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!


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.