Archive for the ‘Pole and Aerial Work’ Category

Do You Want to be Fit or Happy? (Don’t Worry, They’re Not Mutually Exclusive)

January 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Playing on the pole provided on the Denver airport tram

I started working on my fitness goal for 2011 back in November 2010.  Actually, it’s a goal I set for my 40th birthday, which is in March (deadlines are extremely helpful for impulsive and easily distracted people like me!).  My goal is this: I want to pull together a pole routine where I’m actually flowing moves together, so it’s actually a pole dance instead of just a bunch of tricks done independently. I also want my current and new moves to have cleaner, prettier lines than they did when I made the video 39 pole tricks for my 39th birthday.  In order to achieve this I am working on even more specific goals: improving my flexibility, strength and stamina.  Even within those goals there are smaller goals and so on. But no matter what my physical/material goal is, the real reason I want to accomplish my goal is so that I can feel certain feelings. In this case, as I pole dance my way into my 40s, I want to feel accomplished, powerful, capable and confident. It just so happens that I feel those things when I’m pursuing my goal. Notice, I didn’t say I feel those feelings when I have achieved my goal, I feel those feelings while I’m in the process of achieving them.  In fact, pursuing my goals has landed me with people and in situations where I get to experience more feelings that I like including happiness, connection and motivation.  I am surrounded by athletes and coaches who inspire and support me and I get to work out a lot, training in various sports including swimming, contortion, strength training and, of course, pole. This is my version of nirvana.

Committing myself to a goal that I enjoy pursuing not only gives me the long-term payoff of becoming a better pole athlete, but it also gives me short-term gratification. Just knowing that I put the time and energy into getting what I want makes me feel capable, powerful and accomplished and because I love physical activity so much I feel confident and happy during and after my workouts even though I am still in the process of achieving the end result.  This is not to say that I don’t feel challenged or frustrated during my workouts at times, it’s all part of the process I enjoy overall.

If you are having a hard time getting motivated or excited about your goals, it may be that they’re not the right goals for you. Start with the end in mind: how do you want to feel? Take an inventory of all the activities, situations, people and things past and present that make you feel that way. Those are the clues that will inform your true, concrete goals. Your goals should inspire and motivate you, not drain and depress you. The best strategy is to just start doing something NOW that feels good to you –I don’t mean indulging in anxious compulsive or addictive behavior which is escaping, I mean the opposite, doing something you love which is grounding. When you feel good you are motivated and make better decisions about what else will make you feel genuinely good. Don’t worry if what feels good now doesn’t seem logical, it only needs to make sense in your gut.  Trust that and the goals you come up with will be the ones you truly wish to pursue with passion, intensity and tenacity. Those are the qualities you will need to achieve your goals and get the feelings you want out of them.


Find Your Anchor And Don’t Let Go

December 22, 2010 Leave a comment

The last two mornings I have woken up at 5:30am to swim outdoors in the cold, wind and rain. I’m not complaining. In fact, I couldn’t be happier. I’m not what you call a morning person, so when I wake up even before my alarm goes off to do something, that’s love.

6am: our team is responsible for uncovering and covering the pool this week. The weather is icky, but I don't care, I'm excited for the workout to begin . . .

Physical activity grounds me. I spend lots of time strength training, pole dancing, stretching and doing cardio.  These things trigger my happy buttons: I know exactly who I am, what I want and where I’m supposed to be when I’m using my body. Everything makes sense in those moments and that’s important, especially when I can make little or no sense of what’s going on in other parts of my life. Everyone has something that keeps them grounded. My dad, who also likes to wake up AFTER the sun makes its appearance, will get up enthusiastically at 4am (or earlier) to catch a chartered boat to go deep sea fishing, the ocean anchors him.  My Ex routinely gets up when it’s still dark to design video games—he is anchored to his creativity.  My daughter is compelled to stop and ask if she may pet any dogs she sees out walking with their owners, animals anchor her.

Without an anchor, without something to ground us, we may get by and even thrive when circumstances and people around us are working in our favor.  But what happens when those circumstances and people we have come to depend on for our happiness are not working with us anymore or they disappear? Things can feel pretty out of control in those situations and we can feel completely lost.  We all face challenges, but even on the toughest days, as long as we stay connected to our anchor, it will pull us out of bed and remind us that there is something on fire within us, something we want to show up for no matter what.  In those moments when we feel the most lost, holding fast to our anchor will keep us on our path no matter how slow going and directionless it may feel at times.

What anchors you? If you have lost connection to your anchor, grabbing hold of it again is as simple as asking yourself what activities, places or things make you feel peaceful, powerful and/or capable. When do you feel most in your element? What are you doing? Who are you with? Where do you go? Your anchor is the thing that doesn’t necessarily make any practical sense to anyone else, it may not even make practical sense to you.  That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.  Practicality is not a requirement of an anchoring activity, but the function the anchoring activity serves–to keep you grounded in something solid and real, something that is truly yours–is extremely practical and necessary because it keeps you sane, satisfied and strong.

7:15am: Just finished my workout, it's still cold and rainy out, but I'm happy and content!


Stretching Feels Good, Once You Get Past the Uncomfortable Part

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. ~Lao Tzu

Last week while I was practicing a really intense stretch to improve my back flexibility, I got a cramp.  I quickly backed out of the stretch. My body wasn’t used to working in such extreme ranges of motion and my mind’s tendency is to resist against such new and unusual requests. Whatever the mind thinks, the body takes as direction.  Stretching shows me where my current limits are and reaching beyond those limits is always uncomfortable, extremely uncomfortable.

I needed to convince myself that I was okay, that nothing bad was going to happen to me and that my body was safe from harm.  I had to earn my own trust, physically as well as mentally. Even though it was totally counter-intuitive, unless I leaned in to the discomfort, relinquished some control and believed that I was doing the absolute 100% correct thing, not only would I miss out on achieving my goal of becoming bendier, but I would also risk injury. With that in mind, I performed the stretch again. Every time I thought the stretch was becoming too intense and I got uncomfortable, I instructed the muscle that was threatening to tighten up to relax and then I waited for it to release the tension.  Once that happened, I was able to move deeper into the stretch.  By acknowledging the discomfort of the stretch and letting go of the resistance to the discomfort and practicing a great deal of patience, I had earned my body’s trust and cooperation. We were on the same team, working toward the same goal and it felt amazing.

I can apply this lesson to other areas of my life as well and I need to. I sometimes hold on tightly to an outcome and muscle my way through the process, even when it’s clear I’m making things worse and more painful by doing so. I lose my patience when things aren’t happening quickly enough and that delays my progress. I let myself get distracted with minor annoyances and forget to focus on the greater goal. Admittedly, once I step outside of my body and into the real world, the scope of the challenges and skills I wish to master can feel overwhelming at times, but they don’t have to. Instead of backing out of the discomfort I feel when I’m challenged, I can move into it. I can find the one issue or area that is most uncomfortable and sticky and be committed to unsticking it without distracting myself with drama.  I can wait for that moment when patience and persistence subdues the resistance and then relax into the solution that has been waiting for me to discover all along.

Inspired Action

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week I picked up Laird Hamilton’s book Force of Nature. I’ve surfed exactly 3 times in my life, but it was enough to develop an appreciation for the sport.  I appreciate the athletes who enjoy the sport even more and Laird has become one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to going after what I really want. I am moved by this man’s sense of adventure, courage and dedication to do something he is completely passionate about. I also admire his complete honesty as he reveals the journey he took (and continues to take) to reach greatness in his sport. I mean, this guy dominates —he is THE big-wave surfer.  One of my favorite parts of the book is his list of injuries he’s sustained while learning how to master his sport, I like it because it reminds me that there is a cost to every pursuit, not just physical, but mental, too. Not only is there a cost to pursuing what you want, but there is also a cost to not pursuing what you want and that cost can be exorbitantly high. Laird has sustained some pretty gnarly injuries, and still, he gets up all happy on his surfboard ready for more. That is partially what makes him great: not everyone is willing to get back up after getting beaten down, let alone get up and be crazy enthusiastic about getting back up and out there again.  That’s a weed-out process. If, for example, I took a surfboard through my cheek and it rearranged the inside of my mouth, I might be inclined to discontinue surfing.  That is to say, I’m not that passionate about surfing. However, there are other things I would take the equivalent of getting a surfboard through my face and keep going, and that’s a good thing. There is something out there you would take a hard blow for and get up and say thank you sir, may I have another and actually look forward to the challenge just so you can be in it, close to it and mastering it. If you don’t believe me, you just haven’t discovered it yet, or you don’t realize you’ve discovered it yet.  I chatted with a woman who said she didn’t have anything in her life that she was that worked up about, but then we started talking about her children.  That woman would definitely take a surfboard to the head for her kids and keep going. No doubt.

Mostly, what we fear isn’t physical–it’s mental. Even what we fear will happen to us physically is all bound up in our heads. The initial blow sucks, but the body heals, it’s the mind that has the power to make us suffer. Clearly, I am moved by Laird’s example.  Recently, he inspired me to try something I’ve never done before: pole dancing.  I’ve been practicing pole tricks for about 3 years now, but I’ve never really attempted to put them all together in a way that flows. I know it may sound crazy, but I just didn’t think I was that kind of pole athlete (even though I love practicing pole tricks and I love dancing!).  It kinda scared me.  What if I was clumsy and I couldn’t flow the movements together in a pretty way? What if I didn’t have the stamina to string one move together right after another? What if I couldn’t think of any moves to put together in the first place?! I know better than to let fear stop me, too, but that doesn’t mean I always remember that.  That’s when inspiration and a mentor (even one I’ve never met before) make all the difference.  After reading a quote from Laird’s book, I put on some music, said screw it and got my groove on. You can see what happened next here.  And you know what? It wasn’t technically brilliant, it wasn’t polished, but it was a start and it was a ridiculously good time. This is the quote that got me to show up for it:

If you think about it, the flip side to fear is commitment.  You can spend your life fence-sitting because you’re frightened of something bad that might happen—or you can launch yourself into it with all your conviction and all your intelligence.  Here’s my advice: Meet up with your fears . . .what you’ll find isn’t terror—it’s exhilaration and the moments you never forget.


Pole Dancing: It’s Not Just For Strippers Anymore

September 7, 2010 2 comments

I keep forgetting that not everyone has the same frame of reference as I do when it comes to pole dancing.  As someone who absolutely adores the art, I feel that I have a small responsibility to let people in on what I know a about it.  And the first thing I want people to know is that pole dancing is not just for strippers anymore.  I am not oblivious to the fact that the pole is a preferred prop for many performers working in the gentleman’s clubs, and is often referred to as a stripper’s pole. But as my friend and pole instructor, Minda, once said, strippers use chairs as props, too, and no one is calling the apparatus we all sit on a stripper’s chair.  Of course, the reason we don’t refer to chairs as stripper’s chairs is because we have found other uses for them beyond being instrumental during a lap dance.  Humans are pretty resourceful and clever that way.  It turns out that we have also figured out uses for a pole that go beyond using it for a prop to grind on–not that there’s anything wrong with that, what ya’ll do in the privacy of your own home, strip club or spring break is totally your business and no one else’s.  I don’t judge and, before I go further, it’s only fair to mention that some exotic dancers also happen to be highly skilled pole dancers.

For a growing number of us (including professional women, housewives, mothers and media moguls . . .) who practice pole dancing, it means something more than prancing around a prop wearing a naughty schoolgirl uniform.  For starters, it’s an outrageous upper body and core workout.  I’d have to do a fair amount of weight lifting and abdominal work to get the strength and definition I get from pole dancing.  If I wore platform heels during a practice, I’d also get a good leg and butt workout.  Pole dancing has borrowed elements from the aerial arts (static trapeze, silks, hoop, etc.) so for those of us who like the idea of climbing on things and hanging upside down up in the air while making pretty shapes with our bodies, doing pole work is pure playtime.  It also reminds me a lot of being a kid playing with my friends on the monkey and hanging bars on the school yard, when we encouraged each other to try new tricks–the more challenging, the better (my favorite was the “dead man drop”).  Because of its physical and challenging nature, pole dancing is a positive way to release stress and tension. It’s hard to focus on what a jerk your boss is when you are inverted on a pole supporting your entire body weight with just the crook of your elbow of one arm and the opposite hand of the other while balancing in a straddle.

For some examples of the athleticism and art that can be expressed using a pole, check out these video clips of two guys performing a Chinese pole act and Jenyne Butterfly performing a strong and graceful dance on the pole.

I’m not saying that pole dancing can’t or shouldn’t be sexy.  In fact, that is a big draw for many women who to take it up in the first place (who doesn’t want to feel sexy?)! Pole dancing, like other forms of dance, absolutely has a sensual element inherently built into it.  Look at the Rhumba, the Tango (both have racy histories, by the way) or any of the other latin ballroom dances—Hot!  And these dances are performed openly—more like brazenly flaunted–in front of families, dignitaries and Brooke Burke.   These forms of dance require strength, conditioning and dedication to master, just like pole dancing.  Those of us who are drawn to dance, sports or any physically demanding activity know how good it feels to be in our bodies and fully focused on the activity we are performing.  We come alive, we are fully present in the moment and we are compelled to give our best effort. Whether we are elite or recreational athletes, we learn something very valuable from our participation that impacts the rest of our lives: we learn how capable we really are.  Pole dancing is just one more way that we can discover this and once we do, we are in pole position (pun intended) to achieve our non-athletic goals, too.

Want to know what else pole dancing can do you for you? Check out the details for the Comeback Diva workshop Minda Ruggles and I are leading in San Diego this month if you’d like to learn what pole dancing can teach you about setbacks, recovery and achieving your goals.

You’ve Got Skills, Use Them . . .

August 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. ~ John Wooden

I’ve been going to aerial classes for close to two months now.  There are a lot tricks and poses I cannot do yet. I don’t have the stamina specific to aerial training to tie moves together into a fluid combination. I don’t know how to transition from one move to the next. I have difficulty with basic wraps and I forget preparations for tricks I learned a week before.  I have limited flexibility in my back and shoulders. There is a lot I can’t do.

There is also a lot that I can do. I can listen to and observe my instructors as they teach me a new aerial skill. I can practice what I have seen and heard. I can make mistakes and learn from them. I can grab a piece of fabric and make a loop around my foot and then I can grab the other piece of fabric and loop it around my other foot.  I can point my toes. I can make my knees straighter.  I can climb. I can get frustrated and choose to keep going anyway. I can try a different approach. I can ask for help. I can watch the experienced performers I train with and learn from them.  I can stretch my shoulders and back everyday.  I can push myself a tiny bit past my comfort zone each time I practice.  I can focus.  I can give my best effort.

I already possess the most powerful abilities that will help me achieve any goal I pursue: I have the ability to learn, try, practice, fail and try again.  So do you.  Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.


August 19, 2010 2 comments

It’s been well over a month since my last blog entry.  Initially, I struggled with the decision to go on hiatus. There were all kinds of reasons why I thought I should continue writing posts consistently, some of them were pretty good reasons, some were seasoned with neediness crap. I worried that if I stopped writing, my readers would forget about me or they would think I’m flakey and just give up on me. These reasons may or may not be valid, I really don’t know, but what I do know is that I had far more compelling reasons for putting my blog on pause.  I took on a couple of highly meaningful projects that required me to find time and energy to devote to them. You may recall in my last post that I alluded to making some tough choices in order to accomplish the things I must have . . .those choices led me to make some more tough choices including putting my blog, Facebook updates and newsletter on hold.   I was incommunicado. It was weird at first, but not the social-media-junkie-going-through-withdrawal-experience I had anticipated.

If you’re wondering what I did with all that time and energy I created for myself, here’s what’s up:  I am currently writing a book and I have collaborated with my friend and expert pole dance instructor, Minda Ruggles of RockAngel Enterprises to create Vertical Enlightenment and a workshop experience like no other.   The working title of my book is Comeback: 4 Simple Steps That Will Take You From Kissing the Dirt to Touching the Sky, it is a guide created for impulsive and impatient people (like me!) who after suffering a setback, want to recover and move forward with the least amount fuss and muss.  The workshop Minda and I have created, Comeback Diva: To Fall is Human, To Get Up is Diva, is based on the strategies I detail in my book and are used to practice and master the super cool pole moves and a routine Minda teaches (absolutely no pole experience is required).  You can learn more about our workshop and sign up for a free preview call about it here.

I love a good comeback story and I fully appreciate and admire the effort that goes in to making one happen. As I continue doing research for my book  (it is extremely fascinating), I discover more and more of these comeback stories and they inspire me to keep going, to take risks, to mess up and keep trying again and again and again. I knew something good would come out of my recent setback, I just couldn’t possibly imagine what it would be at the time.  I am profoundly grateful that what I have learned (and continue to learn) not only helped me, but that it also has the potential to help many others who are ready to peel themselves off of the pavement, get up and keep going for it.

If you are going through a setback, know that you are far from alone, in fact, you are hanging out with some pretty fierce company.  Think of someone who has achieved something you consider extraordinary, maybe something you would like to achieve, I promise you that person had to overcome some (probably many) setbacks to achieve it . . .the difference between real success and failure rests on what you choose to do after a setback.  Choose wisely and the comeback story is yours to tell.