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