I can’t really sit for long periods of time without starting to feel bad,” says astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz, who left the Adler Planetarium in June after eight years to become a professional circus artist.

The life-changing choice evolved in the wake of an accident last year: Walkowicz was hit by a car while crossing a street. The incident prompted them to take a step back and find new ways to live fully — and to stay active. That’s critical for Walkowicz because they have an autoimmune disease, and one of the best balms is movement. Lots of movement.

The fitness history of the 43-year-old Humboldt Park resident and self-described “exercise dilettante” includes surfing and rock climbing. While still keeping an eye on their telescope, Walkowicz now scans high places mostly from the rigging at Aloft Circus Arts, where they enlisted in an aerial arts training program.

Photograph: Getty Images

How do you start your day?

“With a massive quantity of coffee. Astronomers tend to be night people. Weather permitting, I like to be outside first thing, getting a bit of sunlight and fresh air.”

What are some of your favorite exercises?

“Walking is one of my great loves. I live about two and a half miles from Aloft, and I tend to walk there and back. I studied Ashtanga yoga for many years. I tried CrossFit for a while, which was sort of fun; it gave me a love of weightlifting, specifically. Now the thing that I lift is myself.”

How did you get into circus performing?

“I have a form of autoimmune arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, which sounds like a fun dinosaur but it’s actually very unpleasant. One of the things that has helped me control it is lots of exercise, and a regular gym becomes boring after a while. I met the head of Aloft, who taught me how to do an assisted backflip in a conference room. I started taking classes in 2015 — first, aerial silks, and then, by the end of 2017, I was doing lyra, which is the aerial hoop. And I was hooked enough that I wanted to perform.”