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.