I haven’t posted in a long while, because I’ve been preoccupied with work issues for a good 5-6 months, which has affected my mood / happiness, and poling… which had the effect of aggravating my depression. Because, as most polers know, poling is addictive and bring us joy, so if we don’t pole, we get depressed, and pole less beause it seems like hard work, and we get even more bummed out… its a vicious circle.

I’ve noticed that every time I take a break from pole, I feel reluctant to restart because it does seem like hard work, and I’m not sure whether I’ll enjoy it as much. But once I start pole again, I’m completely swept up by the boost from learning new tricks, the camaderie of the girls, the endorphins from the exercise… and I fall in love (and in addiction) with pole again, and wonder why i ever stopped in the first place.

Anyway, I’ve left my job now, which was getting emotionally unhealthy for me anyway, and I’m currently a lady-of-leisure of sorts as I figure out what I want to do with my life (way to go mid-life crisis at 30!), work on a website with the Boy, and pursue all the personal interests that I never had time to pursue when I was working.

So, I’ve restarted pole. But slowly… generally only once a week so far. And I’m cross-training to become a healthier, more well-rounded poler. I try to work every day of the week where possible, which usually ends up just being 4-5 days a week once I factor in weekend plans / weekends away. And I try to mix it up to get a bit of everything each week: I’ve taken up tap dancing to get some rhythm and improve my balance, I try to do cardio once a week (TurboFire, since the dance elements make it more fun), ballet / flexibility, reformer pilates for my core. And I’m hoping to try out some Support Classes at Circus Space to work on my handstands. And on weekends, I often go climbing with my ex-colleagues.

As a result of the mixed scheduling since I restarted pole 3-4 weeks ago, I’m not progressing as fast as I wish I could on pole, because I’m not working on it ‘full-time’. But I haven’t really felt too ache-y, or twinged any muscles either. And sometimes I make progress which surprise me… probably because even though I haven’t trained for a specific trick, I have strengthened my core or arms through pilates or ballet for example.

I’m glad to be back, and ready to revive my love affair with pole.


It’s all in the mind

I was complaining to P, my L5 classmate, that I’d completely lost my climb eagle (a.k.a aerial invert), and now I’m only doing ‘climb/hook on with my toe/haul my ass up awkwardly into caterpillar/invert’.

P suggested I build up towards that by training with straight-legged eagle from the floor. And I said: ‘no problem, I can do that, easy’ (and proceeded to demonstrate nonchalantly), ‘but I just can’t do climb eagle’.

And P responded: ‘that can’t be true. If you can do straight-legged eagle, you should definitely be able to do climb-eagle’.

I was sceptical, but decided to give it a go. So I climbed onto the pole, tucked the pole into my arm-pit, hands placed quite low (near the shoulders), released my legs to bring my body to the front of the pole, then – visualising doing a regular straight-legged invert from the floor – I lifted both legs smoothly in a straight-legged straddle up into a V. – I was there, I had done it!!

I did that several times throughout the night (albeit always near the floor, so that it’s easier to trick myself into believing I’m still on the floor), always visualising myself doing a simple straight-legged inverted-V from the floor. And it worked every time! Although I have to admit that my form became progressively worse as the night wore on, perhaps due to fatigue, or perhaps because I was concentrating less on visualising a straight-legged invert.

But clearly, in this case, it was all in the mind. I had a mental block about the climb eagle, and had a continuous of negative mental stream of how my core is weak, I’ve lost strength, I’ve lost my skills / technique etc. which was impacting my actual performance. But once someone informed me that it is possible, and in fact, it MUST be possible given another pre-condition, then the negative cloud lifted and I could do it easily.

I wonder how many of my other pole tricks’ progress, or other aspects my life in general are being held back by my own negative mental imagery and self-criticism. Food for thought…

April 2012 pole targets

Polishing / building confidence:
(1) Falling angels (both sides)
(2) Outside angel, inverted pike, inside angel (both sides)
(3) Outside angel, inverted pike, horizontal split (both sides)
(4) Pencil mount
(5) Pencil from hangback

Improving consistency:
(6) Superman **
(7) Shoulder mount  **
(8) Knee hold (from side-climb)
(9) Half-flag and aerial half-flag

(10) Aisha
(11) Extended butterfly – from bullet, from butterfly
(12) Inverted climb
(13) Bow & arrow (alternate side) **

Roller coaster, poler coaster

Takabisha - the world's steepest roller coaster (

The pole journey sometimes feels like a roller coaster ride*: the thrill of the first spin, the highs of realising that you and your body are capable of more than you’ve ever dreamt of (and yes, that there’s a secret, athlete-dancer-superhero within you), the frustration when you have to miss pole, the lows of struggling with moves or ‘losing’ moves that you were previously capable of (yo, you there – shoulder mount and aerial-invert, I’m talking you two! Do you hear me?), the joy and triumph at nailing moves on your wish-list, and the emotions swing up and down depending on the time of the year, the time of month, how much training you get in, whether you’re having a good pole day or not.

Not too long ago, I was feeling super frustrated that I seemed to be regressing instead of progressing, and then I went through a period of feeling incompetent because I was learning everything on my other side, before an instructor’s comment made me feel better about myself.

Recently, I’ve dropped a level on my spin school to focus on learning / polishing the simpler moves, and also signed up for practice classes at my other school to work on my target moves. Even though, I’ve often felt uninspired at each individual pole session (slippery poles, aching forearms, sluggishness) and felt like I was running to stand still and getting nowhere…. And yet slowly but surely, just by putting in the hours, I’ve found – almost to my surprise, I must confess! – that I’m getting stronger: my cat ripple has become more confident, I’m generally managing to get into my pencil (from hangback and from the ground). This isn’t something I would have realised, I don’t think, except for the fact that, inspired by thepoleplace, I had put together a target list, worked on those specific things, and then realised that I could check some of them off. Yay me!

So now, I’m on the upswing again, and overall I’m feeling more confident, and more hopeful about pushing through my pole plateau, and hopefully passing L5 in May! Fingers crossed.


* Not that I enjoy roller coaster rides. I’m wimpy like that. But I have an imagination.

March 2012 review

Hits and misses

Polishing / building confidence:

(1) Falling angels (both sides)
[WIP] – i’ve done this several times, but probably still want to keep working on this until i can do fast, confident switches and use it in freestyle!

(2) Outside angel, inverted pike, inside angel (both sides)
[WIP] – i’ve done this several times, but probably still want to keep wroking on this, particularly on weaker side

(3) Outside angel, inverted pike, horizontal split
[N/A] – didn’t work on this at all

(4) Cat ripple
[CHECK!] – am surprisingly strong and confident in this move now, even with alternate hand placement (i.e. left hand closer to floor and pushing away instead of my usual right hand)… which seemed almost stronger. i’m pushing away quite far from the pole, and managing to sit back upwards and on my bum quite a bit…very very happy with progress in this move.

Improving consistency:

(5) Pencil mount
[CHECK!] – probably need to feel more balanced when mounting (legs need to rise up in tandem instead of unevenly)

(6) Superman
[WIP] – performance is still very spotty

(7) Shoulder mount
– tried several times. success rate, even ungracefully, is only ~50%

(8) Knee hold (from side-climb)
[WIP] – dismal failure so far. need to keep working on this


(9) Pencil from hangback
[CHECK!] – next step (maybe in the more distant future, once i can do this in my sleep) is to switch hand placements when doing this! 😉

(10) Aisha
[N/A] – haven’t been able to work on this since N has been out of commission for several months

(11) Extended butterfly – from bullet, from butterfly
[WIP] – currently doing prep work for bullet into extended butterfly. managed to go from bullet, starfish to positioning myself in an inversion with knees gripping pole – which is already a fairly big step for me, so i’m quite happy with the progress

50 – 45 – 40

bamboo poles

Poles thick and thin

Historically, the pole world seemed split between 50mm poles and 38mm poles – 38mm spinning brass poles from Bobbi’s in Australia (which churns out super sexy yet athletic pole stars who seem to have been born with 6” platform heels welded to their feet, not to mention some of Chelle’s more outlandish footwear of late, including roller skates and manly boots), and 50mm chrome static/spin poles for ROW (Rest of World). And so the World Pole Dance competitions have traditionally had two poles in their competition, a 50mm static pole and a 38mm spinning, as a compromise, and to allow competitors to showcase their skills on both widths and modes. 

Then 45mm appeared and gained in popularity, such that now some competitions feature 45mm poles in both spin and static, e.g. Pole Art competition. Most recently, X-pole has released a 40mm pole, which adds another pole width to the mix, and this is probably the thinnest chrome pole on the mass market.

As previously mentioned, my main school has 50mm chrome poles and my spin school has 45mm chrome poles. So I’ve had the chance to try out both widths. The 45mm is noticeably easier on my wrists and is easier and feels more secure to grip, although that is somewhat offset by the fact that I tend to use the 45mm on spin-mode, and the 50mm on static mode. 50mm on spin however, is clearly no fun.

Although I had heard that leg grips and moves requiring leg grips are more challenging on thinner poles (hangback/layback and the like) I didn’t really notice the difference between 45mm and the 50mm poles. Overall, I was reasonably happy that I was regularly practicing on both types of poles (45 vs. 50, spin vs. static) – the 50mm would strengthen my grip, the 45mm would allow me to gain confidence in my tricks given the more secure grip before I transfer them to the 50mm – and the pros and cons on both poles were balanced out.

However, soon after X-pole released the 40mm poles, my spin school bought them and installed them in the studio, so now I have a third pole width added to the mix! Prior to my spin school, my only experience with sub-50mm poles was at Bobbi’s Malaysia, where they have Bobbi’s classic 38mm brass, which is an altogether different beast from a 40mm chrome, I can now tell you!

The brass poles at Bobbi’s are so lovely and grippy, they’re almost like Velcro! When I had tried them out back in November 2010, I had only been poling for 5 months, and my inverts were shaky at best, and so, trying to invert on my bad side, on a spinning SKINNY pole sounds like a recipe for disaster. But even though my inverts were really sloppy – I was struggling to get my legs to clamp the other way around from my usual side – I managed to stick to the pole with sloppily clamped legs.

The 40mm chrome, which I tried out for the first time in last week’s class, was a very different experience. In terms of hand grip, it doesn’t feel too dissimilar to a 45mm, but in terms of leg grip, that’s a different ballgame. The first time I did an invert on the 40mm, as my legs swung upwards to clamp around the pole, I immediately noticed the difference as my brain registered a slight panic: “where’s the pole? Wow, there is very little pole to clamp around!”, and my body reacted by having my legs clamp super tight around the pole. So, overall, the net impact wasn’t too bad… in the sense that leg grips were not necessarily more difficult, except that the thinner pole necessitates tighter gripping. As a result, after a full hour of poling on the 40mm chrome and over-enthusiastic leg-clamping, my lady bits felt quite bruised, and I did my best to keep my crotch off the pole as much as possible (whenever it was not necessary to clamp my legs) by clambering off the pole in an awkward and totally unglamourous fashion… hand splayed on the ground to walk myself away from the pole, one leg off the pole while the other was barely hooked on the pole. It was quite a sorry sight indeed.

I guess, over time, my legs will adjust to the smaller pole and they won’t clamp quite so hard, or my lady bits will get inured to the pain (probably not really a good thing in this case!). Overall, I guess I would prefer to stick to the 45mm because it’s closer to the 50mm at home and at my other pole school. But at least the 38mm would give me options to explore certain spinning moves when my grip strength is not sufficient on the 45mm… and it’ll build up strength in my legs too. And having the choice and option to use it is better than not. Vive la différence!

March 2012 pole goals

Given my spotty pole training so far, due to work, injury etc. I haven’t yet put together official monthly targets of things to work on, as I had planned to. But better late than never, so my list of targets for March are below:

Polishing / building confidence:

These are tricks that I should have the strength and ability to do, but lack confidence to do it, because I’m not used to doing it (especially on the other side) or am just scared of doing. So I just need to keep practicing these until I can do them confidently (sufficiently so to include in a freestyle!) and beautifully.

(1) Falling angels (both sides)

(2) Outside angel, inverted pike, inside angel (both sides)

(3) Outside angel, inverted pike, horizontal split

(4) Cat ripple

Improving consistency:

These are tricks which I’ve managed to do before or occasionally, but my ability to do them is inconsistent. E.g. my shoulder mounts come and go, or I used to be able to do knee-holds, but now they really hurt. And superman is something I’ve managed to do only a couple of times under supervision, ditto for my clumsy pencil mount.

(5) Pencil mount

(6) Superman

(7) Shoulder mount

(8) Knee hold (from side-climb)


These are must-do or must-learn tricks for my current level of training (at both schools, including to pass L5 at my main school!), or the logical next steps given my level of strength and training. I *should* be able to do the Aisha quite easily, if only I practice it. Ditto for extended butterfly… I should have the strength to do it, I think it’s my fear and/or lack of technique or balance that’s holding me back.

(9) Pencil from hangback

(10) Aisha

(11) Extended butterfly – from bullet, from butterfly

Obviously I’m still working on other moves in the meanwhile, which are part of my longer-term training goals (e.g. handspring etc.), but these are tricks which I’d like to concentrate on in the short term, because I should be able to do them, and then I’d like to polish them and make them look beautiful, which means, logically, the tricks will progress from the “Learning” bucket, to the “Improving consistency” bucket, to the “Polishing / building confidence” bucket, before graduating to becoming part of my repertoire of tricks for use in free-styles and/or choreography.

Fingers crossed!

Keeping track

DataBecause I’m a bit of a data-freak, and was so anxious / excited to track my pole progress, I started tracking my pole workouts and all exercise / workouts at the beginning of 2011 – this was in terms of hours, so I could easily and quickly see on a high-level basis, how much time I was spending on exercise each week, each month (rolling 4-week periods), and adjust my activity level and training accordingly. For example, if I’ve been swamped at work, I would be able to immediately see my drop-off in activity and try to compensate. This is not as granular a detailed log of what specific exercises have been done, to understand the intensity of the workouts, like what can be done in Fitocracy, or what I’m trying to do in my pole journal, but it does give a quick snapshot overview of the hours, and the type of activities
does give an indication of intensity.

The below are charts of my 2011 weekly activity, 2012 weekly activity to date (ignore the average since it includes future zero values), and a comparison of both years.

2011 exercise

2011 exercise log

2012 exercise

2012 exercise log

2011 and 2012 comparison

2011 and 2012 comparison

My key takeaways from the chart are:
1) I’m exercising more in 2012 than 2011 so far
2) Pole is the only exercise I have managed to do consistently over
almost all of 2011
3) However, I’m cross-training a lot more this year (doing non-pole
stuff), which is driving up my exercise volume
4) My exercise is very seasonal!

#1 makes sense because: i) exercise is addictive, ii) to maintain the
rate of strength / fitness gains require higher volume and intensity
of exercises as one gets stronger and fitter overall, and iii) I’m
aiming to pass Level 5 and hopefully Level 6! (which is looking less
and less likely as the months pass given my still-anaemic performance
to date and my various injuries (to be discussed another day). On the
bright side, the winter months are clearly the trough of my activity
levels (barring holidays, which are indicated by consecutive blank
weeks), and I’m already exercising more this year than last, so
hopefully my strength gains will improve throughout the year!

#2 makes sense because pole is my main passion, and all my other
exercise is more or less in support of pole, and to the extent they
conflict or negatively impact pole, I will de-prioritise or drop them.

I’m cross-training a lot more this year (#3) because increasingly I’m
learning about the benefits and criticality / importance of

i) FLEXIBILITY: As we build more muscle and get
stronger, our muscles tend to get stiffer and we lose on flexibility
unless we continually stretch, stretch, stretch to counter-act it, So
stretching and flexibility exercise are ON for me given my splits
goal, and anyway many pretty, advanced pole moves require a large
amount of flexibility (that’s where yoga and ballet comes in),

ii) LEAN-NESS: since most pole moves require a lot
upper body strength, particularly with power moves, polers tend to
bulk up on the upper body and develop an inverted-V, slightly manly
shape. While I quite like the powerful albeit slightly mannish look
(the Boy is much less of a fan), I don’t want to go over-board either.
So I need to keep stretching and lengthening my muscles (yoga and
ballet again),

iii) STAMINA: for overall fitness and stamina (for the
dancing element of pole dance), I really need to do cardio. Because
right now, I’m so unfit that I’m wheezing and panting like a
septuagenarian after a couple of minutes of spins and inversions – NOT
sexy. (Unfortunately, I haven’t found a cardio activity I like and can
do on a regular basis yet – on my to-do list!), iv) BALANCE: We
probably tend to use similar muscles / muscles groups over and over
again in pole, even if there is a wide of pole moves which use a wide
range of muscle groups. So, to give our usual muscles and / or joints
a rest, or to work them out in different ways, and balance the type of
movements that our body undertakes and balance out the stresses that
we place on our body, it’s best to train in other disciplines. (this
used to be belly dancing for me until I messed up my ligament from
that. Now this is ballet, yoga, pilates)

iv) STRENGTHENING (at least for me): I have an
incredibly weak core, which is quite shocking given the relatively
advanced level of poling I’m doing – it’s not that I’m super advanced,
it’s just that, for what I’m doing, I should have a much stronger
core; the fact that I can do the stuff that I do with such a weak
core, is very surprising if not downright amazing. So I need to
specifically work on my core strength – but off the pole, so as to
avoid over-training (this is Bootcamp pilates and ballet. Maybe a bit
of yoga as well)

The seasonality of my exercise (#4) is driven by the fact that: i)
winter is so cold and depressing that poling is almost a punishment
(cold poles!!) and I feel incompet ent because it’s difficult to get
warm and stay warm, and the poles are extra slippery, and ii) work
eases up in summer, so that’s when I try to cram in as many classes as
I can. Hopefully this pattern will hold this year, and my activity
levels will increase and I will become a super strong pole superstar
by the end of the year! (in my dreams…)

Okay, now that I’ve clearly demonstrated my obsessive- compulsive
tendencies to collect data and create lists, it’s time to stop my
monologue and try to look normal. *leans against wall in a cool pose*
-doo di doo-

Left vs. right hand drive

I’m primarily a static chrome 50mm girl, because that’s the type of pole installed in the pole studio / school where I started learning pole – 26th May 2010. And that’s also the type of pole I bought to install my own flat, so I can practice on the same type of pole that’s installed in my pole school. Chrome 50mm, although slippier and more difficult to grip, is a good training pole to build up grip strength. Besides, I figured it was pointless buy a 45mm, train at home and be able to do tricks confidently, then find that I can’t do them in class, and then fail the assessment to get to the next level.

I also do all my tricks on one side of my body, because that’s what is being taught at my main school: I climb with my left leg first (left leg behind the pole), I invert with the pole to the left hand side of the body, all my inverted tricks are done with the pole to the left side of the body – when I do my outside angel (a.k.a. outside leg hang), the outside leg is my right leg, I shoulder-mount with an open-close cup grip and the pole on my left shoulder…

Later in my pole journey, when I was looking for classes closer to work where I could more easily fit in additional pole time during the week, I discovered another pole school. This pole school was founded by an Australian girl who had trained at Bobbi’s, and everything is done differently compared to my original pole school. The teaching is done on chrome 45mm spinning poles, and everything is done on the other side of the body: climbs are done with right leg first (right leg behind the pole), inversions are done with the pole to the right of the body, all tricks are done with the pole to the right of the body (e.g. the outside leg in an outside leg hang is the left leg), the shoulder mount is done with the ‘Australian grip’ (a.k.a. twisted grip or ‘respect grip’ per wikipole) with the pole on the right shoulder… And, to mix things up even more, all the moves have different names, and are taught in a different order (with respect to what is considered more advanced), with different ‘tips’ and ‘techniques’ to get into and hold the moves compared to my original pole school.

So although I’m more advanced in my pole journey at my original pole school, in my newer spinning school, I feel like a laggard. Even a simple invert was a struggle at the beginning, because I didn’t know which leg to put in front – I always had to do the inversion my usual side first, and then try to make sure that I reverse all the hand holds and leg positions – and even if I got the leg position correct, it would feel so strange and insecure, and my body balance would be off-kilter. I struggled with outside angels (leg-hangs), hanging off my left (weaker!) hand in a butterfly… and I get frustrated because I feel like these are moves that I should be able to do on a 45mm pole, given I can do them on a 50mm pole, and I feel somewhat incompetent compared to all the other advanced girls in my class. I feel like I’m lagging behind because I’m not working hard enough.

But just the other day, I heard one of the instructors at my newer spin school, talking to another girl from my class, saying how she can’t really do the superman, outside leg hangs, attitudes etc. on the other side – or at least, that they feel strange and she doesn’t feel very confident about the grip on the other side. I found it funny, and almost wanted to (but didn’t) pipe up to say: “No, not at all. They feel so much easier, so much more natural on the other side. I really struggle with the moves on THIS side.” I didn’t say this because I thought it would sound disrespectful to the founder-instructor at the spin school, and I didn’t want to start a pole off: right vs. left side, even though, a tiny childish part of me felt like busting out my moves on my usual side just to show them: “See, I can actually pole and do all these moves – I deserve to be in this class, I’m not as lame as I look in class.” Happily, I managed to get my silly pride and ego under control. After all, I’m in this school, and in this school, everything is done on a specific side, and if I can’t do it on this specific side, then I’m simply less-advanced in this school.

To get back to the point – hearing the instructor say that she struggled with doing moves on the other side was a eureka moment for me. It’s not that I’m not strong enough or competent enough, it’s not that I’m not working hard enough.. it’s just that my body is not used to folding and twisting in the appropriate ways on this side of the pole. I just haven’t practised the moves enough on this side of the pole for my body to develop the muscle memory, and for my mind to believe that my body can be held up by my leg hooked just this way, my hand positioned just that way. And all I need is time and repetition to feel as natural (and for the skin to be just as inured!) on this side as the other.

Nonetheless, in my eagerness to get the moves, I sometimes end up forgetting this lesson and feel frustrated at my slow progress. So I have to keep reminding myself not to beat myself up. These things just take time, and I should enjoy the journey as much the end-goal.

Winter ballet fondu


Melting and shapeless - that's my fondu

I returned to class after a two-week break from ballet and any kind of exercise (got busy at work).

Even though my class is a drop-in class, the teacher slowly builds on the class content / programme, introducing new or more complex elements each week. Happily, I haven’t been away long enough for the entire class content to be unfamiliar, but there were several new exercises at the barré and the centre.

One of the new exercises at the barré was a fondu, which comes from fondre which means ‘to melt’ in French, but in ballet-speak, it means lowering the body with the support of on leg… I suppose like slowly melting cheese (yummy!). Our exercise was to stand on the leg closer to the barré, do a coupé with the other leg, then bend the standing leg (fondu), and then stand up to tendu. The teacher emphasised that both our legs had to stretch out simultaneously to tendu, not one after another like errant children coming to attention.

Another exercise at the barré that I’ve done before was to start from fifth position for the feet, then do a battement tendu, return to fifth, a glissé, return to fifth, and finally a grande battement, and we would start doing these from the front, to the diagonal, to the back, and then back to diagonal before finishing. At the beginning, I used to get really mixed up over the changes in feet position (working leg closing to the front vs. the back in fifth) when we were doing the exercises to the diagonal. I’ve gotten used to that over time, but I still often get mixed up with this tendu, glissé, grand battement exercise – often starting with a glissé (it’s quite addictive), and I guess many girls have the same problem, because before we started the exercise, the teacher asked us all to repeat after him “the first one’s a tendu”, and he would call that out during the exercise… which I found funny, but at least it worked!

In Centre, there was a new exercise too – more specifically, there was an exercise which we used to do at the barré, which has been moved to the centre. This consisted of doing a coupé, a passé, and then a coupé, before finishing in a plié. I really struggled with balance in this exercise, particularly when my left leg was the supporting leg. I was wobbling on my leg like a drunken ballerina. Not great. We have also progressed to doing more exercises requiring more advanced balancing skills – relevé in the centre with feet in both first and second positions.

Otherwise, we’re still having our little bounce-and-jumps and chassé, which I enjoy so much. Yay to bringin’ ballet back!