Strength and flexibility are different — who knew?
The greatest gift the pandemic gave me was the love for working out.
I’m blessed with a good metabolism, which doesn’t let me gain too much weight. This was why I was always too lazy to start exercising, despite how well I knew how much it could improve my life.
But the sedentary lifestyle during the lockdown made me gain 10+ pounds, and I could no longer lie to myself that a healthy diet was all I needed.
My fitness routine was pretty much set, with 45 minutes of daily Yoga that left me feeling content and energized.
Then, I saw an Instagram video of a pole dancer. It was accompanied by her interview with a local newspaper about the health benefits of pole dancing. Not only did her videos look stunning, the lady, Pound Kakar talked with a level of confidence that spurred something in my heart.
She was the founder of the first pole dance studio in my city, Hyderabad. I succumbed and booked a demo class to try out this new art form.
Five months of consistent pole dancing later, I’m a convert.
The pole has helped me —
- Gain muscle and lose weight.
- Improve balance and coordination.
- Embrace a new-found confidence in my body.
- Meet amazing pole sisters who have become friends.
This post is about the many ways pole dancing shifted my outlook toward fitness. If it convinces even one person to try this form of fitness, I’ll consider my effort a success.
No matter what your sport is, muscles are important
Before starting pole dancing, I was terrified of going to the gym.
It always felt like too much effort, and my home workouts kept me fit enough to have no need for venturing out of my comfort zone
But a few days of trying to hang my body from the pole taught me how weak my forearms were.
Pole dancing demands insane levels of upper body strength. I knew if I lifted weights alongside, I’d become stronger, and hence, a more graceful pole dancer.
And so, in January 2023, I finally got myself a gym membership.
I now work out three days a week, and the remaining two days are for the pole. In the gym, I work on my chest, triceps, back, biceps, and legs.
Lifting weights has taught me that muscles are important, no matter what sport you play. And what better way to gain muscles than to lift weights under the supervision of an experienced trainer?
Going to the gym has another hidden benefit: I’m more inclined to take care of my diet if I’m consistent with my workouts. So far, these are the healthy habits I’ve developed thanks to combining the gym with pole dancing —
- Eating 1g of protein per kg of my body weight.
- Not eating too much carbs or sugar.
- Making sure I eat at least eight different varieties of fruits and vegetables in a day (air-fried, sauteed, steamed, or in a smoothie).
Working out alone vs working out with a group
If I’d only stuck to home workouts, I’d have never discovered the magic of working out with a group of like-minded students.
The pole studio I go to in Hyderabad has eight poles. This means that including the instructor, I get to meet nine wonderful women each time I go to class.
Being an introvert, it took me a few classes to break the ice and initiate conversations with the other women. But as the classes progressed, and everyone struggled with complicated moves, conversations were inevitable.
- The fellow students would blow kisses, cheer, and clap for you when you finally understood how to get into a new move.
- They’d compliment your outfit, hair, skin, nails — just about anything you’d put even a wee bit of effort into.
- They’d ask for tips and help you with their own when you’re struggling.
You see them struggling, and you get to appreciate the difficulty of the move. On some days, your grit inspires them to try harder. And on low-energy days, you can feed off their high spirits and push yourself a little bit more.
The atmosphere is so warm and supportive, that every class feels like an hour-long motivation session.
This has made me realize the difference between working out alone and working out in a group.
Sure, camaraderies develop in the gym too.
But when you’re working to nail a particular move together as a group, the friendships that take birth are at another level altogether.
Strength and flexibility are different
Three years of dedicated at-home Yoga had contributed to my flexibility. I can do splits and bend my body into shapes that might look difficult to beginners.
But being flexible doesn’t imply you’re strong.
I learned this the hard way when I tried to pull myself up on the pole. It took me an hour of conditioning to be able to climb up into the basic pole sit. This was a reality check on how weak my body was and pushed me to strive for muscle growth and strength.
That’s the best part about starting your fitness journey. Even if you lack in something, you can build it with consistent effort.
Instead of being disheartened, the trick is to look for solutions and work on yourself so you never have to feel weak again.
Pole dancing and my fitness journey: Final words
Pole dancing was the confidence boost I didn’t know I needed. It gave me hope and pushed me to venture beyond the comfort zone of home workouts.
Before starting, I had a million questions about whether it would be the right hobby for me, and whether my body would be strong and flexible enough.
I’ve learned through five months of consistent practice that it isn’t your strength or flexibility that makes a difference.
It’s your grit.
Sure, you aren’t strong now. No one is at the start of their journey.
You build strength and flexibility as you progress. And as you show up to each class, you push yourself to be 1% better than the previous session.
And on some days, that’s all you need to do.
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