Rachel Grunwell

Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness Challenge: Great new heights

Each week, Rachel Grunwell tries a new fitness challenge to bring you the lowdown

Rachel Grunwell tries out some manoeuvres while getting instructions from Jasmine Papprill.
Rachel Grunwell tries out some manoeuvres while getting instructions from Jasmine Papprill.

Aracnation

What is it? A new training place near Ponsonby, for people who don't mind heights, hanging upside down and monkeying around. It's essentially aerial silks and straps training.

What's needed? Cotton leggings, long-sleeve top, water. Remove jewellery.

The experience: Jasmine Papprill is Spider-woman-like. She's been known to hang material off bridges or large street signs to perform gymnastic-style moves on the fabric in mid-air, entertaining the public.

Now Aucklanders can learn how to do these tricks, too (albeit not off bridges) as she's taking classes through her business, Aracnation -- named after Greek mythology's spider-like creature, Arachne.

Papprill's story is "up-lifting" also. She tells me she's chasing healthy "highs" through her new business, not the alcohol-fuelled kind any more. And this has transformed her.

I've come across a few folk like Papprill lately who have ditched the booze because they believe they're best off it.

Papprill says she used to be a "party animal", drinking on weekends and hitting nightclubs. She wasn't an alcoholic but just like so many Kiwis who love what she calls "social and binge-drinking".

But on January 1, 2012, she woke up "feeling like death warmed up" after a big night and booked herself into a meditation retreat. "I realised alcohol was holding me back," she explains.

She initially gave up drinking for a month but loved the changes so much that she's been teetotal since.

"Giving up alcohol has changed my life," she says.

The 35-year-old former corporate worker says wanting to be a great mum to her 6-year-old son also makes it easy to stick with this decision.

It was about the time she dropped drinking that she asked herself: "What do I really want from my life?"

Recalling what she enjoyed doing as a child, she went through a list, including ballet and jazz dancing, rhythmic gymnastics (she was placed 2nd in Auckland once as a youngster), performing, climbing trees, friends and family, laughing, dressing up and "dreams of flying". She recalled seeing an aerial silks performance and decided "this is it".

Over the past 18 months she has trained at the Auckland Aerial Arts Academy in Pakuranga and the Aerial Artistry Circus School in the Gold Coast, and been coached by the likes of Amy Richardson-Impey, Ebon Grayman, Rebecca Bilyard and Didj Wentworth.

This year, she started Aracnation, which includes three trainers. Their forte is training on material that petticoats are made of.

At the class I trial, I'm among a dozen clients, including a vet nurse, tourism researcher and a man in the Defence Force. We take turns learning things like getting a foot-lock in the material, climbing the fabric, how to secure ourselves in the material up high to do some basic moves and then how to descend the fabric without burning our hands. Slowly.

One of Papprill's favourite moves is "drops", essentially falling in a controlled fashion through strategically placed fabric. And you can see the satisfaction she gets from this: She's beaming.

How much? $220 a term or casual rate $20. Check the website for more details.

Worth it? Papprill is warm and her enthusiasm is infectious. Her classes are great for core and arm strength -- actually it's a full body workout. It's also good for confidence-building.

Try it: Leys Institute Gym, St Marys Rd, St Marys Bay, Auckland, www.aracnation.co.nz

Rating: 9/10.

- Herald on Sunday

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