Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's official! I'm AFAA Group Fitness Certified!

Last night I completed my AFAA Primary Group Fitness Certification training via AFAA's online Group Fitness Instructor certification course.  Over the past several years I have contemplated pursuing my Group Fitness certification.  Time and time again, I kept putting it off as I was always uncertain whether or not I wanted to ever teach anything outside of pole dancing.  I have also taken Discoveries Dance Pole Instructor Certification course via a live training which I completed in September of 2011.  As a Registered Nurse, I am fully aware of the importance of educating one's self in the area of fitness when it comes to injury prevention.  There are reasons certifications and programs specific to the fitness industry exist.  I believe that you should be educated when it comes to properly teaching body mechanics so as not to teach someone right into an injury.  Everyone's body moves differently and sometimes being made aware of what the limitations are and proper techniques can enlighten even the most experienced instructor.  Aside from my advocacy on furthering education, I also felt it was a necessary step for personal reasons.  Unfortunately, pole dancing is a fitness trend in certain parts of the world.  A lot of people are going to go through the trials and tribulations of opening and closing a pole studio.  I can't rely on pole fitness always being there as a position I will always be able to fulfill when it comes to teaching fitness.  Unless of course, I take matters into my own hands.  So in an attempt to secure a place in doing what I continue to love doing, I decided it was time to embark on exploring my options and expanding my capabilities. 

My Experience with AFAA's Online Course

I would rate my experience with AFAA's online course as satisfactory.  I really enjoyed having the ability to work at my own pace.  The structured study guide really set the bar for the program and enabled me to cover all the necessary criteria for my test out phase.  The structured format for the program is designed to be completed in 30 days.  I completed the 30 day format in a week during Spring Break.  The curriculum consists of reading 32 chapters, viewing 14 online lecture videos, and completing a 48 page study guide. Upon completion of the recommended study materials, you are able to schedule a live one-on-one video conference with an AFAA team member that will be proctoring your practical portion of the test or to answer questions over the written material.  I did not take advantage of this feature.  AFAA also has a set of 30 multiple choice practice questions available to prep you for the exam.  I really liked this feature as it got me thinking about the type of information the exam would cover. 

The Test

The testing phase is broken down into 2 parts- a multiple choice proctored exam consisting of 100 questions pertaining to the material in the reading, videos, and study guide and a proctored practical exam.  The multiple choice test went very well.  My initial setup of the proctored exam had a few glitches but the technician was able to remedy the problems and get me started on my exam.  I immediately knew I had passed as soon as I completed the exam.

The practical portion of the exam was more involved.  It required me to study the muscle groups and create a routine similar to a class lesson plan.  The beginning of the practical was a warm up and cardiorespiratory movements.  Following the warmup portion, the muscle groups were listed by the proctoring instructor.  For each group, you had to demonstrate two muscle strengthening exercises and a static stretch.  After the muscle group demonstration portion, each participant in the exam was to teach a progressive exercise.  For my progressive exercise, I chose an abdominal stabilization exercise broken down into level 1, 2, and 3. 

During my practical, I did standing Flys for the pectoral muscle group.  Upon receiving feedback from the proctored instructor, the group of participants in my exam were told that standing Flys do not target the chest muscle group.  An appropriate exercise for this muscle group would have been supine Flys. 

My overall impression coming out of this course is positive.  I really liked the program and would definitely recommend this program to others. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The practice of Yoga: From class to home

I recently began revisiting my Yoga practice as a means for stress relief and recovery post surgery.  Unfortunately, I've been exposed to a lot of negative energy and decided it was time to stop letting that affect me and start working on ways to release the building tension.  A more practical approach would be to eliminate the sources of negativity from my life, however at this time this action would only be a temporary solution.  So onward to my rekindled practice.  I began practicing Yoga in high school over 14 years ago.  I used to come home and every day at 4 o'clock, Fit TV would have a program they offered every week day.  This is where I began to discover the benefits of Yoga on my mind, body, and spirit.  I would feel rejuvenated from these practices.  As life began to get in the way and program scheduling changed, my Yoga practice changed throughout the years and every once in awhile, I'd find myself revisiting my practice.  In 2010 while teaching at a pole dancing studio, I decided to study the various forms of poses to incorporate into a class that would be designed specifically towards increasing flexibility for pole dancers.  Instead of incorporating just body poses, I utilized the apparatuses that were made available to me through convenience and my willingness to put forth the extra effort to design substantial tools to benefit my overall goals.  Thus was born, Sensuous Flow & Flexibility.  The class incorporates the breath and Hatha Yoga technique.  Areas of target are specific to pole dancing moves that require flexibility.  Anyone can create a class for this purpose and many studios do.  I didn't create anything new that people weren't already doing.  The only difference between my class and the many others out there is mine is individual to what I found to work best for me through my own experience.  As I'm sure is the case for the many other classes out there. 

Recently I decided to rejoin the ranks of reacquainting myself in the student role.  I've begun to take classes at various studios, enjoying the variety of Yoga practice.  I've also begun to use this as an opportunity to enhance the healing process of my body post surgically.  I'm limited in movement now in my core, when I used to have a substantial amount of flexibility in both my core and back.  Two areas in pole that flexibility is beneficial.  I have always been an advocate for listening to your body and knowing your limitations.  I have listened to my body and it craves the gentleness of Yoga as a means to progressively heal and strengthen to it's former capabilities.  

In addition to taking the occasional studio class, I've also found an alternative means of practice for at home.  DVDs can get boring after awhile.  They're great to have to give yourself variety to work on specific poses but when you really want to explore other routines, I've found online Yoga classes to be the perfect substitution to the real class room experience.  I've recently discovered Free Online Yoga Videos through  The site has multiple videos explaining poses, meditations, breathing techniques, anatomy, an online community forum, and class routines for beginner-advanced curriculum.  You can also search for a specific class based on difficulty, class duration, style, and instructor.  I have found the addition of online Yoga videos to be great for when I can not find a studio class to satisfy the time I have available for my practice and when I want to let go of my own typical structure of practice and experience something different.  There are other sites out there that offer Yoga classes online, however I mentioned because it is free and does not require a monthly membership fee to access.  Over time, I may subscribe to a membership online.  Right now I've found what works for me and will continue to use the free resources made available until my practice needs enrichment through other sources. Namaste.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To compete or not compete? The era of pole competitions.

I've debated this topic for quite some time now.  A few years ago, I decided to enter my first competition.  It was a new competition- the first of it's kind for the region.  One of the competitions to bring about a variety of performers that had not previously been recognized.  It was promoted well and I felt like this was the competition for me.  Like so many pole competitions, the first round was based on online video submissions.  A panel of judges was selected- all of which were well known pole performers within the industry.  These selected judges reviewed all video entries and would judge your performance based on a scoring system and add a comment for improvement.  I received a fairly decent score and some great constructive criticism.  I did not move on beyond round 1.  The following year, after working hard towards improving, I re-entered that same competition.  This time, I received less feedback and still did not move on beyond round 1.  After reviewing the entries of the competitors that did make it through to the next round, I found myself becoming very discouraged.  When you're watching the videos of those who got in and comparing yourself to these people, it could result in a very negative mindset.  How have I been working so hard and much longer than these people and they are getting in on their first try and only poling for 6 months?! This is the point in time I began to feel a great shift in the community.  There was a divide- those who compete and are elite within the community and those that were not good enough.  It started to feel like a popularity contest after awhile- the same people kept getting into the same competitions.  I understand there is a lot of hard work- I've worked hard too.  So hard I worked myself into an injury because I pushed myself to be that "image" of what the judges comments said I should be.  I should be inverting a certain way.  So I pushed myself to invert and make my body do what I was told I'm supposed to do.  And then I got to thinking about what competitions are and how they affect the dancer.  I have friends that have competed and it's hard on their bodies. I've known people who feel as though they need to prove themselves because their fans expect a certain element of entertainment.  I've seen competitions change people into divas.  There were times I was expecting them to make requests for a bowl of M&M's without any of the green ones in their dressing rooms just because they didn't like that color.  I've seen competitions hurt people and turn their self image from positive to negative.  Thoughts of I'm not good enough, I need to be better, I can do better...just to name a few.  I've also witnessed a massive online debate via social media sources where people have lashed out against certain competitions and the way they are run.  Some have been accused of being unethical.  I've seen so much negativity surrounding competitions in a community that embraces positivity that in the end, I don't feel like competing is a culture in the community I want to be a part of.  It's a subjective event where there is no formality across the board.  I think competitions have divided the community.  It's unfortunate that there is such a strong emphasis on competing.  I'd rather take part in showcases where you don't have to be the next pole star eager to be the next big name.  I could care less about the super human moves someone can do that looks just like the competitor that was on the stage before them.  I like the individuality of someone who doesn't have to stress their entire being and can just perform.  I'd like to see more shows incorporating real dancers who enjoy the movement and don't have to be better than everyone else.  But that's just my opinion.  After all, the best performers I think, are the students in my class.  Those are the performers I'd rather pay to sit in front row to watch any given day of the week. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The gray area in the pole community....

As an instructor, it is a well known fact that there are no fitness regulating agencies/organizations that are out there making sure pole studio instructors are certified or have had any formal education to teach.  As a student, this is probably a very surprising fact.  Anyone can be a pole fitness instructor or declare themselves "professionally trained" in the aerial arts.  It depends on what they define being professionally trained.  In my opinion, professionally trained means you've taken a specific certification or training that covers all bases of proper terminology, technique, form, posture, injury prevention, spotting, CPR/Basic First Aid, etc.  Not to mention you've trained at a legitimate school or facility over a prolonged period of time.

It's becoming an increasing trend that people who lack the aforementioned training are deeming themselves "professionally trained" and marketing themselves to a student population.  This poses many dangers for both the instructor and their students.  I've seen so many "professionals" as they claim, teaching movement that is considered dangerous and unnatural movement that over time can lead to chronic injuries.  I've preached so many times in the past and will continue to do so, that the student is responsible for doing their research.

But how can you differentiate or know when someone is bluffing on their supposed "professional training?"  Ask for proof.  Ask for references.  Training facilities will know who their students are.  You have every right to ask for references of their training and follow through with the training facility to confirm their expertise.  In aerial, you are putting your life at risk- it's completely appropriate and responsible as a consumer to do the necessary research to assure your safety.  Know if your instructor is insured.  Ask to see their policy.  As an instructor that is independently insured through a private insurer outside of the studio I work for, I make sure to carry around my policy with me where ever I may teach for this specific reason.  People ask and have a right to know.  Ask to see proof of CPR/Basic First Aid certification.  This is in a form of a card provided by the American Heart Association.  Qualified instructors should be proficient in the basic skills in case of an emergency.  Again, you are trusting someone with your life- there is absolutely no reason you should flake out on making sure your instructor has all their ducks in a row and are who they say they are.