What to expect when entering a Pole Competition.

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I think we all get to a point with our pole or aerial passion when the thought of entering a pole competition crosses our minds. Should we, or shouldn’t we? Well I decided to go for it and see what competing is all about. I took the plunge after watching a friend compete on the live finals stage for Heir to the Chrome. I was completely inspired that day and sent in my application pack to a competition I’d been thinking about entering.

The best thing to do is research; apply for application packs from various competitions as they can be set up differently. Some may have compulsory moves that you must include, time limits or have distinct set categories etc. Check the rules and regulations to find the best one that suits you and your abilities. After sending in your application form you need a routine to perform as part of the video heats. More and more competitions are introducing this heat to give a fairer chance when coming to the live finals to ensure the talent is of an equal level and isn’t just first come first serve.

Making a routine was the hardest thing for me, certainly not my strong point. Although I did have a song in the back of my mind, I played with many song styles – Slow; too gentle and struggled to flow and up-beat; too fast and couldn’t keep up the stamina. Due to struggling so much, I decided to open-up to my emotional side and base my routine on something close to me which worked wonders and I found piecing together my routine much easier.

When it came to make the routine, I picked my strong points to begin with, I started with tricks and combos assigned to parts of the song. I then built up the flowing parts for in between these moves which created the full routine, changing and improving certain sections along the way.

On the day of videoing the routine I borrowed a costume off a friend to gain a few marks on presentation, we set up the scene for my story and I performed my routine to a camera. It took me three attempts to get the routine completed and ensure I was happy with the video. I couldn’t believe how nervous I was filming it and dreaded if I got to final how nervous I would be then too. Putting the nerves to one side, the video was submitted and then came the waiting for finalists to be announced.

Due to me having my routine already video, my instructor suggested entering another competition. I wasn’t too sure but she was so proud of what I had achieved and believed it was be good enough for British Pole Superstar Championships (BPSC). This was a massive step up in the type of competition to enter, bearing in mind I had only entered one competition, this being a regional one ( Lincolnshire’s Pole Championships). I plucked up the courage and did it, not believing for a second to get to finals. What did I have to lose?

The time finally came – the day of announcement. I checked my phone constantly, even whilst at work. When the finalists were finally announced and I couldn’t believe it, I was through to the Lincolnshire Pole Championships live final in Skegness! Not long after, the BPSC results were also announced, I’ll be honest I did forget I entered this due to not feeling good enough to compete, but I got through to the finals for this competition too! Wow, two competitions entered, two live finals.
Now this is where the challenging work of training the routine starts. I keep the original routine I made for the video heats as wanted to take my story to the stage, making a few slight changes, things added, others taken away.

Things to think about when competing in live finals:

  • Check the judges marking criteria
  • Rules, regulations and restrictions to ensure not to pick up penalties or disqualifications
  • Mark out stage plan in the studio to make sure routine and floor work fits (I had to improvise on the day for both competitions). Also check which pole (static/spin) is located where, props etc.
  • Think about costume for stage. SPARKLES!!!!!! (think Candyass lol)
  • Hair and makeup for stage. MORE SPARKLES!!!!!!

When the day finally came, the travel down was nerve wrecking. I couldn’t eat, opting for light snacks like bananas and dry cereals etc. and plenty of water. Both competitions were of a similar set up. They had a dressing room to get ready in and a room to warm up and stretch in, however BPSC had a back stage which I think caused my nerves to get the better of me. Linc’s didn’t have a back stage, you walk through the audience to arrive on the main stage, so I was focused and didn’t have others to distract me from my running through the routine in head.

When in a live final, keep engaged. Find your own way to stay calm and focused through nerves and pressure. Some competitors use music and run through their routine, others meditated during stretching, I just remembered what my routine was about. When on stage before the music starts take a deep breath and focus on your routine. Remember to make eye contact and interact with the audience to gain marks. Perform all moves, extend lines, hold moves for 2-3 seconds to gain points and to give the photographer time to capture you. Breathe throughout routine to keep stamina and bow at end. But mainly ENJOY IT!!!!!

With Linc’s being my first ever competition I was extremely shocked to achieve 2nd place in my category, yet gutted to know I missed out on 1st place by just half a mark. I wasn’t successful at achieving a place at BPSC but I didn’t mind as I went out, performed my routine and was happy with what I had accomplished and sharing the stage with so many other amazing talents.

KerrySig

Getting Motivated

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For me, being motivated plays a big part in doing exercise and it’s possibly why I struggle. I wouldn’t say I’m lazy, I’m certainly not overweight and I rarely eat junk food or drink alcohol, but I’m by no means fit. I get out of breath quite easily and my resting heart rate has been up to 114 bpm these last few weeks!

A few years ago, I tried the gym, which when I first started I loved. My friend Kayleigh and I went regularly for a couple of months, working out together, joining classes and swimming. After a while the novelty wore off, I ended up going alone most times and eventually stopped. I then got into Pole Dancing and Aerial Hoop which made me feel strong and energised but also self-conscious at the same time and I struggled going alone, so stopped. Again. (I seem to be a bit of a quitter!)

​In April this year, some friends introduced me to British Military Fitness. At first I thought they were joking but went along to one of their charity boot camp type sessions in Pittville Park, Cheltenham. It was the middle of April; cold, wet and incredibly muddy. All I could think about was getting my hands dirty and the instructors shouting abuse like they do on the T.V. and in the army. OK, so I did get horrendously dirty but the instructors were so upbeat and really motivated you to keep you going, even if you were last!

Walking up Mount Calva
Walking up Great Calva

​I came home feeling sore and achy, but overwhelmed and excited for the next go. I went again to a normal session and signed up straight away for 6 months. During that time, I tried to go a few times a week. It was hard in the summer, but I persisted, sometimes going straight after work so I didn’t come home and think of all the other things I could be doing. I felt great! My mood improved, I slept better – I even started running and managed to walk a strenuous 22.5km up Great Calva for Wateraid – something I wouldn’t have agreed to, let alone completed a few months back.

Then the colder weather set in, the nights drew closer and my motivation fizzled. I haven’t been to BMF for around 6 weeks so I cancelled my subscription yesterday, disappointment with myself for giving up. I didn’t see the point in paying for something I wasn’t going to and making myself feel useless for not going every time I saw the direct debit disappear from my bank account. So, I asked two of my friends what motivates them to exercise so I can try and re-start my regime:

“The feeling I get after I do it. It makes me feel great. Knowing that it’s good for you and healthy. You get a hunger for good food. And knowing that it keeps me trim and fit and muscly.” – Hannah

“The feeling of accomplishment and being able to tell I’m getting stronger. Also, the social aspect. It’s no fun working out on your own!” – Caz

I have given myself a mini exercise plan and I’m going to work hard to stay motivated, not because it’s nearly 2017 everyone is throwing New Years’ Resolutions around, but because of a few words my partner said when I started BMF that stuck in my head – “You’ll be around for longer.”

What motivates you to stay fit and healthy? I’d love to hear from you. ​

VickieSig

Pole Cleaning

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If you’ve ever been to a pole showcase or competition, it’s likely you will have seen a pole scrubber or pole cleaner in action.  They are the hard-working girls, (and boys!), who take the stage between each act to make sure that the pole is grease and sweat (and sometimes glitter and body paint) free from the previous performer and will also apply grip, if required, for the next performer. Having recently volunteered my services as a pole cleaner for the recent Miss and Mister Pole Scotland I can tell you first-hand how much hard work this seemingly simple job is!

Firstly, I would like to mention that MMPS (Miss and Mister Pole Dance Scotland) is one of the most prestigious competitions in Scotland, as the name suggests.  Many competitors, especially winners, go on to compete and win or place in UK-wide competitions.  It is organised by Pammie Cameron of Up Yer Pole, which host classes in both Bellshill in Scotland and Essex in England.  Pammie not only runs the competition but is also it’s professional photographer!  It is an extremely well-run competition and one of the most well-known in Scotland, if not the UK due to its cross-border host and it’s sought after titles of Miss or Mister Pole Dance Scotland.  It features some of the biggest names in Scottish pole dance as well as the up and coming performers of the future.

Pole Cleaner - Miss & Mister Pole Scotland
Image courtesy of Pammie Cameron Photography

Being that a few of the girls from my local studio were performing, and having attended the event regularly in previous years, I decided to lend a hand as a pole cleaner at this year’s event held in Glasgow at the Classic Grand on Sunday 21st August 2016.  Having done a little bit of pole cleaning for our local show and having had taken part in a charity pole climb I thought I knew what to expect so was prepared with trainers to wear (bare feet may look prettier but OUCH by the end of the night!).  I was part of a team of four making sure that the duties were spread evenly so none of us would get overly tired or fatigued.  We decided to do 10 acts each in pairs and then split the last group so no-one was overworked and everything was going to plan until an unforeseen injury forced us to split the last few performances between three of us.

Pole Cleaner - Miss & Mister Pole Scotland
Image courtesy of Pammie Cameron Photography

Now to anyone not associated with pole, pole cleaning might seem like an easy job.  In between each act you climb the pole, cloth in hand (or tucked in bra or shorts as I found to be easier), wipe it down, paying special attention to any grip aid, body paint or glitter that may have been left behind by the previous performer.  Then climb back up and apply the grip aid of the competitor’s choice if necessary, which it usually with all the heat of the lighting and the condensation off the smoke machine.  However, after an hour or so of this every 3-5 minutes your muscles and skin start to get sore and tired.  We had the benefit of using X-Clean by X-Pole, which not only cleans grip aid off the pole easily but also smells amazing and leaves the pole super grippy by itself!  I would definitely recommend it as a pole cleaner, I personally feel that for home use, there would be no need for extra grip after cleaning with that, it’s that good!  By the end of the evening I found that it wasn’t the actual climbing that I was finding difficult, but the holding on in a pole sit for thigh grip to give the pole a proper wipe and apply the grip thoroughly.  Despite my preparation by wearing trainers my inner thighs were screaming by the last competitor and let slip a little sigh of relief to when they descended the pole.

Pole Cleaner - Miss & Mister Pole Scotland
Image courtesy of Pammie Cameron Photography

In saying that, the benefits well outweighed the downsides as we were seated at the front of the stage with an unobstructed view of each performance and a snazzy ‘Miss Pole Scotland’ strappy top to boot!  We had the lovely Tiff Finney introduce us and got to wish each performer luck on their way up and praise on their way back off stage.  I also met new pole friends in my fellow scrubbers and we had a great night watching all the acts up close from the front and the side of the stage.  I got to cheer on my pole girls close enough for them to hear (although, to be fair, EVERYONE hears me!) and I was proud to be involved in such a professional and well run competition.  The icing on the cake was seeing the studio I train at clear up the doubles category in all places and perform their hearts out in some of the others.

KelleSig

Dangling Upside Down

I remember the day after my first pole class vividly.  I remember my body aching, muscles I barely knew existed, let alone thought were working learning basic spins, were tight and trying to release the handbrake on my car was a two-handed effort.  I was recently made to feel this way again after a two month break off the pole due to injury and that time off, more so than the actual injury or the muscle related pain afterwards was what really hurt.

I go to class fairly regularly, in a normal week I’ll usually do at least 3 hours of pole and an hour or two of aerial hoop.  It’s part of my regular routine, a big part of my life and having to stop suddenly through no choice of my own was not a pleasant experience. I’ve never really thought of aerial fitness as a dangerous pastime, despite others concern for you dangling upside down.  I’ve always trusted myself not to push too far or go past my limits if I’m not ready and although I’ve had a fall from pretty high up the pole, straight backwards out of a wrist seat about 4ft up, I’ve never really injured myself so when I broke my hand at hoop I was shocked.

Kelle's Foot X-Ray

I’d never broken anything before, with the exception of maybe a toe or two but I never had them checked out and confirmed, so when I landed badly coming out of a move on the hoop I originally thought I’d maybe dislocated my finger or even just sprained it.  I could still make a fist, take pressure against my fingers and actually kept trying to ‘pop’ my finger back in as I was sure it was a dislocation.  On the advice of my studio family I let them drive me home and went straight to hospital with my husband.  After amusing triage nurse slightly with how the injury occurred, even his initial thought was that nothing was broken after initial resistance testing but after examining the x-ray it was clear I had a spiral fracture of my right fourth metacarpal which meant two things – no work and no pole.  Thankfully I didn’t need surgery to correct the alignment of the bone or I’d have been off a lot longer but the thought of a week without pole, let alone what turned out to be 2 months was my idea of hell.

I felt totally lost.  I suddenly had all this time that I couldn’t even enjoy because without a fully functioning right hand there wasn’t much I could do.  Walking the dogs was impossible by myself and thankfully my husband managed to get time off to look after me because even brushing my teeth was awkward let alone anything more complicated.  Despite the fact I couldn’t use my hand it hadn’t actually been very painful, not even the initial injury, so when I went along to pole class about 2 weeks into healing to see the girls I was sure I’d be able to rock out a little something on the pole.  As soon as I closed my fingers around the chrome I felt it, just a twinge, but enough to make me take a step back.  I was devastated.  My over dramatic mind started to convince me that my grip would be forever compromised and I’d have to give up completely as I’d never be safe again.  I left the studio and burst into tears.  I ran into a close pole friend who gave me a hug and reminded me it had only been a couple of weeks and to just let it heal.

Fast forward another 2 weeks and the first question out of my mouth at my fit to work appointment with the consultant was ‘When can I get back on the pole?’.Kelle back on the hoop. He disappointed me with suggesting I wait another month to make sure fracture had healed solid as the pressure of full body weight in a pull up was exactly the kind of thing that might be detrimental. So, although I was gutted, I waited and I’m glad I did as my first class back I felt absolutely nothing in my hand. The rest of me however…broken!  My poor hands, baby soft without regular classes to keep my callouses up, were ripped open.  It’s amazing how quickly fitness is lost and although my hubby and I were getting the dogs out regularly it was nowhere near the exercise my body has been used to for the last 3 years.  Thankfully for me I didn’t feel like I’d put on much weight with being off, despite comfort eating A LOT, but I definitely felt I’d lost muscle and stamina.  I did manage to surprise myself by inverting easily and rocking out a few Outside/Inside leg hand switches, Butterflies and a Flatline Scorpio with relative ease (I was convinced I wouldn’t even be able to hold myself again…thank goodness for muscle memory!).

Kelle back on the pole.So while I’m finally back on the right track I just want to reflect and say I know I was lucky.  There are regular small injuries in our world, thankfully they are rarely life changing or threatening although there are exceptions, but my best advice is as hard as it may seem please, please, listen to the advice of your medical professional and take the necessary time to heal.  If you jump back in too soon and set back your healing, you’ll be out for even longer and you’ll kick yourself.  Also please don’t ignore an injury thinking it’ll sort itself out.  If something looks and feels wrong, it probably is and the longer you leave some things the harder they are to recover from.  If you do go to the hospital or the doctor and it turns out to be nothing you’ve not wasted anything and will give yourself the peace of mind to train without worry.  Use crash mats and pole safe everyone. ​​

KelleSig