She’d just done 3 classes in a row: The class that we’d just completed, and another 2 just before that!
It made me realize that that is the level of strength and fitness it takes to be able to do pole tricks at an advanced level.
We chatted briefly about how yoga and pole complement each other very well, and she mentioned that doing yoga is a great way to reverse damage done by pole!!!
I’d already heard stories about how back muscles can shift to one side over time, how masseurs can tell if one side of the body is more developed than the other, about busted shoulders, wrists, and back muscles caused by years of chronic improper engagement and wrong form.
But hearing it from someone who’s that’s good, that strong, and who’s been pole dancing for a longer time than some of the instructors at the studio is extremely sobering! She even knew of people who gave up pole dancing altogether after reaching advanced levels because they felt it causes too much damage over the long run.
I hope to keep on dancing until I’m 60 years old, and I want to make sure my body will be able to handle that!
So how does a fledgling pole dancer prevent pole damage from happening???
– Develop body awareness early
Naturally, I wondered: how come the pole instructors all seem to be perfectly fine despite the fact that they spend the most time on the pole? Well, most of them have had extensive backgrounds in dance, gymnastic, or sports from the time they were in their teens, so they have a much keener sense of body awareness than the average ‘lay person’ who discovers the wonders of pole after a lifetime of being largely sedentary.
They know how to listen to how their body feels on any given day, are familiar enough with their physical self to know when to push hard, and when to ease up and stop, and can tell if a move doesn’t feel right.
Being that clued in to the body’s subtle signals gets more critical as the tricks get more advanced. Thankfully, I haven’t started learning anything that complicated yet. So in the meantime, I’m working on developing that sense of ‘physical intuition’.
– Condition, condition, condition
Also known as: Strength Training!!!
Yes it’s boring, but the cold, harsh truth is that strength is probably the most important requirement for pole dancing. You may have fantastic rhythm and personal style, and be completely dedicated to your dance practice, but if you cannot fully lift your own weight, all the passion and enthusiasm in the world isn’t going to help you or prevent injury… as I recently had to learn the hard way! (Minus the fantastic rhythm and style part, of course.)
And again, if you didn’t already have years of dance or sports training before you discovered pole, chances are that your body could use all the conditioning it can get. My rule of thumb now is: however much strength I think is required to do something tough, it’s probably really double.
– Don’t forget to cool down
I notice it a lot at the studio, and I’ve definitely been guilty of it myself: 10 – 15 minutes before the end of practice time, the more advanced students have usually wrapped up and started cooling down and stretching, while the lower level ones are still pulling out as many power moves as they can squeeze in before the doors close. Then when time’s up, they simply put on their clothes and leave.
As a beginner, I wasn’t concerned at all about the importance of cooling down. Then as the tricks got tougher, I realized that easing those muscles back to rest mode is crucial if I want to wake up the day without stiffness or pain. These days I’m making it a point to double the amount of cool-down I do from now on, and to stretch out my core and legs as well as my upper body.
– Don’t neglect the non-dominant side
I only started trying to do things on my left side after 6 months of taking lessons, and already the difference in strength was remarkable. The thing is, it’s not just my arm. Because pole forces us to engage pretty much everything, the entire right side of my body is now noticeably stronger, especially when I do yoga. And I’ve only been learning for slightly over a year.
So just imagine the long-term impact of intensively using only one side. The scary part is that it might not show up til years have passed. After all, pole dancing only became really popular among regular women in the past couple of years. That’s not long enough for any serious long-term issues to start showing up on a big scale yet. (Not to freak anyone out, but it was decades after cigarettes first became commercialized that the link between smoking and lung cancer became household knowledge!)
All that said though, as with all things in life, a little common sense goes a long way and a little prevention sure beats needing a cure later down the road. Life’s too short to be paranoid, but do pole safe and stay happy!