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Returning to Circus Training: check out these graphs

Below are the images, slides and links from my talk about returning to circus training after a Four. Month. Break. This rest was not a fun four month sabbatical kind of break but more of a high stress, low movement, socially isolated and poor nutrition kind of pause. A break this big requires a very gradual easing back into training. How do I know this? Australian Institute of Sport and Rowing Australia have done the retrospective data analysis and mathematical modelling for us and a little further down you will see how the NFL learned their lessons the hard way.

This first graph from Rowing Australia shows that if an (elite) athlete takes two weeks off training but trains at 40% during their break then when they return they will then spend almost three weeks ramping (gradually progressing their load back up again). If they took 4 weeks off (yellow line) and did 20% (perhaps a day or two of exercise a week) then if we draw a line upwards from the 20% mark we hit 5 weeks of ramping. Luckily the athletes we will be coaching are recreational. This means that the standards of strength and endurance required to return to are not as superhuman as these Australian rowers. The point of this graph though for anyone returning to exercise is - the more time off that you have had and the more deconditioned you are the more gradual the ramping process needs to be.

The next graph from Australian Institute of Sport helps us think about how to plan a periodised class. It helps us think about the people coming in to the class/ the context - how have they coped in the past with return after break?; Has anyone had COVID? Do they pick up skills and strength quickly? How many years have they been in circus? Do they naturally build muscle? Have they had access to circus equipment over their break? How hard was their lockdown? How open, conscientious, extroverted, agreeable and neurotic are they?

During the class we are teaching the whole person (that includes all of the physical and emotional baggage they bring with them). That person experiences exertion throughout the class and, if we've pitched the session right, they adapt and get stronger and better and ready for the next session. If they are exhausted, lose form, feel shaky/unwell then they've pushed it too hard and we need to revise our class plan.

Here is an example of retrospective data analysis from the NFL As you can see from the graph, after a three month break the athletes went straight in to an intensive preseason training camp which resulted in far too many career ending achilles injuries.

What does this mean for circus? Circus specific movements with a high injury burden need to be avoided to start with. Appreciate that people are transitioning from conditioning at home to using equipment again.This means it might be a good idea to start with far more ground based choreography incorporating the equipment. If a routine with 10 elements is what you'd usually aim to work through in a class, aim now for five elements with focus on transitions between movements.