Body, Soul, and Pole: A Challenge Worth Taking

-Jennifer Belcher

Body, Soul and Pole is located on the 3rd floor of the Brunswick Center in Jersey City.

That was not easy.  It was not easy at all.  Every video I had ever seen of someone doing pole fitness made it look graceful and elegant: spiraling women, fit and strong, twirling effortlessly around a pole. That’s what was supposed to happen, right? Not hardly.  I learned very quickly that pole fitness is hard. Instead of resembling the ease at which my instructor demonstrated each new step we would try out, spinning multiple times without demand, I approached my pole, took my grip, and did my best imitation of a flying squirrel hitting a tree face on.  Ouch.

Why had I been so eager to try this in the first place, anyway?  Basically, I’m all for workouts that are fun, artistic, and let me challenge myself in ways that don’t feel like, well, a workout.  Having danced my whole life, I figured it should ideally not come as too much of a challenge. In addition to something more creative and fun that didn’t involve massive amounts of sweat and dumbbells, I had heard nothing but rave reviews about what pole fitness could do for one’s physique.

When I found out a new studio was opening up on the 3rd floor of the Brunswick Center, I was excited and anxious to try it.  At first I worried about what people might think. Pole fitness can be a little controversial given its provocative and risque origins.  Some people I’ve met have strong opinions on the dance classes saying they are demeaning to women and support a culture of sleaze and degradation. However, women using a highly rigorous form of body control and strength to combine fitness and art in a unique way is, in my opinion, empowering.

After a few months I talked myself into trying it out.  Having done my research I knew that I was in for quite the strenuous exercise.  According to Shape.Com, pole classes are a combination of workouts that incorporate the use of your own body weight, strength training and flexibility in one.  A few intro lessons in, I can tell you that it is so much more than that. Each class requires a significant amount of coordination, body control and focus.

Two days after my first class, my body was as sore as if I had completed a double gym workout.  My arms were killing me, which was no surprise. I’ve always been someone who has significantly lacked upper body strength.  The results of one pole class alerted me to the fact that this may, indeed, be the kryptonite class to my scrawny, under-toned limbs.  I am not kidding you, there were a few points in the days that followed when I could not even lift my arms.  

It wasn’t the incredible upper arm workout that had me going back to another introduction class, however.  The dancer inside of me could not deal with the fact that I was not able to look like a beautiful spinning siren after day 1.  The learning curve necessary to achieve the few moves taught in the class was steep, and I was determined to get them quickly. Flapping and flailing against the pole was not going to be how I went down.  This was an entirely new and frustrating experience for me, someone who had always picked up on anything dance rather quickly.

Needless to say, even after the second class, I still looked more like an out of control animal than I did someone who should have been up there.  However, my climbing skills (which require a tremendous amount of upper body strength) were already improving and the coordination necessary to achieve a whirl around the pole was steadily increasing.

If you are interested in trying a pole fitness class, do not let it overwhelm you.  It is NOT easy and it is not something you are going to achieve overnight. Unlike many forms of fitness which have you achieving the basics rather quickly, Pole Fitness is going to ask of you patience, determination, and the willingness to be okay with looking like a complete jerk crashing into a metal pole.  The good news is the women (and men) inside that class will do nothing but support you, lift you up, help you achieve body and mind confidence and stand next to you doing weird and awkward things around their poles as well.

So put all your reservations aside, find your best pair of biker shorts (the more skin exposed the better your grip on the pole) and try it out.  It will definitely challenge you, but it will also help you carve out a lean physique, and more importantly a strong will and self-belief.

In addition to offering introduction and intermediate pole fitness classes, Body Pole and Soul offers lyra and silks classes.  I recommend trying it with a friend.  You can have fun laughing at, I mean with, each other.  The studio also offers parties for events such as bachelorettes, birthdays, divorce parties (yes-that is a thing!).