Maybe I’m a sucker for difficult, sometimes even painful situations – idk – but here I am, attempting something that can only be described as *true pain*. Okay, I may be a little overdramatic – sorry, it’s the Leo in me – as there are TONNES of other, more painful situations (like giving birth omg!!) but in terms of sports, pole dancing ranks high on the pain scale. And yes, pole dancing is an officially recognised sport and has been on “special observer status” with the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) – the big umbrella organization that oversees official sports around the world – since 2017.
Now, I started pole dancing on a whim. Back in 2019, My high school friend and I stumbled across a package for pole classes at a really good rate and we thought it would be a fun experience. While we weren’t wrong – it was so much fun – we weren’t prepared for the amount of work that goes into pole dancing. Fast forward a year and a half later, and realised that a) there are so many misconceptions around pole dancing and b) no matter how good you get at it, the pain doesn’t get any better (you just get used to it HAHA).
And there’s more to what I learned from regularly attending pole classes, like:
There’s more than one type of pole dance.
Here’s the thing, pole classes aren’t just being sexy on or with a pole and, when I started out, I didn’t know this. I thought it would be like what you’d see in the movies. But there are different elements that go into pole classes: you’ve got fitness/sport – which is what I signed up for – artistic and exotic. While artistic and exotic pole classes are as their name suggests – more focused on dance, flow and risqué moves – the sport and fitness pole classes focus on the technical aspects of pole dancing and the various tricks that pole athletes perform.
And, it can get REALLY unglamorous.
When I started out, even trying to get even get on the pole was hella awkward. Not to mention the bruises, burns, and scrapes I got. There’s also all fear (of the pain), the screaming (in pain), and cursing (from the pain). My pole instructors favourite way of introducing us to a trick is:
“It’s not hard, just painful,”
Back then, I had ZERO muscle – core, arm, leg, glute, back – you name it, I had NONE of it. So, for the first few months of pole classes, I was like…
It also takes so.much.strength…
Pole dancing is a full-body workout. It’s basically resistance training and cardio rolled into one. As a lot of the tricks are done on either a static (stationary) pole or a spinning pole (it’s the pole that spins, really), not only do you need a strong core, you need the support of your back, arms and leg muscles. It also tests and improves your flexibility. When I first started out, I was as bad as one could get – I was uncoordinated, I couldn’t lift my own body weight and in terms of flexibility….
Case in point:
But you build it over time!
It can be offputting, the thought that you may not be “good enough” or that you will “never be as good”. But in all honesty, pole dancing is beautiful in the fact that it doesn’t matter where you’re at when you start. You’re never too “old”, too “unfit”, too “inflexible”, too anything! The amazing thing about pole is that you’re constantly growing – and at your own pace too. Of course, as with any sport, you need to commit to training, but everyone’s journey with pole is different.
There’s always a new trick, a new transition, a new shape to make with your body – the possibilities are endless. And with each new step, you feel more empowered!
You learn to be comfortable in your own body… and you find a community who share the journey with you.
Because the tricks in pole require grip, your legs, arms and stomachs need to be exposed – meaning that in classes, you’re mostly going to be in shorts and t-shirts. This was intimidating for me as I wasn’t very body positive in the beginning; I was insecure about my “flabby” stomach and arms. Then later on, during the first MCO, I had a major onset of eczema, with the subsequent scratching leaving me with scarring all over my body. I hated the idea of exposing my skin and my “flaws”. But then, once I got into class, I stopped focusing so much on what I looked like and started to focus on getting the tricks done. The shift in my perspective from my insecurities to my accomplishments was something I carried out of class too. It made me realise that my flaws and insecurities are minuscule in the grand scheme of things because my strength and perseverance to get things done outweighed them. The confidence that came along with that is unparalleled.
Plus, you soon realise that everyone who is in class with you is probably feeling the same way too. Because pole dancing often has a negative image, you feel a sense of protectiveness over the people who are in class. I’ve made friends from pole class that are from all walks of life – different professions, religions, sizes, cultures, ages – and we’ve all bonded by our shared desire for personal growth. Everyone has their own insecurities but in class, these insecurities go out the window as we constantly support each other and cheer each other on. There is absolutely no judgement.
This is probably one of the biggest reasons I’ve stuck with pole dancing as long as I have. Sure, the physical benefits are great – you burn calories quickly, it’s good for your heart and blood flow, you learn coordination – but the confidence, sense of accomplishment and overall love for your own body and abilities is indescribable. If there’s one thing you should add to your bucket list, it’s definitely to give pole classes a try. Whether you’d prefer the dance elements and flow of art and exotic pole or prefer to build your strength with fitness pole, there’s definitely so much more to it than what you see in the movies.