Tuesday, February 28, 2017: 7:27 am
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My Fitness INspiration

Bloomington’s Bernadette Pace still flying after nearly 40 years

Jeremy Hogan | INstride Trapeze artist Bernadette Pace practices aerial silks at the Twin Lakes Recreation Center.

» MORE: Photo gallery of Pace

Name: Bernadette Pace

Age: 66

Profession: Flying trapeze and circus arts instructor, retired biochemist, guardian of two granddaughters.

Current physical activities: I fly on the trapeze and do aerial silk because it thrills me. Our High Flyers group flies on the trapeze in my yard almost every day when the weather cooperates (no rain, above 55 degrees). I also work out at the Twin Lakes Recreation Center (the old SportsPlex) about five days a week. I walk two miles, do “conditioning” and stretching for a half hour or so and then do three aerial silk routines. The latter requires much upper body strength and of course, should be done with grace and beauty. I’m about as strong as I’ve ever been, but not as flexible. (I love being strong!) We are currently on an aerial silk act we will be performing with the Columbus, Ind., and Terre Haute Symphony Orchestras.


High flying trapeze: Three people are on the pedestal, and a catcher is on the catch trap. A typical flying session involves warm up swings on the flyer’s trapeze bar, which is suspended between the pedestal and the catcher. The catcher will then get into the “lock” and catch the flyer who is doing a “trick” on the fly bar. After swinging on the catcher, the flyer returns to the bar and then back to the pedestal. In a practice session, the catcher usually catches each flyer five times. Then the next catcher goes up...

Aerial silk: Twenty-five-foot-long double-strand lengths of nylon tricot are suspended from the beams at the Twin Lakes Recreation Center. A typical “silk” session involves extensive warm up (elastic band arm stretches, 60 sit-ups, 25 push-ups, 20 chin-ups, leg lifts, planks, etc.) and stretching. Aerial silk routines are choreographed to music and so every move, from starting until returning to the floor, are done to the beat of the music. There are several different ways to climb and many different moves involving wrapping the fabric around the body or legs and falling and holding poses and rolling up and sliding down. Routines last four to eight minutes, during which you do an equivalent of about 25 chin-ups.

Best lifestyle change: I was not very physically active until my late 20s when I discovered the high flying trapeze at the Denver Central YMCA. I started flying and also running and bicycling at the same time. (The Colorado mountains are great for cycling. The rarefied air leaves you breathless in more ways than one.) Becoming physically active has been a major factor in my life.

Another lifestyle change: In the years following my retirement from biochemistry in 1993, I had the opportunity to fly with different flying groups in addition to the Bloomington High Flyers (the Flying Lunas, the Flying Espana, the Flying Valentines) in Circus Gatti, the Royal Hanneford, Circus Corona and shows in the USA, Puerto Rico and Japan.

Another lifestyle change: I became guardian to my two granddaughters, Isabelle and Carmen, in 2000, then ages 7 and 3. My life is filled with everything concerned with raising children. They are wonderful.

Best accomplishment: I started the Bloomington High Flyers in 1985. Hundreds of people have come to my house and swung on the trapeze. Many young people took part in the 10 big annual summer circuses we had at Harmony School. About then, many in our group started teaching flying trapeze in east coast summer camps. I just finished my 15th summer teaching trapeze and aerial silk at Lake Greeley Camp in Pennsylvania. Since the mid 1990s, the High Flyers have had annual shows at the Waldron Arts Center or the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. We have a faithful local following.

Who inspires you: The people I work out with, Janet French and her daughters, Hannah and Leah, are a constant inspiration for me. I call them the Fabulous Flying Frenches. I taught them everything I knew in about two weeks and they have been patiently teaching me for the last 18 years. They are great choreographers, and help me work on my form and technique. Many wonderful people are or have been High Flyers and they have all enriched my life. I love my catchers, Steve Mascari, Dave Weber and Nick Port!

Health fitness advice: “No pain, no gain” is not my motto. It’s “Easy does it.” Don’t scare yourself. Anything you do is better than nothing. If your exercise program is too rigorous, you won’t want to continue. Don’t try to work out at home. You will stop exercising the first time the phone rings if you manage to get started at all. You need to get out of your house and go to the YMCA or the Twin Lakes Recreation Center or some other gym. The bright lights, known to ease winter depression, and upbeat atmosphere are conducive to exercise. If you have a scheduled workout time or a date to meet friends, you are more likely to stick with the plan. I always feel better and happier after I work out, especially if I wasn’t feeling very good when I started. Talk to the people who run the gym. They can get you started in classes for your fitness level or help you figure out what exercises are right for you. The Nike slogan has it right, “Just do it!”

Jeremy Hogan | INstride High flyer Bernadette Pace, center, Hannah French, left, and Janet French practice their skills.
Jeremy Hogan | INstride High flyer Bernadette Pace is caught by Steve Mascari.

Upcoming fitness/wellness events:
Hoop Yoga Fusion
   Saturday, Mar 11, 2017
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