aerial and partner acrobatics classes are the reward for doing that much conditioning. The exception to this is the two hour Friday night Beginner Aerial Crew class that is largely an aerial focused conditioning class (as most beginner anything classes should be).

We take training seriously at Knotty Yoga. Any male who is at a healthy weight, free of injury, and consistently logs at least three Knotty Yoga classes a week for a year can expect to be able to do a back planch / lever. Any person of any gender who has the same attendance can expect to be able to do a headstand, pullup, handstand (at least against the wall), no leg climb of a rope, and a straddle climb in the air.

Climbing a rope challenges your body so much more thoroughly than doing a biceps curl. Holding a person on your feet and moving them through interesting ranges of motion is so much harder and works so much more muscle than doing squats or leg presses. It also improves your flexibility instead of eliminating it. Balancing and stabilizing on a fabric with just your arms on the ground activates your chest so much more athletically than a synthetic, fixed activity like bench press. It also teaches your core and chest to work in tandem. Doing a back lever for ten seconds takes more energy and works more muscles than most people will call upon during an hour in the gym.

I find if people have goals like: I want to do the splits, a pike climb, a front lever, a hand stand, etc. they will work so much harder and feel so much more accomplished than they would from just exercising. They will also end up with a much more functional and athletic body.

Becoming an athlete also changes a person’s outlook on food. Instead of turning food into something to avoid, athlete’s look at food as something that they need and that nourishes them. I’ve found that when I have clients who eat poorly or drink heavily, they naturally scale back their drinking and seek out better food as they start to make progress in their training. It’s a huge win to have people shift from viewing food as something that makes them fat into something that helps them to get strong.

“Becoming an athlete” sounds intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. For someone who can’t do a full blown pushup, it could be as simple as working up towards a three-quarters pushup on knees, then a full pushup on knees, then a three-quarters pushup on feet, which leads eventually to a full pushup. Same with pullups, head stands, hand stands, etc. The key thing is to set small goals and then train with the right level of consistency and intensity to achieve these goals. Each goal might seem small but these small goals will add up to a lot over a year and can take you to an amazing place in five.

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Presenting Knotty Yoga v2.0

Knotty Yoga v2.0

We are launching a number of changes at the studio for January 2016 that will be collectively called Knotty Yoga v2.0. We have been building towards many of these changes for a couple of months but everything will come together for January 2016. The general theme is to shift the studio to better serve the core demographics of people serious about fitness, aerial acrobatics enthusiasts, and people who want to be partner acrobatics ninjas. Here is a summary of the changes:

  • No more punch cards
  • Limited drop-in
  • Fitness requirements for acro
  • Acro Crew as a Membership / New Teachers
  • Expansion of Aerial Crew / Beginner Aerial Crew

No More Punch Cards

We stopped selling punch cards in September. Punch cards have a three month expiration date so we can proceed forward as an entirely membership based studio in 2016. While the flexibility of punch cards is nice in theory, we have come to the conclusion that we really aren’t interested in students who don’t attend at least two classes a week. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, but the simplest is that people who attend at least three Knotty Yoga classes a week for a year get in great shape. Anyone who has attended the studio for a year should be in amazing shape. Making memberships the only option will enforce this.

Limited Drop-In

When the studio opened, we allowed a new person to drop in to any class. One of the reasons for creating Knotty Yoga Acro Crew and Knotty Yoga Aerial Crew was to not have new people dropping into higher skill classes. As things have progressed, it’s become clear that most of the classes are higher skill classes that shouldn’t have drop-in people attending. It’s an enormous distraction for the regular attending students. Going forward, the only classes that will allow drop-in are, Saturday 10-11am Knotty Yoga and Wednesday 6-7pm Knotty Yoga. All acro, aerial, Circus Circuit, and the other Knotty Yoga classes will be membership only. New people can get started at one of these two classes or by attending one of the regularly schedule New Member Orientations and buying a membership.

Fitness Requirements for Acro

We split things at the studio into conditioning (Knotty Yoga & Circus Circuit) and skill (partner acro and aerial classes). This helps with schedule flexibility and lets people hopefully go hog wild on conditioning, but the downside is that some people just want to attend the skill classes without doing conditioning. The skill classes aren’t for getting in shape and if you are not well conditioned, you should solve that issue before attending the skill classes. To enforce this for partner acro, we will have the following attendance requirements for attending ANY partner acro class:

  • Able to do ten on feet not knees, arms bent to 90 degrees consecutive strict form pushups
  • Able to hold a tripod headstand in the center of the room for twenty seconds (flyers only)
  • Hold a belly to the wall handstand with hands within a foot of the wall for thirty seconds (flyers only)

As anyone who does acro can attest, these are extremely minimal fitness requirements and you won’t have much success if you aren’t at this level. I will require all new non-Knotty Yoga Acro Crew people to have a staff member verify your ability to perform these requirements before attending an acro class.

Acro Crew as a Membership / New Teachers

Knotty Yoga Acro Crew was created to help raise the level of the studio and force regular attendance. It has been quite successful. With the switch to a membership based studio and no drop-ins at any partner acro class, most of the original reasons for creating Knotty Yoga Acro Crew are now gone. Starting in January, I will switch Knotty Yoga Acro Crew to a membership add-on. Instead of having attendance requirements, Knotty Yoga Acro Crew will be a $40 add-on to the basic Knotty Yoga membership (basic membership is $160 so $200 for a Knotty Yoga + Acro Crew membership). The reason for this additional cost is that I’m bringing in two new teachers to teach Knotty Yoga Acro Crew only classes. People on a regular Knotty Yoga membership will only be able to attend the following partner acrobatics classes:

  • Monday 7-8pm
  • Thursday 7-8pm

Knotty Yoga Acro Crew members can attend:

  • Sunday 10am-noon (Orville Zharoff)
  • Monday 7-9pm (8-9pm is standing acro with Eric Blood)
  • Thursday 7-9pm
  • Saturday 10am-noon

The crown jewel of Knotty Yoga Acro Crew will be the new two hour, Knotty Yoga Acro Crew exclusive Sunday 10am-noon class with master acrobat Orville Zharoff. Here is Orville’s bio:

Orville grew up up on Kodiak Island, and worked in commercial fishing in Bristol Bay; the only thing that comes close to being as challenging to the Alaskan fishing life has been circus arts.  Through years of practice Orville has achieved skills in tumbling, juggling, and partner movements.  Polishing those skills and teaching circus arts have been a fun way of applying his nearly limitless energy. Orville’s experiences include cheerleading, Dance Drill Teams, performing and choreographing with Swing Dance and Ballroom Dance troupes, and teaching partner dances and partner movements for over 14 years.  His current passion is practicing Acro.

I’m also thrilled to have Eric Blood (Carnegie Mellon and NASA alumni) teaching standing acrobatics on Monday nights. It’s been amazing to have a room full of people at the studio doing standing hand to hand, croc, and shoulder stands each week. The partner acro level of the studio keeps leveling up and these changes will take it to the next level.

Expansion of Aerial Crew / Beginner Aerial Crew

It’s been a pleasure having Lauren Kettner teaching Knotty Yoga Aerial Crew classes Wednesday nights (6-7pm Fabric, 7-8pm Sling, and 8-9pm Directed Study). By having a separate membership and fitness requirements, we have a highly consistent crew that rapidly progresses. We would like to grow Knotty Yoga Aerial Crew and make it more accessible. We will be adding Aerial Crew Basics with Lauren Kettner on Friday nights from 6-8pm starting in January. This two hour class will be open to all Knotty Yoga Aerial Crew students (+$40 add-on to your Knotty Yoga membership each month), but the focus will be on beginning material on sling, fabric, and hoop as well as an extreme focus on conditioning. We will also be adding another open gym class. Here is the Knotty Yoga Aerial schedule for all Knotty Yoga Aerial Crew members:

  • Sunday noon-2pm Open Gym / Circus Circuit with Mark Libertus
  • Tuesday 7-9pm Open Gym / Circus Circuit with Mark Libertus
  • Thursday noon-1pm Aerial Fabric with Natasha Hawthorne
  • Wednesday 8-9pm Directed Study with Lauren Kettner
  • Friday 6-8pm Aerial Fundamentals with Lauren Kettner

Intermediate students who have been tested and can do two pullups and two consecutive straddle climbs in the air can also attend:

  • Wednesday 6-7pm Intermediate Fabric with Lauren Kettner
  • Wednesday 7-8pm Intermediate Sling with Lauren Kettner
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Poco Bueno in the New Year!

Poco Bueno in the New Year!

Poco bueno is Spanish and translates roughly as less and better. My first aerial teacher, Lara Paxton, regularly told us this and I still think of it often to this day. It’s normal for people to plot out New Year’s resolutions this time of year and it is, unfortunately, even more common for these New Year’s resolutions to fail. Poco Bueno is the key to New Year’s success. A best practice would be to think of it as New Year’s resolution without the s.

If you say, I want to learn Spanish, lose twenty pounds, go back to school, and start doing yoga for New Year’s resolutions, you are less likely to still be doing any of these come Groundhog Day than if you had just picked one. By picking one thing and truly going after it with gusto, you will be far more likely to succeed.

This is my suggestion for people thinking of joining or recommitting to Knotty Yoga for the New Year. Make a one hour, three day a week commitment and stick to it religiously for two months and then reevaluate. If you don’t have time to make that minimum three hour commitment a week (remember that there are 168 hours in a week), then you shouldn’t bother. The only way to do it, is to do it. If you live an hour away, you won’t stick with it. If you already have a Zumba, crossfit, rock climbing gym, yoga studio, pole dancing, and running club membership, you won’t have space on your dance card either.

I routinely get sad that I don’t have the time, money, and energy to do all of the things. However, I have learned to avoid the temptation to continually chase the next new and shiny object. People who do a million things poorly and nothing well annoy me and I have no interest in being one. I’d rather achieve a high level of proficiency in a few things. In general, I know that adding something new to my life means that I’d need to let something else, or two, go so I’m careful with what I commit to. This is despite finding many things highly intriguing. For instance, I used to be a very good skier and rock climber but I gave them up for yoga and circus. I think fondly of both but I have neither the time nor interest to train enough to do either one well and have zero desire in doing them poorly given my respect for both sports.

My suggestion is to set yourself up for success. Find something that you really like, that is logistically convenient (or that you know will be worth the hassle), and that you can afford enough to do on a regular basis and really throw yourself into it. There is very little that you will advance at doing just one day a week and there are few things that people will stick with if they don’t see improvement. If you love something but can’t afford it, don’t torture yourself. If you’ve found a class you really like, but it’s an hour away and you know you will have a hard time dragging yourself there after a long day at work, find something else. Be realistic and find something that works with your life now.

The same goes with your actual training. In aerial especially and acro to a degree, there are a lot of “trick whores.” These are people who just want to learn more things even though they really can’t do the ones that they already have started working on with any level of competency. Poco bueno! Do less, but do it better! Training should include a mix of maintaining your base, improving the things that you can do somewhat but could get better, and slowly and carefully introducing new things to your vocabulary.

For those who take this to heart, I’d love to welcome you to Knotty Yoga for 2016. If you do three Knotty Yoga classes a week for six months, I can promise you will see a rapid increase in your fitness and athletic abilities. After a couple of months (depending on your fitness level), we have both an aerial and acro program you can add to the mix as well, but Knotty Yoga is where to start. If Knotty Yoga isn’t your thing then I hope what you find what is but take the concept of poco bueno with you in your activity of choice to improve your effectiveness wherever your passions might be

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Aging Gracefully

Aging Gracefully

When people think about what determines what their body looks like, they tend to rank exercise at or near the top of the list. The reality is that it is pretty low on the list. Gender is the most significant followed genetics and age. Of the things that you have control over, diet has a bigger impact than exercise. Age is the interesting one because we can’t control it like diet or exercise, but it isn’t a constant like gender or our DNA. Aging can’t be stopped but that doesn’t mean people should give up on leading a healthy lifestyle. Through proper care, people can stay highly functional and active as they age.

I had a really interesting case several years ago after I finished a lot of massage training. I had a client in her 70s who was extremely wealthy and wanted to hire me five to six hours a week for a mix of one on one training and massage. At the beginning, she was dealing with a lot of chronic pain and age related deterioration even though she was in decent shape and health for a woman her age.

My initial concern was getting rid of the pain and increasing her physical ability. Over a couple of months, we worked through the assorted issues until all of her initial ones were gone. I assumed that once these issues were managed, she would want to scale back to a more normal amount of time with me but, if anything, she wanted to do more. At that point, we moved from solving body aches and pains to working towards fairly aggressive flexibility and strength goals. Pretty soon she could do the splits, do a dozen rope climbs, double digit pullups, and aerial skills.

It was interesting because she had essentially become a high level athlete with a body that a 25yo woman would happily take as her own. She had a sister who was within a couple of years of her age who she talked about as elderly, barely mobile, and not long for this world. The contrast was crazy.

It was interesting to me that if someone has several thousand dollars a month to spend of self-care, a ton of time, the desire to train hard, and had always eaten healthy and kept fit their whole life, they could be in amazing shape in their 70s. Obviously, very few people have the resources, time, or priorities to make this happen, but it’s cool to know that it can be done. Even at 40, it’s weird to think how much more I could accomplish athletically if I could have someone of my bodywork abilities do several hours of work on me a week. This is what separates professional athletes from common folk.

Given that most of us don’t have the luxury of that much self-care, the next step is finding a compromise. In engineering, we generally look for the 80/20 principle when the optimal solution is quite expensive and unrealistic. This is something that gets you 80 percent of the benefit of the optimal solution for 20 percent of the effort. The lowest hanging fruit here is to never get badly out of shape. Whereas a person can slack off for periods (or years) in their 20s and bounce back into top shape quickly, it gets much harder as we age.

The easiest way to do that is to find something you love so that exercise isn’t a chore and something that is well thought out, safe, well balanced, and holistic so that you avoid injury. Boredom and injury are generally what keep people away from fitness. Another way to achieve success in a healthy lifestyle is to not do it alone. By making things social and becoming part of a community, it is easier to stay engaged, not lose interest, and refrain from blowing off workouts when not at peak form.

When you are young, you can run a marathon, bench press a small car, and climb a mountain, only to get a good night’s sleep to recover and shake it off. As we age, our self-care routine becomes as important as exercise itself. The two blend together and become an integral unit that we can call “training.” Stretching, yoga, massage, foam rolling, posture, and balanced workouts all factor in to keeping you at optimal health. My general thought on this kind of stuff is that a little bit every day is better than doing a lot once a week or once a month. For instance, foam rolling five minutes a day is generally going to produce way better results than an hour massage once a month. If you are in a relationship or even if you just have a solid training partner, learning a set of partner stretches and massage techniques to do together daily will yield amazing long term results.

I have multiple female students over 50 who can do several pullups. I am way more proud of them than I am of my 20 something guys who can pull off far beefier acts of strength because I appreciate how much harder they have to work to get far more meager results than those who are younger (or have Y chromosomes). I cherish my students who are more interested in being strong and seeing what their body is capable of rather than focus on looks and fretting about age. My goal is to help people to better understand their bodies and what they are capable of with their body today with an eye on what their body will be able to do tomorrow.

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Punch cards must die!


Punch Cards Must Die!

Flexibility is a wonderful thing. A stunning split or a deep backbend can be beautiful. As anyone who has strained a hamstring can tell you, working too hard to be flexible can be a bad thing. In particular, I have found that being excessively flexible with pricing and student commitment leads to results that are as enjoyable as a pulled muscle.

For the first four years of the studio’s existence, I have sold punch cards. Punch cards have a three month expiration on them and I decided to stop selling them at the end of September. That means the last punch cards sold will expire at the end of December, 2015. This means that we will start 2016 as a membership only studio.

Most aerial programs feature something like signing up for eight to twelve weeks of classes. This class slot is generally one time a week, ninety minutes to two hours, and you pay up front. You basically shell out several hundred dollars to commit to Tuesdays 7-9pm for the next two to three months. There are a number of problems with this.

One time a week isn’t enough to make any kind of real progress in acrobatics or fitness. It’s also not particularly flexible if you can’t always make that time slot happen,  you waste a lot of money and your glacial rate of progress will be even worse. Shelling out several hundred dollars upfront also kind of sucks if you aren’t swimming in cash.

Punch cards and unlimited memberships were my solution to these issues as well as a fairly large class schedule that people could pick from. What I have found is that my unlimited people flourish and make rapid progress. The punch card people really don’t make any progress and are a distraction in class.

There is a mindset shift between the two payment policies. People who buy a punch card only came on the days that the planets align and they feel like they are going to get a maximal workout since they don’t want to come and “waste a punch” on a day that they might be feeling off. Unlimited people come all the time and tend to do multiple classes to get the best return on their investment.

People don’t become fitness all-stars based on their “on-days.” What separates athletes from wannabes is pushing through and working out anyway on those days that you are a little tired, in a bad mood, and not feeling your best. My unlimited students still come on these days whereas the punch card people Netflix and chill.

Having strived for a long time to grow the student base as much as possible, I’ve realized I’d rather just have a smaller, dedicated student base. I only want success stories. This really is more about building a community and a fitness family and that’s really only achieved by regular attending students who make the commitment to attending the studio three times a week or more. Unless someone is doing something like eating their weight in cookie dough each week, I can pretty much guarantee success for people who come to the studio three or more times a week.

The focus on 2016 will also be on results. We have very exciting plans for partner acrobatics, Knotty Yoga, aerial, and stretching / massage. New people and minimally committed people are a distraction of energy from these results. New people who are committing to regular attendance are a worthwhile investment since they will get better quickly but people who attend four classes a month or less are just distracting attention from the students that make the studio so special. This is even more so in the skilled classes like the aerial and partner acrobatics classes. There is nothing worse as a teacher than having a partner acrobatics class with ten high level students who come several times a week and then that one random punch card person who shows up once every other month.

So goodbye punch cards… it’s been real. As part of this change, I am going to stop allowing drop-in / new students at any of the partner acrobatics and circus circuit classes. In fact, the only classes that will allow drop-in will be Wed 6-7pm Knotty Yoga and Saturday 10-11am Knotty Yoga. This is to reflect that the encouraged model for joining the studio will be to attend a New Member Orientation and then buying an unlimited membership at the orientation. Existing punch card holders, by all means come by in December to use up your punch card and hopefully decide to up your level of studio commitment :)

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Baby on Board

I was having lunch with the owner of another circus school with a much higher percentage of female students and we were discussing student attrition. She commented that the biggest reason for her losing students was them “getting knocked up.” I haven’t lost many students to child birth but am aware that the bulk of my students are single and without kids. I do highly value and respect my students with children who make fitness a priority.

Having lost many friends to kids, I’m kind of surprised how many people use kids as an excuse not to do anything. The thing that is weird to me is that this wasn’t the case for me growing up. My mom would decide she wanted to do something and tell my sister and me that we had twenty minutes to pack up our stuff and get ready to leave. We were constantly going places and doing interesting, active things. My sister and I being difficult or causing my parents to slow down and not be able to do things “because of the kids” was never an option.

I was able to contract Dan Savage to come and speak at Microsoft for National Coming Out Day. He fielded a lot of questions and one that really stood out to me was, “what advice would you give for parents?” He responded that he and his husband have always believed that “kids should go along for the ride and not be the ride.”

This was my experience growing up. My dad played on a softball team and was in a racquetball league. My mom also played sports, worked out often, and would substitute teach fitness classes. We would regularly go on hikes, bike rides, camping trips, and did a lot of activities ourselves. Out of shape parents enrolling kids in sports and fitness programs and not doing anything for themselves is about as sincere as parents dropping kids off at church and then heading to a bar. It just sends an incomplete and hypocritical message that kids see right through. It also says that fitness isn’t a priority and is something that will be cast aside when life gets busy.

Growing up in Utah, it was weird seeing how many women in particular had a large number of children, were morbidly obese, and battling health issues as well as depression. If I didn’t get an education, have any professional success, and spent years living for others as my health deteriorated to the point that just walking was difficult, I’d probably be clinically depressed too.

Even though my percentage of clients who have kids is low, I have enormous respect for the ones with kids. The people I admire the most in life are those who are able to keep things in balance. Just like it’s hard for me to respect a workaholic who sacrifices their health and sanity for their job or an amazing athlete who is unable to maintain relationships and a career, I think it’s bad for both parent and child if the parent doesn’t have friends, hobbies, or take care of their health.

We aren’t salmon who die right after spawning. I think it is important for parents to lead by example and take care of their bodies. It’s nice for kids to have strong, healthy, active parents who can keep up with them and stick around long into adulthood. As the number of people electing to have kids continues to decline, it sends a good message to children that you can be a parent, have a career, have friends, and still be attractive and athletic. I love having older students about whom everyone says, “I want to be like her at her age,” instead of being the type of parent that children are afraid of turning into.

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