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.


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

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.


The Ups and Downs of Pole Dancing

My grandmother sent me a newspaper article about pole dancing, folded up inside a letter, about 10 years ago while I was at university in Scotland. I remember I laughed a lot because at the age of 20 it was my 80 year old Nanny who was introducing me to an activity which required quite a bit of open-mindedness even for my generation, not to mention hers. Anyway, I just wasn’t into sport. At all. Salsa dancing with Latin men was my hobby back then. So I forgot about it.

How much I regret ignoring her suggestion!!! Recently I wonder where I would be now and how I would look and feel if I had started then, 10 years ago. Is it silly to think I wasted my 20s just because I didn’t do pole dancing?!! A sign of turning 30 maybe? (Or a sign of a pole addiction I think!) Getting older, feeling a little bit weaker, a bit grumpier, and I don’t even have kids yet!!!!

So I did a pole class once a month from March til September, which wasn’t enough as I had to relearn every move and rebuild some strength every time I went back. And when I say strength I mean the lowest amount possible to just get my feet off the ground and spin some. (more on spinning later…)

From September I was finally frustrated enough with my lack of progression to invest in a subscription at Pole Dance Marseille (where I live) and commit to between 2 and 3 classes a month. This was really the beginning of something I had never experienced before: an actual desire to go to a fitness class, to get stronger, to be able to do these things that other women were doing around me, hanging upside down, handstands, splits, body rolls, spinning, spinning and more spinning…

But my body didn’t agree with all this fun and fitness.

First, spinning made me, and still makes me, very dizzy and very sick. It really makes me feel awful for up to an hour or two after class. To help I munch on a bit of ginger before I pole, or I sip on ginger tea. Nowadays I train using static when at home and then I try some spins on spinny pole at the end of a session to ‘get my body used to it’ but it’s taking a while..

Second, flexibility. I don’t have any flexibility at all. None. It has taken a very long time and a lot of home stretching sessions just to be able to touch my toes! And sometimes I can’t even get my legs open more than 90 degrees which is embarrasing when trying to do a move like the ‘hello boys’, which for me is more like ‘just a peek boys’ or ‘nope, not today boys’. 

The REAL BIGGY: After having an operation to get my wisdom teeth removed in November (unfortunately the same month I set up my own pole dance space in the garage) I got very ill. I had everything, usually after a pole dancing class or session. I had headaches, baaaad headaches, nausea and vomitting, then aural migraines, three in the space of four days over Christmas. The highs I felt after getting the Cross Knee Release, Inverted V and Crucifix were followed by low low lows. Turns out, I had an ischemic stroke. NO SPORT for the month of January. Drugs and rest. Still no idea what caused it. A very difficult time, especially as I am a 30 year old non-smoker who has a very healthy lifestyle. I was very annoyed, to put it nicely. In February I was told I could go back to doing some sport but no hanging upside down in inversions or headstands or yoga poses.

So where am I after a year of pole dancing??!

Pole Dancing has been my therapy. Nailing a new move is my way of shouting “Fuck you, Stroke!”. Getting stronger is no longer just to look better naked. It is 100% for me. Pole dancing makes me feel incredible, even when I’m tumbling and falling and tripping over the base of the pole. I get up and go out with more muscle, more core strength, less fear.

It gives me attitude. 

It rocks. It fucking rocks. And I get to rock it however I want, when I want, wearing what I want, listening to what I want. 

Thank you, Nanny, for the suggestion to try out pole dancing and I’m sorry it took me ten years to get to it.