We talked with Hedda Liukkala in May, 2020.
👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hi, my name is Hedda and I am 29 year old contemporary circus- and performance artist. I have a Bachelors degree in circus arts from my time studying in Finland and in Belgium.
I am from Finland, and currently also living here. Due to my profession I usually travel quite a lot, but since the pandemic I have settled down for a moment.
I work most with a Finnish multidisciplinary company Recover Laboratory and currently we are premiering a covid-19 conscious immersive art walk.
I also work on my solo projects and as an outside eye for a circus piece premiering next year. Part of my hustle is also being a neo burlesque performer and working as a stage manager for the Berlin Circus Festival.
I started my circus training relatively late, when I was 19. I did one year of youth circus when I was a child but due to shyness I didn’t continue the hobby even though circus was my dream career since I was five years old.
After training only 4 months I got in to a professional circus program and that’s where it all started.
I am originally from a tiny village in the woods and we didn’t have many hobby options that interested me, but I did Judo for few years because I also wanted to become a stunt woman (still one of my career goals!).
Currently I enjoy kicking football with few friends, learning Spanish and getting more into rigging.
What I like about physical circus training is the thrill of mastering new skills that I have pushed myself to learn. Nothing quite beats the feeling of leveling up in your chosen discipline.
Sweating makes me happy. I would go insane if I didn’t move my body regularly. The euphoria that follows a hard workout is my fuel for everything. It boosts my mental and physical health and gives me energy.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
Since the lock down is the new normal I will describe a typical day of home workouts!
I usually have one or two rest days per week, and other days I do basically what I feel like doing. I listen to my body and what it needs that day, and I also keep up with some basic maintenance and goals that I have for long term.
My training sessions vary from one to five hours per day.
I love following different workouts from different social media creators. At the moment my favorite workouts are intense HIIT exercises from various athletes, conditioning workouts in YouTube with Cirque du Soleil performers and active mobility and power yoga from an amazing @nickonhands from Instagram.
I throw in some of my own handstand training and back flexibility work. I would love to get back to acrobatics but my room is too tiny for that, luckily it’s summer soon and I can benefit from the green areas of my city.
I am working on being kind to myself. Sometimes the guilt of ‘not doing enough’ gets really intense and then I try to not push myself to work but instead do something completely different that gives me joy, for example drawing or dancing. I don’t believe that guilt is a good motivator for work.
A program that has given me good results is doing what I enjoy and not forcing myself too much with stuff that I don’t want to do.
Of course I need to push myself through unmotivated periods but I have realized that if I give myself more freedom and less strictness the inspiration and motivation is easier to find. Since starting antidepressants few months ago I have found again the pleasure of moving myself.
My main discipline is cyr wheel, a big steel ring that I spin with. There’s not many places to train that here, but I do go to a local youth circus school to train whenever it is possible.
I’m a solo artist and I enjoy working alone but I love to work in groups and sometimes I miss working with others. I am passionate about group acrobatics and learning with other like minded people. It is inspiring and motivating on a whole new level.
I don’t bulk, and I don’t try to lose fat. It’s not really important in my line of work as long as my skills are on point and artistic vision is sharp.
In my fitness bag I have a water bottle, training shorts and shirts, knee pads, headphones, yoga mat and rubber bands.
I am enthusiastic data collector so I also have a Fitbit to calculate my sleep, periods, activities and steps. My average step count is 14k per day and I get around 7 hours sleep per night (trying to get 8+ hours).
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
It’s very simple for me. I remind myself that however low I’m feeling now I will always, without exception, feel better after my workouts.
I try to keep my goals clear in my mind to motivate me. A goal might be a new trick or a gig or exploring a new way of movement.
Sometimes I feel low and I don’t manage to go to the gym/do the workout. And that’s fine. I will go/do some other day. Just trying to not make it a habit to give in to that urge of not moving.
I have kept on training this long because it’s my dream. It was easy (easier) to train when I was in school for six years since there was always someone pushing me.
After graduating I had to establish my own schedule and that was definitely a challenge, probably my biggest challenge. I am getting the hang of it though! The freedom to do what I want is overwhelming but also amazing.
I improve most when I focus on one thing at a time. I get obsessed. For a week I might only train one trick and that feels good. Then I start seeing progress and get even more motivated.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Like I mentioned earlier this is the new normal. I work well under special circumstances, I have adjusted to this situation really nicely.
I have benefited from it a lot since before the lock down it was always impossible for me to work from home. Now that’s pretty much all I do and I have created a habit for it. I am in a really good shape and thriving to improve more.
My 5 year goals are pretty much always the same, career and training wise. Improving in my discipline, learning new skills and staying healthy.
I love my job and I want to work more, at least now. I will have to question my choices every now and then to see if this is still what I want to do and so far the answer has been yes.
I miss studying so I think I might enroll in a university at some point to get a Masters degree in something. Maybe Nordic culture and folklore, occultism, performing arts and choreography and so on. I have tons of interests spreading all over the place…
It’s hard to not have these thoughts of ‘If I could start over my career what would I do differently’. I try not to fall into this thinking pattern because I find it not beneficial for my mindset.
I am where I am now because of choices I have made and while I can learn from the past I can’t change it so I will look forward and be grateful that I am where I am today.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I have overly mobile shoulders and this has caused me issues for years. I have also injured my hips few years ago and I am currently recovering from that.
I have learned my weak points through experience. I aim to make these points stronger and putting extra effort in them to avoid future injuries.
When I get shoulder pain the only way to recover from that is resting. As annoying and frustrating it might be it is my own fault that I have not taken good enough care of these points that I know are not on the same level than my other body parts. So I give myself the time to recover.
I don’t always succeed in this because it might be weeks and weeks without proper training, so I go back to training just to hurt myself again. I live and learn, I have gained patience with this area of my life.
With my hip injury I felt desperate thinking that it will never feel good again. Then I started doing the active mobility and strengthening of the legs and hips and the pain has disappeared almost completely (thanks to @nickonhands !!).
Injuries might be part of the practice but you can minimize the risks by actually warming up properly, cooling down, having the right form, sleeping enough, drinking enough water and getting good nutrition and listening to your body and mind.
With traveling its sometimes hard to keep up with any schedule or routine but I think after this quarantine I have new tools to keep myself in good shape physically and spiritually when I’m on the road.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I am vegetarian, always going towards veganism. I think I have felt best when I was one year vegan and that’s my goal. I have been a vegetarian since 2014.
I don’t count calories but I know how much and what I need to eat to get enough energy to push through the day. Thanks to my Fitbit I know I burn average 2500 calories per day.
I don’t track proteins, carbs or any other nutrients. I find it too much effort and I don’t feel like it’s something I need in my life.
When I go out to eat there’s always delicious vegetarian options and most of my friends cook vegetarian. I don’t restrict myself much, unless it’s a certain time of the month I have to check that I don’t stuff my face with sugary treats because then my stomach and face suffer.
The past few years I have started to drink coffee. I never really liked it much but nowadays it’s such a nice morning ritual or an activity to share with friends.
Equally the past few years I have sort of dropped out of the habit of drinking alcohol. I still do enjoy beer or a drink, and sometimes more than just one, but I don’t have a craving for that.
Also because it affects my bpm and my ability to train the days after having alcohol and currently I enjoy training more than drinking.
I don’t have cheat days and I do have cravings. I have found that if I restrict myself it makes things harder for me.
My main goal again is to not feel guilt or self hate if I eat something that makes me feel bad. It’s not useful to have those kinds of thoughts and in a long run its going to harm the mental health and maybe even push towards eating disorders.
I need to be kind to myself.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
People around me. I have the privilege to know some of the best circus artists in the world and seeing them work their asses off either motivates me or scares me so much that I drag my butt to the training hall!
I am inspired by different artists and their work, and seeing pieces that resonate with me makes me want to push my art forward.
I am inspired by my friends who are taking contemporary circus and art into new directions, towards love and kindness and away from self torture.
Music gives me inspiration. Sometimes I dwell in dark ambient, often I get fired up with empowering female rappers and rnb artists. Then I do 180° and sweat with Beethoven.
I love different queer artists and sometimes only thing that works is angry punk, grunge and mystic folk.
I have received a lot of good and bad advices. One thing that helped me through a dark period was to just keep creating even if it’s shit.
In Instagram I follow people who inspire me in some ways, for example these strong badasses: @thecircusninja @gabbie_ck @angelique.et.katherina @camille_judic @flowing_sanni @emicolusi
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
If you are a complete beginner just start from wherever. Anything at all that feels interesting. And don’t push too hard right away, that’s a great way to get injured.
Find someone who can help you out or who can teach you or train with you. Don’t be intimidated by how hard things are, you will learn if you keep at it and it will be so rewarding.
Don’t let other people discourage you! There’s a lot of people who like to stick their noses in other people’s business and usually it’s just big talk. Choose the people whose opinion you trust and value and listen to them.
Never underestimate the power of mobility training!
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
I can teach cyr wheel either online (you need your own equipment) or face to face after the pandemic blows over.
And don’t worry about your fingers, it’s very rare to roll over them with the wheel.
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
My insta is @heddspins. You can also find me on Vimeo and YouTube.
My website is https://heddaliukkala.wixsite.com/hedda and Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/heddspins/.