But now I’m on my way back to Beijing and I’m excited to get back to training. My first week or so in Beijing was un-impressive, with regards to my school. I wasn’t allowed to move in when I had planned on, and once I moved in I wasn’t able to start training for logistical reasons that seem to be half made-up. Then, my second day of training, two of my three coaches weren’t there. However, since then I have come to truly love training! To put it simply, the administrative side of the school is a mess (and I haven’t gone one week without getting extremely frustrated with one complication or another) but the coaches are lovely and the training is intense!
Let me give you a look at my schedule so you can have an idea of what it’s like:
We warm up on our own, and then the pushing begins! The first few days I had a coach stretch me it felt horrifying, but now my body has adjusted it and I’ve come to really appreciate it. Not that it doesn’t still hurt (because yes! It does!) but I can feel that it’s really increasing my flexibility and I trust that they know what they’re doing.
I have two different handstand classes every day; in the morning we focus on two-arm handstands and in the afternoon we do one-arm drills. The style here is very focused on conditioning and endurance; there is little attention to form and we don’t’ drill any shapes other than the straight basic one. I was a little bit frustrated by this at first, but now I’ve come to appreciate it. I can keep myself accountable for technique and it will give me a great base of strength. The next two handbalancing coaches I will be working with in my travels are extremely technique-focused, so I’m viewing this chapter as a way to get strength and endurance so I will be ready for them to come in and fine tune it all.
10:30-11:30 Aerial hoop
I’ve never been particularly drawn to aerial hoop, but it is the only aerial apparatus they offer and I decided to take it to keep up my aerial strength and to learn another discipline. I’ve really been enjoying it – it feels much more playful than handstand training and (when I have enough energy) it feels like childlike fun! However, now that I’ve been at the school for a month, I’m thinking about switching out of my aerial hoop class and adding another hour of handstands. Handbalancing is my focus and I never have enough time to get through all of the drills my coach and I want to. Also, the Chinese don’t do a lot of aerial and my aerial hoop coaches’ have a limited vocabulary of tricks. I’ve learned their set sequences already and could easily train it on my own during lunch… I haven’t decided yet, though.
11:30-2:30 Lunch break
I’m not quite sure why the school thought a three-hour lunch break was necessary, but we all appreciate it and take advantage of the opportunity to nap! Really, I think that all of the international students make a daily tradition of napping… The days that I skip a nap I notice it in my energy, and also in my stiff and sore muscles – I think it is good recovery time.
If I switch out of my morning aerial hoop class, I will just take a 2-hour lunch break and independently do hoop from 1:30-2:30
In this second class my coach has me focusing on one-arms. When we first started this arrangement, she had me just holding endurance one-arms on one arm, then the other, back and forth for an hour. I’ve asked her for some other drills and now we do endurance one-arms with her spotting me, one-arm drills with me on my own balance, and sometimes a few different body shapes. I have so much fun in these classes. My coach is really light-hearted and friendly, and she is willing to work with tricks that she can tell I want. She gets enthusiastic about things if I am enthusiastic about it.
3:30-4:30 Bounce Juggling
This is the only class I have where there are also Chinese kids present, and these Chinese students are incredible! They are all juggling 7 or 9 balls and then will do that while standing on someone else’s back while that person is in a handstands, or while arching over backwards. The coach for juggling is a character – he has a shaved head and smells of cigarettes, is pretty stoic, but then he will get so excited about juggling! It’s clear that he really loves it. He is also the most demanding of the coaches, which I appreciate. Whereas the other coaches will take their cues off of us and let us rest more if we are tired that day, this coach treats us more in the way he coaches the Chinese students. Once I went to grab a ball that had rolled away and I paused for a moment watching a contortionist train in the other room. He noticed my 15-second pause and barked over to me to get back to training. The other Western student and I are scolded if we are chatting in class; in fact, the very first Chinese phrase I learned by sheer repetition was “more training!”
6ish – 9ish: Evening Training
After dinner and a short rest, most of the foreign students go back to the training room for some open gym time. I’m using this time to fill in the gaps in my handstand training of the day (like I said: we never have enough time to get to everything!) and do some contortion training as well. My back is feeling much better. There is still a small amount of passive pain, but I’m back in training contortion and it feels great to be able to do that again.
After one month here, I do feel progress. I’m juggling five balls, learned a whole new vocab on aerial hoop and my oversplits are improving. It’s harder to feel improvement in handstands, since progress is more subtle, but I am holding my handstands for thirty more seconds than when I arrived and I’m slowly adding more reps to the conditioning drills we do.
All in all, I’m really enjoying it! Every day I return back to my dorm exhausted, but happy. I spend every class happy to be there. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity, and even when the training is painful or frustrating, I still find it truly fun.