The above is a documentation of my first attempt at the, uh, controversial sport. And yes, I call pole a sport; after all, it was added to the Arnold Classic in 2014. While my video above may not demonstrate it, this. Is. Haaaaaard. So whether you’re on a pole for cash or muscles or both, my metaphorical hat goes off to you, spinning ladies and gents.
The good news is that since it’s exceedingly difficult (especially for those of us who are upper-body-strength challenged), the payoff is AWESOME. Not only am I doing a challenging, alternative method of exercise and dance in cute clothes with good music, I get to trick my body into some quality strength training. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kettlebells. Lifting is great. Lifting will give you hella definition, if that’s what you’re after and you can’t beat the rush of hitting a set of PRs. But this is just… so fun. I’m not here to knock any method of exercise. I hate jogging with the fire of a thousand suns but hey, if you enjoy it, do the thing. In fact, that brings me to my first point of:
THINGS I’VE LEARNED AFTER 30 DAYS OF POLE DANCING
- Exercise is only sustainable if you enjoy it. I’m not saying exercise should be a 24/7 festival of Reese cups and kitten paws. For example, I might have spent an obscene amount of time online thrifting yesterday while continuously pushing my pole practice later and later into the evening. And that’s with something I enjoy, that makes me feel good, that I want to get better at. One will not be motivated 100% of the time. BUT. Here is the but butt, friends. If you don’t enjoy some part of your fitness process- whether it’s the method, the social aspect, the results, whatever- it’s not going to last. I’m pretty self-destructive but after my jogs became a continuous inner monologue of rage and self-hate, I dropped the Nikes and walked away. I’ve cycled through running, lifting, climbing, some more lifting, yoga, hooping, lifting yet again, and now pole in the last four years. I was able to dedicate myself to it because I enjoyed it. When I didn’t, I stopped. If it doesn’t make you feel good, stop punishing yourself for no reason and try something new and maybe uncomfortable but also maybe better.
- Pole is as sexual and provocative as you make it. This will not be the part where I start rolling my eyes and saying, “ugh what I do has nothing to do with a strip club blah la la la internalized misogyny blah la la la la” because… well, it obviously does. That’s where this whole fitness trend came from. To deny that is ignorant and anti-feminist. Does it mean that what you choose to do on a pole is inherently sexual? No. Does it have to be exclusively provocative or chaste? No. Do we need to shame or justify women who are doing something that- gasp- teaches us body positivity and possibly displays sexuality without the context of the proverbial male gaze? Naaaaah, not here. And on that note…
- Pole is not restricted to one body type. Different body types will have different advantages. Hooping and kettle bells gave me a foundation in my core that makes certain moves come very naturally. However, my slim little baby arms are not strong enough to support an inversion just yet.
- Be safe and realistic, for the love of all that is good! After ordering my X pole on a complete lark one night at 2 AM (that’s my classic budgetary decision-making process in action right there) I began somewhat obsessively watching videos on Instagram. The things people can do in 15 seconds on a pole. It was before I knew about the huge trend of well-trained eastern Europeans gymnasts who have turned to pole and I half-panicked, half-imagined myself doing insane flips etc. after a few good practices. LOL NO. Be realistic about what you can do. Use a spotter. Use a crash mat. Or stick to what’s safe until either (or better, both!) of those options become available to you.
- Home practice vs. studio practice both have pros and cons. I have yet to attend an actual, for real, not-a-video-on-Youtube-I-watch-ten-times-before-awkwardly-attempting-a-move, honest to goodness class. I also dropped over $300 on a pole that would be safe, as I don’t need any help here in possibly breaking my neck. I haven’t attempted any inversions yet because I don’t have a spotter or instructor guiding me step by step through something that could literally maim me (I will once I get to that level, promise.) BUT I can pole whenever I please (minimal adult responsibilities aside, of course.) I get to pick my music, I get to pick my pace, I get to choose what I want to learn. I also despise group exercise and am fairly good at self-motivation. Pros and cons, y’all, just depends on what your fitness style is.
- Goofballs rejoice. What I absolutely love about pole is how easy it is to laugh at myself when I goof up. I haven’t had that in any fitness activity I’ve pursued; it became a learned, trained response in hooping after a long time of smacking myself in the side of the head with a plastic circle countless time, but it never came naturally. Although my muscle tone isn’t anywhere near as defined as my lifting days, this is the best pay-off to me: there’s something in pole that allows me to be incredibly compassionate towards myself when I’m not immediately perfect, which is a large flaw in most of my life. Perhaps this isn’t a universal truth for all polers but it’s a huge reason why I’ve let fitness methods with more aesthetically pleasing results fall to the wayside in favor of spinning around a pole and giggling like an idiot when I mess up.
- You will suck at first. Unless you are one of the aforementioned eastern European retired gymnasts or another superhuman endowed with strength, grace, and flexibility, then you’re gonna suck. You’re gonna suck until you don’t suck. Life lesson, kiddos. In the scope of my life as a whole, I am still coming to grips with that and probably will continue to struggle with it for all eternity but in this small part of my life, I have accepted that fact. The cool thing about sucking at stuff is that you can only get better. As Jake from Adventure Time so wisely said, “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something.”
Alright readers, what do you think? Have you ever tried pole fitness and if so, what was your experience like? Do you have any questions? Do you think I am a jezebel harlot who will (spoiler alert) burn in a fiery afterlife? Let me know in the comments below.