Written by Courtney Larson
Momentom’s French Aerialist Coach Thomas Mangin spent 4 years with Cirque Du Soleil, one of the world’s most renowned circus companies. When he was offered a job with them, he described it as an exciting opportunity he could not miss.
“It was the biggest thing I could dream of in a certain sense. It was a fuck yes for me because of the opportunities for growth as an artist, opportunities for meeting new people, for going to different countries, learning English, and being in this community of incredible performers,” Thomas says.
He also described his experience as an opportunity for him to get to know himself in a highly demanding environment. These top circus artists must train insanely heavily. He was performing 10 shows a week without much time off, living a lifestyle that’s incredibly strenuous on the body and learned how to operate at the best.
“Everything is provided when you’re at Cirque du Soleil,” Thomas shares, “So anything you need, you have it. I was paid well enough to get everything that I needed, medical insurance, food, training, space, physiotherapy. You have all the tools to do the best at what you’re doing and all the help available if you need it.”
Thomas described it as having access to a ‘golden platform’ for optimization. There is a team of people there for you and an endless platter of resources to help you navigate everything from nutrition, to recovery from injuries, even mindset and personal growth. For instance artists were given access to mindfulness apps, life coaching and educational programs, expert presentations, workshops, and seminars on topics ranging from how to get stronger, happier, smarter, faster along with various performance artist development skills.
“If I wanted to create anything, I had the ability to create it from gold because I had all the best resources.”
So after having tasted from this ‘golden platform’ provided for these super human circus artists to keep up, what did Thomas find to be the most impactful life hacks?
Pay attention to physical cues and know your own threshold
After breaking his wrist, Thomas emphasizes how important it is to be aware of signs of weakness the body what are these signs? is communicating. Learn your red areas and know when to rest. Get to know your threshold and how to push yourself vs when to relax. how do we know this?
Train the mind along with the body.
Thomas vividly remembers once watching a guy come up on stage and share a tough mindset presentation for two hours. He was able to bend steel bars with his bare hands! Thomas learned how much we can do with the mind after this beyond just the physical tricks to do this
Train 3 hours a day on anything that you want to master.
“If you want to apply as a clown, I recommend training in that skill at least 3 hours a day as best as you can,” says Thomas.
When creating a disciplined lifestyle, make it as automatic as possible.
Thomas suggests automatizing everything in your daily routine so that you don’t have to think about anything else and you can fully focus on what you are training.
“You want to almost feel like you are a robot,” says Thomas. “That’s my roadmap or recipe for success. You want to automize your meal routine how, your wake up routine, which your warm up routine. Basically automotive everything so that during your training you can fully explore your creativity. That’s the reason why.”
Train first thing in the morning.
Thomas says training before breakfast is a great way to start the day because you haven’t eaten yet.
“It’s kind of like you’re forcing your body to be very sharp out of bed. As humans we’re conditioned to eat when we wake up so instead of eating, if you start training, you are asking your body to adapt to a very demanding lifestyle and that’s what I see in Cirque du Soleil performers. They have the ability to live with a high demanding lifestyle from this kind of training of the body.”
Have a solid warm up routine.
Thomas recommends a warm up routine that involves everything, “You want to make sure to have some cardio, strength conditioning, flexibility, injury prevention. You want to make sure that you have some time to spend on your basic skills, fundamentals, principles, and you want to make sure to spend some time creating. Make sure you have time for recovery, rest, and relaxation.”
Explore nutrition and supplements and figure out what works fo you.
For Thomas what worked for him was having bigger meals when not training, lighter meals while during training and shows. He would have avocado, eggs, fruit, and toast in the morning, protein bars while training, then big meals at the end of the day. He also emphasizes to drink clean water and pay attention to the PH of the water that you drink.
The main take aways for a good diet is to eat clean food, healthy fats, and lots of veggies. He at times would intermittent fast for 15 hours every other day. Then he would start his day with sparkling water, then an hour after he’d have a Bulletproof coffee which helps with not feeling the hunger so much. Collagen is a supplement that has benefited him, and going to an all you can eat buffet once a week with friends for a cheat meal is another favorite hack of his ; )
If you want to do something, learn from the best of the best.
Whatever it is that you want to do, Thomas recommends finding the best in that industry and approach them about it. Learn from the best and then go for it. When he got into gymnastics he went straight to the best gym in the area when he was a kid. He followed what he thought was the best nutrition program and did what he thought was the best life coaching program. He also believes it doesn’t have to be objective, its more subjective in going for what feels the best to you and doing that. That’s what really matters.
Visualize as precisely as possible the outcome of your goal.
Visualize your performance or whatever it is that you are training for.
“I do this every time even for my classes I teach. I visualize how I want it to unfold. So try to visualize as precisely as possible, for aerials example visualize where your body will go as precise as possible. If there is a move you want to do. Try to do it, then stop and visualize it and try it again.” Thomas says.
Those that know Thomas know that nowadays, he not only is a exceptionally talented, bodyworker on residency with Momentom, he also hugely advocates self massage and its benefits on the body. He uses foam rollers, balls, chairs, or any prop available. He actually learned how to find his own trigger points and trigger releases in his body from exploring and self massaging his body all the time in any place that he is at any moment.
Know how to set boundaries.
After listening to and getting to know yourself and your body on this insane level, you’re able to know your threshold and needs more clearly to better set boundaries and limits.
This is also a big one for circus artists especially in negotiating contracts. Thomas learned the importance of being precise when negotiating contracts. When you are offered a new contract for a specific show, Thomas recommends talking to the people that are working the show about the conditions. Learn about the pay, how well they are taken care of, what kind of physical therapy is provided, and understand all of these details about comes with the role with this production.
Community is key.
Thomas realized that his community influenced him more than anything else available through Cirque Du Soleil. He found more interest learning skills from peers and in his relationships than from resources such as learning how to best negotiate contracts, learning and practicing English. The community of Cirque du Soleil was unique in its sense of aliveness. They’re like immortal humans with 10,000 lives,” Thomas laughs, Everyone has their work and outside projects. They have their passions and they have the spirit of kids but they are also very professional. It’s a community of people that are extremely alive, very centered, down to earth. They know how to set boundaries because they’ve been performing so much. They know what is dangerous or not. They know about safety for their own body, and they know how to go 100% when its required. They know how to perform when its required. They can switch very fast from performance to relaxation. They are always ready to perform.
Make sure to have at least 1-2 people that you can confide in at any moment in your life.
There is a beautiful and magical power in holding space for someone and having someone see you with presence and curiosity. Having someone that knows you and you feel you can share completely and authentically and from the heart is important. Make use of support. Thomas has his coach, friends, and parents and tries to do this as many times as possible because its not easy to greave and deal with sadness.
Create more intimate one on one connections.
Thomas shares, “For instance every time you see someone in particular have something that you share with them that only you two have in common or know, like developing inside jokes with people, creating a specific handshake or booty shake with someone. In circus its commonly a physical thing. Eye gazing helps with this too which is someone we do a lot at Momentom and why we have such intimate relationships here.”
Thomas also believes no life coach will have a better answer for you than your best friend.
“Of course you will have amazing reflections and a professional setup for everything around. Half of life is not about reflection, it’s about action. I think a best friend can fulfill both parts, both aspects because your best friend is part of your active life. He knows what you are really like and how you operate in different situations. A life coach just knows you from your reflections.”
Be Silly. Clown.
Clowning taught me a lot. One exercise for group cohesion really helped shift his perspective from a self centered focus to a group focus. He also learned how to have zero attachment to his emotional state. He could cry or laugh on demand. He learned how to laugh about our weaknesses, and make fun of our human flaws. He realized he was not so good at revealing his flaws. He described his ego thinking that he’s perfect. He’s learning to take pride in humility and trust himself.
Start smiling to everyone.
Smiling creates a relaxed environment and a positive emotional connection. With a kind generous smile you can get forgiven much faster and attract more of the positive. Life hack in a nut shell: Smile more.
Moving the body and performing is the best medicine. Perform as often as you can.
Thomas believes training and performing is a great way to express and feel. Embody the performer.
“It’s unhealthy to stay stuck when you’re in a negative emotional state. Moving the body and doing something creative and performing is the greatest medicine actually. Be a spontaneous clown out there on the street. Perform for your friends. Make a silly joke for your friends whenever it is possible. Be your inner singer in the shower or the car. Whenever it is possible, imagine that you are a performer as much as possible.”
Spend some time with the sun everyday.
There are so many benefits of the sun : ) which…
Allow yourself to relax.
This is Thomas’s mindfulness hack he uses at the moment. He tries to relax as much as possible. For instance, when he is in bed in the morning and gets anxious about what he needs to do, he knows its time to relax. He knows he has a tendency to overthink things so learning when it is the right to time to act and when it is time to take it easy. After years of intense training, he’s enjoying taking more time to nap, to sit down and breathe, to daydream or gaze at nothing. At the same time, he also knows that if he needs to, he can go back to heavy training, staying open to opportunities and enjoying the cycles of relaxation and heavy training.
Trust Yourself and Create your own ‘Golden Life’.
“At the end of the day, I became aware that I was doing everything myself. I had access to this golden platform to create what I wanted to create from gold, but I found I didn’t really need much from this platform that people aspire for,” Thomas realized he learned how to be an independent artist.
“I grew an awareness of how to deal with life, how you act when you have either a golden one or a poor one and used that momentum to help create my act and make my own golden life.”
“I learned I can trust myself.”
Cover photo of Thomas Mangin by Daniel Woods.