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The words “silk” and “hammock” are not typically paired with the word “strength,” but for Kat Martucci, this is not the case.

Martucci owns Napa Aerial Fitness, a business specializing in the acrobatic art of aerial fitness. Martucci and her students work out by getting their feet off the ground, using tools you don’t usually see in your typical gymnasium.

Suspended from a high ceiling at the Solano Avenue studio are the silks — two colorful, parallel pieces of specialized fabric from which a client climbs up to perform various gravity-defying poses and tricks.

Hammocks are another option. Akin to something one might put up in their backyard, the hammocks at Napa Aerial Fitness are used to cradle the body while performing moves — some of which have the performer suspended completely upside-down.

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The final piece of equipment featured in the Napa Aerial Fitness lineup resembles a hula hoop. The art of lyra — essentially aerial hoop — involves working with a suspended, metal hoop to perform different moves. Sometimes this is as simple as holding onto the hoop with two hands and hanging, Martucci explained. More advanced moves will have a person sitting within the hoop.

Lyra is a great way to “get strong quick and build grip strength,” Martucci said.

For many, these three pieces of equipment are intimidating. Martucci emphasized that classes, which are available for students age 6 and up, can cater to every body type. Her job, and the job of the other instructors, is to work with the clients to reach their personal goals, overcoming whatever physical limitations or mental fears they have about the exercises.

Of course, Martucci keeps her clients safe. The studio floor itself is padded with a thick, puzzle-piece surface, and stacked in the back of the studio are a series of mats to put below each student, adding to this safety net. The class also runs through a number of warm-up exercises, preparing the body for the challenging moves.

Martucci has never seen anyone fall off the equipment during her tenure and plans to keep it that way.

A common misconception of aerial fitness, Martucci notes, is that clients often say they are “not strong enough” or do not have the upper body strength to perform the moves. Pushing past that fear with clients is a challenge Martucci takes on with many of her clients, the majority of whom are women.

“Women are taught to work our lower bodies,” she said, emphasizing that exercises such as squats and cardiovascular activities such as running are mainstream in women’s fitness regimens. However, strength training has been linked to much quicker results than just cardio, allowing women to “build that strength we’re all looking for.”

“I want people to feel good, feel strong and make positive decisions,” Martucci added.

The Solano Avenue studio just celebrated five years of operation. Before that, the studio operated out of Gymnastics Zone for three years. Martucci described her studio as a “community environment” where it is “very exciting to see people succeed.” Classmates often cheer each other on, providing praise when poses are finally mastered. Martucci has a number of clients from outside Napa, including Vacaville and Oakland.

Keeping her students motivated from exercise to exercise is another challenge.

Martucci often encounters people who compare themselves to their neighbors in the class. Aerial fitness is a skill set that has to be built up over time. Some come to their first class and get discouraged when they cannot perform all the moves their classmates can.

For silks, some of those moves include single foot locks, basic climbs and inversions. For lyra there are pull-overs, front balance, mermaid and martini poses. Some moves take longer to master than others.

“You can’t compare yourself to that person,” Martucci said.

This comparison mindset does not appear to come up when teaching the youth classes, however. Younger students are more willing to jump right into things in Martucci’s experience.

When taking on a new client, the first thing Martucci asks is not what piece of equipment they are interested in or what their current fitness level is. Instead, she asks, “What is your schedule?” Finding a day and time where a client can be consistent is the first step.

“I think everyone is capable of doing anything,” Martucci said.

Napa Aerial Fitness has classes for adults seven days a week and classes for youth Monday through Saturday. There are also blocks of time where people can “open train” with an instructor available for questions.

Napa Aerial Fitness is located at 3377 Solano Ave. For more information, visit napaaerialfit.com.

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