Women in highly erotic outfits, winding their bodies around a pole. That’s the image most people probably have in mind when they hear someone say “pole dance”. However, pole dance or pole fitness, has become a very popular workout, especially in and around Brighton.
We wanted to know more about this unusual sport and talked to Pole Performance instructor Caroline McGregor. President of the University of Brighton’s Pole Fitness Sports Society, Caroline invests a lot of time in her personal training and runs Pole Fitness classes at the Moulsecoomb Leisure Centre. Here is what she told us about the benefits of this unique way to get fit.
What is the correct term for the sport? Is it ok to call it ‘pole dance’?
The correct term for the classes is pole fitness classes. However, most pole athletes, like myself, would argue pole dance and pole fitness describes the same thing. That is to say, a sport carried out on a metal pole combining elements of contemporary and other styles of dance and elements of gymnastics and acrobatics. The terms are interchangeable.
You are yourself a very active pole athlete. What would you say it is that makes this sport special?
What makes pole fitness special is that it is a massively varied sport. People can choose to focus on different aspects of pole fitness. It can be done acrobatically, but it can also be more dance focused, with contemporary, ballet or floor work elements, or even exotic styles. So, you can either focus on the gymnastics elements or focus on a style described as ‘flow’.
The empowering element of pole dancing and the way it can bring all sorts of people from different backgrounds together is also very special.
And who is this sort of workout designed for?
Pole fitness is a sport for anyone and everyone. Male, female, young, old… anybody of any fitness level can do pole fitness. Even children and elderly people can participate. It really is a sport that anybody can be introduced to.
Are there any restrictions that apply?
There are obviously factors that can hinder participation, for example being heavily pregnant or having a serious health issue or injury, especially if a doctor has advised that sport may aggravate the issue or injury. Apart from these factors that can affect participation in any sport due to health risks, the sport is open to everyone.
Do participants need to have a particular fitness level when attending Pole Fitness classes for the first time?
In order to take part in pole fitness classes for beginners, you do not need any previous experience in pole fitness, or any other sport for that matter. Especially in the classes I teach at the Moulsecoomb Leisure Centre, people of low and high fitness levels alike are encouraged to participate. This is a massively non-discriminatory sport and really is available for anyone.
So, you say that pole fitness is for anyone. But what about men? Would you say that pole fitness is attractive for them?
In my experience, the sport is not usually as attractive to men as it is to women. There is a certain stigma about being a male and participating in a sport that they see as ‘female dominated’.
In real life, this is not true as within the global pole fitness community, there are many internationally renowned male pole athletes who are just as idolized as the female pole athletes for their skills.
But perceptions do change. When men do decide to participate in pole fitness, they are very much persuaded that this is a sport that requires hard work and dedication. I have found that men very much enjoy participating and quickly become dedicated to learning more. In my experience, the average number of males in a pole class of nine people is one to three. However, this varies greatly across the UK.
One thing people always want to know about when it comes to workouts and fitness is what it does for your body. What are the actual benefits of pole fitness?
Pole fitness has a broad range of psychological, physical, and emotional benefits. It is a brilliant way to stay fit and it can offer benefits such as increasing muscle strength, stamina, and flexibility, as well as toning the body. It is a sport that can be taken seriously, or it can be a fun enjoyable exercise activity.
What is little known is that it is massively personally empowering. On a psychological level, male and female alike can gain confidence out of it, whereas on a physical level, it is all about mastering technically difficult skills or feats of strength.
Pole fitness can be done at a high intensity or more relaxed, whichever one prefers, and contributes massively to well-being. You really feel positive and happy after a pole fitness workout.
To focus on the physical benefits, which muscles get especially toned and when can people expect to see toning results on their body?
Pole fitness has toning and strengthening benefits for every muscle in your body. People often say that it works muscles you did not even know existed! You will first begin to see muscle toning in your upper body, arms, back, and core. This can happen as soon as three or four weeks into taking pole fitness classes, but big changes in muscle toning will really become visible from six weeks to three months of doing pole fitness.
You are running six-week classes. What exercises will participants learn to do there?
The pole fitness classes I am running in Moulsecoomb Leisure Center are designed to introduce people to pole fitness. We teach basic spins around the pole, and conditioning and strengthening exercises on the pole. Through these exercises, participants will safely build up strength and flexibility, and progress through a pole fitness syllabus designed by Pole Performance.
So, what results can people expect from such a workout interval?
By the end of a six-week course of pole fitness classes, those new to the sport can expect to be stronger and fitter. Of course, everyone progresses at their own rate, but overall participants can expect to be able to do a sequence of spins and dance movements around the pole.
They will be able to carry out strengthening exercises with increased strength and stamina, for example being able to climb to the top of the pole, lift themselves up onto the pole and upside down. Participants can expect to have learned a very wide and fun variety of things to do on the pole, ready to progress to more advanced moves and tricks.
What clothing do you recommend for a pole fitness session?
For pole fitness classes you must wear shorts and a t-shirt, basically just something you feel comfortable in. This is because when doing pole fitness, you need the skin on your legs and arms to grip onto the chrome coated poles.
Other than that, it is strongly advised to not wear jewelry as it can catch on things and scratch the poles. Also, we recommend to not use any moisturizer on the day of doing pole, as it will make you and the pole very slippery.
So, those wishing to attend only need to bring a water bottle, shorts suitable for sports, and themselves along with an open mind!
What is your advice for people who would like to start doing pole fitness but hesitate to actually do so?
My advice for anyone hesitating about coming to pole fitness classes would be to attend with a friend. I would also like to remind those people, that everyone is in the same boat. New experiences can be scary, but once you are over that first hurdle, it is an enjoyable experience.
Pole fitness instructors everywhere are well aware that there can be hesitancy about participating, so we are always there to offer help or encouragement and answer any questions. So do not be afraid to get in contact if you are thinking of participating, we can always offer words of advice.
The six-week pole fitness beginner classes at the Moulsecoomb Leisure Center will begin on the 15th of June. They will run every Thursday evening at 7:30 pm. Those wanting to join can contact Caroline on Facebook or per email at firstname.lastname@example.org.