Whoohoo it’s January and we made it to 2015. I hope 2014 was as good for you as it was for me. What was your resolution? If you are reading this I can guess it has something to do with fitness and improving yourself in the new year. I am also guessing if you are looking at this particular site you are at least somewhat curious about pole fitness if not already well steeped in the community. Either way if you are considering a “new” fitness routine, starting with good habits is key for maximum effectiveness. Since most who have made the resolution to get active this season probably have decided what they will do already this is not to convince people to try pole for fitness, that I did here. If you are considering taking pole classes in the new year or have been enjoying the benefits of pole fitness for a while now but notice imbalances and that you only spin or invert in one direction, this is for you.
As a teacher of all levels pole classes I frequently have people that are brand new in class. I also have some faithful students who are able to perform more advanced level inverted moves. Inevitably the new students are a bit intimidated and want to know how to get from where they are to where my other students are I tell them there are a few "rules of pole."
1. You must do everything on both sides of your body.
2. You will like one side better than the other.
3. All that means is you must work extra hard on the side you don't like to make sure it can keep up with the side you do like.
4. Just because you like one side better for most things doesn't mean that there will not be some things you do and feel more comfortable with on the "bad side".
At first just getting something on one side is challenging enough right? Especially if it’s upside-down, but the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks—most of which are all in one’s mind. It’s understandable, it was hard enough to flip upside-down, hook one leg and hang, now I have to do that with my other leg??? Oh yes, for balance, it is the only way. The sooner you start the better.
When I first began poling and I didn’t know any better, I learned every move, inversion or spin I had (except one) on one side going the same direction. When I started teaching it was a new studio so we taught basics first which included a lot of spins. I learned to teach all the spins on both sides but until I wanted to do the jade (figure 1.) it didn't even occur to me to flip my body onto the pole from the other side. I always flipped upside down with the pole on my left, left leg hook for inside leg. Only one problem: my only split at the time was on my right. Meaning I could split only with my right leg in front, left leg in back. I was working on my left side split but I had a feeling it would take me longer to get my left split than it would to learn to flip upside down on the other side. I set about the task of learning to flip and hang from one leg on the other side.
It starts with one
After that I wanted to learn everything on the other side because it was cool! Look what I can do! Once you get the first move on the other side you get that inspiration to get more moves on “the bad side”. After I hurt my shoulder I realized that learning everything on both sides was more than just a cool concept but actually a vital one. Equal focus could provide enough balance to not only keep myself from getting injured but also allow me to rehab my injury while still teaching my classes. There are moves I am better at on the right and some surprisingly on the left.
When you get into more advanced moves you may have to get new concepts entirely on your “good side” before you can get them on your bad side instead of working on it from the beginning. This is because of imbalances in strength we all have. Everyone has heard of the dominant and non dominant sides of the body. The dominant hand is the one you go to first and it is usually stronger. To do things on the other side your body must mirror your movements and it could take a while to build up the strength. Whatever you did on your successful side, you must copy the same steps to accomplish on your other side. If you happen to be significantly weaker on the other side it will take time to not just build the strength but also develop the muscle memory. Some things you think you’ll never get on both sides. Maybe you will and maybe not but keep trying any way, never could be a little shorter than you think and you might surprise yourself one day.
I was right about the time it takes to learn to invert vs achieving extreme flexibility; it took two more years to get myself into a left split. In that time I learned almost everything on both sides, some things I am still working on getting on the other side. I can feel the difference and have more confidence on one side than the other which means though I will continue to work things on the uncomfortable side I may not be able to add it in a showcase performance. There are some things that try as I might I may never get them on both sides. I’ll keep trying though. Since I video tape everything maybe one time I’ll catch an attempt and a different angle than normal and get an understanding of how to achieve it.
A note about pole showcase performance: With pole sport becoming more mainstream and pole performance competitions becoming more and more common place in every city, there is plenty of opportunity to perform (with one’s clothes on) and be seen by an audience. Many studios offer the opportunity to perform in a showcase where there is no competition and the feel is more like a talent show with an aerial focus. Many showcases benefit a local charity close to the organizer’s heart. If you are part of one you will most likely plan your routine at least a few weeks in advance then drill it over and over again. Unless your performance specifically includes showing the ability to perform a trick or hold on both sides of your body this is the one time it’s okay to reinforce the strong side.
Performing may not be a priority for students just starting out. New students while they may have been catching up on the latest youtube pole videos might not see themselves getting out there that way. Performing in front of an audience is not for everyone. Not everyone that gets on a pole for fitness feels the need to show anyone else what they do. Whatever course you decide to take start off with good habits from the beginning, and keep it balanced making sure to give equal attention to both sides of your body.