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Fortieth Birthday Interruptus

March 15, 2011 Leave a comment

My 40th birthday is coming up and I have no plans.  I did have a plan but it fell through. I was really excited about it, too. Back in November, I made a goal: to be stronger, more flexible and have more stamina by my 4oth birthday. I was going to showcase the fruits of my labor by putting together and performing a pole routine. I pretty much put everything else in my life on hold and trained up to two times a day, six days a week. By February, not only was I totally on track to meet my goal, but I also had choreographed and executed two pole routines! (You can see practice video here, this is not  my birthday routine, it’s the other one.) I was definitely stronger, more flexible and had more stamina.

 

By mid-February, I knew I would be ready for my March 18 deadline.  Then I got injured. My fault. I got overzealous, overtired and, ultimately, overtrained.  I just recently got the ok to start swimming again, but it’s been a month since I’ve been on the pole. It breaks my heart to know I can’t spend my birthday with my beloved chrome stick.  No joke, my eyes are welling up right now as I write this.  But I’ve had a month to think–some of those thoughts weren’t so friendly, but some were really helpful.  My favorite thought is one I borrowed from the late, amazing John Wooden: Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. It’s really easy to get hung up on the things I can’t do. I can’t swim, I can’t get on the pole, I can’t practice contortion, I can’t perform my routine on my birthday. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.

 

This is not helpful and, actually, it isn’t even true. Technically, I could do all of those things, but I would risk doing serious damage to my body and putting myself out of commission for a very long time.  I chose not to do those things.  That was the first thing I had to get right in my head.  Then I could focus on what I could do. Let me just say that I tend to be a very dichotomous thinker, an extreme all or nothing kind of person, so this piece does not come naturally to me at all. I really had to work for this one. Fortunately, I started reading a really good book by sport psychologist Terry Orlick called In Pursuit of Excellence even before I got injured and the book is all about focus and mental training.  I knew I could practice my routines in my head mentally and visualize cleaning up my tricks and transitions. So I did and continue to do so. This breeds other productive action:  I can get quality sleep, I can stay on top of my nutrition, I can get my endorphin fix by laughing with a friend. I can. I can. I can.

 

I also learned that I can choreograph a whole pole routine without getting physical using paper, music and my imagination. And I did. (If you’re keeping track, that makes 3 routines in all. Not too shabby!). I can also perform my birthday pole routine on a day other than on my actual birthdate. And I will. Maybe the training I really needed was more mental than physical. Maybe, instead of thinking about all the things I haven’t accomplished by the time I reach 40, I can think about all the things I have accomplished so far and focus on setting and achieving new goals that actually have meaning for me now. Maybe instead of making a big deal out of one day, I can make a bigger deal out of a whole decade. I can conquer a lot more in 10 years than I can in one day. I can do it while loving the actual getting it done part like crazy while not desperately clinging to the outcome, too. It turns out that I don’t get permission to do whatever I want just on my birthday, I can choose to do whatever I want on any given day.  I can and I will. So can you. Will you?

 

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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.

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.

Amen.

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.

Comeback

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.

Making It Happen . . .

May 24, 2010 5 comments

I used my passion for pole to document my journey from WANTING something to actually GETTING it. It’s as much a reminder for me as it is, I hope, inspiration for others to actively pursue their own passions and dreams. We all fall down, but if we want something badly enough, we had better get the hell back up again!

Take a Vacation

May 4, 2010 2 comments

I had a hell of a week. Lots of excitement for sure and some pretty major disappointments sprinkled in for good measure (including a stomach virus that landed me in urgent care and some news that really just bummed me out). Thankfully, I was scheduled for a vacation this weekend.  How did I know so many months ago that I would totally need one? I knew I was pretty smart, but this was pure genius.  So, off on vacation I went with my fun and supportive girlfriends.  Thank God for girlfriends.

I stayed up late, I slept in and I took a nap. I got in trouble with hotel management by using the pool umbrella as a pole to get my aerial acrobatics on (I have a penchant for snapping souvenir photos of me doing aerial tricks on objects that could pass for a pole . . . ). I took 3 showers in one day. A cute inebriated guy approached me by the pool and kept asking me the same 5 questions over and over again, thinking they were brand new questions (normally, I’d have walked away from this sort of thing, but, seriously . . .what else did I have going on at that moment?  He was amusing, so I let myself be amused.).  I ate sushi. I danced.  I giggled and talked girl-talk with my friends.  The sweetest housekeepers cleaned my room and left me extra bottles of water while I was being served breakfast downstairs. I met a new friend. I lounged by the pool.  I had a blast.

It was the exact combination of events that I needed to take place in order to downshift from the week I had just come off of. Whatever heaviness followed me to the resort had evaporated by the time I left.  Blowing off steam is good. If you’re about to blow your stack, schedule your vacay now, stat.  Some of you may have trips planned for this summer, but that’s not the same as a vacation. A vacation is all about you, just you doing what you want, when you want, how you want and respectfully telling anyone who doesn’t like it to bugger off.  A trip usually involves dependents or some family member you are somehow obligated to bring and it most likely includes some manual labor (for example: if I’m cooking, it’s a trip, if I’m taking care of children, it’s a trip).   Trips are fine and even fun, but they’re no vacation.  Take a vacation.