I wanted to make sure I present as much variety on this page as possible, so I tried to get in touch with experts in sports that are not that well-known or popular. Chloe (@chloeiona.white) was kind enough to share her experience and motivation behind her pole career. #yourstory
Throughout my childhood and adolescent years, I had always been a complete couch potato apart from my gymnastics venture up to the age of 10. Since somewhat traumatic experiences with my primary school P.E. teacher, I had been entirely disinterested in exercise.
Finding Pole Fitness changed that.
My Pole journey has so far focused on Pole Fitness, centred in the strength and conditioning aspects of the sport. In April of 2018, I went to a taster session with my friend and was hooked, although broke and unable to afford to start classes! Immediately I received negativity as a result of trying the sport, especially from girls at sixth form assuming my interest was for attention disregarding my happy relationship, and the many dimensions to the sport. It is crucial to recognise that the Western roots of pole are deeply within the adult entertainment industry, which are greatly misunderstood and judged by society. Pole art is valid, beautiful, and demanding of the body in all forms. Many of those within the community have a strong respect and adoration for each other, regardless of the disciplines undertaken. Without exotic pole, we would not have the range of pole activities and opportunities that we are afforded today. It is beautiful to me that Pole incorporates strength, flexilibity, power, dance, expression and self-love all at once.
In September of 2018 I went to university and joined the pole society. I attended my weekly class and every practice session possible, quickly advancing through moves and learning from people who, some of whom at least, have become friends I hope to know for life. We were taught several moves every session and by Christmas, I was asked if I would consider training to become an instructor for the following year. Since then I have performed in a showcase, become the society President and an intermediate instructor, and loved every single second.
It is underestimated by many how physically demanding Pole art truly is. Instructing even the most simple beginner moves involves explaining the correct muscle engagement and safety points as your body really goes through it! It is easy to watch someone pole dancing and assume that it is easy, I too watched a lot of videos online and thought I could do it no problem, yet once people try it the most common response it that it is more difficult and demanding than expected. Although aching muscles is expected, the initial bruises and friction burns not so much!
This being said, it does not mean it is a difficult sport to learn. As I mentioned before, I was never athletic or sporty. I attended the society taster session expecting to be the heaviest, clumsiest and least-able person in the room but found very quickly that Pole is not an exclusive, elite community for the super-fit amongst us. Although of course professional pole dancers are incredibly dedicated athletes and a lot of ‘gym-bunnies’ find themselves curious of the sport, it is open and welcoming to all. In our classes we would learn and practice pole shapes, spins and holds but focusing on the enjoyment and expression it allowed. Over the weeks many of us were pleasantly surprised to see our strength increasing and moves becoming easier. Further benefits came for me when my hunger to progress with pole motivated me to begin going to the gym and working on my strength outside of classes too. A friend at the time offered to personal train me for six weeks which built my confidence enough to enter the very intimidating university gym and weight train. Since then, I have developed a strong interest in my personal nutrition and fitness improving not only my health and strength but also my relationship with my body. Pole works and tones your entire body in a way which is great fun and empowering for the mind.
Initially it may seem strange to some people that a sport in which you benefit from wearing limited clothing (you need as much skin as possible avaiable to grip the pole) can provide such confidence and power to individuals but it truly is astounding. I have had unhealthy relationships with food and my body for as long as I can remember and some days it is challenging to take that tshirt off or put my shorts on. But, our pole community is a place of safety, a place of acceptance and a place of encouragement where we celebrate what our bodies can do. I have gradually learnt self-acceptance and how to accept my body as it is wonderful and does not need smoothing, flattening or scultping. It keeps me alive and allows me to do amazing things. These realisations are all thanks to pole.
For me, pole has been a saving grace at university. I have lived for over a decade with mental health struggles and without the Oxford Brookes Pole Fitness Society family, I do not think I would have been able to cope with the pressures of university. I often find myself lost for words when trying to explain how much my pole family mean to me, and I know I am not the only one in the wider community that feels this way.
In a wider context, the pole community is growing exponentially. Described by some as ‘the latest fitness craze’ there are hundreds of Pole studios across the UK and globally. It only takes a simple pole dance search to find hundreds of thousands of instagram and Tik Tok accounts promoting the sport in all of it’s forms. A very common misconception of the Pole community is that it is only for women. Of course it is undeniable that currently the Pole community is female-dominated, but there are many pole dancers of all genders who must be recognized. Polers like Dimitry Politov, Kenneth Kao and Vladimir Karachunov and many more demonstrate the versatility and flexibility of the sport. It has been highlighted on many platforms, especially with the attention bought to the Black Lives Matter movement, that the community is not as diverse as we may like to think. Kheanna Walker recently took over the @pole_junkie Instagram story explaining how Black visibility is crucial and must be supported. There are many incredible Black men and women advancing the art of pole such as: @dalijahamelia, @onyxsachi, poundcake_p, @cutiewhippingham, @laurenelisepole, @ibreepoling and so many more as well as accounts such as @blackgirlspole and @blackmenpole which I would encourage anyone who is interested to follow!
We as a community can and will do better promoting the visibility and recognition of Black polers. I also want to emphasise the acceptance everyone can find within the community. Everyone is welcome regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, weight, age, or ability.
Essentially what I am trying to say is if you are interested in Pole, give it a go! The benefits physically and emotionally are far greater than I will ever be able to articulate and you would be welcomed with open arms into a beautiful community full of love and support.
Big Pole Love, Always xox
Instagram Accounts to explore:
Feel free to check out my account too but I’m still a little new pole baby ~ @chloeiona