Do you pole dance because it’s a passion of yours, do you do it because it’s a form of weekly physical activity for you, or is it your job (travelling pole star, pole fitness instructor, pole performer, etc).? Could it be all three? Yes absolutely! But let’s take a look at all three of these things and how different they can be for us as pole fitness athletes, while also overlapping.
Nine years ago when I started pole fitness, due to there being no membership opportunities, and classes being mostly structured around a levelling system only, I attended class once per week. Keep in mind, I hated physical activity, so finally… I had found something that I enjoyed! Once per week was challenging, but everybody was in pretty much the same boat with only taking class once per week – in which we were all gradually learning skills and making improvements together. What took me 3 months to learn is now taking students mere weeks to learn – specifically because students are coming to class far more often than used to be available as an option! Which is fantastic that we have this opportunity, but also puts far more pressure on ourselves to attain achievements/tricks/flows in a quicker amount of time.
Seeing the pole worlds explode, and people dedicating hours within weeks at a time to the sport, I often see students on pole message boards saying things like “I just started my third class, and I still can’t invert!” Wait -what? Did they say third class? That took me WEEKS to learn, and WEEKS to build my strength. And let’s take a moment to talk about achieving goals.
1. When I used to achieve a pole goal, such as going upside down for the first time, I was absolutely THRILLED for that entire week until my next class! I would take a look at the photo snapped on my phone by the instructor in awe of my achievement. “When we get something we want – a promotion, an ice cream cone, or a kiss from a loved one – our brain releases dopamine. This chemical is often known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter because it does just that – it makes us feel good.” Now what happens when we’re in pole class almost every SINGLE day, but we’re not instantly gaining new tricks each day like we expect to? (Which, as you go up the levels, is incredibly difficult to do, due to the fact that the advanced tricks begin to require more flexibility and strength than the previous tricks learned in beginner and intermediate – these WILL take longer to learn). Well, what happens – is we leave class not feeling that dopamine being released, and we no longer have the “feel good” neurotransmitter being released after class because we didn’t attain a new trick. This is when students start thinking “wow, I suck. I should give up.”
So how do we fix this if we do in fact want to continue pole fitness? One of the ways, mentioned by Psychology Today, is to “manipulate your dopamine levels by setting small goals, and then accomplishing them.” So why don’t you do this for yourself next time you’re in class? Set a small goal, such as holding your plank longer than the previous time, completing the warm up without giving up, climbing the pole one more time than you typically do. If you get the big trick, then GREAT – but if you nail that small achievement/goal, you’ll walk away feeling fantastic!
So why am I talking about all of this? Because I truly think it’s in the way our brains are wired as to why we feel we need to “give up” on a hobby, such as pole. I also think pole differs quite a lot in regard to other sports.
I am a cross-fitter, and I have been for years (minus a recent hiatus, but I’m back!). One thing I’ve noticed in crossfit is that the community, and the people that attend classes, are quite different in comparison to pole. While everyone faces challenges in crossfit, I actually haven’t come across many people saying that they want to give up because they can’t get a certain skill anymore. Same with cycling, barre, yoga – so it made me question… why is the pole community so different? I think a lot of that comes in to play with comparison – of our friends, the people on Instagram, our classmates, our instructors, etc.
So yes you’re passionate about pole, and that’s great! When that passion for pole fizzles because you’re not attaining the tricks as quickly as you used to – make FITNESS your pole goal. You’re there because you want to be physically active, and it’s a FUN way to be physically active. Be proud of yourself for getting to the studio, challenging yourself, breaking a sweat, and building muscle. Don’t be discouraged by not attaining new tricks every single week – this is next to impossible. (UNLESS, it is your job. We tend to forget that the pole stars we see on Instagram are able to devote endless hours into their sport. The rest of us, we do it for fitness – and there’s nothing wrong with that).
I’m off to my crossfit session – not because I want to be the next crossfit games athlete, and not because I NEED to get my muscle up or else I’ll quit. I’m doing it, because it’s a physical activity that I enjoy – just like pole fitness. It doesn’t need to be any more than that.
Don’t forget to ensure you’re not burning out your shoulders by taking too many aerial sports. I encourage you to practice Yoga or take up a dance class. Thankfully, Aradia offers so many other classes that you can do to cross-train, which will ultimately help with pole and aerials, while benefitting from physical activity. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.