Monday, 9 July 2012

Poles apart.

Phew! What a week since my last post! The school year finished on Saturday, after what feels likes a protracted countdown, and the last few days were rather hectic to say the least. So much so that I spent all of yesterday in my PJs, just doing odds and sods around the flat, and being just the tiniest bit lazy - hence no Sunday Smörgåsbord this week. It is such a physical, mental and emotional release to be able to relax your body and mind after the stresses and strains of a school term. Doubtless some of you will be thinking something along the lines of 'part-timer', but I assure you that the holidays are an absolute necessity rather than a luxury when you're a teacher!

This evening, I'd like to talk about something that I discovered back in January, and have become a fierce advocate of over the past seven months: pole dancing.

January 2012. Every year for the past six or so, getting fit has made its way onto my list of resolutions, but this year I actually had the impetus to get going and stick with something - our wedding in December. I am not, nor have I ever been overweight. I've no doubt carried a few extra pounds at one time or another, but never outside the boundaries of a healthy bmi. Having said that, I am no Skinny Minnie. I love my food, and like to think of myself as having curves in the right places, let's put it that way. My intention to get fit is precisely that, not an attempt to shed multiple pounds and end up looking like a bony, sickly, hungry version of myself on my wedding day. With that in mind, I considered what I would enjoy doing, rather than looking for a sport that would help me lose weight, and I pinpointed that I was looking to build my upper body strength and tone my arms in particular.

There have been times in my life when I have been a regular at the gym, which I enjoy, but prioritising saving for the wedding meant that an expensive gym membership was out of the question. I have always loved dance and aerobics, and one lesson a week would certainly cost less than the gym, or so I thought... Some dance classes were in the region of £30 an hour, and having tried out a few aerobics classes, I felt most of them were not leaving me feeling as though I'd had a good enough work out. Body Combat was the only reasonably priced class that was fun and made me break a sweat, but various commitments meant that I wasn't always able to attend. So it was, that with curiosity, trepidation and the moral support of a friend to join me, I signed up for a Level 1 Pole Fit course at my local leisure centre, and the rest, as they say, is history.

First, I must point out that I practise pole fit, as opposed to pole dancing, which really is something quite different. Let me first reassure you that I do not spend my weekly lessons grinding against a pole in a push-up bra. Pole fit is about strength - in your arms, legs and core - and is far more like gymnastics than lap-dancing. It is also, when performed well, quite beautiful...

I hope you'll agree that the above (performed by Doris Arnold, a famous Parisian pole artist) is tasteful, sensitive and expressive; there is nothing sleazy or degrading about it. The only thing you cannot escape is the necessity for skin contact on the pole - hence not very much in the way of clothing - but it's arguably similar to other forms of dance. Let's face it, male ballet dancers' outfits leave little or nothing to the imagination!

Needless to say, I've not quite reached Doris's level of expertise just yet, but I have learned many of the moves you see in the video above, and in seven short months, with only one lesson a week and no pole at home to practise on (until yesterday, that is!). I cannot emphasise how quickly you begin to see results with pole fit. I have lost 5lbs, as well as inches from various places, gained core stability, subtle definition to my biceps, triceps and quads, and the ability to do full sets of proper press-ups, which I could never do before.

Please indulge me while I share just a few silly shots of me performing some of my favourite moves (taken at my instructor's house, where my friend and I now have our lessons - NB the Barbie pink wall!):

Inverted crucifix

Butterfly handstand

The plank


My motivation for writing this post is a desire to share the joy of this sport, and perhaps also to close the gap between people's possible preconceptions of pole fit, and the reality of it. Pole fit is not synonymous with stripping or lap-dancing, or advertently alluding to sex. Sensual it may be, provocative even, but not in a way that should be viewed as degrading or indicative of the sexuality of those who practise it. I hope this post may also encourage you to have a closer look at some of the awe-inspiring routines on YouTube!

Over and out.

pp x

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