Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. These are just some basic guidelines to follow regarding pain & bruising in aerial and pole that I’ve picked up along the way. If you’re experiencing pain from training, you might need to see a qualified medical professional.
Pain: Good or Bad?
I’ve often heard “pain is growth”. Personally I think pain is often just pain, but growth does sometimes require discomfort. It’s crucial to be able to tell the difference between the two. Similarly, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” doesn’t hold true if you permanently injure yourself when pushing too hard.
Generally speaking, the types of pain you must avoid and prevent are joint pain and nerve pain. I won’t delve too much into these due to my lack of expertise. If you’re feeling pain in your joints during movement, you should stop whatever movement you are doing and avoid it. Most common areas of danger are knees and wrists. If you’re feeling the pain even when not moving, it might be time to seek professional advice.
To give a specific example: knees are hinge joints, meaning they are only meant to go forward and back. If you try to force them sideways to get into lotus position, you can cause permanent problems.
An example of nerve pain might be when you pinch a nerve on aerial equipment. You should come down and avoid whatever put you in that position. Again, if the pain continues after the movement stop, talk to a professional.
On the other hand, the two types of pain that are expected and to an extent unavoidable, and are muscle pain and skin pain. To be clear, I’m not talking about tearing muscles and skin; that is not okay. If it’s happening to you, once again reconsider what you’re doing and talk to someone qualified.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is what you likely feel 1-3 days after exercise that your body is not used too. If you stick to a workout regime, your body will get used to it and you will get less DOMS. It’s inconvenient because it can make moving and training harder for the duration, but it passes quickly enough that it shouldn’t be a major issue. Various tips I’ve heard on this topic are:
- stretch and foam roll after training (or get a massage if that is an option…)
- eat enough protein
- get enough rest
- move at least a little bit on subsequent days (or the muscles will feel even stiffer)
- take a bath (some people suggest Epsom salts, but as far as I know there’s no evidence for it. They can make the bath feel nicer though)
You can usually tell you’re going to be sore when you push yourself pretty hard during exercise.
Bruises and Callouses
A different type of pain you might encounter if you do aerials and pole is caused by friction, which can result in skin burn or bruises. Skin burn is more likely on rope and silks, especially if you’re not dressed appropriately. Covering up as much skin as possible usually helps.
On hard apparatus like hoop, you know you’re going to bruise when you’re hanging off a softer body part. The pressure will feel like a too deep tissue massage. On soft materials such as silks, it often occurs when you wrap yourself in them very tightly. For me, bruises take about two weeks to disappear, but your mileage may vary. Most common places for them are legs, especially backs of the knees and upper thighs. Some people might wonder if everything is okay with you and your home life. You can try to cover them up with concealer or clothes, but I don’t know how much that helps. I’ve had one physical therapist immediately recognize them as aerial bruises though.
If you try regularly, those areas will gradually become less sensitive. You will bruise less and find the moves easier to perform. It’s fine to keep doing aerial with bruises, as long as you don’t feel too much pain (I personally don’t notice a difference).
Similarly, you will develop hand calluses if you require grip strength anywhere. This includes calisthenics, pole and aerials. You can fight this by using a lot of hand cream regularly after practice (not before, or your grip will be slippery…). It may be a losing battle though, and they can also have benefits – less pain and sensitivity during training can be a pretty good thing.