The Types of Challenges You May Face - Physical

This is continuing on our ‘This is Really Hard!’ series. You can read our other posts Here and here and here

When trying or training dance, aerial or fitness classes, there are many different challenges you may face. It’s important to identify what challenge you are facing so you know how to deal with it. While there are many different issues you may bump into from time to time, let’s break these down into three main pillars: physical, mental and emotional.

Physical Challenges - This looks like many things including strength, flexibility, endurance, pain tolerance, pre-existing injuries, or rehabbing after things such as pregnancy, surgery, car accidents, etc. Physical injuries are generally the easiest to work around because they’re fairly easy to identify or you have information from a health care team to help you rehab. That does not mean this isn’t frustrating.

The reason physical challenges are easy to work around, is that there is something physical you can do to achieve the goal. For example. are you struggling with a split for a hoop, pole or dance move? Take active flexibility classes or work on your flexibility at home. Ta da! Not strong enough to mount the hoop or invert in pole? Take aerial or conditioning classes or strength train outside of the studio. Voila! Think of these physical challenges as a+b=c.

Sometimes the limitation is obvious to the participant (not doing a split), but sometimes it is not. I have heard countless times ‘I should be able to shoulder mount, something is missing.’ It doesn’t matter how many time I gently encourage conditioning, the participant is certain it must be something different. With power moves like that, it really isn’t. If you truly want to identify if where you’re stuck at is a physical limitation, ask your instructor, and ask for recommendations how to overcome it.

As a side note, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not being strong or flexible enough. That’s the story for all of us! Whether you’re a beginner or advanced participant, we can always improve so if you feel this way, welcome to the club! Pole, aerial and dance isn’t easy. We aren’t knitting or drinking tea. It’s challenging, so it’s important to keep the ego in check and expectations realistic.


Another physical challenge is pain tolerance and endurance and of course the first things that come to mind are Barre classes, conditioning classes, and those painful pole and hoop moves. Unfortunately, or fortunately the only way to get better at this is to do it. You won’t get more endurance or tolerate the burn in your legs in Barre by avoiding classes, you won’t get better at sitting on the pole or hanging from your elbow in hoop by not doing it. I realize this is so obvious but apparently it needs to be said. The pole move in the photo, The Batwing, hurts more than I can possibly describe - the smile is the result of exceptional acting skills. The key is to be gentle with yourself and to consistently train over time, don’t overdo it in one practice. If you’re trying to sit on the pole, it’s better to do it a couple times throughout the week, than try sit for a half hour in one practice. These things take time for your body to adapt and tolerate and it won’t get any better if you force or push yourself to injury.

The last of the physical challenges that will be discussed are injuries that occurred previously or as a result of your training, as well as other life experiences that have nothing to do with your training, such as an old shoulder injury from baseball, coming back from pregnancy, surgery, car accidents, etc. All of these have a huge impact on your physical capabilities and it’s important to identify that if you have any of these, your training will be very different from those that don’t. With these types of experiences, you generally have a health care team of physiotherapist, pelvic floor specialist, chiropractor, massage therapist, doctor, surgeon, etc. and in any different combination. These professionals will give you exercises and guidelines for what your body can handle and their advice reigns supreme. It’s very important you follow their health care plan as well as share with your instructors your limitations so you can get back to training safely. This can feel difficult as you may be doing other things in class from everyone else but it’s important to keep in mind that you have one body and it’s not worth having a lifelong injury by training one move when your body isn’t ready or may never be.

Physical challenges are so easy but so hard to deal with. Easy in the way that there are generally very clear steps you can take to move forward (remember a+b=c) but so hard because generally those steps may not be the most glamorous. Doing exercises from your pelvic floor specialist or physiotherapist don’t quite have the same cool factor as accomplishing a move. Staying within your limits in Barre or conditioning classes to get further in the long run doesn’t feel as awesome when everyone else is able to keep lunging and you know you need to take a break. Doing hours extra outside of the studio for strength and flexibility isn’t quite as sparkly as aerial choreography but that’s how it goes. Nobody is owed anything. You must earn it.

If you are stuck at some point and aren’t sure if it’s a physical challenge (most are), talk with your instructor or health care team to find out the appropriate steps to get to your goals and then get to work!

Stay tuned for our next post on the mental challenges you may face!


Sarah Longpre