Dancing is an incredible form of self expression. The body can convey emotion in ways that words cannot. Movement makes us feel good. So when you plateau for no known reason and the body seems unable to transit a feeling like it once could, it can be very disheartening. Plateauing in a sport you love is like being dumped. One minute everything is going swimmingly and the next, you’re ghosted and have no idea why.
While this post has emphasis on pole dance, as that is my dance of choice, these points can be put into practice no matter what kind of sport you do. So read on and get yourself out of that rut.
As a child, I did street dance, rock n roll, cha cha cha, samba, tango, ballroom, ballet, tap dance and gymnastics, alternating between these disciplines from the age of 5 until 13 but throughout my teens, I didn’t exercise other than compulsory school sports. In my early twenties, I came across this video of Felix Cane, who had won her first Miss Pole Dance World Championship title. I wanted to get fit again and with the combination of everything I’d done as a kid; dancing and gymnastics, pole soon became my adventure playground. I’d found my sport.
I have now been pole dancing for 6 years. I’ve been self taught for most of my pole life. I eventually started going to classes, learnt some more tricks but after practicing for years, I plateaued, completely out of the blue. I felt I’d fallen out of love. I couldn’t get new moves anymore, I didn’t feel inspired to dance.
There is a certain point with pole fitness where you’ve suddenly done all the moves within your range of current strength and flexibility. The jump from “advanced” to “expert” moves is huge.
In the end, I took a mini-break from it. Pole and I parted ways. Watching videos of happy polers getting their new tricks was saddening but the time out was exactly what I needed.
My most recent hiatus was at the end of 2015 but I tried relight the fire. The first session back was very hard. Advanced combos I once did with ease were a struggle, I’d lost a lot of tricks and my skin took time to readjust to the “pole burn” but I persevered, with the bruises to prove it.
So how did I fall back in love with pole? And why did we need time apart?
Spoiler alert; pole and I are back together… stronger and happier than ever! So here’s how I got my “pole-jo” back:
- I joined a gym and worked on my strength in ways that didn’t use the pole. I do a lot of functional training, lifted weights, worked on my flexibility and regained my confidence as my body began to transform. Whilst pole is an excellent workout, I didn’t have the same kind of strength I do now until I began incorporating non-pole related exercises into my fitness regime. I gradually became more balanced, muscles began to visibly develop and I felt strong. This did not happen overnight but with dedication and a new fitness friendship group to share the journey with, my pole plateau didn’t seem quite so daunting as it fell to the back of my mind, pushed away by my new crush on the squat rack.
- Began taking rest days. Actual rest… Not, doing an “easy” exercise class and pretending that was a rest day because it didn’t make me ache. I’d been exercising every day and didn’t take suitable recovery time. The body needs rest in order to rebuild muscle and get stronger. Exercising a lot without taking enough rest ultimately leads to fatigue, injury and overtraining. All of which I’ve had and none of which are any good for your wellbeing, both physically or mentally. Respect the rest and the rest will respect you.
- Bought new workout gear. By workout gear, I mean 7 inch heels for pole, of course. These shoes (my signature white Pleasers… Hey what can I say, I was brought up in Essex), make me feel fabulous. And when I feel fabulous, I dance better. It’s like having an alter ego. The second I wear those shoes, its game on, Cinderella. I also found some activewear brands with beautiful designs that made me feel good when exercising. I always wear a jazzy outfit to the gym. So even when I’m sweating like no ones business, I still feel comfortable in my clothing and therefore perform better.
- Took exercise classes on my own. While going with a friend seems like the less fearful way to approach a new session, I met a lot of new friends and for whatever reason, felt less self conscious in front of strangers, probably because if I was really terrible and never went back I was unlikely to have to see them again. Going with a friend who is more skilled can also make you feel a bit down about your own skills and while we shouldn’t make a habit of comparing ourselves to others, sometimes we do. Try a new class by yourself and allow the magic to happen.
- Changed dance styles. In some classes, it was either contemporary dance or stripper style. Complete polar opposites. Whilst I like watching other people perform erotic pole, I was terrified of doing it myself. I now realise, that’s just not my dance style. I can totally appreciate it and know some wonderfully skilled erotic dancers but body rolls aren’t my thing. I accept this and am now in a happy place regarding my style; a mixture of strength moves and the exotic without the erotic. I like the hardcore tricks and the agility, I also like the heels and pole flow, so why not combine both? The sky high stilettos don’t make you an erotic dancer in the same way bare feet don’t make you athletic. Combine elements of each style you like and you’ll soon find your happy place.
- Worked on long lost tricks and went back to basics with beginner spins. Iron X is my all time favourite strength trick but what about the humble butterfly? I revisited the moves I learnt when I first started my pole journey, cleaned them up and now use them regularly in my practice.
- Temporarily stopped trying nemesis moves. I could not get Allegra for ages. I could not get bow and arrow for months. I still cannot get that damn brass monkey press***, which I have been trying for about 4 years now. I couldn’t get my Jamilla press either… Until now. I had been practicing the Jamilla press at every session for a year then left it for about 6 months, not even trying it once. Overtraining a nemesis move can really hinder, as frustration and overthinking the technique clouds our ability to just go with it and allow the body to transition when it’s ready. When I came back to it, sometime clicked and I finally got it. I floated up into true grip handspring from Jamilla, a combo which had been plaguing me at every session. The break had been as beneficial as the practice.
***I HAVE FINALLY GOT MY BRASS MONKEY PRESS! Four years of trying this move have resulted in me cracking my ultimate nemesis. Here it is!