Day 3 of being snowed in from storm Jonas and looking outside this morning, I have finally spotted it- sidewalk. Pavement. A street that even looks drivable if I feel up to digging out my car (that motivation has that has yet to surface.) But surprisingly, I haven’t gone stir crazy in this time- thanks to Snapchat, some new recipes, and my pole.
There’s something incredibly humbling about returning to a lost hobby. The memory of your previous skill before quitting often times can’t be shaken while you’re starting up again and that is a big pride shot. After a hiatus of several months, I’ve only been practicing pole again for a week and despite the leveling of my ego, I’m so happy to be back at it. My body image has been fairly off as of late and this activity helps alleviate some of that disordered thought process. Understandably, though, it can be intimidating to anyone who’s never laid hands on a dance pole. Hell, it intimidates me and I’ve owned one for 6 months. So if you’re starting out, here are a few tips that I’ve found handy while blindly stumbling (and spinning) through this crazy, awesome world of alternative fitness.
BEGINNER POLE TIPS:
- Stretch! Make sure to stretch- especially your shoulders, upper back, hips, hamstrings, obliques, and lower back. I keep a foam roller handy to help with this. Here’s a great video from Club New You for an all inclusive pre-pole stretch routine.
- Warm up your pole. A cold pole will deter anybody from going all out. Especially in late January. In addition to doing some basic spins and climbs with pants on (assuming you’re strong enough to do so) here’s an article from Pole Freaks with some other great tips. I think I may have to invest in an electric blanket now…
- Practice in a warm room. As this post from Pole Fitness Dancing.com says, “Your best grip will happen right in that point when you’re warm and just about to break a sweat; not sweating, and not cold.” Make sure the temperature of your room can accommodate this feeling after a little bit of warm-up. It will take some experimenting but you’ll eventually get a general feel for your temperature “sweet spot.”
- More skin = more control. Bare skin grips the pole easier than fabric, which is often slippery. Slippery means being out of control. The last thing I want to feel climbing anything is out of control. While I obviously feel comfortable in just a sports bra and booty shorts, for a beginner’s class, you should be fine with shorts and a few layers on top (t-shirt or tank top over a sports bra.) At first, it’s just important to have your legs bare but upper arm/armpit really helps too. Pole is all about body positivity; still, if you don’t feel comfortable, just dress in several layers and ask your specific instructor for advice.
- Moisturize at least 30 minutes before practice (if at all.) I, like most people, get dry skin in the winter and because of dyshidrotic eczema on my hands, I don’t have the luxury of letting them dry out for any reason. Dry hands will help you have a better grip on the pole but you can’t be too dry. Yes, your pole is quite high maintenance and demanding in this aspect. I recommend not moisturizing for up to 30 minutes before your practice session but make sure you’re not in Silent Hill mode (AKA ash ash city.) Here are some brands of lotion that polers in the Studio Veena forum recommend, though I just use my same old eczema-friendly brand.
- Static mode builds your foundation. I highly recommend using static mode for the majority (if not all) of your beginning training. Spin mode is so fun, makes your flow look beautiful, and presents new challenges (i.e. dizziness and the upped chance of flying off.) But it’s going to get your core foundation muscles stronger and your confidence solidified to nail moves on static first. If you’re still not convinced, at least read this article (and the subsequent comments) from The Pole Dancing Shop, which explains the age-old pole dance debate. Well, maybe not age-old but you’ll see it come up time and time again in the community.
- Static vs. spin. Once you progress, you’ll still most likely use both modes, as each has different benefits. Static, as I previously said, is better for learning new moves since you have more guaranteed stability and control, but it’ll also be easier for climbs and sticking poses. Spin mode, if you couldn’t already tell, helps immensely with your spins but also gives you more time and momentum for combinations and transitions.
- Strengthen both sides. Just like any exercise, you need to build muscle and coordination with both sides of your body, even if one side feels clumsier, weaker, and just not as fun. But this Pole Dancing Adventures comic by the amazing poler/artist Leen Isabel can very quickly become your reality.
Not only is it aesthetically cheating yourself to rely too heavily on one side but it can seriously mess up your body. It can make you more susceptible to injuries (especially in the back) and even throw your spine alignment out of wack. Yikes! Not to mention, as this article from Confessions of a Twirly Girl so succinctly put, “if you get waaaaay up there on the pole and something bad happens to your dominant side, you want to have the strength to get yourself down safely using your non-dominant side.” So train on both sides- I also say this for my own benefit. My benefit and that of my weakling left side.
- Know how to bail. Before attempting a new move- especially if you’re alone in your apartment on a Sunday afternoon with just your cat watching you warily from across the room- know how you can safely exit your attempt if it goes awry. Know your limits and know how to land. If you’re newly in spin mode, it usually helps just to know how to slow down. If you’re in a spin and feeling overwhelmed, (safely) stick out a leg to slow your momentum. Curling up and tightening your legs in will speed you up. Practicing down-climbs, exits, and landings are just as important as the cool tricks themselves.
- Keep your dance pole clean. As soon as I started looking up articles to support this point, I was bombarded with about a million different answers: alcohol! No alcohol! Water! No water! Special pole cleaning solution! Special pole cleaning cloth! Glass cleaner! Oh boy. I’d say, stick with what your pole manufacturer says, as the material and finish of your pole may require unique care and maintenance.
- Being patient > being hurt. Home practice without a spotter or much experience is not the time to push yourself into new tricks before you’re ready. Focus on building up grip, arm, and thigh strength and save anything risky for the pole studio- or at the very least, a time when there’s someone else to spot and help you. I can’t emphasize this enough; people can and have gotten seriously injured from attempting dangerous pole moves so pace yourself. I know it can be hard to do, especially after watching Instagram video after video of so many talented pole dancers and wanting to be at that level right this very second. But in the beginning, you need to focus on building strength and trust in yourself before anything else.
- Enjoy yourself! Celebrate yourself! Pole dancing isn’t just about exercise. It’s fun! It promotes strength and sexuality in a safe environment. It lets you take ownership over your body and your body image. So document your process while also actually enjoying it and in a few months’ time, you’ll be amazed by how far you’ve gotten. You know, if you’re not like me and you actually practice regularly throughout those months. But I digress. Whatever mode of fitness you choose, I sincerely hope that you enjoy it and you feel good about yourself while doing it.
That was way more than I planned writing so I’m now even more behind on my Sunday chores. But one of those chores is cleaning up from an insanely good dessert recipe I’ll be posting in the near future, as long as a recipe for the best damn salad I’ve ever made. Whew! If you have any questions, whether they are pole-related or not, please write me in the comments below or contact me on my various social media outlets. Also, if you have anything you’d like to see in a future video or post, just let me know. I love hearing from y’all!
Be kind. Live authentically. Practice gratitude. Hustle daily. Work hard. Stay humble.
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