On an average night in her weekly circus-arts class -- if the word "average" and "circus-arts class" can reasonably be used in the same sentence -- Anita Kore might walk across a tightrope, spin head over feet in a wheel, stand on top of a large ball and keep her balance, climb far above the floor on long silk sashes and dangle upside down.
It's not what most 50-year-olds expect from a fitness class, but it's a mix that appeals to the St. Paul toxicologist, who finds that the variety of both equipment and workouts have helped improve her strength, flexibility, hand-eye cordination and balance.
"You go from something that requires a lot of strength, like climbing, to something that requires very subtle movements to keep your balance," she said.
Kore started the class six years ago, shortly after losing 100 pounds. She was looking for ways to maintain the weight loss, and heard about Circus Juventas, the circus-arts school in St. Paul. Although most of the school's programs are for children, it also offers classes for adults, taught by coaches who have worked in circuses around the world. She added it to the mix of workouts she performs regularly, and has been "hooked ever since," she said.
Not only has she succeeded in keeping the pounds from creeping back on, she has found herself doing things she never knew she would be able to do.
"You learn to push your own boundaries," she said.
The moves involved in circus arts offer a subtle blend of cardio, muscle and flexibility training, said Dan Butler, founder and executive director of Circus Juventas. "Climbing a rope is one of the greatest physical exercises you can do," Butler said. "You're stretching that muscle as you're building that muscle."
And then there's the benefit that can't be measured by a scale or calipers: the boost of self-assurance that comes from knowing you can swing from a trapeze or walk a tightrope.
"It's kind of neat when someone comments that you look good or are in shape, and you can say, 'Oh, I do circus arts,'" Butler said. "You get those bragging rights."