Every poler, no matter their skill level, always desires a little more something whether that be strength, power, grace, flexibility, etc…
…but when it comes down to dedicating ourselves and setting aside time to achieve those desires, they often get complicated with non-progressive thoughts such as the idea of having to subject our bodies to yet another workout or adding to our already busy schedules things we simply may not have the time to complete. The desire to accomplish these goals gets pushed aside and frustration slowly builds over time behind the subject compounding the issue. By simply altering a few basic daily habits, I have developed a few practices which have helped me achieve many of these goals without actually doing ‘more’…
Make every move as long and drawn out as possible:
Not only is it visually beautiful but it also leads to massive strength gains (core, grip and throughout the entire body). Take a basic fireman for example and SQUEEZE EVERYTHING: hands, biceps, triceps, shoulders (pecs to the sky), core (pull the belly button to spine), back, arch up the glutes, squeeze the thighs, calves… engage EVERYTHING! Then as slowly as possible bring it to the floor (or transition to your next move). This strengthens and tones the entire body and the intense engagement of the hands coupled with the slow controlled movement dramatically improves grip which will add power to most everything you do.
Reverse movement building:
This one came from the realization early on in that intermediate stage where you are learning new trick after new trick. When I would have trouble getting a move I found that, if at all possible, I either tried it from a new entry (which we will talk about next & in flexibility) or reverse the move, I would generally discover that ‘missing link’ I needed to accomplish the move.
EXAMPLE: Iguana Mount – most people can hold a Fang or Inverted Pencil long before they gain the flexibility to Iguana Mount up from the floor. If you work an Inverted Pencil Grip/Fang in reverse (from the inverted position to feet on the floor), you end up in the Iguana Mount beginning position (i.e. the end of the Fang reverse extension (to the floor) is the beginning of the Iguana Mount) and since it’s easier to drop then lift given gravity, an acceptable approach to learning a move in this scenario would be to reverse the move itself.
Pole between poling:
Something I try to make a habit of is when walking past my pole on a ‘non-pole’ day, I grab the pole and do a rotation or two in a pole hold or execute a nice controlled invert instead of just walking by. That’s it, nothing more, just a quick 3 second spin as I’m walking past. I’ve noticed that when I have dropped the ball on this practice that I do not lose strength per say but the ‘ease’ of my ability is depleted. This simple habit takes my poling practice from ‘working hard for each movement’ to ease in my lifts and holds which then frees my mind to focus more on the art of that movement or to focus on what’s coming next in my dance. This practice also helps me maintain strength in the event I cannot get my usual amount of poling sessions in throughout the week. This practice of ‘pole between poling’ slows down my strength loss if life gets too busy to pole which every now and again, happens to us all.
Stretching while watching TV or other physically inactive activity:
My girlfriends know that if they come over for one of our afternoon ‘catch up’ sessions there is a good possibility that I may bust out into a mini stretching or foam rolling session mid conversation. Watching TV? Blowdrying your hair? Taking a bath? These are all great times for light hamstring and calve stretches. Learn to seize these appropriate moments and multitask. Simple, yet incredibly effective. A little bit here and there can really take you a LONG way in personal progression.
Make simple everyday changes in the ways you move:
One simple leg lift a few times a day will increase your flexibility over time. Any time I have to bend low, instead of squatting, I hinge at the hips and raise one leg (switching back and forth from task to task). Getting pots/pans or Tupperware out of the lower cabinets, picking something up off the floor, feeding the dog… hinge at the waist with both feet planted or raise one leg up behind you. Be sure to alternate legs and not to kick anyone/thing behind you. 😉
“I tell people all the time – all you have to do, is do it! Choose one small, obtainable goal or thing you are going to change in your daily life and commit to it. Making one small change at a time leads to big transformations… it truly does.”
- Leg lifts when retrieving something from the refrigerator.
- Forward bend when drying hair with the hairdryer.
- Place one leg (foot) up on the counter when doing dishes – switch halfway through.
- Doggy Back/Kitty Back arches while scrubbing the floor.
- Take your kids (or someone else’s, or go by yourself) to the park… and PLAY!
- Tie your shoes standing up.
- Scissor stretches right before bed or in the bathtub.
- Plank or work on middle splits while reading.
This all creates an interesting picture of my day, I’ll admit, but really the possibilities are endless. It’s just like anything else, little changes will get you there, you just have to integrate them. This is where the saying ‘if you want something enough, you will make it happen’ comes into play – eliminate excuses. If something continually pops into your head i.e. “I wish I were more flexible, strong… (insert anything here), your energy is already going toward that idea and that is the perfect time to make small, simple, minor tweaks to how you normally do things and direct that energy into achieving your goals and eliminating the nagging thoughts. As you make these tiny adjustments they become habit and more of your energy naturally gets directed into you automatically achieving your goals. It also helps redirect negative thoughts into positive action, eventually eliminating them all together and teaching you better coping skills.
Pole! … Great for body and mind!
Try a different entry to a favorite move:
I can’t tell you the flexibility and knowledge I’ve gained from doing this. Take a move you love and know inside and out and try a new entry – one that is not your common ‘go to’ entry. In doing so you are using totally different muscles to get into something your body is already familiar and comfortable with, altering and expanding your body memory. Practicing a different entry will not only bring you flexibility gains but more often then not I end up discovering a new move I have not yet accomplished, hidden within that ‘range’ of where my body was not previously comfortable executing… and learning new moves rocks!! I also note that when performing multiple entries into the same move, it makes my ‘go to’ entry feel extremely easy because of the gains in knowledge and flexibility.
An example being a Brass Monkey: say your common entry to the Brass Monkey is the Shoulder Mount. Try it from a CKR or a CAR – you will clearly feel the difference in approach from your body and in doing so can gain back, shoulder & neck flexibility – all of which will help with all those gnarly Shoulder Mount variations. 😉
Do things you’re bad at:
My Jade was terrible, truly horrific – I had NO flexibility when I began pole and my passion was freestyling. I could ‘perform’ the Jade but it looked more like a broken scissors and I was far from having a nice flat shelf. I stopped working on it because it took away visually from what I was trying to portray and express in my freestyle dances. I like floaty, graceful, flat, pointed lines in dance and I made the Jade look as clunky and awkward as I think it can in those beginning stages. Long story short, after some time, I decided that it was time to remedy this issue and simply decided to perform the Jade the best I could with the confidence that, in time, it would improve – fake it till you make it style! Just as that awkward stiff look and feeling of a leg hang when you first begin poling transforms into a beautiful swooping arch, my Jade flattened as well & fairly quickly I might add…
This progress came from no ‘work’ meaning no specific training or stretching that focused on the Jade in any manner. It came solely from allowing my hideous Jades to grace the presence of my freestyles and over time, the lines naturally flattened.
Research shows that doing something new for 2-6 weeks commits the action to habit.
I encourage you to seek out areas within yourself and your life you wish to improve upon and begin making small changes. By replacing outgrown negative habits with positive beginnings, one small step at a time, you will quickly begin to notice change and blaze an exciting new path toward a better you.
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