Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Motivation January Progress

The month of January started with an interesting challenge at the studio.  We decided to host a daily challenge by performing a handstand a day.  Our handstands varied between full on arm extension handstands to forearm stands.  As the month is coming to an end, I decided it was time for a progress report. 

Doing a handstand a day for an entire month is hard.  Mostly because by the time I got around to thinking about doing my handstand, I was often already in bed for the night.  Many nights, I'd get out of bed and do a quick handstand while recording my progress.  As the month continued on, I fell ill and for four days lost sight of my challenge.  Sometimes taking care of ourselves and listening to what our bodies need takes precedence over our goals and ambitions.  It's easy to forget your goals when you've recovered and gotten back into the swing of things.  This occurrence reminds me of how easy it is to lose track of your goals- whether being sick for a few days or too tired from regular daily busy schedules, losing your motivation can happen before you realize you have gone off track. 

Something important to keep in mind when you've realized you've gone off track is, don't beat yourself up over it.  So you've fallen back into a slump and now you're a week off from working out?  There's no time like the present to regroup and reinstate your intentions.  Look at what was working and when things stopped working.  What happened that caused you to lose sight of your success?  Evaluating your previous experiences and understanding how and why things got off track can help you create future success.  If you've started that pole or aerial journal, logging your epiphany can also help and serves as a reminder to your overall learning experience.

What have I learned through my month long devotion to handstands?  I've learned that the earlier in the day, the better.  Handstands can be invigorating by increasing blood flow to your brain.  Doing a handstand late at night often lead me to feeling awake instead of tired.  I also learned that covering my elbows in forearm stands will prevent carpet burns and when I'm in a downward dog pose my own little dog thinks it's time to stretch or play. I was also reminded this month that my body may dictate when it needs rest as I full on experienced with this season's flu. My priorities shifted from what I thought was important to what is important in the matter of my health.

What would I do differently in the future?  I think for future challenges, I will add an element of visual accountability tracking.  I think if I had used a calendar as a check off list once I completed my handstand it would have served as a visual tool for me to see my progress as it happened.  I use calendars like this in my health clinic by placing a gold star over the date when a pediatric patient completes their goal task for the day.  This kind of reward system works great for children and as an adult, I feel like it would work just as equally well for me.

Overall, the entire experience was a great learning activity that forced me to reflect on my own personal motivation.  I hope that by writing this, it will serve as useful for my readers that may also be struggling with motivation this January. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Freestyle Friday: Fluidity February. Studio Skating.

For the month of February, we've decided to tap into developing fluidity technique. This month's Freestyle Friday will integrate a fun activity with dancing- sock skating! Grab a pair of socks and head to the studio for a Friday evening of slippery and smooth pole dancing sock skating fun! Throw some leg warmers into your bag and we'll integrate sexy super HOT floor work moves that look like you're gliding on ice.

Our Freestyle Friday will begin with an instructor lead warmup followed by fun exercises that create skill building technique for developing your movement.  Pole Harmony Freestyle Friday sessions are designed to assist in developing expressive movement through dance.  Expressive movement is visually captivating and emotionally cleansing for the dancer as a means of therapeutic dance.  Learning how to let your dancing be the healthy outlet your body needs is an essential element to Freestyle Friday sessions. 

Join us for our upcoming Freestyle Friday on Friday February 28th 7:30 PM $12 nonmembers/$7 monthly members.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Controversy in the States. Female Marines and Pull Ups

Recent debate regarding the issue of U.S. female Marines and physical requirements has created quite a stir within the pole and aerial community.  The issue presented as female Marines did not meet the physical requirements by a given deadline date after training measures had been implemented.  The results- 55% of female Marine recruits could not pass a three pull up requirement (CNN News Media Source, January 3, 2014).   

As a loyal pole and aerial fitness patron, when I first heard this startling statistic I found myself asking why not?  Isn't being in the service a physically demanding job?  Aren't there training measures in place that fully equip both men and women for the physical aspects required of their job?  It didn't make sense to me.  I've been teaching for four years now in the aerial arts.  I've had my share of experience with female students who have little upper body strength.  Within a month, the majority of my students are pulling their own body weight up poles as they climb.  How did the U.S. Marines fail so many women in a 12 week training that is designed to create results for increased strength and endurance? I think the answer to this requires a reassessment of the training course.  What are the priorities of the current training in place?  What activities are being implemented and overall what results would one expect as opposed to the results being seen?

Going back to my experience in pole and aerial fitness, I found myself contemplating how progressive my fitness activity has been for me and so many of my past and present students.  Looking back to my younger days in school physical education classes, I remember every class participant both male and female got a chance at the pull up bar.  In fact, back then (circa early 1990s)  I was one of the top pull up contenders in my class.  I had a smaller stature and less weight to move.  As I got older, my ability to do a pull up decreased until I began working on the pole in 2008.  The argument that men and women are physically built different doesn't really make a lot of sense to me in this debate.  Yes, I agree men are more developed in certain areas of their body that make doing pull ups easier.  However, women can just as easily develop these areas in their own body to do pull ups.

What it appears to come down to is training.  Educating those responsible for training and implementing training that is appropriate to meet the physical standards set forth for female Marines. Instead of changing the standards, the focus needs to shift to solving the problem and properly training women for their jobs.  The United Pole Artists created an interesting video targeting this debate that has set off a campaign in the pole community rallying for women that train on the pole can do pull ups.  Check out the video here:   

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Instructor Perspective: The Aerial Diaries. Teaching and Training

I've been teaching my new aerial program for the past several weeks now.  Things have been going fairly well.  I'm finding the adjustments I've made to be worth it as my students are enjoying their class.  One of the key changes I made to the program was smaller class sizes.  I've also shifted my focus towards quality, not quantity.  Who ever introduced that concept within the aerial community was genius.  It's something I've taken to heart and implemented after deep consideration.  If it wasn't for that valuable insight, my program may have taken a completely alternative path to the road I've found myself to be happy with.  I've seen a greater progression among the skills I've been presenting compared to my previous teaching experience.  I just spent the past couple of weeks researching and putting together class lesson plans for both pole and aerial work.  It's been an enlightening experience to explore different kinds of movement.  I really enjoyed being able to work through concepts and figure out how each piece works with my own body and how I would break down the moves into attainable movement for every skill level.  I also had the opportunity to travel and work with another aerialist.  I've been working on the skills I learned from my private lesson.  This weekend I'm also taking a workshop to learn more aerial technique for partner work.  I'm excited to try out some more skills I've yet to experience.  There is a lack of community here so finding a partner ready for partner work is hard to come by.  My aerial instructor I took a recent private lesson with is making the trip and going to be my partner.  I'm excited she is coming so that she will know my level of progression for my next private lesson.  I will write a follow up blog to highlight my experience from this weekend.  Thanks for reading about my journey.  I look forward to writing more blogs about my aerial experience as I embark on teaching a new program this year. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

PDBA January Blog Hop: Setting Your Fitness Intentions for the New Year

Here here- it's a new year! Happy 2014! Every January is a fresh start.  Time to make changes for the better.  Many people will begin a new fitness routine with vigor while those who are already on the workout bandwagon will renew their intentions with new goals.  Whatever your situation, we can all agree that our outlook has promise towards a positive new year.  This month the Pole Dancing Bloggers Association topic revolves around the simple act of motivation when it comes to setting your fitness intentions.  So how do you stay motivated post new year hype?

A great way to get started regardless of your current fitness situation is to set achievable goals.  Instead of looking at dropping fifty pounds, think of learning a beginner level pole spin like the basic knee spin.  Check that move off your list and create a new goal.  Pole dancing is an amazing workout because it offers constant renewed goals that can be easily attained and visualized.  You mentally see yourself doing the spin.  You learn the steps of the spin.  Now you're watching yourself do the spin.  Goal achieved.  It really is that easy.  But the trick to doing the "trick" is to actually choose goals that are attainable for where you are in your progress.  It's great to have that ultimate goal of doing the twisted grip dead lift, but realistically not many people get this move within the first month- let alone the first six months of poling.  If you set your goals too high, you're only going to set yourself up for disappointments and loss of motivation.

Tracking your progress is key.  It's January! Perfect time to start that pole journal you've been
thinking about.  Not sure what a pole journal is?  It can be whatever you want it to be.  Get yourself a little notebook you can use specifically for your classes or practice sessions.  Dedicate this little notebook to recording your pole journey only.  Start with writing the date of your pole session and list all the moves you learned that session and whether or not you achieved them.  Side notes to each move include what you personally need to improve on that move.  Pole journals can be great motivational tools.  They shed light into your progression by reminding you of how far you've come and how far you'd like to go.

Seeing your goals written leads to achieving them. When you write something down, the likelihood of you meeting the goal increases.  You can pick goals on a daily basis even when you have a greater goal in mind.  Choose a daily, weekly, or monthly goal.  Your choices really depend on what you want to achieve.  This is another reason why pole dancing is such a great workout.  The experience is unique for everyone.  What you are working on will differ from what another student is working on.  Seeing someone else perform your goal can be inspiring.  It gives you insight into how you will go about achieving your goal to get the same move.

Setting your fitness intentions and keeping them really isn't as complicated as many portray it to be.  Keeping motivated through out the year can be fun and every time you see results, you'll have a renewed sense of motivation.  The great thing about pole dancing is the results can be documented so well- via pole journal, video, and pictures.  Visual documentation is key to keeping yourself motivated towards achieving your fitness goals in 2014.

So for 2014, in keeping with the theme of this blog post, I've decided to create a pole and aerial journal of my own to help me work through my progress and meet all my fitness intentions in the new year.  I hope you'll join me in creating new fitness goals and keeping them for a happy and health 2014!  
Blog Hop is a monthly blog topic involving pole dancing blog contributors from around the world actively involved in the online Pole Dancing Bloggers Association. Each month we write our perspective about a given topic pertaining to the pole dancing community. To read fellow Pole Dancing Bloggers Association January Blog Hop entries: Click Here.

Instructor Perspective: The Trials and Tribulations of an Aerial Program's Development

So what exactly goes into a solid aerial program?  This is a question I've been asked by many studio owners and instructors currently in the process of developing their own aerial curriculum.  Unfortunately, there isn't an easy answer to this question.  There are a multitude of factors that must be considered.  One of the first considerations one must look deep into is what type of clientele will their program consist of?  For many pole studios, the clientele consists of a mix of women who have little to no fitness background to women who have excelled into the epitome of super human and thrived off everything pole fitness has to offer.  I've had to put myself back in my pre-pole dancing days shoes and think about how my strength and ability to perform certain movement now as opposed to then differs.  This can be a challenging task when choosing movement for your curriculum as you want to sort out all the movement possibilities based on every conceivable modification.  This is why my program also is versatile and allows students to take each level repeatedly.  There will always be a new challenge and the issue of redundancy is not one that threatens the program's integrity.  The overall tone of the program is quality not quantity. 

Other factors that go into developing a solid program include education.  I make it a priority to stay up to date on information and be well informed within the industry.  I am actively involved in seeking out and receiving continuing education in the aerial arts.  This is something that is not readily available or easily obtained. Especially in the Midwestern United States.  There is a lack of availability of aerial training as most of the flourishing aerial programs and training facilities require traveling which also acquires an expense of it's own.  Ongoing education comes with a fee.  Equipment is expensive. Insurance comes at a cost. The world of aerial is a fun and exciting but pricey endeavor.  These are all factors that must be considered when embarking on developing a program.  These are also factors that students don't think about when seeking out your classes.  They don't generally take into consideration the time and expense on your end for developing the program and information you're presenting to them. Nor do they consider the huge liability the activity itself consists of.  Costs equal cost.  How much you spend impacts how much you charge.  There is a current debate in the industry as many old school aerialists are outraged at the discounted price offerings pop up studios are offering for aerial classes.  It comes across as disrespectful to the industry and those who have put in years of hard work learning and training, only to now have to compete with having to lower their prices to sustain clientele. The argument of charge what you're worth has been fueling within recent years.  Many argue that when you begin to lower your prices, you also lower your worth.  You set the tone to potential clients that you don't think your service is worth charging full price. Some blame discount deal sites.  Others blame the business owners that buy into it. Whatever your opinion on the matter is, the truth of charging reasonably for your hard work should reflect that you value your knowledge and expertise.  Don't lower your standards and sell yourself short. 

Safety is a huge priority and should be at the forefront of a program writer's mind in every moment of the writing process.  Writing a program is not something that is done in a short amount of time.  The first program I wrote took me nine months of write ups and revisions before I was completely happy with the final product.  I spent countless hours researching and writing the program.  Much of the movement required studio time which I dedicated my own personal finances into to create a space in my own home where I could test out movement theories.  I also developed an instructor training program to educate other staff members at the studio that would be teaching my program.  This involved creating instructional DVDs that covered the program moves in their entirety throughout the provided manual.  I also staged a photo shoot of every conceivable move and transition to illustrate within the manual.  I like to think I left no stone unturned in my quest to develop a solid program that was fun and unique all while providing a great workout.

The true testament to my hard work was seeing the actual program in action.  It was thrilling to begin teaching the program and watch the students progress each week.   The downfall of the program was politics within the studio the program was being taught in.  There was a huge lack of direction from authoritative figures within the business which inevitably was the straw that broke the camel's back.  Distrust and lack of respect can ruin something wonderful in a heartbeat. Coming out of the experience I have a new sense of direction for the program.  This process of rewriting has encountered a great deal of expense and hours of dedication to necessary revisions that will change the program drastically in a way that presents an entirely new program.  This has not been an easy process.  It's been physically and mentally draining.  I am faced with limited resources this time around and even though I fear it could impact my program, I am starting to see the positive aspects in regards to implementing safety with a strong focus on quality.  Past experiences taught me a lot about how to produce a functional program.  Past experiences taught me a lot about the mind set of what works with some and what doesn't with others.  Even though I was greatly disappointed to have put so much hard work towards my initial program just to have it's life cut short, I feel like it was a blessing in disguise because it let me see things as how they were meant to be seen. 

After spending the past two years revising my aerial program, the best piece of advice I can give someone embarking on program development is to always place safety as a top priority.  Really sit down and think about what safety means and how you want to enforce it as a common theme never forgotten.  There are so many out there that jump into things too soon and rush to start doing things.  There are also others out there that are concerned with what the competition is doing.  This is also something I've had to come to terms with myself and to realize that even though competition exists, there is still something to be learned from what I have to offer.  And to the critics out there that think they are above what I have to teach, that only makes things better for my program's future environment as one that won't include their negativity and competitive nature.  I'm ready to start this new chapter to my aerial program in this next year.  I hope you'll join me in my journey as I write about my experiences teaching my renewed program.  To all those reading this that are starting their own programs, good luck and make it something special.  The quality of being unique is priceless.