When it comes to flying trapeze, the hands are arguably the most important (and sometimes most difficult) part of the body to keep healthy. Here in the Dominican Republic, flying is even harder on the hands than in a dryer, cooler climate. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your hands and keep them healthy so you can keep up with your flying!
If you are a first time student flying in your first class, there is no need to worry; your hands will probably feel a little warm and red by the end of your class, but holding a cold drink when you finish will be all you need to fix them! If you plan to fly more regularly, hand care during classes and between classes is important.
First things first: protecting your hands during class. The most important thing you can do when flying to protect your hands (and help you get a better grip on the bar) is to put some chalk on your palms before you take each turn. At Extreme Circus we offer both powdered chalk and home-made liquid chalk. Personally, I prefer liquid chalk because it also contains rosin, which is a sticky substance that makes your hands a bit grippier. Many people who fly frequently also invest in “grips” to wear on their hands when they fly, although some (like me and Fabien) prefer to fly on bare hands. There are many different kinds of grips, but the most often used for trapeze are leather gymnastics grips. Some people prefer to wear palm guard grips, which are leather strips that sit over the center of your palm and go around your middle two or three fingers. More advanced flyers tend to wear dowel grips which are leather strips that go from the wrists all the way to the tops of the two or three middle fingers and have a small plastic cylinder (a dowel) that sits just under the first knuckle and helps the flyer to grip around the bar when they swing very high or throw big tricks. If you plan to fly frequently, but do not have your own grips, you can also make grips out of athletic tape or even rolls of gauze; just ask an instructor to teach you how! These types of homemade grips don’t last as long as leather ones, but they work just as well to protect the hands!
Different kinds of leather grips used for trapeze
Sometimes, if you fly too much, don’t have good hand protection, or have very soft skin on your hands, you can develop a rip. A rip is usually a small round patch of skin that comes off of the palm. In trapeze, we consider these a badge of honor! Although rips can hurt a lot, they are not dangerous and can heal very quickly. Everyone who does trapeze seems to have their own best remedy for fixing a rip, but I’ll tell you what works best for me. First of all, as soon as you rip it is important to clean the open wound and tear off any remaining skin flap. If you want to continue to fly, you can cover the rip with chalk, a bandaid and some tape, but be warned- it does not feel good to fly on a rip! Once class is over, wash your hands with soap and cold water (warm or hot water will hurt!) and try to keep the rip uncovered to get some air for the rest of the day. At night, cover the rip in Vaseline, vitamin E cream, or my favorite product Hand-e-balm (www.handebalm.com), and cover it with a bandaid. For the next few days, it is important to keep the area moist and stretch the skin out so that the skin doesn’t heal tightly then crack open again. With proper care, you can fly on most rips after about a day. Once you do fly again, put lots of chalk over the rip, and cover your hand to help protect the skin. Sometimes instead of rips your hands can develop small blisters or blood blisters. The best way to handle these is to use a sterile needle to drain the blister then cover it before flying on it.
It is also important to maintain healthy hands between fly sessions. If you fly a lot, you will likely develop callouses on your palms and maybe even your fingers. This is actually a good thing for trapeze, as callous is tougher skin that can withstand more flying! However, it is important to maintain smooth callouses that don’t get too big, or else you risk having them tear off when flying. I maintain healthy callouses by using a metal file to file down rough edges in the shower each day. It is also important to moisturize your hands after flying and at night. Using chalk during class tends to dry the skin and make your hands more prone to cracking and ripping. Cocoa butter and vitamin E can work wonders for dry hands! With proper hand care, you will be able to fly as much as you want while you are here on an eXtreme Circus Camp in the Dominican!