Saturday, 12 September 2015

My first pole challenge

The pole studio I attend is holding a challenge starting the end of this month that runs for six weeks. I've never done any type of fitness challenge before so I thought I'd give it a go. 
Next week there will be all kinds of measurements and photos, the usual 'before' stuff, to provide a baseline to compare with the 'after' stuff.

I know some of my fellow challengers are nervous about this aspect, especially being photographed (even though they will be private and taken on our personal devices), to be honest I'm actually quite excited, I even know which sports bra and knickers I'm going to wear!

I'm excited because I am so ready for this: to make changes, to push myself, challenge myself, and compete with myself. This first lot of measurements and photographs is just to pinpoint in time where I am, to document where my body is and it's current state. For the past month or so I've been comfort eating to deal with shit (yes, I have issues), I've not been consistent with exercise, and I've not been as supportive of my health as I should be, as I want to be, and maybe as I need to be. But we all do what we can, when we can, right. For me the time to make changes is most definitely now.

There are prizes involved with this challenge too; one for the most classes attended, and one for the most outstanding results. To track and record our attendance there will be a wall chart. I LOVE CHARTS! Yes, I confess I was the school girl whose day/week/month/year was made if she earned a gold star because 'back in my day' you had to earn those bitches!

I'm not convinced I'll be able to attend the most classes, but I do have a few extras scheduled that will become part of my normal routine during the challenge. I will give it my best shot and see how things look on the chart week by week. Did I mention I love charts!

The title I'm shooting for is the most outstanding results. One of the beautiful things with pole dancing is to make significant changes to your body, your strength, and your flexibility you don't HAVE to do it daily. Sometimes life get's in the way and you need to change your priorities, but with pole dancing you still get results. My personal theory here is to go no more than two days without it, that is something I can set as a personal challenge to be faithful to and I truly believe I can achieve great results with this.

Here's where my competitive streak comes out, and here is where being involved in a challenge with fellow polers will help to inspire and motivate me. Though knowing myself as I do I'm not convinced it will be reciprocated. You see I have this Dr Jekyll and Miss. Hyde thing that happens when I get really competitive. Normally I'm all loveliness, light, sweetness, and kindness, but when I'm truly competitive I am one seriously mean bitch, as in I could make the devil weep, big fat you-hurt-my-feelings tears. 
I have friends that are STILL traumatised from playing board games with me, and we're going back twenty years here! Even though the word "Pussies" springs to mind I will not let it leave my lips. The trauma has affected them so much they STILL bang on about it!

I'm now forced to only play board games with my immediate family, it's quite pathetic really. You see we're all in the same boat. It appears this competitiveness is shared amongst us, along with offending the sensitive ones around us, and winning, we are banished and our only resort is to play against one another. Hand on my heart, this is true.
I have forewarned the ladies taking part in this challenge that there may be moments where I will tease and stir, basically it's a nice way of me saying I will talk smack.  I hope to get as good as I give. So long as we're all coming from a place of fun, support, and motivation I'm good with it. If I'm whining too much I expect to be called a whingey bum. If I'm making lame excuses I expect to be called out on it, if I'm dropping back I want to be gently bullied to get back on with it. Like I said, I will be giving it, so I expect to receive it too.
So brace yourselves, get ready to read my frustrations, get ready to read my whinging, but mostly I hope you will get to laugh at my experiences and smile at my victories, I wouldn't stop you if you wanted to cheer by the way.

Friday, 24 July 2015

When frustration makes you cry

Driving home from my poling class late last night my mood became as heavy as the fog that blurred the street lights. The further I drove away from the studio and the lights of suburbia, and the deeper I drove into the darkness of the rural bush area I call home, the heavier it all became - the fog and my mood.

I entered my quiet dimly lit house, gently placed my pole bag on the floor next to the door, and quietly walked to my bedroom. I stared at my bed momentarily, then flopped onto it grabbing one of my pillows, and I waited as the emotion released. I sobbed quietly, alone with my thoughts. The tears kept coming and I let them, I didn't interrupt them, slow them down, or try to gain some sort of control. I cried unashamedly, sobbingly, I wet the pillowcase my head was on with my tears... and then I was done. It was over quickly but the release of the emotion, the flow of thoughts, the sense of being emotionally and physically drained it still sits with me this morning, but it's passing and I am accepting the situation I find myself in. 
So much fog this morning...
The cause of my tears is a common one to polers at some stage in their pole experience... FRUSTRATION. Complete, absolute, total frustration.

It's a roadblock of sorts that you just can't move on from or progress further with until you get it sorted. Well, that's how it seems when your frustration reaches a peak point, like mine did last night.

Having that emotional release, a good old cry, seems to trigger a response in me where it's time to decide what to do. Do I give up - which I don't want to do, do I change - I don't know that I'm ready to, or do I move on to something completely different? I don't know fully yet what I'll do, this is a thought in progress while I sit and write this.

My frustration is my core strength, well lack of core strength. I'm truly struggling with my inverted V, you may know it as an inverted straddle. And in the level I am currently in there is a layback, hands free, which I then need to pull up out of. I can get in to the layback okay, but pulling back up  is not happening. The fact that I am roughly two meters off the ground in this layback makes it super scary as there is no alternative way out.

I have practiced what I preach, I do only compare myself to myself. I do see how far I've come along in my poling, my strength, and my flow. But I feel I'm stuck at the moment, truly, truly stuck. 

I do have a good core workout, and I have made phenomenal improvements. I was someone who had absolutely zero abdominal strength, I have certainly come a long way from those days, but it's not enough to achieve what I need to achieve. Of course I want to achieve it quicker than I am as well.
The fog is lifting...
I think it's a bit serendipitous that the Pole Gym I attend is not too far off commencing a new term. There is courses on offer for Sexy style pole dancing, which is my love. I'm planning on taking them and really focusing on them, focusing on the moves, the floor work, the choreography, and freestyling. 

I will once again be holding myself down and repeating my current pole level, again. So this will be my third time at doing level six. I plan to continue with my core development program, and I think I will investigate upping it more, depending on how I cope, and spend the next six week pole term focusing on ab work and dancing dirty, and not so much on my level six course. 

I'm hoping that playing to my strengths will give my confidence a boost, my ego a bit of hug, and just not sweat the inverted V as much or layback pull up. I know it will happen eventually, it has to. So I guess I'm just parking the bus so to speak at level six and expanding my horizons with other opportunities.

Of course to ease my suffering I have ordered two new pairs of shoes, one for poling and one for going out all glam like. I'm sure you understand and probably agree this is a good way to cope with my situation. For the record this was also just a random cosmic coincidental event, it was meant to be... see I get my silver lining too.
Shoes make me happy
Time to take a deep breath, recognise everyone will have their pole struggles, and if you stick with it, try not to make too big a drama about it, it will happen eventually. So long as you're doing your best to get there, it has to. 

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Repeating is NOT failing

I'll let you in on a secret. Repeating a pole level, a class, or a course, is not a failure. In fact sometimes it can be one of the wisest, healthiest, and more practical things to do along your pole journey.

Yep, I've done it many times and will continue to as I travel in my pole journey.

If you find you need to take a break from poling, whether it be from injury, time away, holidays, or just because, you WILL find your strength and your conditioning - muscular and skin, will have gone backwards. Sometimes this is only a little bit but more often than not it's quite a bit more. Repeating your last level, or even going back to the one before that, can not only safely and gently return to where you once were, you get the opportunity to re-learn moves, see them from an experienced perspective, and truly nail tricks, which in turn will make you that much better within your poling in the long run.
Really, it's a game of patience.

Every polers progression, the pace that tricks are learned, how your body adapts and copes, and those interfering life events, are all part of an individual experience. It is an experience unique to you and different from most of your pole peers.

The first time you even start to consider repeating as an option, you may question yourself and your abilities. You may even consider not returning to pole because of a perceived weakness at not being able to keep up with your peers. It is such a shame that our negative thoughts can sometimes talk us out of the things we would get the most benefit from. If you can bring that talk around to coming from a place of love, support, and care for yourself, then you can talk yourself into repeating, and talk yourself into being okay with it. Really from experience, it's not that big a deal.

I can honestly say repeating levels has been a gift.

I will also confess that the first time I did, the first performance night when my old group performed at a higher level without me I got teary, because I adored them all and I wanted to progress with them but it was taken out of my control because of injury.

In hindsight though I see the gift I was given.
Repeating levels introduced me to different instructors who are very individual in their teaching styles.
Repeating levels made me more adaptable in the development of my own poling style.
Repeating levels allowed me to meet such a broader group of people at my pole studio. I wouldn't have interacted so intimately with these people if I hadn't repeated. I wouldn't swap that even if I could.

I still adore my original group who are now graduates, working as instructors, starting to compete, or have moved on to other studios. I still feel a part of them, but I also feel that same connection with every other group I've learned to pole with along the way as well. And seriously, pole dancers are just the most amazingly diverse group of interesting people I've ever had the pleasure to know.

Let me in all my wisdom once again say it: Repeating is not failing it's an opportunity to do better, to be better, and to pole better. Embrace it, enjoy it, stay healthy and strong, there's still so much for you to achieve.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Pole comparisons you SHOULD be making

With any new sport or activity that we take up, initially there is an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm. This enthusiasm encompasses our desire to improve, to advance, and to be able to demonstrate our progression to ourselves and others within our new found obsession.

Learning to pole dance or taking up pole fitness is no different.

It's our enthusiasm for Pole, the desire to see measurable improvements week by week, and making connections with those around us, that become important. We measure ourselves against where we were the week before, and we also measure ourselves against our peers; people similar to us in experience, or in the same level group as us in our pole studio.

If you feel you need to do this, and it's a perfectly natural thing to do, just make sure your comparison is done with a healthy dose of reality.

There's no point in comparing yourself to someone who's been poling for a few years, working on their flexibility at the same time, and is way, way, way, ahead of you.
This... is an unrealistic comparison! 
There is no point in comparing yourself to someone who is fitter than you, or who has been training much longer than you.
This too, is an unrealistic comparison!
Really, in the grand scheme of things, there is no point in comparing yourself to anyone else other than you.

Pole is unique in that you can obtain results quite quickly, and measurably, on an almost week by week basis. My first pole lesson I only managed to lift myself roughly 10 cm off the floor in my first climb and I could only hold it briefly. By the second week I was able to lift myself almost 50 cm off the floor and I held myself in the climb position for much longer, gripping and squeezing for all I was worth (yeah, see what I did there), before my skin hurt.

The sense of satisfaction that you feel with these minor and major victories, and the awareness of such an improvement, is wonderful. They should be celebrated and cheered, even if you're the only one doing it and you're doing it on the inside. Though really, most pole instructors will be right there cheering beside you along with your class mates, that's one of the gifts of poling.

So get your phones and cameras out, and get in the picture. Do record the moves and tricks you've learnt. Do take pictures of your attempts, and do use them as tools to compare yourself to. You know the hard work you've put in, and you know what you've needed to do to achieve your current pole goal.
My current pole goal, flat splits. Comparison of my BAD side
 after six weeks of consistent stretching
We all have our own personal strengths and weaknesses, and we all have a different journey to undertake as part of becoming the poler we want to be. We are such a diverse group of people with incredibly different experiences and backgrounds that are unique to us, that we bring to our pole learning.

I gave up trying to compete and compare with my peers following an injury that had me off the pole for six months while I recovered. I am naturally competitive in some things, but having time to think, reflect, and grow, I realised I cannot realistically compare myself with dancers, athletes, teenagers, fitness freaks, other mums, grandmothers, those naturally gifted, or otherwise. To be realistic the only comparison I can make that is healthy, that is positive, and that will cause me to grow and develop as a poler, is the comparison with myself. That is all any of us can do.

So do check yourself, that you are making improvements that would be expected of you and only you, not of someone else.

My personal theory is poling will be a life long adventure for me. It isn't a race because there is no end point, there is no finish line, no last trick or final move to master. Poling is, and will be, an infinite journey, an unknown adventure, and who knows where it may take any of us?

Thanks to Ms. K.D for permission to use her image <3

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Get in the picture

One of the common things I hear lately when working on tricks or routines is someone quietly confessing, "I wish I'd taken pictures when I first started poling".

Actually I hear it a lot now that I've progressed from being a junior poler to an intermediate one. It seems to be common to this stage of our pole journey that we reflect back on how far we've come and can really see the improvements we've made. Maybe it comes from watching those coming up below us as they start, or it's the confidence we've developed within ourselves along the way. I like to think it's a combination of both.

I'm sort of guilty of doing this myself. I'm lucky that I do have a few pictures from my foundation levels, not enough of course, but more than some people. I do have my completed level routines on video, so while not completely from the beginning, not too far off it either. Screenshots will be my alternative to individual images.

My advice is...

Yes it's awkward, yes you're a bit shy, and yes the last thing you want is to see how much of a complete beginner you are, but you will thank yourself for it later.
My first performance climb, (6 weeks after starting pole) bottom foot is maybe 30cm off the ground.
When you're first new to poling, especially if you're a go-it-aloner, you're placed in an incredibly unfamiliar environment. It's truly like no other physical space and it's perfectly natural to be shy, guarded, and hesitant.

I can clearly recall how wet-my-pants excited I was about starting this new adventure, and I can still remember how shy I was in my very first class. I remember forcing myself to speak and to introduce myself to the others in my group. I was lucky that a lot of the ladies were alone and diving in head first like me as well, so we kind of bonded over that too.

Over time as you progress, become stronger, improve your pole skills and abilities, and really nail the moves, the tricks, and the choreography you learn in your pole class, it's natural that your confidence grows. It's in this stage that the phone cameras come out, that you start recording your videos and you have pole friends lined up taking your picture while you try to execute your latest 'new' trick.
Used with permission:
This is when you start saying, "I wish I had a picture of my first climb", usually as you are scaling up easily to the very top of the pole now. Or "I wish I had a picture of my first sit", usually as you are coming out of a confident layback. 
My layback during my latest performance. My feet aren't even on the pole!

I'm not saying you need to display your photos or videos for all the world to see, unless that's your thing. But as I can attest to it personally that these past few days while writing this blog post I have taken a big trip down memory lane. It's been really lovely to see how far I've come, the set backs I've dealt with along the way, the injuries, and the time away I've had to take.

I've found reflecting back on these pictures incredibly motivating, they've filled me with gratitude and love for my pole family, and they've encouraged me to take risks and push my boundaries a little harder.

For the first time I put a video of myself doing a pole move on my Grip And Squeeze Facebook page. It's nothing mind blowing, just body rolling, but the anxious few hours I spent after I uploaded it, questioning myself, how it would be received, had I made myself a troll target, what was I thinking, well I definitely got out of my comfort zone that's for sure. I feel braver for having done it and I feel like I now own that move.

So, get out your phones and take those pictures. Use them to see your improvements, your nemesis moves, what you are conquering, and the pole goals you're kicking as you progress.

If you want to, share them, if not keep them private and just for you, but whatever you do... get in the picture, or help someone get into theirs.

Oh, and don't forget to point your f*#king toes, everyone will comment on it otherwise, bloody pole dancers!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Thank you for performing

After my pole studio's recent performance night I sat down and wrote a letter of thanks to all the polers who performed.

I get so much out of positive feedback that I wanted to share with those who performed how I felt sitting there watching them as an audience member. Having the added insight of being a fellow performer I also wanted to convey that I understood where they were coming from as well. I understand the self doubt, the nerves, and the excitement, and these can be wonderful experiences that lead to growth on a physical, psychological, and emotional level too. 

Basically it's a letter of appreciation for what they did, where they're at, and who they are becoming.

I don't know them all, not by a long shot, but I am so proud of them regardless. I'm proud of their courage, their talent, and the growth I see happening on a week by week basis. 

The only way is up, right... or in pole terms upside down.

Deb... xox
Basking in the delicious afterglow of another successful performance night to celebrate our achievements over the past two terms.
My favourite bits are always the stuff ups. I love that we smile, laugh, shrug and just keep on going, catching up with the rest in our own way. 

I love the subtle cover ups, the obvious laughter, the looks that screams "Oops", and the returned smiles of encouragement from the other dancers.
Everyone did awesome. The nerves, the shy smiles, the peeks into the crowd, the grins and sheer relief sighs at the routines end, I love watching it all. 
My throat is sore from screaming, I broke my whistle (sticking my fingers in my mouth and blowing), my hands are clapped raw. I was having a party for one sitting in awe watching everyone nail their things, or not, it didn't matter. 
For me performance night is a celebration of what we do, of who we are, and of where we're going. I see such a diverse group of women who believe in themselves, some unshakingly, and some who are just becoming aware of it. It's powerful, it's motivating, it just screams sisterhood and pole love. It moves me in a way that's hard to explain, but I love it and I admire each and every woman who crosses that threshold and takes their own personal leap of faith.
I am so incredibly proud to be part of this community, and I will continue to honour it and write/blog/speak proudly of it, in defence of it and in praise of it. 
I'm so motivated for my next level, and cannot wait to see everyone's progression on their pole journey next performance night in 11 weeks and 6 days... but who's counting, right!
Love you guys lots, even if I don't know you personally I do watch, peek, and frequently pick my jaw up off the floor at the stuff you do and the things you accomplish, especially the newbies because you guys are the brave ones... you've started, kept coming back, and have become part of a unique community. More importantly it means one more of us and one less of them.
Most of the performers - 16 May 2015

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Searching for Consistency... Part 2.

Finally I find time to update you on Part 2 of my search for consistency *catching my breath as I rush to type after a stretch session*

To highlight how sneaky inconsistency can be I 'should' have written this two weeks ago! While I didn't do that I have maintained my consistency with my fitness at home, pole classes, and flexibility sessions, which has been the priority.

So to follow up on Searching for Consistency... Part 1 where I confessed to not having a routine, meaning any training I'd done had been haphazard, and I also admitted to only giving around the 70% mark in effort. This combination had definitely given me the reward I'd worked for and it was not the one I picture for myself when I lay in bed at night running through the days events. It's not the one I hoped to see in the mirror when I stand before it. Nor is it what I'm capable of when I'm working on a routine's choreography or tricks.

There is only one way to change all of these things and that is to be consistent in doing the things I need to do. And I've managed for the first time in a bloody long time to do this; to be honestly, truthfully, consistently, consistent.

And I'm getting results!

I'm getting much better results than I have for a long time at any training I've done. I'm getting much better results than I was expecting of myself as well. It's such a lovely thing to surprise yourself.

As you know I started the 60 Days Splits Challenge at the start of April. At the halfway point, the 30th April, I took comparison pictures to see if there was much change. This morning I threw in today's effort to compare as well. I'm so glad I did.

Check this out.
Right front split, my 'bad' side
My right splits are my bad ones, meaning I struggle to drop lower in them. When I look at the comparison picture I can see just how far I've come over the past six weeks. I now have my entire right calf to the floor, part of the back of my thigh even. When I started I was perched high up in the air with none of the back part of my right leg touching at all!

And then there's this.
Middle splits, my nemesis split.
I have NEVER been able to do a middle split, even as a littlie, you know those flexy four and five year old's. It's been six weeks and progress to me is slow, but then to put it into context (I always find a silver lining) I'm 47 years old. The ligaments, tendons, and muscles of my inner thighs have never been stretched beyond a normal range of movement in those 47 years, now I'm pushing them beyond that limit. We're talking about hard core ligaments and muscles that don't naturally fall into this position, so really in the grand scheme of things this kind of drop in six weeks is pretty bloody good. If this is the result after a month and a half, staying consistent, imagine what it could be in a year. Mind blown!

So, I have really focused on the stretching side of things for pole. I have been able to attend stretch classes weekly at the studio and then follow it up at home with three or four sessions depending on the soreness of my muscles. I do find sometimes I am achey, so I skip that day all together and just let my muscles rest and heal. I always remind myself that this kind of stretching does cause micro tears in the muscle fibres and like any tear healing time needs to be allowed.

On the pole side of things I have been able to manage a one hour class twice a week, the results of this is a stronger invert, stronger shoulders, arms, and leg strength improvements as well.

Yay me.

The added bonus of all this consistency, I have also been consistent with my diet. Better choices have led to a loss of almost seven kilos in six weeks. I'm liking this consistency, I'm liking the results, and I'm liking what I'm able to do with my body.

I've finally got a routine happening, which is a big deal for me, and I'm holding myself accountable for the choices I'm making. I'm pushing up to 100% effort during my studio sessions, milking them for all they're worth, and I'm definitely reaping the rewards.

I move up to the next level at my Pole Gym, I will be a level six student on Monday. My goal at the start of the year was to reach level six by Christmas, yeah I'm a bit ahead of schedule. I'm loving it, enjoying the steps along the way, being cautious to stay injury free, and not rushing any of it. I'll get where I want to go eventually and healthfully. I plan on pole dancing for the rest of my life, it's not a race and there will never be a finish line, just better versions of myself along the way.

I hope you're finding your own routine that works for you and being consistent to get the results you're after. Consistency really does make a difference, but you already know that.
... or every second day, just be consistent in doing it.