Last week I went on vacation to Portland, Oregon. I fell in love instantly. I mean, living in the middle of Kansas, there was a lot for me to love. For one, it didn’t have the oppressive 110 degrees I’ve been living through all summer. Rather, my sweater kept me warm in a comfortable 60 degrees. Throughout the week we took in all that Portland’s uniquity has to offer – wineries, food carts, vintage stores, hiking, pole dancing.
Yep, pole dancing. I’d have to have a completely different job title to do something like that at home. But in Portland, pole dancing studios are like yoga studios. Girls visit to train as much as they do for one heck of a legitimate workout. No, really!
The friend I stayed with, booked the one-hour “taster” session for us as a perfectly good excuse to spend an evening away from our husbands, get in a workout, and try something very, very new.
I’ll admit, I had a pit in my stomach going in. The studio was situated under a bridge. I thought, how appropriate. But when I walked in to Ecdysiast, a few (certainly not all) of my nerves were settled. It felt like any yoga studio I’ve ever been to – bright, calm, friendly, very clean.
So with all the grace of a two-by-four, I found my way to my pole; a tall, shiny, brass pole that moments later I’d be dangling from. And falling off of. The whole thing felt ridiculous, and yet, I was so intrigued that I was prepared to give it my all. I made my way to the unassuming pole in the back corner before my saucy instructor encouraged me to join her at the front where one open pole remained.
We really did everything you can imagine a room of six women would do with a pole. We crawled to it, instructed not to do so like a baby but like a woman truly trying to evoke an erotic scene. We danced around it. We threw our ankles and slid like firefighters. We crawled up, crossed our legs, and sat. And then we were taught to do “a Dorothy.”
I thought “you have got to be kidding me!” This sweet girl from Kansas is doing Dorothies against a brass pole so very far from home. There’s certainly no place like home and there is no workout I’ve ever done like pole dancing.
Your imaginations can run wild, as I’m sure my husband’s has been, but I quickly learned that I do not (currently) possess the grace nor the upper body strength to become anything beyond an advanced beginner at best. However, if I stuck with this, attended their weekly two-hour beginner class and progressed to the advanced sessions, I could be doing upside-down caterpillar crawls like my instructor. I could. Really, I know I could.
Fifteen minutes in to our session our instructor encouraged us to stop for water, reminding us of the physical exertion that was happening. I chugged water and continued to break a sweat. By the end of our hour I was sore, tired, and sweaty. And we won’t even discuss the burning thighs from all the skidding-turned-thudding-to-the-floor.
“Pole fitness is a great functional workout for the entire body,” confirmed Kelly Turner of KellyTurnerFitness.com. “You will build great upper body strength as each movement begins with the arms, pulling the body up onto the pole. Core strength is tested through swings and twirls and the legs, especially the inner thighs, are used to squeeze the pole to stay off the ground.”
According to LiveStrong.com, a woman can burn anywhere from 320 calories to 485 calories in a one-hour pole dancing session. Kelly did caution that not all calories burn alike, though. “If you are a beginner, watching instruction and testing out the moves will slow the process down, along with your calorie burn. But if you are working hard and often on perfecting your technique during class, your heart rate can stay elevated enough to leave you dripping sweat and burning major calories.”
The next day, I found my pride barely wounded but the familiar aches and pains that come with a new workout experience settling in to my muscles. For three days my friend and I complained of progressively worsening pain radiating from our forearms and armpits.
I’m telling you, put your inhibitions and preconceived notions aside and see if such a studio exists where you live. This pole dancing workout was no joke, and the awkward laughing will no doubt help you burn a few extra calories, too! If you’re bored with spinning, tired of treadmills, and unmotivated to even plug in a DVD, this is perfect way to mix up your workout routine.
By Brandi Koskie
Image via Shutterstock