More Than Fitness

Why pole?  I’m often asked that when people find out what I do for fitness.  I’d always tell them that it’s because I’d tried many other things but couldn’t stick to them and that pole felt different because you didn’t go to class and focus on a muscle group to work or follow a choreographed routine blindly.  You focused on nailing a move or a combo and the achievement you felt when you were able to do it unaided well outweighed the muscle pain felt a day or two later.  However, stepping away from the physical fitness aspect, I’m also not afraid to admit that pole has saved me mentally too.  From giving me a space where I have to focus on nothing else but the task at hand, because let’s face it, some moves aren’t very safe if you’re distracted, to giving me a massive support network of women, and men, who gave me the strength to trust in myself when I needed it.

Not all, but many women I’ve met through pole seem to have some sort of underlying ‘issue’…from physical manifestations such as epilepsy or PCOS to less visible ailments such as eating disorders, anxiety and depression, OCD or low self-esteem.  What brings so many of us into this aerial world?  I personally have found pole to be like therapy for myself, and I know many others describe it that way too.  When I learned of my husband’s affair I was ashamed.  I felt worthless and that somehow it must have been my fault because I wasn’t ‘enough’.  Enough of a wife, of a friend, of a lover, of a woman.  This feeling of shame forced me to keep quiet for four years.  Four years of muddling along, driving myself mad with internal misery.  I never told a soul and the only place I felt free was at pole or lyra class.  When I was there I had to be strong, confident in myself, in tune with my sensuality…all the things that crumbled away from the studio.  At class I believed in everything I did, at home I felt like a shell of my former self.  Eventually I found my way to counselling sessions and even there my counsellor commented on how when I spoke about pole my eyes would light up and that we had to find a way to bring ‘pole Kelle’ back into the real world.  These sessions gave me the confidence to finally break my silence about the whole situation and the first people I confided in were my pole family.  I knew they would be the most supportive and understanding people I could speak to and they gave me the backing I needed in myself to finally leave and start afresh on my own.  Some donated time to help me move, some donated furniture to kit out my house since I was essentially starting from scratch, some donated their ears when I needed a rant or a shoulder to cry on.  All of them were there for me and that’s when I really realised, pole is more than just fitness.

For most of us, pole or aerial are more than just a class we go to weekly to keep fit.  They become our community.  Our classes are our escape, our little oasis of ‘me time’ in a hectic world.  Our friends become our family, who we trust with our secrets, our fears and our achievements.  We become a part of each other’s lives outside of the studio.  We go to gigs, festivals, days out together.  This environment breeds self-love and confidence amongst women like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.  We build each other up in the face of a world that’s constantly telling us we aren’t enough through the lies of the media.  The classes I’ve attended certainly are inclusive of every age, shape, size, colour and variety of human being going.  There is room for everybody to attend and we are taught to love our bodies for what they can do rather than what they look like.  We learn to bare our love handles or our scars, despite our initial hesitation because we feel safe and we know that in order to progress we must embrace our bodies and show our skin to allow for stronger moves.  We are encouraged to stop saying ‘I can’t’ and instead to keep trying, keep pushing until we CAN and when we do, we are met with so much support and motivation from our instructors and our friends that it spurs us on to reach even further, to things we never dreamed our bodies could do.  This enriching environment then spreads that bloom of confidence and self-appreciation into other aspects of our daily life, be that our careers, our friendships or our relationships.

So now when people ask me ‘why pole?’, I tell them it’s not just about physical fitness, its about mental fitness too.


Getting Motivated


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. ​