Five months from now, I’m officially celebrating my fly-nniversary of three years. There’s so much to write about my trapeze life (admittedly my addiction) but I’ll start with the basics.
Today’s topic: How (over the course of years) I took care and still take care of my hands.
When I started flying, I knew that my hands will eventually build up calluses and rip thereafter. I’ve accepted that fact. I was a constant gym visitor before and I’ve done power lifting in the past so I’m well aware that my hands would, over the long haul, turn from a girly to a construction-worker one (no pun intended). It really doesn’t bother me – as long as I’m happy with what I’m doing. Not to mention, my rugged hands help exfoliate and scratch my husband’s back. The only dilemma: I can’t fly if my calluses rip so bad that I’d have to wait for them to heal. That’s the real party pooper.
See, you don’t get calluses overnight – it takes a lot of work to build them and they’re something I’m really proud of. Toughened and just right, they protect my hands from pain and they help me fly often.
On the other hand, rips are battle scars I’ve been used to for quite some time. I don’t really mind if they happen as they are a part of the whole trapeze addiction package. They’ve taught me more about myself than the actual pain I feel when I get them so I wouldn’t trade them for anything. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t need to care for my hands (or your hands for that matter).
Honestly, there aren’t enough sources when it comes to searching “how to care for your trapeze hands”. They’re mostly gymnast rips and how to nurse your rips. But prevention? Not so much. Therefore, I’m listing some tips and tricks I’ve learned that helped me (yes, helps me still) experience the happiness in flying almost every day without ripping as bad as I used to. I hope, in a way, they can help you out.
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. I felt sorry for my hands one too many times forgetting to file my calluses down and end up ripping deep (and resting from flying for a few days until they stop hurting [a bit]).
To lessen callus build up, let me introduce you to my hands’ best friends (when I’m at home): Epsom Salt, Warm Water and Pumice Stone.
I soak my hands for a good thirty minutes in half a cup of Epsom Salt mixed with warm water. Once done, I file them down with a pumice stone. Not only does Epsom Salt help get rid of dry skin (calluses) but they also relieve soreness. A great feeling especially if you just came home from flying. How often? I do this every other day. In addition to that, I’m naturally restless at home so this trick helps me stop and relax – like catch up with TV series backlogs. A good three episodes of Big Bang Theory!
Your hands, by now, have dried up from the callus and chalk build up and countless of times rinsing with alcohol after classes but don’t stop using oil or lotion. I paused moisturizing my hands for a time because I had so much fears ripping more but it was actually the opposite.
You don’t have to lather your hands with lotion flowing like melted butter. Keep it normal. If you put lotion at night, then don’t stop that routine. Calluses are hard but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them softer (just not too much). Hardened calluses hurt in the long run as they press down deeper onto your palms. And as they are dead skin, they tend to crack more. Believe it or not, rips don’t heal faster when they’re super dry too. I put on Jojoba Oil every other night on my body (after a good bath) before heading to bed. Flying often and feeding my skin Vitamin E (particularly my hands) have balanced callus build up. They’re not too soft, not too hard – just about right!
FEED YOUR SKIN
Speaking of feeding your skin with Vitamin E, there are so many sources in the internet that provide information on how to strengthen and make your skin healthy with balanced nourishment.
Drinking water regularly is one of the best ways. Sipping afternoon unsweetened green tea, eating dark chocolates, picking out food rich in Omega-3 (like Salmon, Spinach, Soy beans) are also a few of my favorites. Research, read and apply them when you can. They don’t only help your hands become strong but they also make your body healthy – double treat, right?!
When I started, I used to make tape grips to protect my hands (right before leaving work). After a few weeks in, I moved to using a pair of basic two-hole gymnastic grips. Lately, I interchange flying with and without my two-year old grips (bare hands make me feel the bar better at times). Use grips that are soft enough to protect your hands from the bar. I had to brush out chalk build up from mine because they were too hard, thus pushing the hardened calluses deeper onto my hands.
AVOID OVER GRIPPING
I won’t lie, almost three years into this addiction, I still over grip and calluses still build up on the center of my palms. Don’t fret, it’s natural and everyone goes through it.
I over grip when I’m getting so into a new trick or reviewing old ones. I over grip when I get excited and when I get scared doing a trick out of lines (yes, I still have fears regardless if I went over and above doing it a millions times). Make sure to always put the bar across your fingers and not your palm.
Practice placings your hands correctly onto the bar. Adjust as needed. I usually adjust them when I get that hang time when I fly. Remember, rips that happen on the lines of the palm are the hardest to heal so its best if you don’t get them at all.
Chalk is my best friend. They’re more important to me than my grips (those come second). I can’t remember a time I forgot to apply chalk on my hands and my grips each time I take off the board. I, naturally, have sweaty hands and chalk helps me dry them enough when I fly. Too softened and moist hands while flying, in my experience, cost me more rips. My calluses right below my fingers fold more when my hands are sweaty, thus, a higher tendency of ripping. And though, non-hygienic for some, chalk covers up rips that happen when I’m flying.
In addition to that, I feel more secure as my hands stick to the bar even more. Confession: I have to admit I get to zone in whenever I start putting chalk on my hands – they feel awesome. Get chalk here, there, and everywhere.
DON’T BABY THOSE BOOBOOS
Too much of something is bad. There is truth in that. Nurse your rips but only to some extent.
Rips are a part of flying (whether you like it or not) and some times, no matter how hard you try to prevent them from happening, they will happen. Most times, they happen when you thought you’ve gone past them. They’re there – learn to accept it.
I learned so many ways of washing my hands, taking a bath, shampooing my hair, washing dishes with rips on both my hands – they’re extremely painful but I got used to it. Imagine the palms not touching the surface, just your fingers. Funny. In the end, pain is still mind over matter.
Don’t cover them up, let those rips breathe. They heal faster when they’re not covered with gauze or bandages. Rips are not overly deep that you’d see your bones, so there shouldn’t be a cause for panic. I treat mine (when I get an immediate rip) with Neosporin spray and then at bedtime with Lucas’ Papaw. Also, I cut off excess skin rips with sterilized scissors. I have yet to try New-Skin’s Liquid Bandage, but so far that’s how I’ve been treating them.
Again, go through your normal routine of taking baths, washing your hands, etc. It will heal and – really, hygiene, guys.
RESIST POKING IT
Okay, I poked my rips so many times. I used to put in a needle with a thread and pierce it through a bubbly rip (meaning with water and blood) to dry it up. The thread absorbs water and dries up the rip. Another trick I used to do was to poke it with a needle and let the water ooze out. Gross? Well, if you’ve been flying you’ll find this information like an aha more than an eww.
BUT – RESIST IT!
Let it genuinely burst and/ or allow it to dry on its own. Give the skin time to come off naturally. Though you have means of nursing them with an antibacterial spray or povidine-iodine, leave it alone and it will pop one way or another.
RESIST SHAVING IT
My favorite of them all: Shaving down calluses. I shave them every week and sometimes every other day (because I fly almost everyday). But again, too much is bad. Only shave to some level. Because I over-shaved them, now they’re so deep like the moon’s craters. When they hurt (because they’re super thick), I can no longer shave them. What’s there to do? Nothing, wait for them to normalize and hope not to rip. But why wait for that to happen?
I would suggest to, ever so slightly, shave them only when you need to lessen them on top. And, of course, shave those thick rips perfectly sitting on the lines of your palm. Those calluses on the palm lines prevent rips from disappearing, so I recommended shaving them for it to heal faster.
What do I use to shave them down? Before it was a cutter knife without any handles and then I switched up to a double-edged razor which is super perfect because you can bend them more compared to the former. Pretty hardcore but it works.
It’s a skill you have to learn but NEVER EVER do it without proper assistance.
Ask someone who knows how to do it (like your trapeze instructor).
This is something I’m still learning – every day. If I ever flew with you, you would know that it’s always business up there when I fly. I reckon the time I flew straight for two hours, and mind you – all alone, drilling forward overs until my calluses started ripping and bleeding on my grips one swing after another. And yes, I still didn’t stop, I’m that hard-headed. There was no progress, I kept getting worse every time I get up the board.
See, rips changes things – as you focus more on ignoring it or holding onto the bar for dear life (especially out of lines), you lose attention on what you’re supposed to do. Lose-lose situation there. You wasted precious fly time and you have to pause flying because your bleeding all over your grips, thus leading to a longer healing time. No rest-fly hinders your body enough time to recover too. So if your body tells you to stop, stop. Don’t push it. Believe me, you’ll thank yourself a few days later and you’ll be back flying in no time.
In conclusion (finally), take care of your hands. Not only do you need them for flying (my main priority), but you need them for everyday life (like at home and at work). You can only do so much. Remember (Candy, I’m telling myself as well), don’t abuse them and listen to your body. Drills, tricks are no use if you can’t fly. Have fun!
If you have any tips and tricks different from what I wrote, I want to hear all about them so I can try them too!
Let’s keep on flying!
Love and light,
Sugar Glider aka
Follow my trapeze adventures : #sugargliding
My awesome trapeze school : Flying Trapeze Philippines. Come on, book a class and let’s fly!