This blog post is dedicated to to my main pole instructors from 2015, Ashley and Yumi. I’d also like to thank Virgil, Emily, Berna, Amina, Shantel, Casey and Nicola for giving me formal instruction, especially in my earlier days. Thank you all not only for the instruction, but also for supporting a wonderful athletic and artistic community, and maintaining such a great business (Foxy Fitness and Pole) for students such as myself.
Just a quick disclaimer, nobody asked me nor paid me to write this blog post. It’s kind of just incidentally an extremely positive review of Foxy Fitness and Pole, though I can’t say I’ve had that much experience with other pole studios.
2015 was arguably the most athletic year I’ve had in my entire life. I may have been hyper as a kid and ran around a lot, but never with any real discipline or planned consistency. I may have run track and cross-country when I was in middle school, but once the season was over, my muscles atrophied back to that of an inactive slob. I may have gone on a few “panicking 2-mile runs” in college when I was afraid of gaining weight from the imposed college meal plans, but I was never consistent. Plus, running is super boring to me.
As I’d stated in my first blog post about my earlier pole dancing experiences, I was mainly inspired by casually watching Youtube videos of Britain’s Got Talent or America’s Got Talent (I feel like Steven Retchless really did it for me.)
Why Should You Pole?
Because it’s good for you and all the goodness is contagious. I’m not exaggerating when I say this. Granted I socially prefer solitude and I live under a rock by working from home all the time, going to Foxy Fitness and Pole gives me tons of positive energy. This positive energy radiates off onto other people and back. The main thing going through my head about pole dancing is not even really about the fitness aspect of it, it’s the real sense of purpose and fun from committing to this activity consistently and also the people I associate with as I’m training.
I hear that most pole dancers have never been more fit in their life, and I’m no exception. You work out every muscle in your body, and you cover strength, flexibility and cardio. This in turn makes the rest of whatever’s going on in your life feel much better, assuming you eat and sleep reasonably well.
[excerpt of Yumi’s warm-ups:]
I can’t vouch for other pole studios, but I can safely say that if you train at Foxy Fitness, just about every single person you meet is super nice to you and supportive. If you happen to live near Manhattan, NYC, then I highly recommend training at Foxy Fitness. I kind of expected the more advanced pole dancers to be snooty, but they totally aren’t. (I guess my grade school social anxieties will never wear off.) But at least at this particular pole studio, you can expect everyone to be pretty supportive of you, regardless of your level. If you’re a beginner, it’ll be awkward but it’ll also be fun and amusing, especially when other new students are in the exact same boat. Very easy ice-breaker right there.
Everybody will at one point or another experience awkwardness that ends in some sort of laughter, because no matter what skill level you are at, any new move you attempt will probably not go that smoothly. In this case it is a true win-win situation (assuming nobody gets seriously hurt), because someone either messes up and it’s just plain entertaining for everyone, or people watch you succeed at a move and get amazed and inspired. Even if you do mess up, you can always try again and most of the time, you improve.
So not only is pole dancing great for your body, it is great for your emotional health and for bonding with other fellow classmates. In 2015, I trained for the Northeast Aerial Arts Championships, mainly to put myself over a flame and train really hard. But the experience was truly exhilarating. Nothing makes me work harder than the pressure of a deadline (plus the prospect of public humiliation). But if you prepare for a competition at Foxy Fitness, you’ll find yourself in the same boat with at least a dozen other girls. The energy just rubs off on you and it’s inspiring to see all the grit driving everyone to work so hard.
Pole dancing is a great artistic outlet for me, and a great way to be part of a cultural front. New pole dancing moves are still being created or “invented.” There are so many styles of pole dancing and moods that one or more dancers can portray in a pole performance. The possibilities are limitless — with costumes, the visual effects of different styles of movement and the myriad of methods of demonstrating impressive feats of physical fitness. One of the other reasons I highly recommend pole dancing is that just taking part will help establish the respectable reputation pole dancing deserves, in contrast to the stigma of it being associated with strip clubs (not to discredit strippers) or rather, more explicit adult scenes. Pole dancing should be for everyone, for better health, entertainment, community and… well, I guess just general happiness. It’s hard not to sound all gushy when I’m talking about pole dancing because seriously, pole dancing really is the most viral positive experience I’ve ever had and witnessed.
Be Prepared to Have Fun Hurting Yourself
I’m not a hardcore athlete in any way, but I can tell you the kinds of struggles you may go through when pole dancing. I strongly suggest having fun learning new daring moves, but also to ease yourself safely into it. The expectations in your brain may exceed the capacity that your body can take on, and as a result you may hurt yourself — so be careful! But also, as a way to get yourself to keep going, know that your body is truly amazing. I had no idea that within the same training session, my stamina can increase noticeably. I was running through my 3-minute routine and the last time I did it during that same session, I wasn’t as out of breath as my earlier run-throughs, which I didn’t think was possible in such a short period of time.
[This specific episode when Emily gave me a much-needed push]
I thought to myself, “How can people train for more than 4 hours every day?” For the first few weeks of having some 3-hour sessions every week, my body would hurt for a few days after each session. Then I bumped it up to about 5-6 hours a week and tried to cram a little more when we got closer to competition time. During those 2 to 3-hour sessions, you could tell everyone felt the same way after half time. By then everyone’s pretty much sitting and stretching instead of getting on the pole because we’re too burned out, or literally have too much pole burn, perhaps our calluses have ripped open or we’re too bruised.
But in the later weeks, I was able to be on the pole pretty much the entire 2 to 3 hours, and the same was the case for everyone else. While our stamina had evidently increased, I also noticed I didn’t bruise as much at certain frequent points of contact on my body.
Here is what my arm looked like from using the elbow grip (gripping the pole with the pit of your elbow). I’d always have a bruise on my bicep that I used for the elbow grip by the end of each training session. But in the later months of training, I didn’t get the bruise anymore.
For most pole dancers though, you can expect bruises like these. This is what you can expect from floor work, especially when you work on your knees, or if you roll on the floor repeatedly. When I first started climbing the pole the standard way, the method seemed like it was for bruising by design. I always got super bruised on my shins and especially on the tops of my feet.
But here’s the good news. While each new move is going to be awkward, it’s going to be painful. But eventually, if you do it enough, it becomes no big deal at all to your body because your skin will toughen up, you won’t get as tired from doing it, and you may not bruise from it anymore. Your body adapts!
There’s another part of you that you also need to deal with when learning certain new moves. Your fears. For some moves, they’re actually pretty safe if you end up not actually being in terrible danger of hurting yourself, but you’re still scared of it. In my case, one of them was the shoulder flip.
After I had people spot me on this move in the beginning, I told them that I was still scared of the move. They then told me “You’re doing fine on this move, Emily, you just gotta get over your fear.” I was always afraid of not landing on my feet, or the grinding of the pole on my collarbone was just annoying and scaring me. But I never failed to land on my feet with this move. The only remedy to get over your fear is to just keep repeating the move. If you still need a spot, then get a spot to help you or work with a crash mat.
But look at it this way. The more often you get over new fears and you heal up from soreness, exhaustion and bruising, the more fit and healthy you become. You will also be happier, and assuming people around you feed off of positive energy, people around you will also be happier.
Now I’d like to briefly express my appreciation for Ashley Fox.
I find it astounding that someone can build such an amazing business that brings together such an incredible community. She’s truly put a perspective on cultivating a healthy lifestyle, which includes keeping yourself physically healthy, maintaining good self-esteem and building a strong, positive and supportive community. One of the things I really appreciate about her is that she has a fierce drive and grit as a pole dancer, and she pushes her students to their respective limits as well. All this energetic fierceness is tempered by a bubbly personality, which is kind of the mood I feel when coming into the studio and leaving the studio, after an exhausting but productive training session. I’m truly grateful for having an instructor who works so hard to share her experience and knowledge.
And seriously, one of the big things that influences me every time I relocate is the proximity of my next apartment to that of one of Ashley’s pole studios lol. I’d seriously be really sad if I parted with the Foxy Fitness community. Ashley’s business makes NYC that much more appealing to me.
Anyway, thank you all so much — and thank you to all my pole-mates/class-mates for being awesome and supportive. I admire and respect anyone who takes life by the reins and works hard to improve themselves and helps others around them along the way. You all inspire me to work harder and to look forward to getting better. I want to become a better dancer, I want to crack down on my flexibility, I want to be able to train for more hours per week, and I want to see all the creativity that comes out of all of your hard work. You’ve made my 2015 truly amazing, and I look forward to spending more time and training with you all 🙂