Hard Work and Discipline

Published on: Sep 09 2013 by
Hard Work and Discipline

I teach at a local studio, which is small and modest, but a wonderful place to learn. A teacher recently left, and I picked up some intermediate level classes. Up until then, I’d only been teaching Intro Classes. I noticed a few things immediately, which got me thinking.

There’s a big drop from my intro classes to my intermediate classes. It seems like the students are giving it up after a few months, so I’ve started to question why.

One possibility?

Taking pole dance was a novelty, and a naughty one at that. Maybe some students liked telling people, “I’ve been taking pole dance.” It conjures up very specific images. These may be the students that jump on every new fitness trend, trying them out for a while, then moving on.

Another possibility?

Pole classes cost money. If students are trying to get in shape, they may realize the cost of a gym membership is MUCH less than pole classes for a month. After a few months, the classes added up and they made the decision to try a less expensive exercise.

Another possibility is the one that scares me the most. Pole takes hard work. We’re sweaty, bruised and bloody after the end of a hard session. In order to improve, we have to commit ourselves to ANOTHER “one more time”! Most fitness programs advertise fast and easy results. Abs in 7 minutes. Pills that will drop 14 pounds in a week. Do you look at the cover of magazines in the grocery store? Read the headlines. Everything is “Faster and easier than ever!” We’re living in an age of instant gratification. Pole goes against the culture we’re currently living in.

I recently had a new student in my INTRO class. It was her first class ever, and she wanted to go upside down. She said I could spot her, and step out long enough for her friend to take a picture. I also run an open pole time at the studio where students of all levels can come in and work on what they need to work on, and I’ll give tips or spot if needed. A beginner level student was watching someone do an inversion and said, “I bet I could do that if I kicked into it” and tried it before I had a chance to intervene. I have students that express their goal of getting flat splits, but then tell me they only stretch once a week.

Realistic Expectations

It can take weeks, even months, to get an inversion. Shoulder mounts? Even longer! I always make a point to ask my students what their goals are, and if there are any dream moves. If they have something specific, I’ll find ways to either modify it to their level, or I’ll give them beginning exercises to start training. I’ve seen students try one of their goal moves two times, then give it up, telling me she’ll try again next week. No one is going to get a move trying it two times a week.

As teachers and polers, we have a responsibility to share the realistic expectations of pole. Students will NOT be going upside down during their first class. They will NOT be kicking into inverts. Yes, it takes time to build up the strength to do these moves safely and with control. Some moves will hurt. There are some moves you’ll get on your first try, and there are some that might take MONTHS before you can do them. Yes, we want to encourage them, but we also need to remind them that even the BEST pole dancers took years to be able to pull off the gravity defying tricks. Maybe that’s part of the problem… We go on YouTube and see incredible pole dancers with inhuman strength that make everything look so simple. Tricks are getting more insane and dangerous. I’ve seen moves that make an Allegra or a Handspring look like a beginner move.

As I’m writing this, I just saw a commercial for exercise DVD’s that can transform your body in 20 minutes a day. I honestly fear that day that pole studios start advertising “Guaranteed Inverts by Your Third Class!”

Category: Discussion

About Kenzie Morgan

I took my first dance class shortly after I could walk, and fell in love with the freedom of prancing around to music. I've continued dancing my whole life in various styles. I've done all of the classics like ballet, jazz, modern and tap, and soon ventured into ballroom and Latin. I even hula hoop!

I've been intrigued with pole dancing for a while, but there were no studios around me and I felt like it could be dangerous to learn on my own. About a year ago I saw a coupon online for a local pole studio that had just opened up, so I jumped on the opportunity. Within a month I had purchased my own pole, and a few months later I was asked to teach a class. I enjoy the dance side of things and the moves that can defy gravity.

Outside of pole dancing, I have my Master's Degree in Dance Therapy and currently work with children with behavioral and mental health concerns. I also have the world's best husband and cutest dog.

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13 Comments to “Hard Work and Discipline”

  1. Lucy says:

    i laughed as i read this because this sounded just like me a year ago , i always wanted to take pole and i finally bought one WITHOUT taking classes i thought “what i need classes for i have you tube” so i watched video and attempted moves and had no luck, i did a superman but cheated i got a handstand and a back bend but i’m flexible anyway but in my mind i was making progress. My friend bought me 5 class for my bday and i was so happy but was like “cool after these 5 class im def not going to need any more” went to my 1st class ready to go and the 1st thing my teacher did was give a speech sounded like your what your wrote.She taught us climbing and i def was horrible i couldn’t even climb up one. so now i look back at videos of me and laugh cuz i really thought this was easy and all the moves i wanted to do i can do now. my 1st invert boy i was happy now im working on my aerial invert which has been for months and i finally got it. i got the shoulder dismount after seeing it once so now im working on a should mount which is death but this article was so me last year and still is at times

  2. Kim says:

    Love this! I definitely agree that there needs to be a realistic expectation for how quickly you can advance in pole, or in any other sport. It should be about attainment of mastery instead of about looking good for a picture. And I hope that insurance premiums will keep studios from advertising inverts by the third class… that sounds like a terrible idea.Thanks for writing and sharing.

  3. Natalie says:

    Really great article … and so true!
    I started pole fitness nearly a year ago. I saw the videos in YouTube and I brought a pole for my living room because I wanted to do the same … no problem … until the first time I tried to do a simple “pole hold” without success! Such a delusion and I had to lean that pole fitness is really hard work and a lots of pain and also that there is no other achievment which gives you this gigantic satisfaction! Pole fitness seems so easy and I remember the bored looks at my (for me exciting) beginner videos. Then, one day, my best friend wanted to try my pole, she came in, ready to jump on it, “nothing easier than this!” and after 2 hours she went out, depressed because she wasn’t even able to do the fireman. This was a great day for me and now she makes me so many compliments for any little new move. I think that pole fitness is underrated and only who tries it, is able to understand. This isn’t a sport for everbody, it’s not a simple pastime. You stick on it … or not, there is nothing between and in my opinion that is the reason for the drop from intro into intermediate class.

  4. norma says:

    Great. This is what I needed to hear.
    After a year going to pole dance schools, just once a week, as their courses are set, I had started noticing that I was going nowhere. Any trouble with a move would have been taken ages to get, as the instructor would be too busy for spotting or I would even forget the moves I got right, but a week later, gone.
    Then I found non expensive pole classes with a great instructor, where you can attend a few times a week, plus I usually get a package of private to help with those new moves or trouble ones.

    But, as I said, I needed to hear that to make progress we need to practice more than one a week. So I was right (I agree is not much of a discovery, but if you see like I saw that the goal is to go to class once a week, as in those schools, then, to figure out, you need to see more in deep what POLE DANCE IS ABOUT, how much discipline requires).
    SO, WHY ARE THOSE SCHOOLS SET TO ONCE A WEEK, AND SO EXPENSIVE, AND THEY DO NOT EVEN TELL YOU TO BUY A POLE AND PRACTICE EVERYDAY AND STRETCH EVERYDAY)????

  5. Kage says:

    Did a 1 legged invert my second day. NA’s 1 class a week beginner programs are a joke and a waste of money to anyone wanting to get serious. Thank god I started learning in japan. Pay a fix amount for unlimited classes in a month, and can attend any you feel comfortable with. 2 weeks of training at least twice a day every day with like minded people has me around the intermediate level already. Everyday im pushed hard and everyday im learning something new. Im back to canada in a month and a half and im interested to see where the people who have been learning for 2 months like me are at. Slow and steady doesnt always win the race haha Of course if your just looking for fun and a bit of exercise, by all means!

  6. Hannah May says:

    I agree with so many points on this article. Pole is hard. And harder than most people expect! You may intially feel that you aren’t getting anywhere, however, you just need to stick with it

  7. Hannah May says:

    But I would like to point out that you CAN improve and do great things, even if you’re only going to classes once a week. It may be slower progress but you can improve, as long as you are committed and give it your all that one lesson once a week. I only went to classes once a week for my first year and a half of pole. I could do Geminis, Scorpios, Extended Butterflys, Cross Ankle Release, Supermans by the end of that year.

    • Hannah May says:

      I am sure I would have made quicker progess if I went to more classes or owned my own pole, but do to the expensive progess if I went to of the sport, I couldn’t! I still improved massively but to do that I really had to be determined and commit to my one class a week. Determination in pole is the most important thing, no matter how many times a week you are able to train 🙂 Sorry this comment is split up!

  8. Carey says:

    A great pole dancer, as with any kind of dance or sport, makes it look easy. When people find out it takes so much time and dedication to progress, I think that’s what weeds out who’s serious about it and who’s not. I’ve also heard people say that they won’t even try a class because they “can’t do that”. I explain to these people that nobody gets on the pole and does crazy tricks their first time, and it takes a lot of work to build the strength to do anything on the pole. When I first started, I couldn’t do a spin without smashing into the pole because I didn’t have the strength and technique to keep my body away from the pole. Now I’ve progressed to doing some awesome tricks, transition moves, different types of inverts, etc. People only see the pictures of the tricks I post online and don’t realize that I spend 6 to 10 hours a week on the pole to achieve my goals. In my opinion, pole is a way of life, it’s not just a fitness class.

  9. Shannon says:

    We have a competitor pole school on our little island and they get students inverting on their first lesson! They put them into it, run away and take a picture then help them get out of it again! Drives us nuts! We had a student come from them last week who refused to learn any spins as she had ‘passed her intermediate level’ and had a certificate to prove it, she didn’t even know a Gemini or a scorpion but wanted my colleague to help flip her into a handspring as she couldn’t ‘jump into it like the other instructor told her to do’. Literally I don’t know what this school is doing but it’s making a mockery of pole dancers oh actually work extremely hard to be where they want to be. Loved this article!

  10. Nuna says:

    I agree with all points , I agree with every one. I thought the people in my country are the only1 who are close minded about doing pole till today I’m facing this when people knows that I’m pole dancer laugh at me and think I’m crazy, they don’t know it’s one difficult and amazing exercise . Also in my country we don’t have pole schools . The 1st time I learned pole with One Russian lady, she’s gymanstor and she also learned pole from different schools & instructors. 1st the class was really expensive and I felt the class was really difficult. The 1st four classes I used to cry because she was teaching me how to do one spin for one hour and every time I do it she will say : wrong :S and she was tough, she used to scream and hit my fingers to keep it pointy. It was depressing me and made me hate pole .. when I used to see her invert or climb do all this amazing stuff. I used to be no way I cant do that. The fourth class after doing everyday same spin, she asked me to climb. I was able to climb :D. But she decided to travel, I stopped pole for 6 months didn’t try it again. My friend found another teacher, she wasn’t expensive , started to teach me every hour three or four spins. I was surprised I used to get it immediately. She used to say sweet things that make me love it. I took 7 classes with her, then I decided to buy pole at home. She had to stop classes as she was planning to get pregnant. At home I started to teach my self. Step by step : spins, climb, invert ( by doing all the exercises that help me invert). every day and on one week I was able to climb with out being tired, in two weeks Invert ( here where my journey started). What pole taught me is to be patient & I will get it. it’s nice to get moves from the 1st time but the happiness of getting moves after many tries n suffering you will always believe on ur self. I’m not patient ,positive and active person but pole taught me to be different person. After 6 months of pole I can do many things : climb , invert, aerial invert, superman, shoulder mount, Allegra, Marley ,twisted grip ,caterpillar , Gemini ,Scorpio and many amazing moves also I can do splits, my back is getting bendy.. I feel I’m healthy, happy & less stressful . pole dance not for every1 u need to love it to get it 😀 . I feel sad who has a school at their country but they quit immediately and doesn’t know how lucky they are. From what I went through I wasn’t lucky no1 was there to spot me I suffered alot. I had to take videos of my self to compare it with youtube n try to study my mistakes.

  11. Michelle says:

    I totally agree with your points about society here.

    We live in a society that is almost guaranteed instant satisfaction and if it doesn’t get it it goes somewhere else. You see people all over the net in varous settings – “I’ve been dieting for a week and have only lost 2Ibs, why am I not losing weight?” or “I’ve been going to pole for a week now – why can’t I do what they’re doing?”

    It’s setting yourself up for diappointment – so many people found they ached too much for their liking, or they don’t want to have to work that hard. You hear it over and over again. I want to do X but I don’t want to do the things I need to to get there. Right.

    Showing a video of something I’d been working on for freaking ages and still isn’t quite there (think it was an inverted thigh hold) to someone the other day to get back “Oh, I could do that” always guarantees you’ll want to throttle them – but remember, there are people out there who recognise hard work and who will work for what they want. Those are the people that get good and stick at it 🙂

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