January is typically beginner season, and say what you want about New Year’s Resolutions – anything that makes people try pole is good in my opinion! It seems like a lifetime ago that I started pole, but really it wasn’t so far off, and I still feel like such a newbie at times, especially when I try (and fail) a new move. But really, I have come so far, and it was tough at times. Pole fitness is not the easiest sport and I was really lucky to have picked a studio with such great teachers to push me on. Even so, I got to thinking about the advice I would have given myself starting out from the beginning again. So without further adieu, here is my top 12 things I wish I’d known back when I was a pole beginner 🙂
- Don’t worry about grip. Train your physical grip early on and don’t go anywhere near Dry Hands or Itac until your instructor says you should use it. Having a strong grip without aids will make you a better poler. Plus, believe me – grip opens you up to a much greater chance of painful skin rips which you don’t want to deal with when you’re learning!
- Start training choreography and good movement early. If like me you didn’t have a substantial background in ballet or contemporary dance then you should use every second you get to start developing these movements as soon as you can. Watch your teachers closely, and see the attention to detail they put into every motion – each toe point, each careful arm movement. Then copy and repeat until they are second nature to you. It will change the way everything you do looks, and it will look great.
- Don’t think too much about what anyone else is doing. Everyone comes to pole with a very different background. Some come from dance, but others may come from fitness or martial arts. Some may even have very little experience of anything! We’re all welcome and equally important, but our backgrounds may enable us to succeed faster in different ways. Never get caught up in how that former ballet dancer can move like liquid, or that weight lifter can pull herself up so much higher than you. Be happy for your classmates’ successes, but don’t ever let them get you down. You are on your own pole journey that is unique to you.
- Supplement your pole training off the pole. At Ecole de Pole there are some great non-pole classes, like Whack Me, or Flexibility; but there are other things you can do which will boost your learning massively. If you have a gym membership get on that lat pull-down, and maybe do some arm rows or try the shoulder press. At home you can easily train your headstands and splits with even a little bit of space. I personally like to practise my body waves in front of the mirror before breakfast! Practise makes perfect, and is the only route to success.
- Try everything once. I know this can be terrifying, and honestly I cringe when I think what my pole skills were like back then… but I also know I was the only one thinking it! So plunge into any class your level is suitable for and don’t worry if you’re of the lowest proficiency. Sexy Choreo is open to anyone who can climb the pole and believe me it is FUN. There are also Tricks & Combo classes to help you learn to link what you’ve learned in standard classes in a meaningful way. Don’t feel intimidated by joining a mixed level class – the pole community is amazingly supportive and we all remember being a beginner. The quicker you jump in and test yourself with something new, the better your pole journey will be. It’ll also take you closer to developing your own pole style so that when you want to start choreographing routines and performing (which you know you want to one day!!) you’ll have a sense of what direction to go in.
- Don’t neglect pole conditioning and training tricks on your bad side… And I’ll fully hold my hand up and say I don’t do the second one very often. These are no one’s favourite part of pole training, but I don’t even need to explain how important they are. Get into good habits now and it’ll be smooth sailing. You’ll also really impress your instructors if you come with a bit of enthusiasm for these! I think they probably get tired of the withering look we give them whenever they tell us to do pole sit climbs or train our chair spin on the other side…
- Get some nice pole gear. And honestly, it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. The pole gear sold by Ecole de Pole and other pole dedicated brands like Dragonfly or Pole Motion is designed for our sport – meaning it will look amazing and cover you exactly the right way. You will feel comfortable and look gorgeous – which is really important when you are dancing and doing all kinds of crazy upside down things! Ecole de Pole has flash sales every now and then, and they also hold pole gear Bring and Buys. I’ve also found sports outlets that sell gym gear aimed at yoga practitioners tend to have some really nice bras and leggings which are perfect for pole. Unfortunately I’ve now developed a legging addiction… just warning you!
- Learn to love spinning pole. I despised spinning pole when I started and was convinced it was a unique form of humiliation and torture designed to put me off pole forever. I even remember thinking that even if I got really good at pole, I would never ever do spinning pole, and do all my routines on static. I can’t tell you exactly what clicked for me, but I can tell you why I love spinning pole now (so much so that I do most of my alone training on it). Not only is it a great extra work out, giving your muscles and coordination a challenge, but there are unique shapes and spins that ONLY work on spinning pole. I’ve found that once you get over the dizziness and conquer control of the speed, there’s actually very little you need to put into spinning pole to make incredibly impressive moves and tricks. If you are finding spinning pole tough, just keep at it and go reeeeaally slow. Trust me – it’s worth it.
- Ride out the bad times. And there WILL be weeks where you feel like an aerodynamic potato. But don’t give up – all your training is still there, and usually a bad week is followed by a good week. Sometimes great progress is only revealed in a single moment, but every week of training is bringing you closer to it, even the bad ones. If a particular move is causing you frustration, just shelve it for that week and try out something you know will make you feel better. Unless you’ve got tons of motivation in you, repeating something over and over that isn’t going well won’t do you any good.
- Learn about warming up, cooling down, and injury prevention. This is especially important if you’re planning on practising by yourself at pole hire sometime. Warm ups and cool downs are there for a reason. Joints and muscles need adequate time to prepare for the high impact of pole, and without it you run a huge risk of injury. Plus you just won’t be able to perform at your best! Cooling down will go a long way to relaxing you and reducing any light-headedness you can sometimes experience after intense exercise – plus reduce muscle soreness. Warming up and cooling down can be something that is really easy to skimp on, but you’ll only know how important it is once it’s too late and you’ve got yourself an injury! Don’t learn the hard way – just trust me.
- Get to know your classmates. This is a bit of a sappy one I know… Find out why they started pole and see if they love what you love about it. You guys will probably be spotting each other in class at some point, or helping each other out – and pole training buddies are the best! There’s quite a few people in the studio now I train with, and it’s WAY more fun than training alone. Plus it’s less embarrassing to fall on your ass in front of your friends than strangers.
- Talk to your instructors. I think this is a mega important one. I mean, obviously don’t take up all their time if they have a lot of other students around, or make them hang around for an hour after class – but generally I can promise you that your instructors want to hear from you. They are your best resource for tips and advice about every aspect of pole. If there’s a trick or a movement you are struggling with, ask them what you can do to improve it. If you’re feeling uninspired, ask them how they get their own pole groove back on in dark times or what they think you might be good at. The teachers at Ecole de Pole are extremely talented, but also very friendly. Some studios have huge classes with many teachers that change every week – and you guys are so lucky it’s not like that. You can really get to know your instructors and they can get to know you, and your pole journey will be all the better for it. They want to see you succeed, and they are happy when they see that pole is making you happy.
So there you go! By no means is this list definitive. If you’re just starting out please let me know if any of these helped! And if you’re an existing pole lover and want to add some tips I missed out – please do.
By Catherine Lee – Social Media and Marketing Manager (And Ecole de Pole’s No.1 Fan). You can follow her on Instagram.