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Give pole fitness a spin

Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYT is an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise and a media spokesperson. She is an adjunct professor at Miramar College, teaching courses in the Department of Exercise Science, Health and Nut...

Workout review of pole dancing

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been curious about pole fitness classes, but are unsure what exactly to expect once you get there. Let’s be honest, trying something new can always be a little intimidating, but I decided to set my fears aside and head to Fun Pole Fitness, a studio in San Diego, to give pole fitness a spin.
Pole dancing

What is pole fitness?

Pole fitness is a group fitness class that incorporates dance moves around and using a pole. Since this class format is centered on a piece of equipment, the class sizes are often capped at about 10 participants, which allows for a more individualized, intimate class experience with personalized instruction.

My experience with pole fitness

As a newbie to pole fitness, I attended Intro to Pole Dance with Choreography, which ended up being a great foundational class where expert dance skills weren’t needed. Following a dynamic warm-up, we first learned two options for walking around the pole (toe drags and high steps) which are critical to building a routine. From there, we worked on some fun choreography, with moves like hip circles and shoulder rolls before progressing on to spins. Practicing with and without music, we learned two spins and spent a considerable amount of time working on safety-oriented skills, such as establishing proper grip and learning correct positioning of the shoulders to protect the delicate muscles of the joint. We were also shown the best way to land each spin to ensure the safety of the knees and ankles.

The benefits of pole fitness

If you’re in the market for a fun way to be physically active while focusing on improving your coordination, balance and strength, then pole fitness might be right up your alley. The small class size and easy-to-learn foundational moves left me feeling empowered yet humbled, as it challenged my fitness in a whole new way (let’s just say I definitely felt it in my arms and shoulders the next day). Although I initially assumed this class would have a very heavy cardio focus, the moves we explored focused a great deal on strength, in a way that is much different from simply lifting weights. The class was relatively slow-paced, allowing time to focus on proper mechanics and breaking down each move, yet there were also options to make each move harder or easier depending on your ability level.

The downside of taking a spin on the pole

Pole fitness isn’t for the bashful, so if sultry moves like hip swivels and “booty-up” leave you feeling more self-conscious than empowered, this may not be the class for you. It’s important to seek out a qualified instructor who will spend a considerable amount of time teaching the proper mechanics of each move in addition to offering modifications to meet your unique ability level, especially if you’ve experienced shoulder or knee issues in the past.

The bottom line on pole fitness classes

Truth is, you don’t have to be an exotic dancer to be successful in a pole-based fitness class -- all you need is a great attitude and a desire to have a good time while working out. The feeling of successfully (and relatively gracefully) twirling around the pole while not only having fun but also feeling confident is something that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t kept an open mind, which means checking your ego at the door. My advice is to set aside any preconceived notions you may have about what you can and can’t do, and don’t be afraid to feel a bit sexy while breaking a sweat in the process!

More fun fitness ideas

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Jessica Matthews, MS is an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the nation’s trusted authority on fitness. Matthews, who is also an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor and an experienced registered yoga instructor, specializes in a number of areas, including basic wellness, women’s fitness and mind-body exercise.

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