Where it started

A list going round on Facebook, February 2016: "which of these items have you experienced" etc. Some yes, some no, some didn't interest me. However, it put some ideas into my head, and I figured it was time I followed some of my friends in committing them to (virtual) paper. And then trying some of them out. The first challenge was undertaken on 1 March 2016, and I have no intention of ever completing the list: the more I tick off, the more I'll add.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Upside-down in a hamster wheel

This was quite a special and unusual experience. It didn't figure on my original list, for the simple reason I'd never heard of it. Through my connections with the world of circus aerial hooping, I came across this extraordinary activity, and was fascinated to know more: German Wheel.

The basic kit is a construction of two parallel wheels, linked with metal handles and foot straps in various places. The trick is to control the wheel in various ways, from a simple cartwheel to vaulting over the wheel to two-person activities to sitting on the crossbars to one-handed spins... and so on. This video gives you a general flavour.

As far as I can work out, there's only the one group in the UK that offers training in this exciting activity; so I was fortunate that it was at least in East Anglia, at the Kesgrave Sports Centre in Ipswich (albeit almost 2 hours away from me). I'm told that people travel to the weekly sessions from all over the country - one lass was known to drive from Barnsley to Ipswich for a two-hour session and then drive back again...

I was excited to attend a half-day introduction to the activity. The tutors - Anna, James, John and Konrad - were friendly, professional and passionate: a winning combination. They take great care and lots of time with each member of the group, whether total beginner or seasoned acrobat.

It requires a fair level of fitness, and there's an intensive warm up to start with. It's challenging and sometimes painful - the weight on the feet in the straps as one turns upside-down, tightly attached (obviously), results in some bruising; and the use of the arms throughout tests the biceps and triceps to the max. The control of the wheel when you're constantly changing direction takes a lot of concentration - and the potential speed of movement can be scary to the point of nausea.

However, on getting accustomed to all this unusual use of the body, the sense of achievement when one manages a solo cartwheel for the first time - two revolutions down the hall - is pretty extraordinary.

I met some other fabulous people on the day, too - a couple of familiar faces from my 'budgie-hooping' sessions, and others who ranged from beginners like myself to experienced and intrepid wheelers. I made friends with Daniele,whose yoga background made her a natural, and we tried out some joint moves...

This was one of the greatest challenges I've taken on so far.  There have been moments during my Life List where a real stomach-churning fear has floored me initially - but I've usually managed to overcome it. There was the first time I tried breathing through the tube of a snorkel, and through the scuba rig; there was the first leap off a high tree-mounted platform into a cargo net or along a zip wire. The first time I turned upside-down in the German Wheel was one of those - but it was amazing how quickly I got accustomed to it. With practice and experience, I might bring at least a tiny bit more poise and confidence to the activity - although I doubt I'd ever reach the extraordinary heights achieved by experts like the four tutors. (Look up Konrad on YouTube to see what I mean.)

It's a long way for me to travel, but I don't eliminate the possibility of doing it again. The charges for the regular classes are exceptionally reasonable, the people friendly and professional, and the feeling of achievement amazing. Meantime, this was a fabulous and memorable experience that I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Click here for a few photographs of the day

Click here for the full playlist of my short videos

No comments:

Post a Comment