Prior to this year I had never taken a live online workout class. My favourite fitness is aerial training, which can be very dangerous without an experienced coach or spotter present. Then suddenly, like so many over the last year, I was signing up for zoom, along with downloading apps for other systems, learning about the difference between synchronous and asynchronous training and working out 5 days a week through a computer camera — I even wrote a post about my awesome circus community group!
Life has shifted over the months, and right now I’m taking formal online flexibility and conditioning classes. My instructor Diann Gonzalez (www.hooparista.com) is a professional circus performer, originally from Mexico, trained in Montreal, who has worked literally around the world (Cirque du Soleil at Sea was a cruise ship). Currently based in Italy, she is teaching classes to students across the globe. Too bad I suck at languages, because it’s an incredible chance to practice English, Spanish, Italian, French, German and probably a few others with native speakers.
With all this live on camera workout time, I’ve noticed myself becoming increasingly self-conscious about what I look like during workouts. Finding myself repositioning the yoga mat mid-class to avoid straddling directly in line with the camera and worrying about my cleavage. With no rigid internal structure of its own, breast tissue, inversion, plus gravity has a predictable effect. Ask anyone with larger breasts how they feel about plough pose! 7 years of aerial and handstand training have given me a great deal of expertise in finding sports bras that keep those body parts contained when upside down, but even when there is nothing physically escaping, that doesn’t mean physics doesn’t try its best resulting in significant amounts of (you guessed it) cleavage.
…Notice how I’m cracking jokes even as I write to mask my embarrassment.
Last week I was having a particularly self-conscious day and chose a t-shirt for class rather than my usual tank top. By end of class I was staring at two giant pit stains and remembered why the bulk of my workout wardrobe are tank tops. Aerial work brings multiple performance requirements to clothing, with cleavage coverage falling low on the list once I had the right sports bras. No zippers that could snag on fabric, close fitting to prevent tangling with equipment, preferably made of material that doesn’t slide too much against the equipment, high waist on the leggings plus tank tops specifically purchased for their ability to tuck into the pants in order to protect sensitive belly skin from friction burns. Once an article of clothing has met all these requirements, I don’t even notice the neckline.
I once had a terrifying moment once when the costume sequins on my arm tangled with fishnets on my legs while hanging from my bare hands, upside-down in the splits, 15 ft in the air. Thankfully there were others around to help me get down safely. …You can now see why most circus costumes are essentially tricked out unitards.
Except for writing this article, I doubt I’ll do anything about the cleavage “problem”. Purchasing new clothes specifically to hide part of my body for working out on zoom feels wasteful and in conflict with my own feminist ideals. I will continue repositioning the yoga mat though especially when the session is being recorded. Does anyone else have new issues with exercising online or conflicts with your workout clothes in non-pandemic life? Leave a comment below and tell me about it!
Renee Frigault is a professional engineer and recreational aerialist. She lives, works and trains in Toronto,ON.