My first day of pole class, I was timid. I took things slow (not like I had much of a choice…I knew nothing and felt like a penguin trying to fly). I listened carefully. I knew, quite humbly, when something was a little beyond my reach or when my body had reached it’s limit. A few fireman spins, an attitude or two, and several champagne spins later, I was not only hooked (in heaven, more like it), but I was dead-tired and pleasantly sore. I had finally found a workout that worked for me! Pole is incredibly fun, amazingly great for toning and building strength, and the students and instructors are some of the nicest, most genuine people you’ll ever meet. However, pole can also be dangerous. That is, if you forget that feeling you had the first day.
As I progressed, I gained confidence. I gained more self-esteem, I lost inches and gained muscle, and gained a new set of friends I admired and learned from. Most of all, I gained gutsiness. Moves I had admired from afar when watching more advanced polers that first day were suddenly not so out of reach. I was learning awesome new things, pushing my body and my mind past the fear and pain, and gaining some skills that I even found myself helping others with as we learned from each other. I was inverting, was no longer considered a “beginner”, and was learning things I didn’t even know I was capable of–and there is no high quite like a pole high, believe-you-me.
Nothing humbles you more-so than an injury. Not one of those inflamed elbow, pole burn, bump-and-bruise type of ouches, but one of those oh-my-god-what-did-I-just-do type of injuries. After trying some sideways shoulder stand thingy and not bracing myself properly, I felt a twinge in my neck, but didn’t give it much thought. Already tired, I brushed it off, took a long drag off my water bottle, toweled away some of the sweat, and proceeded to do a normal shoulder stand for a long period of time, pushing myself to see how long I could stay up in order to complete the leg lifting circuit I wanted so desperately to conquer. I knew halfway through that I had lowered my head to the ground out of exhaustion, but I pushed past it, eventually completing the circuit and plopping to the ground. Neck a bit tender, I stretched it out, went home to a hot shower, and passed out for the evening.
Next morning, I knew something wasn’t quite kosher. Head wouldn’t turn all the way…had trouble bending head forward towards the chest…ouch. DOUBLE-OUCH. WTF?!?! I popped some ibuprofen, rubbed some arnica cream on it, took a few epsom salt baths, did a few more stretches, and took a couple days off to give myself a break. When I woke up one day unable to get out of bed without excruciating pain and the assistance of my husband, I knew I had to get this thing checked out…I was told I had a muscle spasm, was given a few muscle relaxants and some high-dose motrin, a regimen of cold-hot application of the site of pain, and a week to see if it would subside.
Long story short, it’s still hanging around. This damn neck thing has kept me from poling for almost a month now. The next step is physical therapy. Aerial yoga helps ease the pain. Ibuprofen and massages help. However, there is a sad little hole in my heart where my inner pole queen once was, and the residual pain gets aggravating and exhausting after awhile. Doc says I can speed-walk and ride a bicycle…but, really?! That’s why I fell in love with poling to begin with—because the regular workout stuff didn’t do it for me, and I hate feeling like a hamster on a wheel. Luckily, there’s still aerial yoga…and Prancercise, if I’m feeling particularly psychotic.
I see videos and beautiful pole pics posted on Facebook, watch a cool pole dude kill it on America’s Got Talent, and plan routines in my head when a great song comes on the radio. I even cried one night out of frustration because I could practically feel my hard-earned strength slipping away from me, could feel myself getting lazier, sadder, and less motivated. I even wondered if I should continue to chase the dream of pole tricks, floorwork, and maybe one day learning how to dance sexy and perform a routine one day in front of actual people, or if I should just call it quits and leave the dancing to the more coordinated, less accident-prone people. I had gotten cocky. I didn’t listen to my body. I went beyond pushing past fear and pushed myself past my own, healthy limits into a world of pain and polelessness.
- Always follow your instructor’s instructions. If they say “shoulders back”, “lock the leg”, or “don’t put your weight here, but rather, HERE”, chances are it’s for your own safety.
- Even if you know the instructions and risk factors, listen to your body. What someone else can do once, several times, or hold for an extended period of time might be out of your scope at the moment. Every body is different and every body has its unique strengths and weaknesses. If you reach a point where something doesn’t feel right, stop. For Heaven’s sake, stop. Reevaluate your form, your abilities, your strength, and your readiness.
- Be kind to yourself. This is the only body you have. Take care of it. Beyond eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax…also do not be too timid to seek medical assistance if you get hurt or if “sh*t just ain’t right”.
Also, if you do get injured for some reason…hang in there. It sucks. Not only can it hurt to know you made a mistake or possibly embarrassed yourself in an accident…it can also be just plain scary to be in pain. Take it day by day, and don’t give up. Do what your doctor tells you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion, if necessary.
I have yet to begin the physical therapy that will help me heal faster from this setback, though I’ve already planned my approach to returning to pole. I will revisit the mind frame I had that first day in pole class. I will look at floorwork, chrome, steel, and brass with more respect, more humility, and more wonder. I will start from square one, perfect the simple moves, and gain enough strength to get back to where I was before. I will get stronger, I will be wiser. I will overcome. I am not invincible, indestructible, or Wonder Woman. I may never reach the unbelievable awesomeness-level of Alethea or Jenyne (after all, they are professionals and practice more hours in a day than I am awake, most likely). I AM determined, though. Sometimes, that’s all you have…and that’s all it takes….and all you can do is keep on trying.