Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Welcome to Workout Wednesday: every hump-day, we'll be rounding up some of the city's hottest fitness trends and studios.
It was my first time, and I was nervous. Where would my legs go? Would I get all the moves right? Would I be able to hold myself up in certain positions? Of course, I'm talking about my first-ever pole dancing experience (what were you thinking?). The activity of swinging and sliding up and down a metal bar has mainstreamed from dark strip clubs to a workout and even an art form—we've all gawked at the Youtube videos of pole dancing competitions in awe by now.
But just because its stock has risen doesn't mean it's something your mother/sister/cousin/roommate/friend has already tried. So I checked out the Intro to Pole class at aerial dance studio Body & Pole, so you don't have to—but you really, really should.
Pole dancing is " a hobby that you really start when you're an adult, so there's no expectation that you can be good at it" when you're starting out, instructor Caitlin Goddard told Racked in an interview before class. "It's great to approach it with a sense of humor, because, honestly, not everything will be perfect on that first day."
While I wasn't looking to lead the pack here (unlike in some of those competitive indoor cycling classes out there), I also wasn't willing to look like an ungraceful idiot. So here's a few key points for those who want to know exactly what they're getting into:
It really, truly, is less intimidating than you think it will be.
With a class of just eight beginners when I attended, you'll get personal attention and plenty of practice. Goddard had students introduce themselves at the start of class, almost to prove that most of us had never touched a pole before and didn't have extensive dance backgrounds.
It might be better to go it alone.
"Sometimes, having a friend there can make you feel more shy," Goddard advised. It can "hold you back, because you don't want to be embarrassed in front of your friend." Sometimes, it helps you—you feel less nervous because you have somebody else there going through the same thing." But at the same time, "you have to be ready to make a fool of yourself," so choose that friend wisely.
You don't have to be naked-ish.
For some people—like this writer—mere short shorts and a sports bra do not a workout outfit make. However, pole dancing requires exposed skin in order to get a good grip on the pole. The good news is that for the moves you do in the intro class, only the backs of your knees should be naked—meaning you can roll up those running capris and be good to go.
Pole burn is a thing that exists.
Expect for some areas to be red and raw by the end of class. It "happens to dancers of all levels and on all the parts of your body that come in contact with the pole during various tricks," Goddard explained. "Beginners tend to get it on their feet, usually from climbing the pole." If it gets to be too much, there's dance shoes and "protective pole wear," or ask your instructor about trying different positioning to switch up your grips.
No one (except the instructor) is paying attention to you...
After introductions, Goddard put an emphasis on focusing on your own work during class, and not paying attention to what others are doing. "No one is looking at you—everyone is really focus on their own journeys, their own progress, their own movement and abilities," she told Racked. That being said, get a pole in the front of the room, so you can get a good look at the moves you're pulling off and do you.
...unless you have to share your pole.
With only six poles in the studio—with one reserved for the instructor—some students had to share, which I found broke me out of my rhythm when I had to "tap out" to let my classmate try the moves we were learning. While it's understandable that Body & Pole wants to serve as many students as reasonably possible, the experience would have been that much better if I were able to continually practice without interruption.
It's not all about being sexy—but it's more fun when it is.
No joke, taking my hair out of my usual workout bun and letting it naturally move as I walked on pointed toes and practiced what Goddard coined "Jessica Rabbit butt swishes" around the pole made a huge difference. Plus, unlike some other "sexy workouts" out there that are very fast-paced, Body & Pole moves slowly, letting you figure out whether that pose is in fact sexy-looking, or if you're making a weird face as you practice sliding to the floor (again, this is where good mirror access comes in handy).
The intro class is less of a workout and more of a good time.
While you may very well have the time of your life learning how to slide down a pole, the introductory class isn't a major calorie-burning session. The only time I got close to breaking a sweat was during the 20-minute warmup (never have I ever worked my hips so much in a warmup, by the way), but you'll probably work some upper-body muscles that you didn't know you had.
You can definitely work your way up to the hard stuff.
Unlike in the above pictures, Intro to Pole doesn't get into the fancy stuff—you won't be inverted or striking a mid-air pose while supporting yourself with a single limb. Regardless of your fitness level, if you can walk and follow instructions, you'll be able to survive this class—that's why the studio offers different levels of pole dancing. "People always think, 'I need to get more flexible, get stronger before I start to pole dance,' but really, you'll get stronger and more flexible because you pole dance," Goddard said.
But it ain't gonna be cheap.
Had an amazing time, and looking to take your training to the next level? After taking your $25 intro class, there's a 24-hour window where you can buy a 3-pack of classes for $69. But after that, it'll cost you $40 for a single class, $290 for a 10-pack that expires in six months, or $375 for an unlimited monthly membership (with a minimum three-month commitment), this could very well become your most expensive hobby.
· Body & Pole [Official website]
· Everything You've Ever Wanted to Ask a Fitness Pole Dancer [Racked NY]
· All Workout Wednesday Posts [Racked NY]