Long gone are the days when pole dancing was strictly associated with dollar bills thrown in seedy nightclubs. Today it’s become a legitimate form of fitness, a symbol of female empowerment that your girlfriends won’t stop whispering about.
Credited for building and championing incredible strength, stamina, stability and flexibility, and with its own governing body (the International Pole Sport Federation), which organises some breathtakingly acrobatic international competitions, you can certainly even call it a sport in its own right.
And actually, the federation has had its sights on taking the vertical bar to the Olympics in the near future, too.
And why not? With countless swinging, spinning and static vertical, lateral and inverted moves and combos one is able to master on the pole, most of which require foundational training akin to Gymnastics and Acrobatics, Pole Dancing is serious work and I have immense respect for those who can handle it.
The world may be taking the practice a lot more seriously, but if you’re just looking for a creative and active challenge you and a gaggle of your girlfriends can get behind a couple times a week, there are plenty more studios in the UAE in which to throw a leg as a complete beginner, too.
The trend just won’t stop spreading. If you’re still yet to jump on the bandwagon, chances are your first class will suck – unless you’ve come in with an already fairly established foundation of fitness and flexibility, and in particular, upper body strength – then you’ll probably spend more time off the pole, pole position discover the new fitness trend taking… or pooled at the base of it, than twirling round it.
But you can use Cobra Pole Fitness head instructor, Laura C.’s first encounter as your motivation to keep at it.
“I first came across Pole back home in Liverpool. My cousin invited me to a pole class and I first said no because of the idea of what people thought of it and its associations,” she admits. “In the end I tried it and found it was not at all what I thought it would be. I remember leaving and literally nearly falling down the stairs because of how sore my legs were.
“It was a whole body workout. And honestly, even now, depending on how long we’re on the pole for, we still feel it and are left covered in bruises (what we call ‘pole kisses’, from the skin rubbing against the pole). But it’s worth it. To this day I am often still left shocked by the things my body can do.”
One student who can’t get enough of it is Laura Nadine Miller, practising now for over two years.
“I came just wanting to try something different and I heard it was not just good exercise, but really fun as well. The friend I started coming with is now so good she is a junior instructor – the girls here are so motivating and friendly that we just never felt like it was a chore to come in and do the work,” she says.
“I’ve seen improvements each week in myself, it slims you down as well as makes you loads stronger. There’s all sorts of women here doing it – different ages, nationalities, body sizes and fitness levels, and everyone’s progressing in their own unique way. You just have to keep at it.”
“It’s an ongoing learning process,” agrees South African Chantelle Atkins, who teaches alongside Laura C., “and we love it because of that immense accomplishment you feel after finally doing something on the pole you never imagined possible. There’s a lovely all-female environment surrounding it too where everyone is sharing in your accomplishment.”
The Cobra Pole Fitness crew has also just launched a supplementary Strength, Conditioning and Stretching class on Saturdays just for pole, “because a lot of the girls have been asking ‘What else can you do? How can I get stronger quicker?’” says Laura C.
“In this class we will often incorporate some of the moves you can find downstairs at Cobra in an Abs or Fighter’s Fitness class. We’ve got some excellent trainers in the main space who have helped us create a class to see the girls progress, and of course it’s catered for ladies only, too.”
Gruelling conditioning, bruises and aching muscles aside, Pole is no doubt popular in the Emirates too because of its ability to simultaneously offer female-friendly, rip-roaring fun outside of your typical gym setting, as well as be a beautiful, graceful and creative art form to look at.
There really is nothing sleazy about it – just head over to the Instagram account of Dubai Marina-based studio Pole Fit Dubai, whose beautiful, long-limbed Artistic Gymnastics-trained instructors frequently wow in jaw-dropping short videos.
They are joined by several new and veteran dance coaches found across Dubai who are taking the practice to further heights; venues such as The WareHouse Gym (via Polercise Dubai), James & Alex Dance Studios in Dubai Media City, and Milan Pole Dance Dubai Studio in the buzzing progressive JLT area, to name a few.
In Abu Dhabi, there are cityside classes held at Expressions of Dance and Drama (One to One Hotel) but it is with Cobra that I first gave it a go.
Back then it was just me and two girlfriends I nagged into joining for laughs whereas nowadays, it’s two girls to a pole during beginner and advanced classes run back to back and almost every day of the week in a dedicated, private space within Cobra’s massive facility. All of my girlfriends are doing it, and without once ever jokingly uttering the word ‘stripper’.
“From the moment you hold the pole, there is a certain charm and magic that every woman will surely feel,” says Rania Gamal, a Dubaibased fitness expert, model, actress and TV presenter, who last month was taken on as the new brand ambassador for Milan Pole Dance Dubai Studio.
“And from there, slowly you will learn how to hold your grip, dance through it and build your endurance, fortitude and confidence. Pole dancing is one of the most fun sports a woman could do with her girlfriends. It will never be boring as there is always something new to learn each time you train.”
It’s safe to say that Pole is the one fun fitness craze that keeps on giving.
Cobra Pole Fitness, Abu Dhabi – www. cobrafitnessuae.com | 02 449 6524
Expressions of Dance & Drama, Abu Dhabi – www.expressionsdance.net | 02 493 0115
James & Alex Dance Studios, Dubai – www.jamesandalex.com | 04 447 0773
Milan Pole Dance Studio, Dubai – www.milanpoledance.com | 04 430 3693
Polercise Dubai – www.polercisedubai.com | 04 437 0479
Getting enough vegetables into your diet while keeping things interesting can be tough. It can be too easy to fall back upon the same dishes with the same unappealing sides of veg.
Sport360’s Josie Mckenlay thinks there are easy ways to ensure you are getting your vegetables in without losing out on flavour or satisfaction.
Here are our top eight recipe ideas:
Mix a cup of blue cheese (ricotta or cream if you prefer), a handful of chopped sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped basil, seasoning and combine with an egg. Heap into cup mushrooms with the stalks removed and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes until the tops are browned.
Light lunch, ideal for picnics, a healthy snack or serve with drinks, dips. Raw veg batons can be very varied. A colourful and tasty dip is Beetroot and Goats Cheese: Put three medium beetroots into a pan with a couple of tablespoons of water, cover with foil and cook until tender – about an hour.
Chop up and put into a blender with a minced clove of garlic and red chili, a tablespoon of olive oil, two tablespoons of plain yoghurt, seasoning and blend until smooth. Scoop into a dish and crumble a handful of feta cheese on top with some finely chopped spring onions.
Thread chunks of your favourite vegetables onto skewers, brush with a mix of olive oil, mustard, honey and a squeeze of lemon and put them on the barbeque. Mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, onion pieces, courgettes, peppers and haloumi cheese chunks make for a Greek twist.
A quick shot of the valuable nutrients, if you need to use some up or good for those who don’t particularly like veggies, try these combinations: carrot and orange; green apple, celery and kale; tomatoes, celery, cucumber and a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper; cabbage and grapefruit.
Try celeriac puree: Cook the celeriac until tender, put into a blender (or use a stick blender in the saucepan), add some butter, a little cream, salt and pepper and blend until it is smooth. Serve warm. Pea puree: Lightly fry some chopped garlic while cooking the peas. Put in the blender with some chopped mint to taste, seasoning and plain yoghurt.
Maybe it’s the size that makes them appealing, but these miniature veggies tend to be less bitter and far more tender than their grown up versions.
It used to be just roasted potatoes, but now roasting all sorts of roots and serving as a side dish is very common. Try beetroot, sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips served with guacamole as a light meal.
Ratatouille is very simple to prepare, colourful and goes well with white fish or steak. Lightly fry chunks of eggplant (aubergine), courgettes (zucchini/baby marrows), peppers, onions and garlic cloves. Add tinned tomatoes with seasoning and simmer until tender.
A well-balanced and nutritious diet is a key component to your fitness regime and is equally as important as exercise. From being an exercise novice to a seasoned gym-goer, everyone has become more conscious as to what goes into their food.
Co-founders of Under500, Fadi Ghaly and Mahmoud Bartawi, share their advice on maintaining a healthy diet.
1. Eat the right amount of calories for how active you are
The first step to a healthy diet is being observant of what you eat. Most people assume that calories are bad for you, but they provide your body with energy. It is only when your calorie intake exceeds the amount of calories you burn, you gain weight. We need to make sure that when we consume calories, the fat, protein, and carbohydrates that we choose to eat are as micronutrient dense as possible.
A healthy option would be to replace processed carbohydrates that increase blood sugar and insulin, and shift to unrefined and unprocessed whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa and oats. Eating potatoes with their skins on not only gives you more fibre but leaves you feeling fuller for longer.
A few healthy options from Under500 include quinoa, whole grain pasta, brown rice and sweet potatoes that are baked instead of fried.
2. Eat lots of fruits and veggies
We must make sure the majority of our diet consists of a variety of fruit and vegetable options. This is easier to do than you think, from having vegetables raw and as a snack to preparing fruit and vegetable juices or smoothies; also remember to incorporate as many vegetables as you can into your meals.
Under500 has a great variety of vegetarian options such as Rainbow Quinoa, the Organic Lentil Salad, and the Chicken Burrito Bowl, and also offers a well-balanced menu and great breakfast options with fruit such as granola and smoothies for a healthy kick-start in the morning.
3. Cut down on saturated fats and sugar
Although we must pay attention to the fats we consume, fats are a necessary component to our diet. It is important to have foods with unsaturated fats, such as fish, raw nuts and fruits like avocado, as saturated fats can increase cholesterol in our blood and heighten the risk of heart disease.
We need to be avoiding fatty foods such as hard cheese, cakes, cream and butter and instead opt for raw nuts, fish and avocado. The Under500 Grilled Salmon Avocado is a great low fat option to keep you light and active.
4. Eat regularly and in moderate portions
Keeping your portion sizes reasonable will help you enjoy a variety of different meals while having a balanced diet. Portion control and calorie counting can help you consume meals more frequently, and helps diminish overeating. Snacking can help you curb hunger and Under500 has some great power-packed breakfast options such as steak and eggs and egg quinoa tabouleh.
5. Get active
Just dieting alone will not help you achieve drastic goals and it is very important to accompany healthy eating with healthy living. This includes getting out, being more active, pushing yourself harder, and finally having a brownie to reward yourself after all your hard work.