Do you pole primp? Also, a word on Thinx.

Anther throwback to 2012 from my draft folder.

Some updates: well, there’s really two: 1. I’m now obsessed with bringing multiple pairs of socks to class (it’s a floorwork and flex thing), and 2: I’m now a FIRM believer in Thinx.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not sponsored post or anything. Bae got me some on request for Christmas because they are $$$ and I naturally tried them out and have feelings).

First, the bad: if you have a booty, you’re going to have a gluteal fold situation with Thinx, even the boy shorts. Actually especially that style, because they’re cut very straight. But I bought them because the elastic situation on the bikinis is trill and I didn’t want VPL.

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Bikini! I was pleasantly surprised that the tan version was black on the inside…
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but yikes, this isn’t exactly seamless.
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the elastic situation is intense here. Jeans only!

So re: the cut on the boyshorts: I was… not happy about this, and actually want to return them. Thinx was really nice about this and just refunded the cost to my boyfriend, let us keep the two pairs we had already bought, and just had us order two more in the next size up separately. (Which still had a gluteal fold situation, so, whatever, I don’t wear them under dresses or tight skirts, but they’re fine under jeans and obvi pole shorts).

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They look like little tap pants!
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But under the hood, they’re matte. And there’s nothing weird inside. how???

But setting that aside for a minute, let’s talk pole and periods. Periods used to be a huge issue for me while teaching, because all eyes were on me, and a class sees your butt as often as your face while you’re demonstrating stuff. I still get self-conscious while taking classes during my period because now that I’m doing a lot of inverts in class, I’m getting a lot of spots with someone’s face in my crotch. That’s just a fact of life.

***TMI alert*** I use the Instead cup because it’s way cheaper and more comfortable than tampons, and one cup (with twice a day rinsing/cleaning) lasts me my whole period. A box of these (12) costs like eight bucks, and that means I buy a box ONCE a year. That’s way less shopping for tampons, way less boxes under my sink, and it means packing exactly one very slim item when I’m going away for a few days and expecting period action. (I paused over this for several moments waiting for a more graceful way to express “period action” to come to me, but it didn’t. Sorry).

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Instead Cup in packaging.
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Totally not scary, and very purse-friendly! Wrapper=impervious to water bottle condensation.

ANYWAY, the trouble with these little MFers (and with Diva Cups too, I’ve heard), is that they don’t leak at all, unless they do, and then it’s a SITUATION. Like, for them to leak, the seal breaks, and all hell breaks loose. It’s a Shining moment.

So that means for the first day or two of my period, I need to wear a pad just in case. Which is obnoxious because usually I don’t have a leak, and then I wore a pad for nothing. And that’s terrible because 1. pads are expensive, and 2. pads fucking suck for moving around and will ruin your pole time for you. They make sounds, they’re bulky, they twist, they get disgusting when you sweat…. I could go on, but I won’t.

So I usually skip my pole classes during my period.

[I mean i know, wah wah, I should just suck it up and go. But I usually think twice and don’t, if I’m being honest.]

Thinx changed that.

  1. They don’t budge with twisting, moving, putting your feet behind your head, etc.
  2. They seal in nastiness. Sorry, TMI, but both period and crotch sweat are contained. It’s unfreaking believable.
  3. No smells. Your teacher can have her face 3 inches away from the Danger Zone and you don’t have to be concerned. You’ll be dry, smell-less, and totally covered.
  4. They look and feel totally normal. You just go to class, do your thing, and don’t give your period a second thought.

Granted, I haven’t tried them NOT as backup, but for my purposes, I now consider them absolutely essential to maintaining my polin’ lifestyle 12 weeks out of the year. I’m even tempted to wear them NOT when I’m period-ing because they’re cute, secure, and they prevent that little spot of butt sweat (!!!).

Have you tried them? Would you?

I know they’re super fucking expensive, but I don’t see myself ever going back to pads. Maybe they’ll pay for themselves that way?

Anyway, now that I’ve gone WAY off topic–this was my “get ready to teach a pole class” checklist from 2012.

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A few things I do to get ready:

1. Eat.

This technically isn’t about beauty, but fainting is not a good look.

**** 2017 update: I have utterly exhausted my tolerance for “bars” of any kind, so I try to keep a chocolate Muscle Milk or something in my bag on class days. They’re not GREAT warm, but… they’re faster and tastier to get down than some shitty Fiber One thing, so, I like em. They also go good with bananas.

2. Brush my teeth

I get a lot of sandwiches with pesto. And students get all up in my grill with questions (I play my music too loud, I’ll admit it).

****2017 update: because I now sometimes work out like 3 times a day, eating takes priority over brushing. I tend to grab an apple now on the way to class if I’m feeling some sandwich remnants happening.

3. Deodorize/scent

Sweating happens, so, deodorant happens first. A little body splash if I’m feeling fancy. You’re welcome.

****2017 update: I completely don’t bother with this. But word to the wise: anti-microbial underwear are currently my jam for 3+ hour class binges. No spritzes or swipes of anything required.

4. Amp up the makeup a little

A little eyeliner, a little lipstick, a little fluff of the hair… getting in character helps me face a class, especially after a long day!

****I’m now into taking OFF my makeup with a towelette or some micellar water and a cotton pad, then smearing on a little BB cream if my skin is looking no bueno. Sweating through fresh makeup>sweating through old, set-with-powder makeup.

5. Tweak the wardrobe

Roll the shorts, adjust the shirt, check the back for VPL

****I still totally do this. Gotta look cute to feel yourself in those freestyles!

What’s your pre-pole routine?

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The Science Behind Mixing Up Your Practice Sessions—and Why In-Person Classes Reign Supreme

You’re probably better off spending a half hour working on 5 or 6 moves than drilling the same one over and over, and here’s why: hoopthoughts.blogspot.com/2012/02/ironically-i-blogged-once-this-morning.html

(TL:DR: your brain shuts off and you only know how to do that one move in that one situation. Not ideal for freestyles or new choreo).

This particular blog is about basketball (and more specifically, performance in a game) but it’s very relevant to dancers who will hopefully be able to perform moves in more than one combination.

Looks like putting a bunch of move names in a hat, drawing 5, then practicing them in order (followed by reverse order) is a good idea for that next jam session! Just think–attempting a chopper right out of a spin or from a pole sit is different than giving it a go from the ground, right? These variables strengthen your skills and deepen your understand of a move.

Also interesting: practicing on your own without classes in between might not be a great idea. This has probably been apparent to anyone who’s ever attempted to try a move at home and was completely stumped on how to do it again, but, even if you’re able to fight your way through it alone, you might be missing important technique notes without a teacher present.

Most pole studios off “free pole” time (not actually free–they usually charge $10-15 and hour to use the studio), and this unstructured practice time often comes with an instructor present for safety. Take advantage of this and ask for feedback or tips! Bonus points if this isn’t your regular teacher. A different person might mean fresh perspective on what you can work on.

Does anybody practice at home? Or have you forgotten  you can actually use your pole and have started seeing it as a ceiling beam of some sort? (guilty).

PS. What are these called? I’m going with “stag leaps” until further notice. I FEEL LIKE A FRIGGIN GAZELLE YAS

human pogo stick

Making REAL Progress Part 2:

I’ve been having a series of breakthroughs out of nowhere lately, and I have some thoughts on finally making progress!

This is especially shocking to me because lately I’ve been feeling like I’m throwing everything I have at pole (getting up a little earlier to do 15-20 minutes of conditioning before I jump in the shower, abs/pullups/shoulder training on my lunch break, pole, flex, floowork or barre classes in the evening and on weekends. But the progress has been sloooooo0w.

Until suddenly it wasn’t. Suddenly the dots started connecting and trying (and failing) at a Jamila for several frustrating weeks meant nailing a violator on my first try in three years (an experience so traumatic in 2013 that I haven’t attempted it until now haha); struggling to get my outside leg hangs with that little leg shimmy (you know the one) suddenly got me aerial inverts, monkey climbs, and straight leg inverts (which barre REALLY came in handy for–that is serious quad work, holy crap).

Moves I thought were impossible for me are now (marginally) accessible and make some sense. And I’m feeling crazy inspired to tell you all immediately: DO NOT GIVE UP, because it might be just around the corner.

And it’s not linear. You don’t do X amount of work and get Y result within a set amount of time. I work out sometimes just to deal with anxiety, or out of habit. I stopped expecting it to pay off immediately quite some time ago. But damn, the results come when you least expect them. It’s just so important not to quit.

So here’s my continued list of progression tips:

1. Whatever you do, hang in there.

Learn to love the work. You never know when a jump forward in your skills is going to happen, but it probably WON’T happen if you aren’t hitting the studio, conditioning, and/or crosstraining. Take a break from one thing for a while if you get burnt out but don’t go inactive. I skipped pole classes for a week but kept doing my Core XTREEEEEEME (extra e’s mine) and barre classes, and then when I went back to pole I felt great and got a new trick.

I saw a girl in my level 2 class a few weeks ago who was brand new to the level. And she was struggling and clearly looking defeated and embarrassed to be struggling. And I just wanted to freaking hug her, because leveling up and 1. no longer being the best in your class in the lower level, and 2. suddenly being the worst in your class and everything’s hard and hurts is no small thing.

Also, at my particular studio (and in many, I’m sure) level 2 is miles away from level 1. The two almost have nothing to do with each other. In level 1 you spin, in level 2 you’re doing upside down. It’s almost cruel how big that jump is.

But anyway, mad props to this girl because in her freestyle–ie. the time to do easy fun stuff that you’re good at–she attempted a chopper and leg hang she JUST LEARNED, and bailed out, and looked so frustrated with herself. I wanted to give her a medal right then and there just for trying, because that’s the whole point.

Side note: I almost NEVER attempt upside down stuff at the end of a 1.5 hour class unless there’s a gun to my head.

(Hasn’t happened yet, but hey, this is New York).

So, retroactively:

2. Keep Trying and Failing at Hard Things.

Because failing at them is practice and conditioning too. And give yourself props for freaking TRYING and being willing to wipe out in front of Level 3 girls who are straight chilling in Level 2 classes because they don’t have your balls. #respect

3. Partner Up With Someone Better Than You

Last night I monkey climbed (ie. chopper, outside leg hang, aerial chopper, outside leg hang, drop exhausted to the floor). I didn’t know I could. I tried it because the girl I was partnered with (who also happened to be really friendly and chill, which is essential) did it first.

[Monkey climb see, monkey climb do! (hehe)]

Now normally I like to hide in the back and partner with somebody who’s doing their first Level 2 class so I can feel helpful and not totally clumsy.

But, this has definitely not been me to push myself (duh). Don’t be like me. Share a pole with someone who’s pushing herself. This is especially effective if you’re a competitive person! Your pole buddy can also give you helpful tips, like mine did, because she’s probably been there and already worked out the kinks with moves she’s mastered.

4. Record Yourself

I know I’ve said this before, but it’s so important for getting better. Pole can be hard when it comes to seeing yourself. We’re often spinning or upside down, so it’s hard to catch a good look at yourself in the mirror. That doesn’t excuse you from looking, though.

I have a good friend who’s much more advanced at pole than me. But she’s a “jump from trick to trick” type who’s addicted to progress. She doesn’t like doing the same move over and over–least of all Level One moves. But at her first major competition recently, she lost points from every judge over bent knees and sickled, flexed feet. (Something I feel guilty for not telling her I noticed, but one sort of looks like an asshole saying “maybe you should straighten your legs more” to someone who’s doing handsprings while you’re doing yet another pinwheel spin).

Don’t wait for someone assigning you points in a competition to read your bad habits. Video early, video often, and troubleshoot. Which reminds me…

5. Master Moves, Don’t Settle for “Good Enough”

If you’ve ever watched a non-poler watch pole dance, you’ve probably noticed that the stuff they’re most impressed by isn’t particularly hard stuff. It’s Level 1 skills performed with confidence, mastery, and expression that elicit the gasps.

So aim for that. Don’t check a move off and move on. Explore it. Try it big, try it small, try it in new combos, with different emotional notes, with different tempos and song choices. A dip turn can go 100 different ways–but each time you work with it, yours gets stronger and more versatile.

Work on new tricks, but aim for total mastery of your Level 1 stuff. And also (sorry, this is the longest post ever but I have SO MANY THOUGHTS): Level 1 mastery=the strength, control, and deep understanding of moves to learn to add on or do similar (but harder) variations of them in higher class levels. If you still don’t know how to get good momentum without jumping, or muscle your way through climbs instead of push-pulling, you’re going to struggling with tricks that build on theses elements (and possible get hurt trying to learn them).

How do you feel about your progress? What made a difference for you for a certain nemesis trick? What advice would you give polers on the cusp of giving up? And have you ever given up yourself? I feel like burnout combined with injuries makes for a lot of “ex” polers… Share below!

 

How to really, truly progress

Two steps forward, one step back.

Or in my case, two aerial inverts, oh fuck, I lost my aerial invert.

I’m sure I’m not the only one.

One of the most trying, frustrating thing about this sport we all love called pole is that success can seem so fleeting. And it takes so long to see any measure of success in the first place.

But what’s interesting (and often unique) about pole is that sometimes, it’s less about sheer brute force than it seems to be. One moment a move seems impossible. The next, you shift your hips a bit and lower your bottom hand and you’re in a move almost effortlessly.

And then the next time you try it, it’s gone again. C’est la vie de pole!

But I’ll use my vast experience (5 going on 6 years of fighting for pole moves) to share a few sneaky tricks for moving forward with you.

1. Take private lessons with your favorite teacher.

And pro tip: come with a list of goals. You’re never going to find out in a crowded classroom of two to a pole that you’re tipping back on your invert too soon, but you WILL find this out one on one with an instructor you trust. I even found out I’ve been holding my planks wrong. AND I PLANK LIKE EVERY OTHER DAY. That’s so many cumulative, incorrect planks. Privates are pricey, but do like me and drop a hint for birthday, Christmas, Hannukkah, whatever. And try to focus on the value of getting technique tweaks you can use for life over endless group sessions where you further reinforce bad habits, if you’re hung up on the money. I swear, it pays off.

Note on that “goals” list: if you don’t have a list of nemesis moves you want special help with, try to think about larger goals. For me, that was staying on the pole longer and flowing my tricks together. Yours might be more specific, like nailing leg hands on both sides, or cleaning up favorite tricks, or even developing presence for a performance.

My instructor then had me transition in and out of moves by dropping into a strong hold, instead of just hopping down off the pole. Hard as fuck but wow, so useful once I got used to it–I could invert, fan kick, cradle spin, all sorts of cool stuff from there. And staying off the ground is sort of like breaking the habit of adjusting your goggles to sneak a break while swimming laps. It’s just a good habit to get into, and it builds endurance.

Note #2: expect private lessons to be extremely physically demanding. It’s your teacher’s job to push you, and there’s nowhere to hide. Mentally prepare and eat/drink enough beforehand!! I left it ALL on the pole in my sessions, but damn, I progressed.

2. Skip your favorite teacher.

I mean, don’t stop going to them, still go a lot. But commit to taking lessons with other, different teachers at your studio once in a while. You’ll be amazed how even moves you think you know how to do will take on new nuance when a different person explains them.

Sometimes it takes a fresh approach to nail a move, and a different instructor with her own way of seeing things can be just the one to give you new perspective. Weirdly, I have had great success with brand new teachers. ??? I don’t know you guys, the road has been mighty wavy for me in pole, but I’m okay with that. #whateverworks

3. Condition.

I knooooooow, conditioning sucks. It hurts, it’s hard, and it’s usually not anywhere near as gratifying as banging out tricks. But here’s the good news: it’s cheap (like, watch-a-YouTube-tutorial-cheap), you can usually do it at home, and it will save you countless hours of failing (and potentially hurting yourself) through strength moves. Some types of cross-training can even help your existing tricks look better. Barre definitely helped me FINALLY straighten my knees in poses (hint: you think they’re straight but they’re never really straight. NEVAAAAAAR) and has saved countless trick pics.

And a twice weekly abs class + pull ups with a band at my gym FINALLY got me my aerial invert, for keeps. I’m also #blessed enough to go to a studio that offers literal aerial conditioning classes, and they’ve been a godsend for my nagging swimmer’s shoulder. Again, let me emphasize: conditioning fucking sucks. But it will increase your range of ability and certainly your longevity (ie. time without being injured) overall. Worth it.

Here’s an example of a move I like to do in between pull-up sets to help keep my shoulders in shape. Highly recommend! Scapula pushups are a similar exercise, and require no equipment. Google them!

4. Take a break.

This may see counterintuitive, but I can’t tell you how many tricks I suddenly nailed out of nowhere after a week off. If you’re feeling burnt out, there’s no need to bang your head against a wall. Take a week, and stay active doing other things you enjoy more than failing and hating your life at pole classes. Hike, stretch, ride your bike, swim. Then come back to it. You’ll have a clear mind, relaxed muscles, and possibly, a new approach to a trick that suddenly makes it possible for you.

5. Look after your shoulders.

Okay I know this is part of conditioning, but it deserves its own paragraph anyway. Please god, take care of your shoulders. Like stop what you’re doing right now and buy yourself some therabands, and look up shoulder exercises to do with them.

Then do those shoulder exercises before and after you do anything on the pole. You’ll thank me later.

There’s a ton of research you can read out there about how shoulders are just not really built to take on the kind of stress our hip sockets are, for lots of reasons. But if you happen to just take my word for it that that’s true, baby and condition the hell out of your shoulders, or risk not being able to do ANYTHING aerial when you fuck them up. And trust me, as someone with chronic shoulder stuff (again, likely left over from my years as a swimmer with a janky stroke), you do not want to be dealing with that. Take an extra few minutes and warm them up. Strengthen them. Stretch them. You’re welcome.

Do you guys have any weird methods or motivators for getting progress in pole? Do you have any shoulder exercises you like doing or should I make a quick video of my favorites for y’all?

XOXO