When you think of pole dancing, fitness may not be the first thing that pops to mind. But you would be surprised to know it has become a popular technique across the globe to improve fitness and agility.
However, I have to admit I was a bit hesitant when I got the opportunity to try out this unique programme.
With whatever knowledge a quick Google search equipped me with, I decided to venture into it completely blind and gain an insight into pole fitness under the guidance of Pole Fit Dubai.
We were all handed a small booklet with a checklist of pole moves that was to be our syllabus for pole intro that vastly involved basic spins and didn’t include any of the crazy acrobatics just yet.
I was greeted by the jovial face of my instructor Sarah Jones, winner of 2014 British pole superstar, whose agility and grace on the pole dropped all our jaws in awe and I was satisfied to know that I was not the only one openly gaping at her.
Sarah’s classes included a mix of beginner and intermediate girls, and as she he had rightly said, her classes were indeed a sweat-fest.
Her warm-ups were intense and every time she heard my anguished shrieks, she would look over at me sympathetically and promise that it would get better with time.
For pole dancing, being scantily clad is more of a necessity than a choice for better grip on the pole – shyness will quickly dissipate as you hang on to the pole for dear life and are more focused on not falling flat on your face.
I was gradually getting accustomed to pole dancing jargons and a technique called Pole Conditioning.
The conditioning involved specific exercise that act as a preparatory ground for your body to toughen up for the pain and bruises that are to come in the future.
My understanding of pole lingo may have gotten better, but sadly my signature pole dancing move remained falling all over the place like a loose sack of potatoes.
With my moderate flexibility I managed to do a few tricks, but I was often assured that flexibility and strength will get better and all I need is to be persistent.
In my entire existence, there are only two things that I vehemently regret: one was eating chimichangas before bed and second was letting my friends talk me into watching ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’.
However, as I lay battered and bruised curled in a foetal position on the sofa in the changing room, I thought of expanding my list to include several choices in that list, especially the one that brought me to pole dancing.
I attracted the concern of all the girls nearby, but once they found out the cause of my pain, I was showered with endearments with a terse knowing nod and a guarantee that it would get better.
The assurances were beginning to sound like a broken record and I contemplated quitting pole altogether, which was immediately met with fervent protests and I was told to keep trying another week or two before pulling the plug on it.
Having been coaxed into continuing pole for another week, I dreaded going to class mostly because of the soreness in every fibre of my body.
I looked back on all the times algebra was hard and how I casually joked about alternate career options, but right about then I was willing choose advanced algebra over going to another pole class.
As I was mentally prepared to whine and sulk through another week, something amazing happened; I managed to get by the fourth week with a lot more ease than I expected. I felt my arms were able to hold my weight up and my legs had better grip on the pole. My battered self-efficacy recovered slightly after the quantum leap and I decided to stay on for the remaining four weeks.
I felt more confident as I reached week five and successfully managed to do basic inverts now.
I flaunted my bruises as badges of honour and as my otherwise scrawny frame began to beef up, so did the disapproval from friends and family who clutched their pearls the moment I mentioned pole dancing.
Telling them that my involvement with pole dancing was only for a feature did little to put their minds at ease, but their ardent disapproval piqued my curiosity.
Having gotten fully accustomed to Sarah’s extreme warm-up, I realised she was right all along: it did get better with time.
She shared her story of how she got into pole dancing and having witnessed her amazing skills, it was hard to believe that she too started off as stiff and inflexible as a board.
“I have absolutely no dance or gymnastics background but I enjoy that I can move along to music and express myself through my strength,” said Sarah.
She also opened up about the stigma that she strongly believes comes from a very old-school line of thought that can be changed with just one class.
“Any type of dance can be practised in an erotic manner and it’s unfortunate that some people still associate pole dancing with that stigma. However, I think pole fitness is being seen in a new light and most people appreciate the talent and body conditioning that’s involved. Anyone can do pole fit male or female and it only takes one class to break that stigma.”
Talking to Sarah put a lot of my worries at ease and as I started working on level one pole dancing moves, I also made some very meaningful connections with other girls in my class.
As I began talking to my peers, I realised that they all experienced the same reactions from other people that I had received, but they didn’t let that stop them.
We shared a strange camaraderie in and out of the classroom. We all pushed each other to keep practicing to master each move and often shared tips and tricks to improve our postures. Pole dancing is a very goal-oriented sport and as you continue to master each move, you are imbued with a great sense of competency and self confidence.
As I reached the last week of my pole fitness lessons, I am set to transition into level two of pole dancing and also made the solemn decision of formally adopting pole fitness as a hobby, much to the chagrin of my family.
My journey into pole dance was nothing short of an intense roller coaster ride. This ‘scandalous’ sport changed my perception of the industry. It taught me the importance of perseverance and helped realise how strong I actually am.
In the wise words of a pole ninja: “The most important thing to do is to let go of your own preconceptions. Pole is an apparatus. It’s a bar that people have associated it with something. It could be a great tool for you to train and to work out or for you to learn dance or for you to use as a mental focus for you to develop yourself in another way.”
Are you stuck for time to exercise?
Well, then you need to get more organised and make better decisions each day!
Windows of time do exist for you to go for a walk or run so it’s important to utilise them.
Here’s our three tips to help to improve your health and fitness on a daily basis:
RUN TO OR FROM WORK?
Depending on the distance between your accommodation and workplace, you could try running to work. It’s an efficient way to fit in your training and will have you feeling energetic and productive for the rest of the morning.
If there is a lack of showering facilities at your workplace, then you could run home instead. This will help clear your head after a long day in the office and beats sitting in a taxi during rush hour traffic in the evening.
USE YOUR WINDOWS OF TIME EFFECTIVELY
It’s nice to have some downtime after a working day but its pointless going straight home and sitting on a laptop for the rest of the evening, flicking through apps on your phone or watching five episodes of a TV series.
If you have free windows of time then go for a walk, a light jog or even a 45-minute gym session. Most of our apartment complexes have small gyms so go down and work hard for a short period of time and you’ll be feeling sharper after.
FOLLOW SAME ROUTINE AT WEEKENDS
It’s nice having a lie-in when you’re off but if you can try and get up at a similar time on a Friday or Saturday as you do from Sunday-Thursday then you’ll have no excuse about not having the time to exercise.
With less time pressure at weekends, why not try some of the great running routes around Abu Dhabi or Dubai? It’s always satisfying testing out a different location rather than the same place that you might train during the week.
Be selective with your decision making and always put your health and fitness at the forefront of your plans.
It’s obvious to highlight that heart rate (beats per minute) increases significantly during exercise, let alone when you’re running a marathon.
And while few runners actually target or think about a specific heart rate threshold during a run, there are so many variables that can affect it – such as pace, body temperature, energy levels (carbs and glycogen stores) and the weather on the day.
Last Friday, it’s fair to say most of us experienced the cardiovascular drift – a natural, progressive increase in heart rate when running. But, even if you were running at a constant pace, there can still be change with ups and downs in your heart rate as the following statistics show.
My average resting heart rate, according to my Garmin Forerunner 35, is around 44 bpm and during my Dubai Marathon run (overall finishing time 3:33:39) – my heart rate hit a peak of 186 around the half-marathon mark and my average was 167.
My average pace per km between the startline and 30km was between 4.20 and 4.60, before injuries took their toll and my speed decreased during the last phase of the race.
But for the bulk of the marathon, as the graphs below help to illustrate, my aerobic threshold zone (80-85% of your maximum heart rate) was close to my overall average.
Basically, the quicker you run – the faster this tends to be. For elite athletes – they will be hitting the summit of their maximum zone for a lengthy part of the distance.
GRAPH 1 – MY AVERAGE AND MAXIMUM HEART RATE
GRAPH 2 – THE WHITE LINE SHOWS MY AVERAGE
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Basically, the more time you are immersed in your aerobic threshold – the more you are getting out of yourself, using your energy in the right way, maximising your effort and managing fatigue levels.
Having an idea of your training threshold and keeping track of it is a good thing, but getting bogged down by statistics isn’t the way forward.
Continue to focus on your nutrition, training, routine and running goals – and your training threshold should look after itself.
It's all about the journey and emotional fight to the #FinishLine 🏃🏁. But, for everyone, the road to get there and reasons for doing it are different. That's why I love #Marathon #running and the people who do it - it really is the most unique and inspiring #sport. @underarmourme #UnderArmour #IWill #ItComesFromBelow #DubaiMarathon #UAEFitnessMovement #Marathon #Marathoners #MyDubai #DubaiLife #WhyILoveRunningDubai #RunDXB #WhyIRunDubai #StandardChartered #LoveRunning #RunningLife #RunningMan #RunningManChallenge #Dubai❤️ #Marathons #42km #KeepGoing #Motivation