Author: reluctantpoledancer

Why I started going to the Gym and what it was like for a little blondie like me

I have been pole dancing now for about 2 years. I love it. I wouldn’t blog about it if I didn’t. I started out as a skinny, weak girl nearing the end of her twenties (and scared shitless about that big number) with no muscle, no endurance, no fitness background and zero sporting ability. Some yoga and salsa dancing. That’s all. I had no confidence at all in my physical/sporting capabilities. I never imagined I could even attempt to be a yoga teacher, for example, even though I was inspired by a wonderful woman teacher I had when living in Paris. I always thought, ‘If only…’.

My addiction to pole came about very quickly after the first class I took. I saw the other girls climbing the pole in lightning speed, sitting elegantly half way up, hanging off it from only their knees, pulling themselves up over their shoulders, all the time thinking ‘If only…’. Very quickly I learned how to climb with ease. Next I learned how to do a pole sit. SIx months after my first class I did a cross-knee release into a handstand (which now scares the shit out of me but that’s for other reasons relating to the stroke I suffered). All of this is very impressive stuff.

I got my first Shoulder Mount last summer. Now you may know that this was, has been and will be forever my ultimate pole move. I just think it is the sexiest pole move ever. EVER! Thanks to Alethea Austin and her super slinky shoulder mounts I can actually spend hours on youtube watching her do her thing over and over and over. The problem, though, is that it has taken me over 6 months now to go from simply getting my feet over my head onto the pole and back down in an ugly, grunting tumble to actually being able to hold myself in a shoulder mount position for a few seconds at least. You know, long enough so it counts. So you can actually believe it happened.

And I have to say that that is thanks to the Gym.

You may have understood by now that I am not the gym-going type. Or maybe I should say ‘wasn’t’ because I got my first ever gym membership 2 weeks ago after going between 2 and 3 times a week for the last 2 months. I committed. Why?

A few months ago, had I walked into the gym alone I may have pushed a few machines up and down, got tired and said “well done, now time for tea”. But I was lucky. Realllllly lucky. A friend of mine, big muscly (but not scary) Steve, has been a gym-goer for years. It shows. As I said, he’s muscly and very strong. What you can’t see by looking at him, though, is that he goes to the gym knowing exactly what he’s doing, why he’s doing it and what his objectives are. No bullshit. No showing off. He actually writes about strength-training in a blog he started recently concerning the myths circulating around the internet about the fitness industry. So I asked him if he would take me to the gym to help me get stronger for pole and yoga.

The first thing he said was that no matter what I would never get big and bulky because as a woman I lacked the hormones for that. This disappointed me a little but that’s only because I actually wouldn’t mind being big and bulky as I have spent my whole life being the smallest in the room (as well as having quite a case of penis-envy). I told him I just wanted to get stronger.

Fast forward to actually going to the gym. Steve said all I needed was a basic weight-lifting routine of some bench presses, deadlifts, squats, abs (leg lifts) and pull-ups. So that’s what I have been doing. The routine I’m following at the moment is pretty much the same as the one he sets out on his blog, see here for all the numbers of sets/reps etc. For us polers and yogis, we actually have a headstart at the gym. I managed a full pull-up on my first day in the gym. I was quite proud of that. And I think that is where the motivation starts. That feeling there. That feeling of ‘Oh, I can do that!’ Look at meeeee!

And a few weeks later, boom! shoulder mount held for a legitimate amount of time.

In the next week I will be seeing Steve again for him to give me a pole dance related gym routine he is working on for me. I just can’t wait. I will let you know how it goes, what progess I make and any new tips I learn on the way to getting strong enough to hold my body weight and make it look good, too.

Here are the moves I am working on in pole dance and the asanas I’m struggling with in yoga:

Pole dance:

Shoulder Mount (love you) and extended shoulder mount flag, allegra, jamilla, ayesha, handspring and superman

Yoga asanas:

Dragonfly pose, firefly pose, crow pose, crane pose, lotus pose arm balances

If you get the chance please do check out Steve’s website, The Training Template. He really does do what he says and cuts out all the bullshit we can find floating around about spot-toning abs and doing too many reps, etc, etc.

Happy Gyming, Poling and Yoga-ing!

On Yoga Teacher Training, Instagram, the Gym and my fave Shoulder Mount.

I don’t feel at all guilty for not having posted something in a while. I have been busy: working out at the gym, revisiting Instagram, choosing a Yoga Teacher Training to suit me and of course, as usual, working on my Pole Shoulder Mount.

Yes, I have a lot to amuse myself with at the moment. I will write a separate post about the incredible benefits of working out at the gym (free weights=love) and another on my Yoga journey when my registration on the Vinyasa 200hr Training Course in Marseille is actually confirmed. Trying not to get too excited here!

So, Shoulder Mounts. Where am I? Here:

shoulder mounting in the French Alps - point your damn toes!

shoulder mounting in the French Alps – point your damn toes!

As you can see, I have come quite a way from last August when I managed my first ever Shoulder Mount, like a monkey, kicking and flaying and in no way being able to hold onto it for longer than a split second, with my feet grabbing onto the pole for dear life, all the time being in a lot of pain!

Now I can hold my legs out in a V (albeit somewhat irregularly and not yet flat) and it doesn’t hurt my shoulder so much. I can even hold it for a few long seconds, on both sides, too 🙂 Will have to make a sexy little video soon.

Of course, the main thing would be for me to point my toes. Damn it!

And I must work more on my flexibility to get those legs nice and flat.

Next job: start on the Shoulder Flag. Let’s get those legs out in a straight line away from the pole. Wouldn’t that be nice! Wish me luck!!

Oh yes and if you like please feel free to follow me on Instagram, my new favourite utterley time-wasting yet super motivating activity 😉 @poledanceyoga

Yoga and pole dancing: two opposing ends of the fitness spectrum?

I love yoga. I want it to be a part of my life forever. I want to live it and teach it and practise it as much as I can.

I love both the simplicity and difficulty of combining stillness and movement, of breathing and opening and containing and flowing. Building on kindness, acceptance, spirituality.

Balance is key to yoga and as such has become a key part of my way of life: to find balance whenever possible. Maybe it’s because I’ve never become stagnant, I’ve always been moving and changing and challenging my normal. For me, the right amount of good and bad is what makes life real and exciting. Yoga for me is not just sitting on a mat crossing my legs. It’s a challenge, everyday.

I love pole dance. I want to keep it as a part of my life forever. I want to live it and teach it and practise it as much as I can.

So where does pole dancing fit in to the yoga lifestyle? Surely it’s not at all about spirituality or calming the senses? Surely its about showing off and revealing flesh, aggressive strength and hard abs? Its controversial, sexy, hardcore even. Surely its the other end of the spectrum?

Yes, it can be all those things. However, pole dancing can also be a time to work on growing, expressing myself to music, building my strength and flexibility as well as learning about my boundaries and respecting my limits.
Pole dancing is a perfect complement to my yoga practise. And vice-versa. The yoga keeps me grounded, pole dance teaches me to fly. The yoga calms my nerves, pole dance gets my heart racing. Yoga helps me hold on, pole dance pushes me to let go.
Both require strength, flexibility, motivation, balance.
Yoga and pole dancing: an ideal balance and a perfect combination.

Now to find balance in the amount of chocolate I consume…

I love 8tracks

One of the things I love most about pole dancing is the amount of great new music I hear everyday. And now I have discovered the coolest music website/app ever! I will never again be bored of the (incredible quantity!) of music on my itunes because 8tracks allows me to hear other people’s crazy amount of fave tunes too.
Of course, being inspired by other’s pole dance playlists led me to do the same: make one of my own. Here it is: simple, unique, easy to listen to anywhere, anytime, my own little collection of pole dance faves, to inspire every pole dancer to get on their pole and move!

Sia – Chandelier
Lo-fang – Blue Film
The Weekend – Professional
Lana del Rey – Fucked My Way Up To The Top
Alt-J – Tessellate
IAMX – Think of England
Tech N9ne – Fragile
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – The Lion The Beast The Beat

I hope you like it! Let me know what you think and see (hear?) you soon on 8track!

 

Click here to see the Pole Dance Bloggers Association Blog Hop…

Pole Milestones: The Shoulder Mount

Today I did my first ever shoulder mount. Shoulder mounts, plural, because I did a few just to make sure it was real.

I had been having a couple of weeks of ‘plateau’, or frustration, when it came to poling. Being unable to do any inversions (doctors orders since the stroke), I was working on my vivas, bird, knee holds, even the superman, from a side climb, without much luck. Partly fear of falling, partly not having a crash mat at home, partly lack of strength, a lot of a lack of confidence!

Yoga was my saving grace, as it has been many times in my life. I often turn to yoga in periods of frustration or general blues (and sometimes even in the good times, the sunny mornings or balmy evenings when I’m alone) and this month had been no exception. I love the flexibility and strength I feel after practising a few times, as well as the general ease in my usual anxieties. AND the whole body confidence boost.

Now this afternoon I had a feeling I have actually had a couple of times since starting pole dance. The first time was last November after a couple of weeks off from pole because I had my wisdom teeth taken out. I had been working and working on the basic invert and after ‘giving up’ for a while I had a feeling in my gut that I could do it. My body could do it. I could feel my abs itching to try, so I stepped straight into my pole studio and it just happened. Easy. YESSSSSSS!

The next time I had this feeling was about March/April time while walking home after a long day teaching. It was a gorgeous spring night, I was surprisingly full of energy and again I felt like an itch, my legs and knees telling me, “Try the cupid, try the knee hold, I think we can do it today.” And I nailed the cupid. Once. Sadly I haven’t quite mastered the knee poses yet but it felt so good to know that my body was communicating with me, telling me it was ready to take on this move that had been torturing it; my body was strong enough.

And sure enough, today, after a few weeks off pole and a whole lot of time on my yoga mat, my arms said to me, “Go on! Try it! Today it’s a sure thing. Today you are ready!” And weeeeeeeee, up went my knees and arse, my arms holding on strong and confident over my head. Fuck Yeah!!!!!

And it made my day. It made my whole weekend. It made my whole fucking week! I fucking rock! My pole fucking rocks! Yeah.

What really, really rocks? My body communicating with me: its ups and downs, its strengths and weaknesses. And myself, I’m now listening.

 

Where am I?

It’s just past half way through the year. Just about 6 months since my stroke. Just under six months since I started doing pole at home and other workouts on a regular basis. From running 20 mins maybe once a week and some yoga from time to time to training on and off the pole between 4 and 6 times a week.
Not every week, admittedly. There have been some down times and some better moments, some difficult periods, a couple of panic attacks, a few moments of realisation, some lifestyle changes, some habits broken.

So where do I find myself, my pole, my body, my dancing shoes now, at the start of August, at the height of summer?

In a great, sunny place with the horizon streeeeeetching out before me!

The down times? They come from frustration and a lack of confidence. The frustration of finally getting into the superman in class (applauses all around which was lovely!) but not being able to do it again at home. WHY???? Fear. As well as a lack of strength in my legs and flexibility in my back.
The horrible drop in confidence when someone mentions my hair as my best feature for pole-dancing. Damnit!!! I’m working on every muscle in my body and yet all I can think about is, well, is it just my hair that’s gonna make the difference between an ok pole dancer and a great one?
There really is only one person I should ever listen to for advice: myself. My body. Me.

The realisations? The learning curves? They come from random notes, messages and comments, some on social media, some from reading, some from my own observations. The first: you can’t out-train a bad diet. And as much as I like to think I have a good diet, I know I don’t in reality. But something clicked recently. I started listening even closer to my body, my moods, my emotions, my energy levels, my recovery time. And for the first time I am craving real food. I am craving colourful fruits and vegetables, fresh fish and juicy steaks, rather than the ‘bigger the better’ muffins and cookies and cupcakes. They make me feel tired, grumpy, sad. Nuts make me happy. I never realised it before but they do!!! (With a little chocolate too, of course!!)
Another huge realisation? When I eat sugar I have no control as to when I’m full and, as a result, when to stop. I can eat it for ever and ever and ever… Just knowing this has given me the upper hand. And I don’t need it so much anymore.
My body is now very good at telling me what it needs, if I just listen a little more carefully.

What do I need to do now? What do I work on? Which direction should I head in?

Fear: This is number one. First stop: invest in a crash mat. Practical side solved. Next: breeeeeeaaaathe. And just go for it, no need to think so much. Confidence may help too… The more work I do, the more confident I will feel and less insecure, hence, less fear. 

Leg strength: A big issue for me. I have to work out a lot more on this if I want to get the cupid, the knee holds, the bird and to have stronger splits (would love to do the handstand splits someday!). Cleo’s Rocking Legs and Abs, here we come!

Back flexibility: Now I know it’s not so important to push the back as it can be dangerous. So what I really mean here is that I need to concentrate on my shoulder flexibility, as well as my hip flexors (useful for my splits too).

Confidence: Confidence is key. I will just have to fake it for a while, if that’s going to get me in the right direction. Once all the above are coming along nicely, I think confidence will come naturally.

 

Will keep you posted at Christmas time as to my progress!! And will start posting pics once I have some to be proud of!!

xoxo

Private time with Maddie Sparkle (& sexy booty shaking with Michelle Shimmy)

Yesterday I lived my best ever pole dance day. I’m writing about it today because I actually can’t move and don’t know how else to spend my afternoon other than reliving some newly made pole dance memories.

One hour of Sexy Booty Shaking with Michelle Shimmy was followed by one hour of private tuition with Maddie Sparkle. The professional pole dancing sisters from Down Under are friends of my pole dance instructor, France Grieco and they are here in the South of France for ten days spending time with their friend and giving us pole dance students some super sexy giggly fun workshops.

I have to say I had been excited about these workshops for the last 5 months. And when the day finally arrived I felt like I was on my way to meet Shakira or Kate Moss. Was I more than a little star-struck? Oh yes! On entering the studio my instructor France excitedly announced my entry to Shimmy (no, I’m not a star pole pupil, just her English teacher!), who was helping an advanced student hang upside down from the pole with one leg. I blushed and grinned and headed in the direction of the changing room where, in the doorway, perfectly silhouetted in a forearm stand split, was Maddie. (Honestly, I’m not making this up.)

She was smiling and cute and asked about the weather outside and I was instantly happy to be there, all my anxiety about meeting such a huge (but tiny!) pole dance star drifted away and my afternoon of pole fun began.

So let me clarify that the name ‘Sexy Booty Workshop’ actually applied to the rest of the 15 girls present whereas for me I would have to rename it ‘Silly Bum Wiggling Whilst Laughing Like an Idiot’ workshop. But let me tell you we worked up a sweat and laughed our arses off and, as usual after pole dance class, I have again discovered some muscles I never knew I had. And Shimmy is a twerking, poling Goddess who speaks French better than me even though she lives on the other side of the world. What an inspiration!

Oh, and it was also the first time I danced in my pole dancing heels. I say danced because putting them on and checking them out in the mirror at home a few times doesn’t count as dancing in them. Thank God I had a pole next to me for support during all the bum shaking. Thank God noone in the class lost an eye.

A couple of hours after trying to shake my booty to a naughty Australian song I was back in the studio for some alone time with Maddie. If I start to sound like an obsessed stalker, trust me, I’m really trying to tone it down! Honestly, I had possibly the best hour of my pole life with this woman and I am now her number one fan.

Seated face to face on our mats I had to warn her about not asking me to do any inversions or crazy spins. I told her about the stroke I had and that subsequently I’m limited when it comes to certain pole moves. She was understanding and knew about the risks to women with migraine, like herself and me, so I immediately felt at ease. She had us start off with stretches for the hamstrings and hip flexors, she let me in on a little secret for checking my hip alignment and she had me strap on my dancing shoes ready for some sexy Maddie signature moves. Perfect for me, we did the layout and my favourite, the naughty ‘Hello Boys’, into a chair sit and down to the floor. I got a ton of tips on body rolls, as mine are not yet ‘rolls’ as such and at every point where I did something new she was a fountain of positivity and encouragement and at no point did I feel like a stiff ape (even though I’m sure I looked it!).

We did a super sexy routine to No Doubt’s ‘Just A Girl’ (which I love!) and now I have a ton of homework to perfect it and get bendy and rolly and hair-flicky. The motivation I have gained from my short time in the studio with Maddie will last me a lifetime I’m sure.

She gave me hug and then I left, ready to double up on my strength and flexy training. 24 hours later and I’m still on poling cloud number nine. When I finally get back down to Earth I’m certain it will be in a sexy front split, with heels on, Maddie style.

Maddie and I

How do I stick to thee, dearly beloved?

Here are some of my personal tips and tricks for sticking to my dearly beloved chrome pole (may not apply to everyone as I will point out further down):

 

Wherefore art thou so cold and hostile, dearly beloved?

Why won’t you hold me as tightly as I hold you?

Why do you push me away when all I do is try to get closer?

 

“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…”

Yup, in the winter months my pole is so cold it makes me gasp to touch it. And I live in Marseille, where the temperature hardly ever goes below 5°C. What on earth must it feel like in the UK or Canada or Norway?! What I’ve learnt (with quite a bit of research) is that the heater in my pole garage is not just to keep the air warm… it goes right next to my dearly beloved to warm it up nicely, then I warm myself up nicely to the sound of Grace Potter & the Nocturnals ‘The Lion The Beast The Beat’, covered in leggings and sweaters and leg warmers and gloves (I’m always cold) until eventually… warmth is created and my skin doesn’t retract in fear from the touch of the icy chrome. And I can strip off some layers 😉

 

Dry Hands not Dry Legs.

This is one thing that no one in the pole community perfectly or clearly spelt out to me (or maybe I just never really understood, I do live in France): the difference between the hand grip and the ‘rest of your body’ grip. And the difference between dry skin people and moist skin people. Dry Hands is a great, really great product for my hands. It works by repelling any moisture from the hands so you don’t slip. Very safe.  Makes a horrible sound if trying to spin on static (and doesn’t feel v pleasant)! Anyway, I don’t have very sweaty hands but I use it anyway, partly because I actually bought it for the first time thinking I would put it on my legs too so that I could have better grip on the pole for moves like ‘skater’, which was driving me nuts.

It didn’t really work for my body… Dry Hands for my hands, fine. But what about my knees and thighs and ankles and sides?

After nearly a year of poling and reading pole blogs, facebook updates, etc, etc, I understood that I have dry skin  on my body and so to stick to the pole I need to have moist body skin. So I invested in some ‘Dew Point Pole’. (I think it was Aerial Amy’s bloody brilliant blog that helped me discover it… she wrote about how different environments and conditions needed different grip aids, v interesting, see her blog entry here).

This stuff has made me oh so happy. I sprayed it on my legs and jumped into the prettiest ‘skater’ I have ever done. Just like that. Easy peasy. It’s a moisturiser, too. So now I don’t have to jump straight into the shower immediately after pole dancing just to soap off all the dry Dry Hands chalky stuff from my poor dry thighs.

 

What else? Vodka!

This was tip number one from my pole dance teacher France Grieco (anyone coming to the south of France fancying a pole class she is the best!!! See the studio here: Marseille Pole Dance Academy). She told me about it just before I bought my own pole, so I raided the drinks cabinet and found a half bottle which now lives in the pole garage. Not to be drunk!! Nope, I use it to clean the pole after it gets gunked up on Dry Hands and hair conditioner and leftover body moisturiser or whatever else ends up on the pole to make it all dirty and sweaty and gross. A good wipe down with vodka and yes, nice clean easy-to-hold pole. And I will always enjoy the sexy climb with the vodka soaked rag stuck in my shorties to clean it from top to bottom at the beginning and end of my pole dancing sessions 😉

 

 

Disclaimer: None of the products I mention are asking me or paying me to say these things about them. This is my personal review and advice blog. Nothing more. I don’t get any freebies from anyone 😦

 

Getting Stronger: Physically and Emotionally

Feel the music. Move your body. Unleash your passion. Release your inner God(dess)!

This is dance: feeling and movement.

But what about Pole Dance? I have found that many people are either shocked or put off by the word ‘pole’. So much so that they don’t hear (or choose to ignore) the word ‘dance’. That all important aspect of poling: DANCE!!!

I have an emotional connection to pole dancing. I know  it now.

“An emotional connection? To dancing around a stripper pole?!”

Well, yes, of course! Let me explain:

I have always loved dancing. As many of my friends and family may know, I always said my favourite songs had the word ‘dance’ in them. And my favourite films (Flashdance, anyone?! Woman working in a physical, traditionally male job, reading Vogue on her break, wearing oversized clothing with black lycra and leather, big ugly dog, I could go on and on…).

Apart from salsa in Spain, I never went to a physically demanding dance class. No ballet or jazz or tango or breakdancing or hip hop. I think I never fancied the discipline involved. I never saw myself as a disciplined person. I tried giving up sugar once. I literally dreamt about muffins and cupcakes for weeks. Then Easter came and I said “sod it!”. Nope, not very disciplined.

What I saw in pole dancing was the need for STRENGTH.

If you saw me you would never associate the word ‘strong’ with my tiny frame. As I so much enjoy challenging people’s perceptions and ideas of what sort of person I am, the idea of turning my little body into a strong little body was too tempting to pass up. What pole dancing gives me, maybe first and foremost, is strength. Physical strength.

But one thing I’ve learnt on my long, slow route to learning how to pole dance is the added emotional strength I get from being physically strong(er!). I’ve never been this strong in my life. And I can say that I’ve never been this strong emotionally, either.

When I was ill at the end of last year (coinciding nicely with when I was setting up my new pole space in the garage, strong grrrrrr sound), I was scared. The desire to be able to get back on the pole pushed me to go to the doctor quicker than I would have done BPD (Before Pole Dance). I had a number of blood tests, scans, the claustrophobic MRI and of course the results: a stroke. I was told no sport for a while. I still can’t hang upside down or do handstands, doctors orders.

Through these few months I had my man, my family, my friends and my pole. I also had my strength and patience (another subject, that one!!): an inner voice telling me to breathe in the faith, hope and positivity and to breathe out the fear, dread and frustration. If I could put my body through the pain and bruises of pole dancing just for fun, then I could get through any little medical test, easy. If I could train my body to lift my arse over my head and hang upside down from my ankles and knees, then my mind and soul could do the same!

Emotion is often associated with some kind of weakness. “She’s so emotional!” or “Toughen up!” come to mind. But dance is one part of life where EMOTION and STRENGTH are one. And what great things happen when these two things combine!

 

Other pole dance bloggers are writing about emotionality and dance: check out the blog hop here.