Aerial workout takes exercise to new heights

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When Jodi Cantonis found the aerial arts nine years ago, she was in an exercise funk.

"I was going to the gym, hated it, didn't want to go anymore," Cantonis remembers.

That first class, she saw the giant "silks" winding up to the ceiling, and she was hooked.

"I remember that I was fascinated with the fabric," Cantonis says. "I remember it was really difficult. I remember it hurting. But, I also remember it being the most amazing thing I've ever tried.

Now the 48-year-old from West Atlanta is a regular at Inspire Aerial Arts in Midtown, learning how to use her body, her strength, to fly.

"The majority of our students have not done anything like this before until they come to us," Kimberly Sende, the studio owner, says. "You have a little bit of a daredevil in you. So, you have to be willing to take risks. You have to be willing to challenge yourself a little.

Sende says they start low and build up from there.

"So, you come in and your first class is going to be, literally, no more than 3 feet off the ground," Sende says. "That is about as high as you're going to go."

As you gain strength and confidence, Sende says, you go higher, climbing towards the studio's 24-foot ceiling on a series of contraptions. 

"So, we've got silks, also called fabrics," she says. "We've got slings, also called hammocks. We've got a giant metal hoop. We've got trapeze."

Sende says she was drawn to this kind of workout because she, too, was bored with the gym.

"And, this was a way for me to work out without knowing I was working out," she says.  "Because you get in here, and your only focus is, 'I don't want to die!'"

Sende is joking, sort of. 

Their classes are small and supervised. But, she says, this is not one of those "half-in" workouts you can do on your cellphone.

Because while there is padding on the floor, just in case, there are no safety nets here.

"So, this is the place where, when you come in, you can only focus on one thing, and that cannot be work." she says.  "It can't be life. It can only be what you are learning today. Because, obviously, your body kicks in and says, 'I need to stay safe.'"

Cantonis says she gets an incredible, full-body workout, and a mental release. In 9 years, she says, she's had her share of ups and downs.

But Cantonis has hung in there because she loves it up here.

"So one of the things that kept me going, is I want to do it!" she says. "I want to be able to get up in the air and be beautiful, and fly!"