Mental Toughness Training

This post has moved to my new website. Check it out at http://polecompete.com/2014/07/mental-toughness-training/

Finishing

I’m experiencing a new and different type of pain in my pole dance classes. Instead of the typical bruising and missing chunks of skin that I (and most pole dancers) have grown to know and love, this is pain of a more psychological nature. Specifically, I’ve started videotaping my free dances.

It’s pretty terrible. I rush through things, my toes aren’t always pointed, or my knees aren’t straight. And sometimes I try things that just plain don’t look good.

All of which has led me to a new goal- finishing my pole moves. I’m still a little vague about what I mean by “finishing,” but the general idea is that I will extend into the full move, hang out there for a few counts, and then do something artistic and graceful to come out of the move. Stopping is probably the hardest part- it’s really easy to rush, and I would like to get out the habit. It will be much easier to not rush through a performance if I don’t rush through my practice.

A long time ago I took a workshop with Alethia Austin. One of the things she said that stuck with me is that she practices getting up smoothly so much so that her body “doesn’t know how to get up any other way.” In other words, she practices exiting pole moves in a way that is graceful and beautiful (and for Alethia, probably sexy too). She practices it so much that she doesn’t think about it- her body automatically knows that she needs to finish the move out instead of just standing up.

I love this idea of practicing enough that you literally cannot get what you are doing wrong. I’m working on getting out of my pole moves with grace and style too.  I am not there yet (which is why I’m not sharing my videos. Too embarrassing. Sorry.)

Top Ten Reasons I Love Pole Dancing

I am part of a pole dance blogging group that does a blog hop every month. The theme for February is love, so here are the top 10 reasons I love pole dancing.
  1. I get to hang upside down! With no hands!
  2. Pole dancing builds a really incredible sense of community. I’ve met such fun and interesting women because of pole dance.
  3. I’m becoming more flexible. I’ve always been pretty strong because I have a freakish love of working out (really, I would get up and go to the gym before school in seventh grade and pretty much haven’t stopped since then), but the flexibility component is new and I love it.
  4. I’m more comfortable in my body.
  5. I love telling stories, and telling stories through movement is a new and different way for me to express myself.
  6. Pole dancers are really supportive of each other. When you watch Youtube videos of pole, most of the comments are really supportive. This support is not necessarily present for other dance forms.
  7. I have to explain what pole is. I both love and hate this- but mostly I love it because I get to introduce people to something really cool they would have never otherwise been introduced to. Connecting people to things that make their lives bigger and more interesting is part of my purpose to life, so sharing is a big deal for me.
  8. Pole is still small enough that you get to hang out with celebrities- I’ve spoken about pole on the phone with Leigh Ann Reilly. I’ve taken workshops with Alethea Austin. Estee Zakar is my coach. I know that this list will grow with time. That’s really freaking exciting! I think it takes longer to get the opportunity to work with professional athletes in sports that are bigger and more established, and I love the opportunity.
  9. Because pole is growing, it’s hard to tell what direction it will go. I love that there is still space for so many voices.

10. There are always variations on moves that you can learn… so you always have something new that you can nail. There’s a huge sense of accomplishment when you learn new pole moves.

Bonus: 10 Reasons Why We Love Pole Dancers

Stilettos!

I recently had an opportunity to take a pole workshop with Alethea Austin. Alethea is one of the sexiest artists in pole- and she knows how to work a pair of heels.

I was interested, because I don’t particularly enjoy dancing in shoes. I find six inch stilettos heavy. They also throw off my perception about how much space I have to move my legs. Part of my problem with heels is that I’m not as attracted to sexy dancing (which often uses shoes as a prop). I am interested in story telling and crazy-upside down moves.

On the other hand, shoes look good and allow you to do things that you can’t do barefoot. Dancing in shoes also prevents you from ripping the skin off of the tops of your feet when you slide around on the floor, since the shoe does the sliding.

Alethea spent a few minutes in the workshop talking about how to wear stilettos. “The main goal number 1 is not to eat shit,” she said. “Goal number 2 is to not make the shoe like a giant, heavy block at the end of your foot.”

Succeeding in these goals starts by choosing the shoe- ideally you want something that your foot won’t fall out of, and that is somewhat comfortable. Different heel widths and heights can accomplish different things. “Your shoes are an implement… just like the pole,” Alethia said.

Once you are wearing the shoe, you want to keep your ankles pointed (flexed feet don’t look pretty, even in high heels) but keep your toes loose and spread as widely as possible. This helps you maintain balance.

When you walk, you want to step up, with your feet, chest, and face. This helps you stay smooth and also helps you keep your balance, even when the floors aren’t even.  Even though you’re in shoes, you still want to stay on your toes as much as possible.

To continue my theme of exploring heels, I took Virginia’s stiletto class at Tease Studio the next week. Fun. An hour long workout that focuses on getting you comfortable in your heels. She does a lot of different exercises, from strutting to using the heels on a chair to basic body rolls. It’s fun, a good workout, and you definitely feel better about your skills with shoes afterward. (To check out Stiletto class, click here.)

I’m still not convinced that I’m going to ever really, really like wearing shoes, but I definitely want to learn more. I’m even playing with the idea of wearing shoes for a performance at some point in time. The picture below is of my (only) pair of heels.

My (only) Stilettos

Alethia Austin took a picture with me after the workshop!

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