When you think of pole dancing, sexy, scantily clad women probably come to mind first. But what should replace that image is athletes. The fact that they look insanely hot while performing those impressive tricks is only just a bonus. I recently took a beginner pole class at San Francisco's VRV3 Studios, and my arms are still aching. I woke up with a sore back, shoulders, and arms, and bruises all over my ankles — battle wounds from one hour of pole work. If you've never taken a pole fitness class before, here's why you should take one ASAP.
For one, pole fitness is a fantastic workout. I was sweating just five minutes in, and though it mostly targets the upper body in beginner-level classes, it becomes a full-body workout once you begin inversions. Not only is it physically demanding, but it's also so much fun! "Many of our students tell us they get bored at the gym, but pole keeps them engaged, mind and body, and it will continually challenge them," Melanie Hsia, VRV3 Studios co-owner and marketing director, told POPSUGAR. The best part is that no prior experience is required for your first class. "Sometimes, people think they need to get strong before they take pole," Melanie said. "Our response: pole is how you get strong!"
Our instructor, Anna Tong, ex-gymnast and co-owner of VRV3 Studios, first led us through a series of strengthening exercises to warm up our arms and shoulders. We easily could've stopped the class right there because the warmup alone was difficult enough. Then, we really got into the fun stuff. We eased into spins with a simple outside step, adding in a back-hook spin at the end. Then we learned a classic fireman spin and eventually worked up to a pole climb, chair spin, mermaid sit, and other beginner tricks. Though my co-worker and I suffered from major pole burns, it became apparent why minimal clothing was suggested for class. More skin equals more grip.
Polers (or pole dancers or aerialists) make tricks look beautifully effortless, but pulling off those moves requires an incredible amount of strength, coordination, and body awareness. I initially struggled with even the very basics, like the fireman spin and back-hook spin. Knowing where to place your ankles, legs, and hands and piecing it all together into one fluid movement was definitely not as easy as it looked. But we felt so badass once we got the hang of things.
When I asked Melanie what she has to say to people who think pole fitness is only about being sexy, she responded: "It can be if you want. This is our favourite aspect of pole: you can make it any style you want. The sexy aspect can be empowering, but so can the strength you gain from the fitness aspect. Strong is the new sexy!"
Amen to that!