Pole fitness wasn’t for me, but it can help you find real beauty

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
I looked at the girls around me. They were thinner than me, stronger and definitely, 100 percent more confident.
The instructor was intimidating. She was tan, very muscular and always focused. She moved gracefully and controlled her whole body from head to toe.
On the other hand, I could barely pull myself up on the pole.
I recently went out of my comfort zone and took a pole fitness class at Pole and Aerial Fitness in Bonita Springs. I now have a new appreciation for strippers but a different view of myself.
Noelle Wood, the instructor, showed the group of nine women — including myself ­— how to wipe our poles down with an alcohol spray. The alcohol dried up any oils that were on the surface of the pole, allowing for the most contact between the pole and our hands, legs and thighs.
We began class with a 15-minute warm-up session, stretching our muscles so we wouldn’t injure ourselves. Little did we know, bruised shins and busted blood vessels were inevitable.
A seasoned dancer joined our introductory class after being unable to attend her classes for a few weeks. She scurried up the pole with ease, just as Wood entered the room.
“Do not climb on the poles without me, or I will kick you out. I have done it before, and I am not afraid to do it again,” Wood said. Her voice ricocheted off the wooden floors and mirrored walls.
The woman slid quickly down the pole and landed on her butt with a thud. We knew that Wood meant business, and after that, nobody moved without her say.
Wood had the group start with body rolling off of the pole, what could only be synonymous with frontal grinding. The grinding progressed into dipping down and sitting in a low squat that Wood called the “Dirty Bunny.” She taught us how to walk around the pole on tip-toe and how to turn directions gracefully.
I felt in control. I was uncomfortable for a while, but when I realized that no one was watching or judging, I began to relax.
In the words of Jessie J, I started to feel sexy and free.
Then, things became glaringly, painfully hard.
We learned a few beginners’ moves, like the Fireman, Martini, Back Hook and Front Hook. I slipped on my butt multiple times, and when I thought I aced it, I realized I looked like a scared cat clinging to a stripper pole.
Wood sat ­— yes, sat — on the pole and directed us to do the same. I grimaced.
While two of the women in my group held the pole between their thighs with ease, I could not hold Thunder and Lightning together for longer than a millisecond.
I could not pull myself up onto the pole. I felt defeated.
One woman in the class had banged her shin on the pole so hard that she popped a blood vessel, sitting out for the remainder of the class with a bag of ice on her leg.
I had multiple bruises on my arms and legs, and my right foot was killing me from how hard I pointed my feet.
Wood wrapped up class with a short pole routine and dance, which I stumbled five times during, and a cool-down stretch.
Everything hurt. My neck was kinked from whipping my hair, my arms from struggling up the pole and my feet from being on pointe for the nearly 45 minutes of class.
I rolled up my mat, threw my towel in the bin and left, thinking, “Wow, I now know how unhealthily out of shape I am.”
Strippers and exotic dancers go through hell to become the poised, controlled and graceful dancer that Wood showed through her movements. She explained that beginning dancers commonly cut their legs open with their high-heeled shoes while trying to do complex routines.
“If this is hard for you,” Wood said after class, “it only gets harder. You will get chafing from the aerial silks; you will get cut from the shoes; you will be calloused from the poles and hoops.”
Sure, on the floor, I felt like Beyoncé. On the pole, I felt unable and weak.
While I now have an undying appreciation for women in the dancer industry, I found that sometimes these kinds of classes do not give women the freeing, sexy and beautiful experience they are expecting.
Rather, you may find that in order to feel true beauty and freedom, you need to find it in yourself before you try and find it through a pole fitness class.