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.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Dance Dirty class

Tonight I'm taking a Dance Dirty class at the Pole Gym I attend. 

I am beside myself with excitement!!! Notice the multiple exclamation marks, that's to emphasise the extreme level of excitement I'm feeling. I'm excited, I can't wait, so excited, I keep checking the clock, *scream*... just *eek* briiiiinngg iiiiiiitt! 

In all honesty you'd swear I was going on a hot date as opposed to grinding, sliding, slinking, shimmying, and doing all manner of dirty dancing moves and floor work.

I've washed my hair, shaved my legs and pits, tidied the bits (as per Cleo the Hurricane's: 5 things a pole dancer should never do, this is a NECESSITY). I've been humming during all of this, oh, and made sure NOT to moisturise. Seriously, watch the Cleo video and you'll totally get it.

I have shredded my pole gear drawer, absolutely torn it A-P-A-R-T to find the perfect Dance Dirty outfit. I've dug out pole shorts that I haven't worn for a while - for lack of opportunity. They're tiny, super tiny for me, so I'll just let that sit out there. The top I've chosen is my favourite Cleo the Hurricane one, Death By Stiletto. 
Subtle I know...
I'd already decided to wear my knee high black patent boots - 7 and a half inches of RAGE. They're normally 7 and a half inches of sexy but I'm carrying over a bit of aggression and frustration about my car so will dance and slam it off on the floor. I do have my standard pole shoes as back ups should my feet start to hurt. The knee pads are a necessity, I lost so much knee skin last time doing a routine to George Michael's Freek that they bled... #poleproblems
Boots, shoes, and knee pads... oh yeah!
So all this excitement for one dance class. You betcha. To me it's not just one dance class, it's the ultimate out of all the various pole dance styles, the one that's for me. I have always adored the sensual dance, the sexual dance, the one where the dancer is so in tune to the music and moving her body the world just melts away. I have an obscure memory from childhood watching a woman dance like this, the type of watching that makes your mouth slowly drop open and your eyes transfixed on the dancer.

To top it off Karla the instructor has announced she will be holding a six week course on this style of pole dance starting next week. I screamed! Yes, yes I did, literally screamed. I sat at my laptop and screamed out "YES!" as my fingers flew over the keyboard to express/type my excitement. I haven't stopped buzzing about since. 

The first thing I did after I'd announced to my family what my excitement was about was to let my husband know I needed a new pair of pole boots, thigh highs. Do note this is a NEED and not some random want. Any pole dancer out there will understand. Oh, and I have to find some T's with attitude. Might be time to check out some dirty ones that make a statement. Will definitely keep you in the loop with any future purchases, because they'll be necessary purchases of course.

So, the time has come for me to post this, get changed, and hit the road to get my sexay on! I can't wait, bag's been packed since this morning... yep, excited!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Searching for Consistency... Part 1.

At the start of 2014 I wrote a post about Consistency under the title: Blog Hop January - My 2014 Intentions

I have a confession to make... I'm incredibly good at being inconsistent. It's one of my talents even, but hindsight being what it is I know I'm not doing myself any favours.

Since the New Year I've very gradually stepped up my poling, repeating levels to build up my strength, setting realistic goals, and I've been achieving them. But to be totally honest I've not been putting in 100% effort, it's been more like 70%. I've been kind of cruising along doing what I need to do only, not that little bit extra that gets you achieving that bit more. You know what I mean? Like doing that extra stretch session or two at home, or running through your routine several times in your own time.

Finding consistency for me means having a routine. Not having one is driving me crazy. I've never been good at that 'go with the flow' type stuff, all spontaneous and fit it in wherever, not when it comes to my fitness anyway. You know that, "Oh, I'll just take the next hour and do a good long stretch sesh"... I'm more of a, "I have an hour? An HOUR! Fuck! What have I forgotten to do? Where am I meant to be? What needs doing that I'm not doing?", turning in circles trying to figure it out, starting one thing then entering another room and starting something else and before I know it the hour is gone and I've achieved nothing.

Yes, I'm one of 'those' people who needs a routine, who needs to schedule things; block off periods of time on my calendar to do the necessary stuff to get the outcomes I'm looking for. I'm just in denial about it all, well have been in denial until now.

Putting in only 70% effort, while getting me results isn't giving me the kind of results I'm really after either. I know that to be better I need to do better. So the bullshit has been identified and I'm ready to make some changes.
I AM MAKING A ROUTINE, scheduling blocks of time for activities on my calendar, and the timing is just brilliant, it's a total fluke but it works so I'm rolling with it.

Next week I move up a level at my Pole Gym, I will be a level 5 student. There is more inverting, harder tricks, and a new routine to learn. Along with this is a new timetable and I'm going to make use of casual classes that I don't normally. It works out I will be poling or doing pole related stuff four evenings a week and I'm expecting some pretty cool results from that.

April 1st is the start of the 60 Day Splits Challenge, coordinated by the Worldwide Splitters Network, and I'm doing it too. I'm not doing it for prizes or the cool certificate at the end, I'm doing it because I want to. One of the challenge requirements is five photographs to be uploaded to your splits album five days/week. If I want to participate then I have to do this requirement. I am old, so it means there will be much stretching happening so my muscles are prepared to go into my version of a split to then be photographed. Much stretching, did you read that bit, much stretching.

Oh, the anticipation of the results from this challenge. I'm fortunate to be not too bad in the flexibility department. With some serious stretching I can achieve some cool moves with my body and I like that. But like any change if there isn't that consistency, there isn't that result. I want that result and this challenge's timing is just perfect for me.
I have been taking the easy way, the lazy options, sometimes by choice, sometimes not, but they have definitely given me the results I've put in the effort for. I accept that, and I also realise that when I work harder the results will be better. So bring on the challenge, bring on the routine, bring on the change in mindset, and bring on the motivation. I will check back with Searching for Consistency Part 2 at the end of April, and follow it up with Part 3 at the end of May. Yes, I will include photo's as well, 'cause it sounds like I'm going to end up with quite a few to choose from. *lol* Nothing like visual proof of effort = reward.

Wish me luck and by all means join along with me, or follow how I go on my Facebook page, or set up your own challenge/routine/motivation and let me know how you go.

No more 70% effort, it's time to up it and in doing so up the result as well!

Is it just me or do you also share the feeling that I should throw in a "THIS IS SPARTA" cry here... yeah, probs just me.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Pole Precinct... Grand Opening

It's only taken me 18 months but I've finally got around to visiting another pole studio other than the one I normally attend.

I'd had a few people ask me if I'd heard of The Pole Precinct, if I knew of the instructors, it's location, what they offered, and things like that. I honestly don't know where the expectation comes from that I would know, but I thought why not go check it out.

The Pole Precinct is located in Salisbury (Queensland, Australia) so reasonably central'ish for south side of the city people. I believe you're looking at a 15-20 minute drive from the city if the traffic is behaving. I know nothing about behaving traffic as I live in the opposite direction, am rural, and it took me 50 minutes to drive there, on a Sunday, with no traffic.
The block that houses The Pole Precinct: 623 Toohey Rd, Salisbury
Initially I overshot the small industrial/commercial block it's located at; a mixture of being unfamiliar with the area and I honestly didn't notice The Pole Precinct sign. A quick check on the map, double check of the building number, perfectly executed U-turn (of course), and I was where I should be. Now that I'm familiar with the location, sign - it's colours and style, overshooting is a one-off and really nothing unusual for me.

First off there is plenty of on-site parking (free) which is always a bonus. I'm not sure how busy it would be during a week day when the other businesses are open, but of an evening and weekends there certainly won't be any problems parking your car.
Sliding door main entrance, roller door opens to the fitness space
The studio is marked by a modestly signed sliding doorway. I must confess I appreciate this subtlety. I know some people aren't ready to boldly announce, or be obvious about pole dancing and pole fitness, just as some community members aren't as receptive to it as they could be.

Inside the foyer is fresh and bright. I like the colour scheme they've selected, green/white/black, it's quite refreshing and light really (oh god, my inner interior designer wannabe is showing, let me just tuck her back in).
There are two doorways, the one on the left takes you into the pole room. This is an air conditioned space which is a necessity here in Queensland. There are eight poles in this room: two brass poles and six stainless steel ones, all 45 mm and all three meters tall. There is plenty of space between the poles, storage for your gear, and a nice wood laminate floor. The poles can vary between static and spin. At this stage mirrors aren't up yet but they are coming, hey they are a necessity for self correction and to see if you really should have gone that other size in pole shorts.
Eight poles ready to go
The door to the right leads to the fitness area and while still in the fit-out stage when I saw it, it's able to be used for strength, conditioning and fitness training already and it certainly won't take long to be fully completed.

There is a shared toilet next to the studio, it's kept unlocked and is available for The Pole Precinct clients to use. It has two toilets, a basin, and hand towel. I found it surprisingly clean and wouldn't hesitate to get changed there those times you find yourself unable to change before arriving.

When I arrived on the open day Dani and her team were giving a class so I had the opportunity to speak with Daniel (Dani's partner). We talked about the location, safety, lighting, which all got the thumbs up from Daniel. The Pole Precinct is located amongst long term businesses who are all receptive and supportive of their arrival, half the battle is having friendly neighbours.

I was fortunate enough to be there for the instructors performance. I don't know these ladies personally but they freestyled amazingly, showcased their craft beautifully, and made me envious enough to top up my motivation to continue on my own pole/fitness path with the consistency that I have been of late. They all had wonderful technique, flow, did beginner to advanced level tricks, and something you pick up on quick... they all pointed their toes!
Dani (at top) and team
When I got home I checked out The Pole Precinct website. I especially admire the listing of the Instructors Qualifications, and Title & Accomplishments they have gone for, held, or currently hold.

Dani is not only immensely qualified in pole and pole fitness, she is also above and beyond as a qualified fitness trainer. Dani has also picked a well qualified, well educated, and experienced group of instructors to join her in her venture.  

The timetable and class offerings cover a broad range of options including the various level courses run over eight week blocks, a variety of casual classes, Mum's and Bub's, Men Only, Booty, plus multiple fitness options.

I'm not quite sure what else people would want to know that I may not have covered. The website is very informative and as with any business phone if you have a question. I found Dani, Daniel, her staff and the support people she had around her on the Open Day all very approachable and friendly. I think it's exciting and nerve-racking at the same time to start your own business, it will be a huge learning curve, there will be good and bad days, but I get the impression The Pole Precinct is here for the long haul.

On a personal note I must say I'm excited that a new pole studio has started up. I try not to have an "Us and Them" mentality but the more opportunities there are to pole and to get the message out, the more mainstream pole dancing and pole fitness become, helping to remove that 'perceived' stigma some insist on attaching to it. 

Basically, for each new pole studio... it's more of US and less of THEM!

I did say 'try' not to have that mentality.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Pole competition audiences... what you need to know.

Pole comp audiences are a different breed of audience all together. They are kind of a cross between circus crowds who gasp and whoop, and boxing crowds who cheer and scream bloody murder.

I love pole comp audiences, I think they're the best audiences of any type of performance or competition audience out there. Of course I do, and hell yes I'm biased, but I'm also experienced.

Let me impart my wisdom.

The main differences between a pole competition audience and a regular performance audience are predominantly enthusiasm, timing, sympathy, and lack of restraint.

When you go to a performance, like a show at a State or National Performing Arts Centre, or a concert featuring a well known talent, or even a local performance like your kid's dance troupe; the audiences are well behaved, and dare I say it, often polite to the point of restraint. Of course there are the odd bods who buck the norm, but they are few and far between.

A regular audience will wait until a designated lull in the performance to applaud, sometimes there is cheering, occasionally whooping, sometimes the odd whistler. There are smiles of appreciation, and there are seldom any interruptions during the performance itself.
Pole competition audiences are notorious for causing quite a ruckus, for being loud, shouting, interrupting, applauding, screaming, and whistling. And this is DURING the performance. There is no waiting until the end or for a lull. If a trick, or spin, or combo, is thought to be deserving there will be screams of appreciation, gasping at the bravery of a move, and clapping, shouting, and whistling in the lead up to the end. 

For the performer this gives instant feedback. You know exactly how you're doing, you get pepped up as you perform, and the crowd lifts you throughout your show. It is a delight to witness that audience/performer interaction. 

So why am I explaining pole competition audiences?

I have some lovely people I know about to enter their first ever competition. An inaugural amateur pole competition, and it's a big deal. This is one of the first serious amateur comps in my state, not some pub/club comp, we're talking a serious quality comp with rules, professional judging, professional venue and equipment.

As these competitors are amateurs, first timers, nerves are making themselves felt, seriously felt in the 24 hour lead up to the comp.

Here is my advice.

Those nerves... enjoy them. Sit somewhere quiet and actually feel them, don't ignore them, don't try to bury them, just quietly sit, focus on them, and feel them.

Those nerves are your energy. Those nerves are your power. They are your strength. And in your moment of need they will lift you, spin you, make you fly, and dance you to where you tell your body to go. So embrace your nerves, they are a gift and an incredibly powerful tool.

Now, if your nervousness is connected to your audience and what you perceive their reactions may be to a stumble, falter, or fall,  You need to understand why the audience is your biggest ally, support, and will lift you should things go a bit unplanned.

Pole competition audiences are predominantly made up of people with varying degrees of experience in poling, but that experience connects and bind the audience with the performer, very intimately so.

A noticeable cock up, slip, trip, fall, or fail will not be felt exclusively by you the performer, the audience feels it with you as well.

Pole comp audiences are there watching you do what we cannot, or what we wish we could do, or what we're aiming for, or what we have already done ourselves. So, we know when a fault happens, we can spot it, and the feeling we have for you in that moment is very real. We want you to execute the moves perfectly, we want you to dance amazingly, we want you to dazzle with your tricks. 

When a fail happens we want you to get up, lift up, smile, keep going, and show us you can do it. So what if you fell, or you slipped, just show us - your audience, your fellow polers, that someone like you who is brave enough to get on that stage in the first place, is also brave enough to keep going. That's when you will hear the loudest roar from the crowd, that's when the cheering and whistling becomes wild, that's when the goosebumps start and pole pride steps in.
Pole comp audiences are wild, generous, caring, and incredibly loud. We 'get' the performer and we understand the experience. As a performer never, ever be afraid or nervous of a pole comp audience, use them, feed off them, and show them what you can do. And as an audience keep embracing the performer, be loud, scream when you love a combo, whoop when a move looks awesome, and applaud till your hands hurt at the end because there is nothing so mesmerising and enthralling to a pole audience as a gorgeous pole routine executed to it's conclusion by a talented pole performer.

Good luck to anyone who enters a pole comp, you inspire so many without realising it. You make me love being a part of the audience, you give me goosebumps, make me laugh, make me cry, take me on a journey, and definitely make my hands hurt and my voice disappear for hours, and sometimes days, afterwards.