If I asked you “What are your go-to tools of the trade for pole dance, you’d probably say grip, heels, and maybe a foam roller. But have you considered that taking a break from pole dance should be included in your pole dance toolkit?
Taking a pole break can not only increase your longevity as a pole dancer, but also protect your joy.
And if the idea of taking a break from pole dancing scares the living shit out of you, you’re probably the perfect candidate for a voluntary, purposeful pole break.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Pole Breaks
A voluntary pole break is taking a break from pole dancing because you feel a need to, where as an involuntary pole break means taking a break from pole dancing because of injury, a major life event, a change in health status, or a change in available resources.
Involuntary pole breaks are unique. Taking a break to rest an injury, for example, might not be effective if you don't strengthen and rehab during your break, but that's Dr. Emily Rausch's area of expertise.
Here, I’m focusing solely on the voluntary kinds of pole breaks.
Why I Considered Taking a Break from Pole Dance
I’ve been pole dancing since 2013, and I did my first (of eight!) amateur pole competition in 2014. I got my XPert Certification in 2015, started teaching in 2016, designed The Bee’s Knees Knee Pads in 2017, and opened my business selling well made, thoughtfully designed, and ethically produced pole dance essentials in 2018.
So yeah, you could say I’m intense about the things I love, pole dance included. I only do things full ass. It's my May Taurus energy. I'm a professional, and I take my work seriously.
The downside of that intensity is burnout. Over time, if I'm not careful, I start to resent the time and energy I dedicate to that thing I love. I smother the flame.
The signs I needed a pole break were that burnout feeling and a dry creative well for all things pole, on top of developing tendinitis in both elbows and just feeling lots of pain every time I left class. Not the good muscle soreness or the satisfied fatigue after a hard workout—just pain.
I was teaching pole 3-4 days a week, anywhere from 5 to 8 classes per week, and at one point that was in three different non-affiliated studios. It wasn’t just the physical toll that it took on my body, but it was psychically exhausting acclimating to each studio’s culture, learning how each studio defines its levels, and even remembering which studio I was driving to on a given day! And of course, each studio used a different booking system. The Bluetooth setting on my phone had an identity crisis every time I entered a studio and tried to connect to a different speaker!
I was also continuing to take classes, despite feeling physically broken and not really excited about learning anything in particular. Open Pole sessions to explore my own training weren’t even worth it. With pole in general, I felt so "over it" but I didn't want to be.
What Taking a Break from Pole Dance Can Look Like
It was definitely time for a break. But how? Teaching pole is part of my income. And I still wanted to pole. Just… not like this.
So, I had to figure out how to take a break in my own way.
I took on more hours at my non-pole day job so I could cut back on teaching. Now I teach one day per week, which leaves me two days to take classes as a student, two days to explore non-pole related exercise, and two days to rest.
Now that I’m not spread so thin, I look forward to my teaching day. And now that I’m working more at my non-pole job and teaching at just one studio, it’s easier for me to stay in my lane and remember that I teach pole because I love it, not because it’s my job.
My strength is changing. Because I’m still pole dancing and I’ve added in other forms of exercise, I’m still strong, but it’s in different ways now. Social media seems sillier now, which is an unexpected and amusing side effect. Everyone else seems to take pole so seriously! Is that what I was like before my pole break? Probably!
A break from pole dance can look a lot of ways. It can mean completely stopping for a week, a month, or even years. It can mean doing less of one style of pole and engaging more with another. It can mean taking online classes versus in person, or deleting your documenting-my-pole-journey Instagram account. It doesn't matter what form your pole break takes, as long as it feels like a break, physically or psychically, to you.
Why It's Hard to Take a break
Honestly, it's probably internalized capitalism. Taking a break doesn't mean you're lazy, don't care enough, or work hard enough. Taking a break means you have what it takes to make a sustainable lifelong commitment to something you care about.
Taking a pole break can feel impossible if you are surrounded by anti-rest attitudes. "If you love something, there are no rest days." Wrong. Rest days show you love yourself more than pole dance.
Taking a pole break can feel like an identity crisis, prompting you to ask, “I am a pole dancer. If I take a break, who am I then?" Plot twist: you are still you, and that’s better than just being a pole dancer.
Taking a pole break can make you feel anxious. “If I take a break, I'll be so far behind!" Behind what? Behind whom? There is no being behind in pole dance!
Hot take? Being able to take a break shows strength, maturity, and dedication. And it's not permanent. You can come back! In fact, you'll probably come back better. You can modify the terms of your break as you go. Sense and respond, my dudes!
How to Determine if You Are Ready for a Pole Break
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are ready for a pole break:
How does your body feel? We all know that pole hurts. Thigh burn from Superman is proof enough! The discomfort from conditioning something new and the soreness of a good workout might be okay, but straight up joint and tendon pain, not so much. If your body is telling you something, listen.
Are you enjoying yourself? If you find yourself dreading going to pole class, that's a big sign you need a break. We started pole dancing because we wanted to move our bodies in a new way-- a way that felt fun. If you aren't having any fun, it's not worth it.
Do you feel stressed out about pole? Pole related stress is becoming more of a reality. There's pressure to do photo shoots, competitions, and performances to prove you're a "good pole dancer." If you're an instructor, your income is at stake. These stresses are all signs that pole has become something else for you, and a break might help you to sort it out.
Are you making any progress? Progress looks different for everyone. I cannot stress this enough. Progress isn't a code word for "mastering pole tricks at a steady, fast, and linear rate." By progress, I mean are you moving in a direction you want to go? By progress, I mean if you are at a standstill, are you standing where you want to be? If you aren't-- or better yet, you don't know where you want to go or be-- a break might give you time to reflect on that.
Some Advice on Your Comeback
Have you ever thought, "If I knew then what I know now" or started a sentence with, "If I could do it all over again?”
Taking a break from pole dancing actually affords the opportunity to begin again, but in a wiser and more informed way.
- Start slowly
- Set realistic goals
- Be patient with yourself
- Have fun
If you need support setting realistic goals, The TRACK Method is the only goal setting strategy designed specifically for pole dancers. It focuses on timing, resources, advantages, challenges, and keenness, and it's the perfect tool if you're beginning again.
The only place to find The TRACK Method is in The Ultimate Pole Goal Notebook. I created The UPGN using student input. It's designed to help you capture what you learn in class, plan open pole sessions, celebrate milestones, and more.