A few years ago an old friend suggested we go to a pole fitness class. I hated the gym, hated running, but was finding that my teenage metabolism was leaving me and putting on weight became easier and easier. So we went to the class, nervous as hell. Would we have to be sexy, what will the other people be like? Would there be judgement?
Honestly, the class wasn’t great. It was mixed level, and as a beginner, we were sort of just left doing the same boring moves again and again rather then be inspired or encouraged. Some of the other girls were lovely, others I was intimidated by. Anyway, when my friend couldn’t go, I didn’t go, and only going once every few weeks or so wasn’t fast enough to progress. I’d look at the advanced girls going upside down, and there was no thought in my brain that I’d ever be able to do that, it just didn’t seem like something I’d be good enough to do, and I had no encouragement to the contrary. Anyway, we gave up pretty easily.
Fast forward to January 2013, the year I was getting married. I said things like ‘I want to tone up’ and ‘I want to burn fat’ – both polite ways of saying ‘I want to be skinnier’. Still a gym hater, I looked for a new pole dancing class to try it again, this time on my own.
Oh the difference. One day in January I turned up at Polefire, nervous again and not knowing what to expect. At the time, classes were downstairs at Grand Central on Oxford Road, which meant you had to go behind the bar to get there, which was scary in itself! But the girls there were amazing – supportive of every little victory, helpful, funny and outspoken. I felt like I could achieve something one day, like I might become ‘ok’ at this. The founder of Polefire, Sarah Fenney, is now a hero of mine. She sees things in you you don’t see in yourself, makes you believe, makes you harder, better, faster, stronger!
The first time I climbed up the pole to the ceiling my eyes pricked with tears of pride! I’d be covered in bruises, sweaty and aching (the first morning after your pole class you’ll discover arm and ab muscle pain you never knew existed!) I was exhilerated, I was inspired. I stopped saying crap like ‘tone up’ (which doesn’t actually mean anything) and started saying ‘muscle definition’ and ‘build up strength’. The weight fell off, but more importantly, I started to be OK with body as it was (most of the time anyway, I’m only human).
As I progressed, I started doing more freestyle and dancing. It was an outlet for creativity, to forget your everyday worries and just create beautiful shapes, losing yourself to the music, experimenting with little variances on moves to make them unique to you. Then I started doing performances, and discovered a whole new level of adrenaline. I was hooked.
When I’m stressed at work ( or about anything else) I walk into that studio and it’s OK. There’s nothing like the adrenaline of a ‘drop’ to push worries out your mind, or the excitement of getting a new move to make you feel powerful and capable. When you’re hanging upside down by your ankles, trying to rest the pole on the right bit of your back without falling, the stress of work seems a million miles away.
I always suffered from insomnia, but now I sleep much better. I think about the food that goes in my body, about iron and protein. As I’ve become more confident about my body, my shorts have got shortened and my abs are out more and more.
I’ve taken up aerial arts (particularly silks) and have started working actively on my flexibility – posts for another day!
As luck would have it, a family trip to Vegas this year is coinciding with the World Pole expo and I’ll get to train with one of my idols, Marion Crampe.
Pole is incredible, it’s a crazy sisterhood of support, creativity and empowerment. I would encourage ANYONE whatever your age, shape or size to give it a try. I’m also on the Polefire performance team, and get to frequently show off at various Manchester venues. Feel free to watch my pole journey on Instagram.
And if you’re thinking about taking a class and have any questions, feel free to just ask 🙂
Much love, Kayley
We’re very lucky in Manchester to have some amazing vegan options, some healthy, some not so healthy. I’m in my fourth month of vegan-ing and I’ve not struggled too badly anywhere. I thought I’d share some of the amazing finds I’ve had around the city lately:
Pho have places all over the country, the Manchester branch is located in the Corn Exchange (previously the Triangle, and previously a bit crap). Pho are great because they declare pretty openly that virtually all their vegetarian labled dishes are also vegan, rather than hiding it away on a secret menu, and when queried the server I had was ready to answer vegan questions.
I had the bun chay hoey – hot and spicy noodle soup. You get the main soup in one giant bowl, the vegan option being tofu and mushroom, and a tray of fresh ingredients on the side to add as you like – lemongrass, coriander, beans sprouts, lime and mint. I’m normally pretty good with spicy things, and I optimistically added all the chillis I was given. A bit of a ‘nose runner’ shall we say.
The tofu wasn’t a texture I’d had before, to be honest, it reminded me of croutons, sort of ‘bready’. In spite of this surprise, it was delicious and I’d definitely have it again.
Evelyn’s is in the Northern Quarter, on Tib St. It has a pretty varied menu for meat eaters, and TWO vegan options. Apparently it’s a great breakfast/brunch spot, but it did appear quite egg-centric (not even a pun).
Another day, another new tofu format, this time breadcrumbed. It was amazing, pretty sure it was silken tofu as the inside was very soft and smooth, and the breadcrumbs were really crispy, what a contrast. Served with loads of spinach and blackened cauliflower, on sort of lentil Dahl thing. It was incredible. I could have eaten it twice, which I guess makes portion size the only slight negative.
Go Falafel is like vegan Greg’s. It’s fast, it’s delicious… Oh no wait, except that it’s incredibly healthy rather than greasy beige. There are rumours that a new one is opening on Deansgate which would be amazing, the current one is just off Piccadilly gardens. They serve all sorts of fruit smoothies too. Entirely vegan.
You’ll notice there’s something missing in the salad bowl above. I was actually not too hungry so I just went for the salad bowl rather than any actual falafel. But look at it, it’s beautiful. I ate this on my own on a bench on a sunny day I’m February listening to a guy play guitar. Highly recommend that ambience.
Deaf Institute has snook in a bit here as the meal I had was a special rather than on their normal menu. However, it was one of those sandwiches you think about for days afterwards so I couldn’t leave it out. Maybe if we all go and demand it they’ll make it regular.
This sandwich had the three As – avocado, artichoke and aubergine. Plus loads of red onion and grilled peppers. So fit. Look at the size of it. Needs a wooden stake to hold it together.
I’ve been telling everyone I know about Cowherds.Unfortunately I keep getting overwhelmed by the glory of their food and eating it before I can take a pic. They have a regular daily hit food item (Mondays are Thai green curry – try it) plus various snacks and All The Juices. I actually won one of their regular Facebook competitions a few weeks back and got 12 bottles of juices, and I never felt healthier. The green one below looks like pondwater yes, but it’s cut with apple besides all the kale, spinach and whatever else so tastes amazing. The orange one is ginger and carrot – if you weren’t a big fan of ginger I’d say it’s not the juice for you. It’s a great lick you up though!
Cowherds also serve Tyler & Hall chocolate vegan protein brownies – you would think that being vegan and protein heavy they’d taste like crap but you’d be SO WRONG. They’re so rich, almost like praline. Highly recommended.
Cowherds is currently just a van behind the cathedral, but they’re imminently getting a new portakabin type thing where you can also sit inside. They do a lot of community work too and are generally wonderful people.
That’s today’s round up complete – please do let me know of anything else you discover!
Making the transition to vegan food has been pretty easy, but switching cosmetics, bodycare, toiletries and household cleaning stuff requires more research. I’ve taken the approach to change one thing at a time, as and when I run out.
The first thing to go was my No7 toner that I use as a general facecleaner-upper / make up remover. Outwardly, Boots have said they do not test on animals, but they are not Leaping Bunny certified, which is an external validation of this claim. Also, Leaping Bunny does not mean vegan. It means that the product nor its ingredients are tested on animals. It doesn’t mean that it is free of animal derivatives. In this instance, the No7 toner contains lanolin, from sheep’s wool. Honestly, I haven’t done much research into the wool industry so I don’t have any strong feelings about it. However, Boots have been open about having laboratories in China, where animal testing is demanded by law. Until they are certified Cruelty free I thought I’d go for a safer option.
This is where I discovered micellar water.
What is micellar water?
So, my hub is a scientist. He tells me a micelle is like a little blob of something that is suspended in something else. Micellar water, is basically tiny invisible drops of cleanser suspended in water. When you put it on a cotton wool pad and rub it on your face, the friction bursts the micelles and you get a really fresh feeling. It works as a facewash and even removes waterproof mascara.
I chose Formula Time Defy from M&S, which is both Leaping Bunny certified and declared vegan. And it’s great. Smells really fresh, and you should see the colour of the cotton wool pad at the end if the day – it works, put it that way.
Vegan Shower Gel
Shower gel was much easier. I had already tried and loved Original Source before. They are actually certified vegan by the vegan society. My favourite without a doubt is the mint and tea tree. I’m prone to the sniffles and blocked sinuses, and washing your neck and chest with the mint is like a mini Vicks Vapor Rub in the morning, really opens the airways!
So there’s my starter for ten – any recommendations on vegan shampoo and conditioner for bleached hair are VERY welcome!