Pole dancing

I feel a new hobby coming on…


This weekend saw the prenuptial hen do celebrations of a friend of mine, for which there were many surprises planned and I was thrilled to be a part of. Apart from the inevitable copious amounts of booze drinking – gin in particular for this special bride-to-be! – there was quite a different activity planned for Saturday morning (having kept Friday night fairly light in anticipation of the ensuing event…).

A pole dancing session! Eeeee! Just to clarify, that was an excitable exclamation rather than a fearful one. The idea of doing pole dancing for fitness has intrigued me for a while: it’s super strength-building and develops excellent core muscles, and I think just looks pretty darn fun. Spinning and twirling pulling all kinds of unusual shapes on a pole like a sexy acrobat holds quite the appeal to me. You might have guessed it, but I was the one to suggest the pole dancing for the hen weekend 😉 And surprisingly, everyone was up for it and willing to give it a go!

Instructed to wear short shorts and a vest top for maximum grip from our skin to the pole, off we went to our session with eager anticipation – although I’m probably largely speaking for myself here. Our trainer was a bouncy, fun, gung-ho trainer called Alice who runs pole dancing classes in her Funky Monkey studio in Bath. She was fantastic at getting us all giggling and loosened up with some warm up stretches, and she had quite a fun introductory activity for us. Stood in a semi-circle, we were asked to step in one at a time and strike a pose whilst shouting out our name, then say our pole dancing name which was to be a combo of our first pet’s name and mother’s maiden name. Feeling rather sophisticated, if perhaps a little snooty-sounding, my designated pole dancer’s title was Cocoa Charles (Cocoa was my first pet rabbit – thank goodness I remembered because initially I thought I’d be William Charles after the name of my first hamster at the age of about 8. That just wouldn’t work).

Suitably warmed up and ready for action, we had 4 poles across a group of 7 and paired up with the hen working alongside the instructor. The bouncing energy that was Alice demonstrated a variety of basic pole dancing moves and poses, of which we were instructed to have a go at ourselves – some of us tentatively, others with gusto. I was in the latter and happy to throw myself at and around the pole! I loved it, and particularly enjoyed the spins we did, which were called ‘the fireman’, ‘attitude’ and ‘the cradle’. Each spin required three steps around the pole before swinging into the move and propelling yourself around the pole – it takes some force, which I think is what some of the group were a little afraid of or lacking confidence to do. It was double points if you managed to spin your move right down to the floor with grace, rather than the pose ceasing midway down the pole leaving you with an awkward angle to try and depart from without looking like a tangled up flamingo.

Once we were familiar with how to manoeuvre around and work with the pole, Alice then began choreographing a dance routine. I had no idea this was going to happen, and it was brilliant! Working with our pole partners, we were taken step by step through a whole dance tune (I can’t remember what, but it had a great beat to swing our hips to). It was a lot to take in and remember the moves – we all had blank moments and realised we were completely out of synch with everyone else! – but it was hugely fun and great to do an activity where we all worked together. It was made special for our hen too as she was made star of the routine as she climbed a human staircase and was lifted *ahem* gracefully (ha!) up and around in a laying down pose for the camera. After several run throughs of course. After which we still fluffed a few steps….!

The moves are a real test of upper body strength, and although I lack a bit in flexibility, I was pleased that I was able to hold myself up fairly well and do so horizontally too for some of the moves. But my word does pole dancing make you ache afterwards! Hence it’s a great workout 😉 My back and shoulders have suffered a bit, but worst is my chest – holding yourself against a big metal pole when you’re a boney-chested slim physique isn’t too comfortable. I feel rather bruised, but it’s not dampened my enthusiasm to have a go at an actual lesson for fitness. As it so happens, there are quite a few options local to me – time to book up a trial!

Big thumbs up for pole dancing from me, it gets a sexy few G & T’s to cool off with after some hot stuff working the pole.

pole dancing

Maybe I’ll be able to do that one day….

Here’s how damaged I can expect to feel if I took up pole dancing:

pole dancing map










~ Ouch… Bring on the pain!

Gym workouts – how they really work out!

My fitness future is certainly going in the right direction.

Last month, I decided to join the gym. I’d been wanting to for ages and always thought that it going to the gym would be, like, ‘for me’ ya know? I’m good at self discipline, not very good at committing to classes (my moods and energy levels aren’t terribly stable/reliable and I’m no good at evening exercise) and like setting personal goals with no other competition but myself. Not that exercise classes are designed to be competitive – in fact, they’re completely the opposite. But I bet there’s not one person in a yoga class, kettle bell workout, spin class or zumba sesh that doesn’t look at others who are already far fitter and able and feel a million miles behind. Of course at a gym, there are folk of all fitness levels too, but you’re not doing the same exercises as one so there’s no pressure to keep up. The only one pushing you to do that extra minute, those extra 10 reps is the little trainer in your brain telling your body to ‘Keep going, you can do it!’. I like it that way.

I didn’t take up the gym to lose weight, by the way. I’m actually underweight and want to gain muscle, tone up and generally increase my fitness levels. At the local gym I visit, Change, they have this brilliant machine called Boditrax that analyses your body for all kinds of things. This magical set of scales with rods to hold for a full body scan measures your weight, water levels, bone density, body fat, muscle mass, visceral fat (the bad stuff around your midriff where your organs are – nobody wants that sticking to their insides), metabolic age, and breaks down the information into very digestible stats using pretty colours and simple layouts. I was actually quite happy with my first body analysis: my body water was where it should be (apparently, this is quite rare for a first time scan, most people don’t drink enough), my metabolic age is in its teenage years (again, apparently this is great, it should always be younger than your physical age), and there’s not a great deal of fat on me (which is kind of expected, but nonetheless a relief to see anyway. Better than being a skinny person with a ton of internal fat hidden away like a walking pack of skinny butter).

One thing that was a bit low, as expected – apart from my weight, obvs – was my bone mass. I have early stage osteopenia, which is basically a precursor to full blown osteoperosis. Crumbly bones ain’t summat nobody wants. So I’ve been trying to improve on that for a while, with scans every couple of years to keep an eye on it. One of the things recommended for strengthening bones is weight-bearing exercise. I already eat enough stuff that contains calcium, and the supplements don’t agree with me, so one of the things I’ve been pretty hot on is doing weights in the gym.

So, one month on, and it was time for my second Boditrax scan. Already feeling more energetic as a whole from going to the gym, I knew there was going to be some improvement. Going 3-4 times a week and putting in about an hour’s workout each time was bound to do something! I think that even the gym staff member was impressed with my progress…

Over the course of one month, my body had gained 1.2kg muscle mass – 1.2kg muscle! Needless to say, I’m happy with that! I’d actually lost a bit of fat, which I wasn’t really expecting as I’m only quite slight. But hey, I’m not going to complain about having more muscle and less fat! But possibly best of all for me, I’d gained 0.1kg bone mass. This is a seriously big win for me. I don’t want to be a cripple due to failing bones in middle age. No-one does. If this gradual increase in bone mass continues each month, I’ll be out of the danger zone for osteopenia within a year, easily. It’s really boosted my confidence and made me even more determined to keep it up. I already wake up on a gym day and say to myself (sometimes out loud) ‘Yay! Gym day!’ and miss it on days that I can’t fit in a workout. Now I’ll be even more eager to go!

It’s amazing what modern technology can do (when it does decide to work). To be able to stand on a machine and in mere seconds it runs several highly complicated checks and scans on your body and gives you the results instantly is incredible. I think anyone stepping on a Boditrax scale for the first time will have their eyes well and truly opened as to what is really going on internally with their bodies. Be it positive or negative, it will make you want to do something about it. I want to improve on what I already have, and by starting my workouts at the gym has proved that it’s definitely the right thing for me. The results are there in black and white and greens, yellows, reds and blues thanks to the lovely printouts I now have filed away. I can’t yet see a great deal of improvement, but I know it’s happening inside as I can sense changes within my body. Hopefully, after another month the results will be more visible and I’ll have more body confidence as well as feeling healthier. Thank you to the gym staff too, by the way, for always being very helpful, supportive and kind – they’re always smiling and ready to help you out!

Time for the ratings for the Change gym and Boditrax machine! It would seem somewhat counter-intuitive to bestow a health institution with an alcoholic award, so I think that this time the drink will take form of a mocktail or two. A fiery Moscow Mule Mojito for the punchy hit of a workout, followed by a refreshing Blackberry Mint Spritzer to satisfyingly quench the thirst. Both of these mocktails and more can be found here if they take your fruity fancy! If not, your local offie will be more than happy to supply you with the real hard stuff 😉