You see, I have a passion. Most of my regular readers know it's something that I deeply enjoy and it's something I love with every (bruised) muscle in my body. It's something I can't get enough of and it's something that is largely underrepresented but growing exponentially.
It's pole dancing.
6 months ago I went to a lesson - since then I have been irrevocably hooked - but what is it about pole that has caught my attention, when other things are in my routine simply from habit or for more "logical" reasons?
I realised today that for a long time I've not been explicit with the reasons I pole dance. I mean, I KNOW you guys know I love it but I've never been able to explain why - or why you should give it a go yourself!!
So, here goes.
My Top Ten Reasons To Give Pole A Go...
Ok, bear with me here. The picture on the right there is 6 months of progress from pole. The muscles are coming through, they're defined and they're getting bigger.
You're not going to turn into the hulk - your body isn't made that way (for most women anyway) but you will see that your body shape changes, even if the scale isn't moving (or in my case, it went UP for a while!) your clothes fit better and you will start seeing muscle definition.
And my guns are TINY compared to my instructor's....
Fat is NOT metabolically active - in fact it's a STORE of energy.
Where muscle requires energy to keep it going, it means your BMR (your basal metabolic rate) will increase just from having that tissue in your body. Automatically you need more calories to maintain your mass.
If you have trouble losing weight (or more specifically fat) this could be your kind of work out. I currently lose weight (actually in the form of fat, NOT by metabolising healthy muscle) eating 1900-2400 calories daily....does that sound like a horrid low-calorie diet to you?
Additionally, by increasing the amount of resistance training you do whilst you're losing weight you'll also retain more of your "lean" body mass (muscle) which means when you get to goal you won't be "skinny-fat", rather, you'll be slim and well shaped. Often when people cut calories out of their diet (especially when they cut too many calories out) you'll end up metabolising your muscle and not your fat - kind of defeats the object don't you think?!
You know what this means? MORE FOOD ;)
As you get older your bones will get less dense. It's one of the things we have to look forward to as we age, but several studies now show that the more resistance training you include in your routine (especially for women) the more bone density you'll retain as you age, leading to less occurrences of osteoporosis in women that have had significant weight training time in their lives (CDC.com).
Pole is an amazing core workout. It works your back, your stomach, your chest, your shoulders....every part of your body you'll ever need ;)
Core work is especially important in a routine as it allows you to improve your posture, your gait, your form on other exercise. Furthermore it's been shown that having a strong set of core muscles will make it easier to bear and give birth to children (for those of you out there who are interested in doing such a thing!).
Long term effects can't be argued!
Pole burns as many calories as a moderate to intense session of cardiovascular activity (pol'er bear).
Yeah, it's not a universal number, but it's effective at getting your heart pumping, your lungs working and your muscles going.
I personally burn between 300-500 calories per session (measured by heart rate monitor). As it's not steady state cardio the HRM isn't totally accurate, but it's a good ball-park figure for you.
All I'm going to say is it does help burn fat, shape your body, increase your fitness and boost your confidence SKY HIGH. What more can I say ;)
You also get a lot of COOL photos!
Pole fitness has made me consider who I am, what scares me and what I'll do to achieve my goals. My confidence has sky-rocketed. I KNOW I'm strong, healthy and flexible - this has had a huge impact on everything I do - from being able to wear hotpants to the gym, to being more confident with what I wear in general, to being able to handle myself more confidently in the workplace/"real life".
I even made my first attempt at haggling the other day. Get me.
Moderate physical exercise has been shown to lower the levels of stress hormones in people's blood (Lovett et al). In fact, it's been found that teachers and doctors who incorporate moderate cardiovascular and resistance training into their routines have less sick days, less illness generally and lower stress levels (Lovett).
So, get your workout in!!
As you doubtlessly know, I've suffered with depression a few times in my life. Once it left me housebound. These days I manage my moods and my mind-set using exercise.
I exercise daily because of this, and I've never felt more amazing. Pole really was the crux of the matter for me. You see, the thing about pole is that it's FUN - you get to twirl around a pole, test your strength, feel sexy and get some AMAZING photos that give you something to talk about.
The feeling of strength and confidence, of overcoming your fears and doubts is a tonic like no other. Pole keeps me happy. It allows me to express that side of myself that might otherwise remain hidden - the part of me that likes to feel FREE.
Nothing gets in the way, nothing matters because pole is DEMANDING not only of your body, but of your attention.
It raises your self-esteem and cripples your body image doubts - hotpants are the most logical choice for poling, simply because when you have less cloth in the way, you get more hold on the pole with your skin. Likewise, roll your top up and get that stomach onto the pole. It becomes a practicality rather than worrying about how you look.
When I first had to roll my top up for Gemini I said to Karen "but....I have fat everywhere".
All I got back was "yep, we all do - you just have to deal with it" (that's why I love her, no mincing of words xD).
And you know what. I did deal with it. These days all I care about is getting the cloth out of the way so I can execute the pose.
Everyone gets nervous at pole. I wrote a PoleFreaks article recently about tackling the "fear". It happens to everyone - I managed to overcome mine by realising that it would make my life easier if I just got on with it, but some people hang on to it for longer, some people brush it off quickly.
Whichever way you are, it forces you to find something that makes you nervous and do it anyway. Once you realise that fear can't actually hold you back if you want to achieve something, you'll remember that the next time you come across something that makes you nervous and you'll know that actually, yes, you can handle anything you put your mind to thank you very much.
Don't let YOU hold yourself back.
Maybe that's what encapsulates pole for me. Maybe I like to be a little bit of a rebel. Maybe I like to stand out. My first car was a mini with pink spots on. I now drive a bright pink motorcycle and I enjoy being one of the only women in the weights room.
But you see, there's a secret. With all of these things, communities form - because you're rebelling against stereotypes with other people. So bonds form - you get congratulated on moves you execute and photos you post. Slowly but surely you make friends with your pole community. Over the past 6 months I've had the amazing chance to get to know my instructors and my pole brothers and sisters - it's something special.
People in pole lessons are open and friendly, the instructors I've met have always been supportive and understanding. Our instructor knows when to push us, she knows when to hold back and she knows EXACTLY what we can achieve.
That's all very well but I can't support my own weight...
No, maybe you don't. On the other hand maybe you'll surprise yourself.
People aren't (usually) born with the skills to just pick something up straight away. Sometimes you have an affinity for something, but EVERYTHING takes practice. I'm still on my journey to do unassisted pull-ups, but that has never got in the way of my ability to pole!
If you find exercise a bit boring, or you want to branch out some - you won't go wrong with a pole session.
Ok ok, enough - where can I find out more?
There are loads of great places around the world that offer pole dance classes, if you're in the UK you can check out 'pole pages UK'. Googling "pole dancing lessons" will also get you localised results.
I've also written a series of blogs about poling - ranging from my first session to recently, which you can find here.
In the end, all we are are the things we did. You never know - this could be one of the things you did, and one of the things you loved. Don't let that pass!