I’m questioning my decision to start again with pole quite a lot recently. I’m 40, I have already been diagnosed with three chronic illnesses and investigations are ongoing to see if I have a third. I hadn’t really done anything in four years and I’m having to start from scratch. I was managing to teach using other people to demo and verbal cues, I probably didn’t really need to start training on the pole again. But I was getting frustrated. I always used to have the belief that I shouldn’t be asking students to do anything I couldn’t physically do myself and I believe a few of my students had less respect for my teaching and knowledge because they didn’t know my history or ability in the past. I’ve never been an amazingly advanced poler but I was competent in the things I was teaching, I was strong and I enjoyed it.
Losing my ability to invert on the pole was crushing. It’s something I’ve always been able to do. And it was the reality check I needed to show me just how ill I was and how much strength I had lost. But it was hard to motivate myself to take that first step and get back on the pole again and its even harder to maintain that motivation week after week when I think about how much I used to be able to do compared to now.
I’m always a bit reluctant to write about my first experience with pole, the majority of people in my current life have no idea how or where it started. But my first pole encounter happened in a small club in London in either 1999 or 2000 followed by a couple of other clubs across the UK. I didn’t learn a lot of tricks, I didn’t even learn many spins. I learned how to move sensually and I loved that element of pole dance. But I was concerned of the repercussions of doing club work on my life in a small town with two daughter’s, gossips, and an already disapproving and judgemental set of neighbours (not all of them but some hated me). Especially after a chance encounter with a man I knew from Louth, in a club in Glasgow!
But in 2006, after I had Grace (my third daughter), and after I had qualified as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor, pole dance was becoming popular in the fitness industry. I loved the idea of getting back on a pole and teaching it in class format, even though the stripper style dance side was being shunned. I bought myself an x-pole and decided to refresh myself on how to move and also learn some more tricks and spins. There wasn’t a syllabus available as such but there was a range of instructional DVDs, most of which focused on individual tricks. I think I bought all the ones available at the time. My favourite at the time being Pole Exercise by Lucy Misch. But I used all the DVDs and pole dancing forums to help create my own syllabus to use for classes and also to help my own learning.
There wasn’t the same safety awareness either and classes took place in bars or function rooms over stone tiles or wood floors. I injured myself repeatedly. Luckily I only ever suffered minor injuries and my students had me spotting them and teaching them not to make the same mistakes I had and luckily no drastic accidents happened.
I mainly learnt new moves on my own and the only safety precautions I took was using big bean bags or pillows round the base of my pole or asking a friend or relative, who had no idea what I was trying to do, to spot me. I did travel over to Pole4Fitness in Hull a few times to get some help learning new things, but it was to far away to go regularly. It was only after 2011 when I opened the Freestyle Fitness studio and I took on other instructors, Lana, Leanne and Naomi that I had other people to train with, and training with those guys didn’t happen very often as we all had stupidly conflicting availability, and most of the time we did train together, it involved messing around and getting distracted. But it made it fun!!!
During my first time learning pole properly the focus was always on learning new moves. I never spent anywhere near enough time working those tricks into various combinations. I’d learn a few combos, but I never really spent time experimenting with moves. In hindsight I missed out on a lot. And I did the same dancey flowy stuff all the time. I didn’t bother learning any more floor moves.
The pole industry has progressed so much since then, the instructor training and ongoing development instructors can do now is fantastic. The focus of the industry has become much more safety conscious, with instructor tools available to help create much more sensible lesson plans and resources to help learn about the anatomy and physiology required to understand how to move safely around the pole.
In fact pole has progressed a lot in the four years since I stopped training to. Not just in regards to safety standards and instructor training but in style and content to. I’ve tried to keep up with the industry but move names have changed, tricks have become more extreme and the dance elements have become more diverse, although it is really nice that exotic styles are much more accepted again now. But the industry is constantly changing so it was a bit daunting coming back to it after so long and it really has been like being a new poler.
But I have started again, I am progressing and I am enjoying it! I’m never going to be an amazing pole dancer, I’m probably never going to be doing the extreme contortion moves or the big power moves. My progression will always be slower than my daughter’s and the 20 year old students I have but I’m ok with that. I’m re-learning at my own pace. It’s only when I compare myself to others that I get disheartened and frustrated. Or when I compare my strength and ability to how it was years ago.
I am learning slower than I did the first time round but I’m also learning differently. I’m trying to learn to appreciate what my body can do rather than focus on the things I can’t.
I’m sure things are a bit harder now I’m older but I’m in less of a rush. I’m using my age and my illnesses as an excuse to take it slow and I’m enjoying the process a lot more than I ever have in the past because of it. Sometimes when my joints hurt and my skin reacts to the pole, I sit and wonder why I’m doing it to myself but I’ve allowed myself to be beaten by my health for to long, I want a bit of control back and I want to carry on learning an art form that has been a part of my life for a very long time.