What Pole Dancing Taught Me About Fitness And Health

Pole dance is so much more than a mere sensual art form.

What Pole Dancing Taught Me About Fitness And Health
Photo by Konstantin Mishchenko

Pole dance is so much more than a mere sensual art form.

I started pole dancing in 2022.

In the several months since, it has turned into a healthy obsession I keep returning to every week.

This beautiful art form has made me stronger, more confident, and has completely changed my outlook on fitness.

In this post, I’m sharing some reflections on my pole dancing journey and all the lessons it has taught me about health and fitness.

You don’t need to be a pole dancer to appreciate these lessons. If you’re even remotely curious about fitness, I’m sure you’ll find something to resonate with in my words.

Read on, and don’t forget to share your perspective in the comments.

Be grateful your body can move

I never really realized how difficult pole dancing was and how much of a toll it took on the body until I had a minor accident.

Now that I’m wiser, I’m never taking my fitness for granted again.

A body that can run, jump, skip, and bend into beautiful shapes is a privilege. To keep it going that way, you have to make some sacrifices and lifestyle allowances (more on that later).

The best gift Pole has given me is my gratitude for my fitness. As a practitioner of Stoicism, I know nothing lasts forever, not even your health.

So until I’m able to, I’ll cherish all the wonderful things my body can do, and wake up with gratitude every morning for the fortune of good health.

Mindfulness is the key

Before starting pole dancing, I’d been practicing Yoga for two years.

If you’ve ever attended a Yoga session, you’ll know that the key to having a fulfilling practice is to be mindful of your body, breath, and every small movement.

I’ve trained myself in mindfulness, but the pole challenged me more than Yoga ever has.

When you’re upside down hanging by a single leg, you don’t have the option to panic or overthink.

You’ve got to breathe, trust your body, and know where and how to hook each limb to prevent slipping and injuries.

The pole also taught me that every muscle in my body has its purpose. To be a successful pole dancer, I need to be strong all around. I can’t train my biceps or any other body part on a whim and ignore the rest.

Outside of the pole studio, being mindful of my breath and body is a gift this art form has given me. It has manifested in my life in different forms.

  • I no longer need to keep the television running while having food in the name of “entertainment.” Enjoying my meals in silence lets me appreciate every morsel I put into my body.
  • While hiking, trekking, climbing the stairs, or any other form of strenuous physical activity, I remember to monitor my self-talk and keep breathing. This has made it easier for me to perform certain tasks I used to struggle with before.

Mindfulness while working out has translated into mindfulness while living my life. As a result, I get to spend more time in my body than I do in my head. This is hands down the biggest achievement of the year so far for me.

Food is an investment in how you feel

Before starting pole dancing, food used to be something to fill my belly.

I’ve never been a believer in diet culture. According to me, you don’t need to “deserve” the treat you’re craving for. If you have a consistent exercise schedule, you can eat pretty much anything you like.

After spending seven months as a pole dancer, I’ve grown to understand that food is an investment in how you feel. If I don’t eat right before my pole sessions, I’m low on energy and can barely crack the new moves.

This has led to the realization that diet shouldn’t be something you do to maintain a particular weight. Rather, your diet reflects your lifestyle and should support all the activities you enjoy.

Some observations I’ve had in the past few months are -

  1. Junk food makes you feel great instantly, but low on energy and in a bad mood a few hours later.
  2. Eating fiber and protein-rich meals is the key to keeping your body fueled for long workouts. My go-to pre-workout snack is a peanut butter and banana sandwich with some Reishi tea.
  3. Sugary drinks aren’t worth it. A can of soft drink has about 140 calories, which you can get by eating two small bananas. In essence, every time you crave something sweet, grab a fruit.
  4. Eating a lot of vegetables is the best dinner option. Veggies fill you up nicely and don’t result in late-night hunger pangs.
"Every meal is a short-term investment in how you feel and perform, a mid-term investment in how you look, and a long-term investment in your freedom from disease." - Alan Aragon, Nutrition expert

There are other benefits to strength training

As a woman, I picked Yoga because I was terrified of strength training. I thought I’d grow muscles all over my body and look “masculine.”

After starting pole dancing, I realized how important muscles are to live a fully-functional life as an adult. In my first few pole classes, I struggled with basic climbs. My forearms were so weak, they used to shake from the effort of holding my body up.

Strength training at the gym for the past five or so months has given me the poise and confidence I didn’t know I needed as a pole dancer. Aside from the obvious, here are some unexpected benefits of strength training I’ve observed:

  1. It’s easier to fall asleep and wake up on time.
  2. Your mood gets a boost right after a challenging workout.
  3. You no longer have to struggle to drink a gallon of water each day. Your training sessions will leave you sweating and thirsty.
  4. You’ll start performing better at every activity you do in a day. For me, a significant win was when I could lift my 70lbs dog with ease.

And yes, it’s not easy to gain visible muscles as a woman, even if you take 60g of protein in a day. So if you’re terrified to hit the gym for fear you’ll look a certain way, drop the inhibitions and sign up for a gym membership right away.

Image by the author

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