….My arms and abs tell me YES!
I’ve wanted to try Pole classes for a long time now. No, I’m not looking for a career change but a chance to test my fitness in a way I’ve never been able to with other workouts. Pole dancing may have started out as exotic dancing but, at some point, people realised that the girls in the night-clubs weren’t just sexy. They were strong, fit, skilled, talented and these traits were admired and envied not just by men, but by women wanting to try it for themselves. This ‘wow’ factor helped bring pole dancing out of the night clubs and into the fitness world.
Some people watch a marathon and want to take up running – others watch acrobatics and gymnastics and want to join the circus. For me, watching years of physical dance at the Fringe Festival has been my inspiration to try pole dancing – a bit of circus without the scary clowns. But until now, I’ve never got past some ‘fears’. I was afraid of looking silly, that my bum might look big in the recommended shorts (legs need to be bare to grip the pole) or afraid I would fall off and embarrass myself. My biggest ‘fear’ was not being fit enough to do it – were my arms and core strong enough? I didn’t just want to try – I wanted to actually be able to do at least one of the moves.
I firmly believe that things happening for a reason so when I met Pole Instructor, Jess at a macaron class I took it as a sign that I’d have to put the excuses aside and give Pole dancing a go. Jess was so sweet and patient that I knew I’d be in safe hands with her as my teacher. Jess works through Madame Peaches who run a variety of fun, active night’s out around the UK but they also take their Edinburgh based pole fitness classes very seriously, with fantastic instructors and a great space at St. Margaret’s House on London Road. I’ve already tried and loved their Burlesque Dance class, another good sign.
A few weeks before my class, watching some pole dance demos at the Fit Festival in October reminded me of why I wanted to learn – but also why I’ve been putting it off. These girls were AMAZING! I was now even more excited for my first lesson and motivated to do more sit-ups in preparation for my upcoming class.
It was finally time for my Thursday Beginners class. This was for absolute beginners, people who’ve been coming for a couple weeks and those not ready to move up to the other intermediate classes also on offer. All that was needed for the class was bare feet and to wear shorts as bare legs were better for gripping the pole – a quick look through my wardrobe brought up only one possibility – my pyjama bottoms. At least after class I’d be ready for bed!
The class started with a floor routine to get us warmed up, loosen the muscles and let go of some nerves/inhibitions as well. It was a busy class but there were lots of poles and plenty of space for spinning and twirling.
Jess separated us into complete newbies and those with a bit of experience. We had 2 or 3 girls per pole which gave us a chance to have a break between goes, to learn by watching the others and to listen to Jess’s instruction. Our first introduction to the poles was with more warm-up exercises. These were the core and arm moves I was dreading!!! But hey, these weren’t too bad – mainly because Jess had different variations depending on your experience and ability; having a version that you could do successfully was a great confidence boost for all of us! I started with the beginner’s version of a ‘pull up’. I stood behind the pole with my dominant/stronger hand high up on the pole and the other just underneath. The goal was to use my arms and abs to lift my body off the floor and lower back down in a controlled manner – not a ‘jump’ and a flop. Ok, so I needed a little hop to get off the ground, but I did manage to hold myself up for a brief second. After a couple repetitions I had a break and let another of my group have a go. To make it a bit more challenging on our next rounds we could swap our hand position and/or try to do repetitions without completely letting our feet touch the ground. That was one to work up to!
Our next warm-up was for our core muscles – ‘knee tucks’. For these we stood to the front side of the pole. I’m right handed so I had my left hip pressing into the pole, my left arm tucked in and holding the pole close to my shoulder and my right arm up high over my head. To engage the abs, we had to tuck our knees in towards our belly. Jess made it look so easy…
Soon it was my turn. I was thrilled that I could manage this move – OK my knees weren’t as tucked as Jess’s but not a bad start!
We did these moves a couple times, let someone else have a go, then repeated. This reminded me of an interval training class. Do some reps til you feel fatigued, rest and repeat. Yep, this pole class is definitely a workout! These initial attempts on the pole got us laughing and working together – a little less nervous and self conscious; we were warmed-up, relaxed and ready for more.
Jess now taught us a simple, funky but testing routine. She gave us the full demo then broke it down into smaller sections which she showed one group at a time. We started with a graceful ‘swoop’ around the pole, holding on with one hand which ended with draping the leg around the pole for a split second before turning into a pirouette. The trickiest part was coming out of the swoop and figuring out which direction to turn for the pirouette. Jess had a great tip – ‘Sniff your pits’. It worked! With one arm up the pole, turning your head to ‘sniff’ is the perfect way to start you off in the right direction – Genius!
With that ‘mastered’ we learned the next segment. As we came out of our twirl, we would bend our leg and hook one heel around the pole (so that if we leaned back w/out hands the heel would hold us up). As the foot went up, so would our arms, as high up the pole as possible. Now, our warmed-up abs would engage to tuck in our legs so that our knees were surrounding the pole which was sandwiched between the heel of the front foot and the ankle of the back foot; the momentum from the pirouette taking us into a spin that would last until our feet hit the floor. Simples 😀
Now it’s my turn. I loved the spin, I felt like a kid, swirling round, defying gravity – the wind in my hair….
A flirty, cat-like move would take us back up to standing and ending with a smile!
Throughout the hour, Jess moved around the room, helping each group learn their routine, encouraging us beginners and setting new challenges for the returning students. All the while, we took turns trying the routine, perfecting the moves, adding in our own flair and finesse, supporting each other, offering help with the moves so that no one felt silly – we were all in this together!
It was great to watch the others slowly coming out of their shell with each rotation. Confidence was growing, inhibitions dissolved. Jess had designed the perfect routine with moves that were challenging yet achievable, building our confidence, our strength and our desire to try more. I also really loved that there were girls with a few weeks experience in the class. Watching them gave us all a glimpse into what could be achieved with a couple weeks experience under our belts.
It was a tough class but Jess made sure everyone had the encouragement needed to give it a go and we all got there in the end, getting fit having fun and making friends. I was really happy with what I achieved and even felt confident enough to try doing the whole routine in the opposite direction, giving my less dominant side a workout too (the ‘sniff your pits’ tip really came in handy for figuring out which way to turn in reverse pirouette). This was tricky but I managed it – although with a lot less style! And the end of the class Jess kindly said that I was ‘a natural’. Maybe that career change wasn’t such a bad idea…… 😀
If you’re interested in trying a beginner’s class I highly recommend trying Madame Peaches. Here’s a sample of their classes, which can be booked via email as one-off drop-ins or in a block. For prices and booking, please email email@example.com
19:00 – 20:00 – Beginners
20:00 – 21:00 – Intermediate
18:00 – 19:00 – Pole Practise & 1-2-1 Lessons
19:00 – 20:00 – Beginners
20:00 – 21:00 – Intermediate
All classes are held in Studio G25 (ground floor) at the Arts Complex. The address us 151 London Road, Edinburgh, EH7 6AE, and it just next to Meadowbank Sports Centre. Free ample car parking
There are several other studios offering Pole lessons on other dates and in different locations including:
IF you have any recommendations for more classes please let us know in the comments.