Fitness can be fun

If jogging or going to the gym fills you with dread, there are many ways to keep in shape that are creative and enjoyable – as two nurses from Sydney Children’s Hospital discovered.

High flyer

Each week for around two hours, Stephanie Quigley, RN at Sydney Children’s Hospital, flies through the air on a trapeze, throwing in a somersault or two, before being caught on the other side by her wrists. And she loves every moment of it.

‘I love the adrenaline rush because you’re high up and it can get quite fast,’ she says. ‘It takes your mind off things and is a good escape.’

Stephanie did her first class at Sydney Trapeze School in St Peters a year ago and was immediately hooked. In just 12 months she’s learned a series of tricks and is now considered to be at intermediate standard.

But while flying trapeze is a great way to build up strength and fitness, it isn’t Stephanie’s main reason for going.

‘I don’t like fitness,’ she confesses. ‘I hate the gym. Because trapeze is fun you’re not thinking about an exercise, you are just having fun and flying through the air. One of my best friends goes with me but we have met heaps of people there and now we are doing a performance class. It’s the same 10 people each week for 10 weeks and we put on a show at the studio for family and friends.’

If you think flying through the air on a trapeze sounds daunting, or an activity only for fit young people, think again.

‘You don’t need to have a certain level of fitness when you start – they start you on simpler things,’ says Stephanie. ‘There is an old man of 73 who goes. It’s very mixed in age and gender – you have to be over four and that’s it.

‘There’s an older woman who came to class and if you’re not as flexible it’s harder to do it as quickly as someone who is flexible. It took this woman seven weeks of one lesson a week to get the trick but she loved it that much that she didn’t care and she got better each week.’

Not only do you not have to be fit or flexible to start with, flying trapeze can actually help some health problems – as Stephanie’s friend found out. ‘One of my friends who goes has scoliosis and she found she’s not going to the chiropractor anymore because the gravity of hanging from your hands is stretching out your back, and her back has really benefited from it,’ says Stephanie.

And despite her not being into fitness, Stephanie has noticed a distinct improvement in her wellbeing since doing trapeze. ‘I haven’t been sick lately – no coughs and colds.’

So enthralled was she by the adrenaline rush of flying through the air at high speed that Stephanie decided it was only fair to share the fun, so she organised a local ward day out to the studio.

‘About10 or 11 of us went along, including two doctors. They really enjoyed it. In fact, the two doctors have started going regularly. We had a lot of fun and everyone had the giggles. When it’s your first time and you’re up that high, you make funny noises – people squeal; everyone does funny things when they’re up there. You get to see colleagues out of context and having fun!’

Capoiera: Mixing sport and culture

Frances Usherwood, CNS at Sydney Children’s Hospital, took up Capoiera in March this year.

‘Capoiera is a Brazilian martial art,’ she explains. ‘It’s generally non-contact and more like a dance. It came from the African slaves brought to Brazil by the Portuguese. They had to mainly use their feet as their hands were tied. Then it became illegal to practise it until the 1920s, so to hide it the slaves turned it into a dance. They still trained and learned to perform the lethal martial art but presented it as a folk dance.’

Frances attends the Capoiera Aruanda school, which runs classes in Broadway and Coogee, three times a week where she is taught by Contra Mestre Borracha.

In just a few months she’s seen her fitness and flexibility improve. ‘There’s lots of acrobatics involved like back flips and cartwheels, which really develops your strength as well as giving you a cardiac workout,’ she says. ‘Doing shift work, it’s really good to have something you can do that makes you feel much healthier.’

In addition to the fitness aspect, being part of the Capoiera community is an important factor for Frances and motivates her to attend classes regularly.

‘As a sport it’s culturally rich and you really become part of a community – in just a few months I know everyone and feel very connected. It’s also a lot of fun. Part of the training is you learn how to play the music and sing the songs. People are getting into zumba and I think it’s for the same reason – there’s music and dancing, and you get better quickly at it.’

Frances enjoys exercising her body and keeping fit – she rides her bike to work and eats healthy food – but it wasn’t always the case.

‘When I first started nursing I got overwhelmed by having a career and working full time, which is exhausting, so I found it quite hard to maintain balance and be motivated to exercise,’ she admits.

Finding an activity that is fun is the best motivator, she advises. ‘I started doing just one Capoiera class a week then did more and more. The most important thing for me was finding something I really enjoyed and that I could become involved in from more than just an exercise element.

‘I went along with my partner, who’d done Capoiera for five years, and that was good. Involving other people is fun – I took a couple of colleagues along and they had a great time. There’s also a couple of other nurses in my class. It’s so nice to be part of the Capoiera community.’