We Tried It: Bungee Workout

Emma Frankart Henterly

I'll say this up front: I don't like to exercise. More than that, my entire body conspires to prevent me from getting a good workout. I have exercise-induced asthma, plus bad knees and ankles. A birth defect in my left shoulder restricts me from ever doing a real pullup. Basically, I'm a millennial in a baby boomer's body.

Still, I try to find workouts that fit my weird limitations and are more fun than sitting on a stationary bike for 45 minutes. When a fitness-obsessed friend shared a video of herself flying gracefully through the air suspended by a bungee cord, I immediately sought out the gym: Aerotique Columbus.

It sits just south of the Anheuser-Busch plant, in a small strip of unassuming commercial buildings. Soft tumbling mats cover the floors, and several trapeze bars and bungee lines hang from the ceiling. Aerial silks swoop gracefully among the rafters, tucked away for the time being. Lyra Gray, the owner and instructor at Aerotique, helps me into my harness—similar to a rock-climbing harness, only backwards and with extra padding in the legs—and assigns bungees based on height.

And we're off. My jumps are high, and my falls—of which there are quite a few—are gentle. I imagine the feeling is akin to walking on the moon.

“I think it kind of brings you back to your childhood: swinging on monkey bars, hanging from your knees,” Gray says later. “It's really incredible to provide a space where, whether you're a kid or an adult, you can feel that sensation. I think there's nothing more amazing than that, and it's captivated me my entire life.”

Gray was a gymnast in high school and college, and she opened Aerotique in late January, more than a year after seeing a viral video of another bungee workout class. She discovered the new phenomenon hadn't arrived in Columbus yet—Aerotique is still the only local bungee gym—and she received credentials through a training program near Charlotte, North Carolina.

She has already begun diversifying classes, splitting the bungee workouts into a 45-minute beginner class and an hour-long intermediate one. The regimen is low-impact, perfect for people with joint problems and aging boomers, or those who feel like one.

My hour-long class mixed elements of the beginner and intermediate versions. It wasn't easy. We started slow, with stretches and small moves like modified burpees to get us accustomed to the bungee's elasticity. Within 45 minutes, we were practicing flying leaps, ninja kicks and a pseudo dive that Gray refers to as a plank. I was red-faced and wheezing, but grinning from ear to ear, for much of the class.

Good times aside, a warning: If you bruise easily, you might find a next-day souvenir on your inner thigh area. And like any new workout, you will be sore. Gray assures me that the harness just takes some getting used to, and the discomfort fades with frequency.

“This would not be a successful, rapidly growing workout if every time you did it you were in excruciating pain and had bruises,” she says. “I equate it to riding a bike for a long time, or riding a horse. You get used to it.”

I hope she's right. It sure beats the stationary bike.

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Aerotique Columbus

6665 Singletree Dr., Columbus