There is a proliferation of articles and posts about the benefits of pole dancing. Everyone is completely shocked that pole is harder than it looks, especially Jennifer Lopez. After one class purchased with a Groupon, bloggers everywhere are evangelical about how pole dancing is actually a good workout, you guys! Cardio! Body weight training! Flexibility! Fun!
Despite my sarcasm, I’m really glad people are giving it a try. What you won’t get from those articles and posts is what actually happens to you and your body, both for better or for worse.
At this moment, I weigh the same as I did when I first started pole dancing 6 years ago. However, my body looks completely different. I swapped muscle for fat, and my abs showed up for the party. I look dope. In fact, I can’t think of a single person I know whose body didn’t change for the better in some way because of pole dancing—and "for the better" can mean weight loss, weight gain, more strength, more flexibility, better movement, more awareness, or stronger stamina. That said, I still have all the same issues in my head about my body that require constant vigilance. Are we in the Trust Tree? Because I have a confession to make: I currently have visible abs, but sometimes I worry they’ll disappear as mysteriously as they showed up. I sometimes ask my husband and trusted friends if they can still see them. I flex and take selfies in different light to make sure they are still there. Don’t judge me! I know it’s fucked up, but that’s my point: pole didn’t solve my body issues by handing me a dope body. It did, however, force me to confront my body issues head on. Working out in a bikini in front of a huge mirror 4 times a week will do that to ya.
Bottom Line: You are already dope; you just don’t know it yet.
I was coached properly as a newbie about how to engage to protect my shoulders, but that doesn’t mean I had the body awareness to do it right every time. Even if you do execute safely and have keen kinesthetic awareness, your full body weight is swinging around in the air by one arm; injury is likely. Every pole dancer is one reverse grab away from a shoulder injury, and if you think it won’t be you, you’re next. Pretty much all my favorite pole dancers on Instagram go dark for 3-4 months, then pop back up in my feed with a post saying, “Sorry I was gone for awhile, guys! I was on rest after shoulder surgery!” A quick scroll through their feed shows why—aerial windmill castoffs? Twisted grip deadlifts? One girl I followed for inspo literally started every combo the same way—hanging by her right arm on spin for 3 revolutions before inverting. It was like watching a car crash in slow motion. I’d scream, “Don’t do it!” at her IG videos, but somehow she never heard me.
Bottom Line: It’s okay to take a hard pass at some moves.
3. You will lose your sense of modesty.
At first it will be great. You’ll feel liberated from the shackles of body shame, and you’ll start wearing smaller clothing. You’ll take selfies in the big studio mirrors. You’ll have a little extra wiggle in your walk. Then, you’ll start saying things like, “It’s fine, I’ll just change my clothes here.” Then, you’ll start saying thinks like, “It’s fine, I’ll just change my clothes here” in public places. Around strangers who aren’t pole dancers. Around your friends and family. You'll be the nakedest person in your friend group. Those close to you will whisper things like, “I can see your nipples through your top.” or “Your butt is out!” and you’ll look at them confusedly because you don’t understand what the problem is.
Bottom Line: People will be horrified for you, but don’t worry: you won’t care.
I still struggle with the way I look and feel, with limitations and injuries, and with how others perceive me, but a woman's relationship status with her body is pretty much always set at "It's complicated." Where a younger me whined, "I just want to look good naked!" an older me answers, "You do and you always did." but there's a smarter me on the other side of the room whispering "You are more than just your body, you know." And that is the naked truth.