As some of you may know, I got my split somewhat recently. I was looking back through old photos and actually found a photo of my split from a few months ago, which my boyfriend took at my request – I think I had wanted to chart my progress, but then never followed through on progression photos. However, I do have this side by side comparison:
I still have a lot of work to do: I want to get my hips squared and have an easier time with getting into the split overall, plus work on my right split and center splits. Right now, I can get into my left split with A LOT of warming up in class. It takes the right combination of stretches, plus some heat in the room, and probably some other factors (hydration, energy level, etc) to get my front leg to the floor. I am not super flexible in general, so to even get this far is a HUGE deal for me!
Since a few people have asked me what stretches I was doing to help with my progression, I put together a quick video of part of the warm up that we usually do in my Monday night class. (A good number of these are stretches from other classes, too – I’ve just found that Monday’s sequence warms me up the best.) Our usual warm up is 30-45 minutes long, and we go through exercises, movement, and stretching for the entire body – it’s the longest of any warm up, in any of my classes, but I love it – I feel more prepared and conditioned by it than some of the shorter, strength conditioning based warm ups that I do. I think this warm up works because of my specific body – I take FOREVER to warm up, even when I am not doing pole, and my asthma doesn’t play well with cardio-based warm ups. Not only do I have more split flexibility from this warm up, but my shoulder flexibility is noticeably better. I can’t hit a Scorpion stretch fully quite yet, but I can now roll through my shoulder in one part and reach across my chest in a twist to grab my foot, neither of which I could do before joining this class.
The video is made up of stills of the different stretches we do for legs. It doesn’t hit all of the movement we do in the warm up, nor does it show some of the other moves we do that I believe help with hip and lower back opening, but I think it’s an excellent sequence for leg stretching. I only work on my right side in the photos, but we repeat the sequence on the left (and the photos may be out of order from how we do it in class, I can’t remember). This is really for overall leg/hip stretching and conditioning, with a focus on side splits – I don’t hit everything we do for center splits – since I don’t have mine yet, I felt that focusing on the split I have gotten was more important when talking about my journey and progression.
We hold the stretches for longer than the video, obviously – it is a quick overview with basic directions. Please note that I am NOT a pole instructor or a personal trainer, so you assume responsibility when you try these on your own – do them at your own risk and only do what feels comfortable for your body. Not everyone has the same flexibility, and doing new stretches without proper guidance can be tricky, so ultimately, BE SAFE!
(And special thanks to my patient boyfriend, who is ever supportive of my crazy pole obsession – he served as photographer.)
MostFit Suspension Strap: An Affordable Conditioning Tool for Pole Dancers!
Like most pole dancers, I’m always looking for a way to be stronger and better conditioned. Unfortunately, as much as I would love to go to class every day, my budget doesn’t always allow for it. I’ve been looking for ways to work out at home, but it all gets old after a while. When I saw an opportunity to try out the new MostFit Suspension Strap, I thought it might be a great solution!
As their website states, the strap, “created by fitness guru and personal trainer Andrew Gavigan, the MostFit™ resistance trainer was designed to be easy-to-use for anyone, anytime, anywhere.” This is totally true! To use it indoors, you simply need a door/door frame to close around the strap as an anchor (ideally a door that locks), and some room to move behind it. The strap has a handy moveable plastic section (the anchor) that prevents the strap from slipping out from between the door and the frame (see this video for directions). You can also anchor the strap on a pull up bar, and if you need to shorten it, you simply wrap the strap around the bar a few times until you get the desired length.
The MostFit strap itself allows for a number of strength building exercises by allowing you to use your body weight, resulting in a tougher work out (and better results!). Many of the exercises also require you to engage your abs/core/back more than typical at-home exercises, meaning that you aren’t simply isolating one area, but getting a better overall work out. It’s not easy, but you’ll know you’ve worked hard when you use it!
Since I also wanted to test it specifically for pole and aerial conditioning, I opted to take it outdoors and see what I could do. While you can use a sturdy tree branch as your anchor on which to wrap the strap, I wanted to get a little more height and variety, so I took it down to the aerial equipment playground by the Santa Monica Pier (living in Los Angeles does have perks!). I was able to toss one end of the strap over some of the mid-height bars, wrapping it a few times as necessary, and then play with inverting – I did move the plastic strap anchor off to one side of the strap, in order to get centered in the bars, as they’re fairly narrow. I found that it was pretty good for inverting into an upward pencil position, or a forward pike. I wasn’t quite able to do a straddle invert, as my hands are not big enough to safely grab both handles together, but the other basic inverts are great for working on your back and shoulder stability (and abs, naturally). Because of the nature of the strap, when you do invert, your weight pulls the strap into a taught position – however, you still have to work to stabilize it, therefore working your arms, shoulders, etc. For the inverts I am doing in the photos, we still had the strap fairly low compared to where you might place your hands for a pole invert (and very low compared to a hoop invert), but I was still able to balance into it – a taller bar or tree branch might be a better option for a truer sense of inverting, but I still had to work to remain stable.
I also tried some aerial stretching up by looping the strap over one of the taller sides of a set of uneven bars and then slipping my feet into the handy foot saddles that are built into the strap (just below the padded handles). While I did need some help navigating it from a friend that came with me, I did find that I was able to work on some split stretches in the air, using the strap and my body weight. I simply had to use my hands and upper body to stabilize the straps, while keeping my core engaged as I lowered up and down. I had the straps reasonably close to the ground, in case I had to bail quickly – also made it easier to step in/out of them.
Taking a cue from a practice video I watched, I also tried doing a plank with my feet in the strap, then piking up. I thought the move was similar to the kind of controlled lift a pole dancer would need while doing a head or hand stand – it was hard, even harder than doing it without the strap! I can see how it’d be an excellent way to strengthen your core/back for stabilization!
Another benefit of the MostFit strap is that it can also function like a yoga strap. I found it to be helpful with stretching, using it just the same way I would with a yoga strap. I was able to do some shoulder stretch rotations, as well as use it to get a deeper leg stretch, and even do a pigeon-style stretch to work on my shoulders, back, and hips.
The strap itself seems pretty durable – the padded handles and foot straps are a nice touch, and the rubber stopper for door frame use seems pretty solid. The long length is pretty versatile, and the webbing of the strap seems heavy duty. There’s a weight limit of 250lbs, which I found reassuring. 🙂
While my strap did not come with an instruction manual for moves, I’m not sure if that was just my box (since I requested a strap for the purpose of reviewing it on this site). There are a variety of videos on YouTube that can help you work out how to create moves and do them safely, but the lack of instructions or basic move guidelines in the box is one of the few cons. Not being a natural fitness person – and not being someone who works out much beyond pole and lyra classes – I wasn’t entirely sure where to start with it, and I think that might be true of other people not used to creating their own workouts. I would bet that it’d be an awesome tool for a personal trainer or anyone who doesn’t need quite as much “start up” guidance. My friend that was testing the strap with me mentioned that she thought it might be helpful if it were adjustable in length, but we got around that by wrapping the strap over and over whatever anchor we were using.
Overall, I thought the MostFit strap was a good buy for a pole dancer or aerialist looking to condition on their own, especially if they’re on a budget. At $29.95, it’s incredibly affordable, and it’s pretty compact, which makes it easier to travel with/throw in the car. As much as I love the idea of using some of the other suspension products on the market that are aimed at yoga buffs and aerialists/polers, the price has kept me from investing in them (as has some of the rigging involved). The price of the MostFit Suspension Strap is great, and you’re getting a lot for it!
You can check them out online at http://www.Most-Fit.com and find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MostFitWorkouts. Additional work out videos and tutorials can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/andrewgaviganfitness
Happy Poling, everyone!
(Special thanks to my Poleitical Clothing partner, Courtney, for helping out with the tests!)
Tying it together
At today’s Lyra class, we worked on tying our tricks together and smoothing out our transitions – something important for pole, too! I’m still working on making combos mesh well and smoothing out the moments between tricks so that I get rid of the awkward, “okay, now I’m gonna do a trick” pause.
With Lyra, it feels like I know a lot of tricks for someone who started 2 months ago, but I don’t yet know how to full incorporate all of them. If I mount one way, I can get into this trick and that trick, but I haven’t figured out how to get back around to do these other three tricks, and then if I mount this other way…yeah, it goes on. So, in today’s class, Leigh had us working on transitions within a specific series of tricks off of the Mermaid. We had the option of taping ourselves, so we could learn a little more – video below! – and we also had to work in pairs at the end! She had us pair up to choreograph our movements – again, doing the same specific movements, but we could add more if we both knew how to do them – and then having to sync our movements while performing on different hoops. It was an interesting exercise! We also worked on center straddle mounts – Leigh makes it look so easy and stunning, but damn, it’s hard! I’d venture to say that it’s harder than straight leg inverts on the pole, but that’s also not my strong suit (still tweaks my back a bit). I was able to do the straddle mount better on the shorter hoop, so I ended up practicing more on that one. We did a fair amount of conditioning for that mount, so I am hopeful to get to continue and improve!
Anyway, here’s my video from today’s class – I’ve already launched up to mount the hoop when it starts, but you’ll see Leigh spin me – she wanted us to all work while the hoops were spinning, so she gave us each a spin just after we inverted. It’s such a challenge when spinning, and I had a momentary panic attack about getting dizzy, but the moment I focused very intently on what trick I was doing and where my hands needed to be, I was able to work through the spinning and not get dizzy – I’m still working on that with spinning pole!!!
Also, a couple of videos of Leigh, because she’s awesome:
This is her performance from CPDC 2012, which I loved:
Lyra: secret cross-training
I was back in my regular Lyra class today, and it got me thinking about the benefits of picking up a second aerial art. Pole is hard on the body. It’s a beautiful sport, but it’s not an EASY sport – the bruises, the conditioning required, the knots you get in your shoulders once you start inverting regularly and going aerial…it’s not gentle. So, adding a second form of aerial seems insane. More pain? More bruising? More stiff muscles? And, with Lyra, you add in occasional scrapes from the hoop, plus terrible calluses – it’s on par with when I started using the 45mm pole more often, but almost worse, because your hands are not only callused, but rubbed raw all over.
Now, I don’t tell you this to dissuade you – because I LOVE Lyra. It has given me more than I expected. For one, it renewed my love for pole and my interest in pole. For a while, I felt like I had plateaued in pole – I was working the same tricks over and over, trying to get them solid, but not feeling like I had clear progress from week to week. Was I better than I was a year ago? Yes, for sure. But even six months ago? I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t loving the process of learning anything. I just wanted to get to the next level. I think plateaus are pretty common – it certainly wasn’t my first with pole.
Cut to Lyra. I found myself LOVING the process of learning (which I found carried over to my stretch and flex class, too – the ridiculous smile I have on my face when I’m in there – that is, when I’m not in pain – is hilarious). I loved that the conditioning from pole helped to make me better. I loved that things just made sense to me. I loved the feeling of success that came with it – the feeling of getting a trick again!
All of that happiness while learning was something that I brought back into pole, and I think it has re-energized me. I’m happier in class, I’m more interested in learning new tricks, and I walk away from class with a higher level of satisfaction. I really believe that I owe that to Lyra.
In addition to the mood and outlook changes, Lyra has also helped to cross-condition me. I started the classes while still healing from my dog bite injury from my day job, and it accelerated my ability to use my left hand in the old ways. I still have some lingering pain or weakness, but overall, it’s great. The grip required for Lyra is different from pole, and there is often less direct pressure placed on the hand, but the strength of grip is better – because the hoop is smaller than the pole, the grip required causes my hand to contract in a way that strengthened it faster. It’s been great.
Lyra has also really helped improve my back and shoulder strength. Prior to the classes, I had a lot of issues with straight leg inverts – my back would tweak whenever I did certain tricks, and I would abort the mission for fear of hurting myself. Since starting Lyra – and getting a pull up bar to do Lyra shoulder shrug conditioning at home – my back is A LOT better. I try to do shoulder shrugs every night, to help with it. The added strength has helped me with going aerial. I’m still not 100% solid, but I’m noticeably better than I was two months ago.
I look forward to seeing what else it holds for me. If I can muster my discipline (oh, to have it…it’s not my strong suit) and be diligent about working on my flexibility, I hope it’ll help me advance in both pole and Lyra. 🙂 In the meantime, I’ll keep happily trying new tricks – and, of course, taking photos whenever possible.
In these photos, I’m wearing the sexy tank from our Poleitical Clothing collection – it was great for the class! It stayed in place well, even during inversions, and the length kept my tummy covered for photos. 🙂
Back at it
Was back in my usual class tonight, still a bit sore from my second hoop class. Hoop uses a lot of back and upper body to get up on to the apparatus, which has been a great conditioning workout – my back has never been the strongest, which is why straight leg invert tend to tweak it. I think the grip work has helped my injured hand get a little stronger, too. Granted, my hand aches a fair amount after class and the next day, but on the whole, it feels stronger.
Our class had a lot of make ups in it tonight, but I was still without a partner – our usual class is very cliquey, with everyone paired off, so I work alone most nights. The main problem with that is that I am more motivated when I am working through something with someone, so I have to keep myself focused. I did a little better tonight, giving myself general conditioning tasks to do, like inverting on my right side (okay, I only did one), or working on inverting with no step – straight leg is still coming along, but I am doing much better with not stepping. I had pulled this video from YouTube and sent it to a friend (my pole sponsee – not sure that is the right word?), for help with her inverts, and realized it held something for me, too!
I have been better able to condition the no-step invert by standing with my hips clear, slight to the front of the pole – I don’t quite have the fluidity with the straight leg, or the height to catch my leg in the right spot on the way back, but it is load better with just that one small adjustment!
I also worked on my reverse shoulder mount, and ended up teaching it to the girl on the pole next to mine (I found out later that she is one of the new instructors at the studio – she is super sweet!). It is coming along decently – I still use the cheat of being a foot off the floor while doing it, but I am just happy to be doing it at all! I would love to be able to hold my weight out in it – that’ll take some serious conditioning!!! 🙂
We worked on some other stuff, like a new climb and descent combo, and chopsticks, which is a little tough for me because it requires shoulder flexibility. I tried it with an elbow grip, which was almost worse on my shoulder, but still felt more solid as a grip than my hand. I also worked on my aerial conditioning: did much better on my pencil, Ayesha was meh.
I am hoping that hoop helps cross condition me for pole. I think my flexibility (or lack thereof) is a big issue – I have to be better about stretching on my off days!!!!
In other news…the business venture is inching forward…I really, really hope to have some good news about our progress come Labor Day!!
Did I create a monster?
My coworker, Josh, went up to Big Bear for the 4th and sent me this photo while he was there:
This is what happens when wrestlers decide to take on a new challenge. 🙂 Now, I’ll have to find time to teach him an inversion!
In other news, I haven’t posted much over the last week because I have been injured – not by pole, though! I sustained a pretty bad dog bite to my left hand while breaking up a fight at work (I work with dogs at my day job). An urgent care visit, x-rays, and a lot of saline solution and gauze, etc – that was my Friday afternoon. I spent most of the weekend alternating between cleaning the wounds, resting (okay, okay, being stoned on Vicodin on a couch, in front of a tv), and trying to test the limits of my newly busted hand.
Which is also my pole hand.
I saw the doctor again today, and overall, am doing really well. Most of the swelling is gone, which allows me to do more with it, and the wounds look like they are starting to heal well. I am not allowed to go back to work just yet, because of the nature of my job, and I am still on antibiotics. I should hopefully have full range of motion back in my hand within two weeks (if I don’t, I have to go back for an MRI to look at internal injuries to tissue/tendons). In the meantime, I have bandages and a sling for outside of the house to keep the wounds clean and to keep me from overdoing it with using the hand. It still gives me a fair amount of trouble in very basic ways – I don’t have full range of motion to my arm – can’t extend it fully in certain ways – and my hand does not open fully, nor close fully, which means I can’t grasp or grip anything with weight involved. Which means…no pole.
Since I will be out of pole for a couple of weeks, at least, I am looking into heading into class and working on my right hand – which, oddly enough, is my strong hand in real life (which is why I wasn’t totally taken out by the injury, in terms of life/world). I have very little coordination in my right when it comes to pole, and very little conditioning as well, so it might be good to do a few weeks of work on it, as frustrating as it might prove to be. 🙂
I have lost my damn mind.
Hiya. My name is Danielle, and I’ve just entered my first pole competition. Which pretty much means that I’ve lost my damn mind.
I’ve been doing aerial pole dancing classes for about a year and a half, and I am at the level of intermediate/advanced – I am just starting to do aerial work, which is exciting and exhausting at the same time. For months now, I’ve been talking about how I want to do pole more than once a week, how I want to get in better shape to be better at pole, etc, etc, etc. So, when I found out about a new pole competition that was broken down into levels (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), I mulled it over…and mulled it over…and mulled it over some more. I wasn’t sure I was good enough, or that I could come up with a great theme (I was thinking about the Artistic Dramatic category, as opposed to the Artistic Entertainment, Freestyle, or Championship categories). In the end, I sucked it up, paid the entry fee and committed.
And promptly freaked out.
No, really, what am I doing?! There are some things I’m good at – certain tricks, like the pike and the superwoman – and I have decent flow in my freestyle dances, but I am not a trickster. At the end of class, I’m so wasted by the energy it takes to do our rigorous warm up and the aerial tricks that I usually just end up doing floor work instead of pole tricks (which is at odds with 90% of the rest of my class, who are all manic pixie monkeys). While I am an actor – and a good one (I have no issue stating that as fact and do not care if it makes me look like an ego freak) – I’m not necessarily a born performer in the way that a dancer needs to be. I’ve worked for years to keep things internal, to keep it small on camera. Telling a story through dance is new to me.
Anyway, with the help of a really amazing dancer friend – who is also being so generous with her time and energy to help me – I think I have a theme/character established. I chose a song that I loved ages ago, for a “someday” dance, and am using it for this competition if we stick with this theme. We had our first rehearsal to discuss everything and choreograph parts of it yesterday, and it was fun – a little intimidating when I realize exactly how much pole I will have to do in the dance itself – but overall, I left excited, despite being a little nervous. I went today to do some conditioning work on the pole, since I need to be in way better condition to perform, and I need to learn how to perform on a 45mm pole (I’ve only ever used 50mm).
Let’s just say that it was humbling.
The 45mm is tough – I have to learn how to climb, invert, hold, etc, with new grips because of the smaller size. So there is that adjustment, which is natural. Then…there’s just the physical conditioning issue. As strong as I am, I lose my strength quickly with repeated tricks. My lines aren’t clean like they need to be in competition. Mostly, I ended up feeling like I had slid backward, instead of recognizing how far I’ve come since I started. I had a few bright spots: before I left, I set about doing a few of the pose tricks that I plan to do (two of which are my stronger tricks) and holding them for extended poses to build endurance. When training for aerial, we started by holding the initial grip in an invert for 5 seconds each time, until it was easy for us. Then we moved to 10 second holds until it was easier. Then, we were able to progress to the next portion of the hold and start again at 5 seconds. It’s all conditioning to be able to go further. So, I took that principle and applied it to what I am working on for the competition. I got up into three poses and held them each for a 30 count (probably 15 seconds or so). It was at the end of what I was doing, so I was tired, but I committed to doing it anyway. So, that’s good! There’s so much more to do, and I am struggling with not overwhelming myself with it all. That’s where this comes in.
I’m starting this blog to help myself track my progress in the preparation for this competition (and possibly beyond). Because I will need to remember that it takes work, and it’s gradual, and to be gentle on myself, in addition to being able to look back and see that what I couldn’t do one week, I could do two weeks later.
So, here’s my “before” body picture…let’s see where I am at in six weeks!