When pole dancing takes the back seat

Pole dancing may be your biggest passion or even your job, but all of a sudden it takes the back seat. What happened? Whether it’s because of work, of an injury, of a big life event like grief, a pregnancy or just because you’ve lost love for it, here are a few things to consider when you don’t have time for your favourite thing. Special thanks to my lovely Akila Pole Studio student Sarah for suggesting this topic!

Back seat: what do I mean?

It’s back seat, not back door. No innuendos here.

With pole dancing taking the “back seat” I mean that suddenly, your favourite hobby is not one of the main things in your life anymore. You don’t have the time to train it by yourself; you can’t make it to classes; or even, as an instructor, you go through the motions of teaching and don’t have time to train or create for yourself.

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with this. The fact that life has gotten in the way of pole doesn’t make you less worthy a person. It’s just that we all have to eat, pay the bills, work and sometimes look after ourselves and our loved ones. But since some of my students and followers have raised a mental or even life block to get back to their favourite hobby, I’m addressing the issue here in case it gives anyone some pointers to start again or decide what to do.

Back seat, but mentally? My current relationship with pole dancing

I finally got down to writing this post because I, too, am currently going through a weird spot in my pole life. After finally getting my first big research job and some pretty demanding competition training, my life changed. I didn’t have to push as hard anymore to teach private classes, find workshop gigs and teach because my income came from a more stable source. Still, I was burnt out, both by the academic job search and by training for a competition I had been preparing for for four months.

Roughly a few weeks after the comp, my body started giving up: I developed two injuries (one between my neck and shoulder, and one on my wrist), most likely as a result of over-training, and in both cases during time off from pole, like when I was speaking at a conference in Amsterdam.

Speaking at Global Perspectives on Platforms and Cultural Production at the University of Amsterdam

Because of the burnout and my injuries, I took a break from studio teaching (thanks to my amazing boss, Akila, who found cover) and worked from Sardinia to spend some time with my family and heal from injuries. Still, training in Sardinia didn’t prove to be easy: while I thought I’d spend my time here re-building my love for pole, I initially struggled with strength as I recovered from my wrist injury, and then with an incredibly hot and damp summer which affected my grip. It got so bad that at some point I had to film a freestyle holding onto the pole with a cloth (exhibit A below)!

So while I have the time and, now that my injuries have healed, the strength to pole dance, the mental and environmental circumstances in which I tried to do that haven’t been the best. I’ve felt useless and lost in my pole journey more than once this summer, and only now that the weather has cooled a bit and that I’m back to London do I feel like my mojo is coming back. I even got a pole tattoo to hype myself up, even though that’s not one of my “find your mojo again” tips 😛

But enough about me! Let’s talk about you. What can you do when the time or passion for your favourite hobby are MIA?

Identify why pole has taken the back seat

The first step in tackling why you’re not doing much pole is to identify a reason for it. It may seem that a lot of reasons, ideas and issues are blending together. That may indeed be the case, but it could be that by tackling one of those reasons, you find your mojo and your way back into pole again, or even a reason not to go back. But asking yourself what happened is the first step to tackle that mental or physical block.

What to do when pole takes the back seat because…

There are many reasons why your favourite hobby or even your job suddenly feels impossible to do. Often, these reasons have nothing to do with your will or skills, and more to do with your life outside of pole. So here are a few scenarios or reasons due to which pole dancing may have taken the back seat in your life, and some considerations about how to, or whether, to get back to it.

Of Injury

If, like me, you’ve injured yourself, you may be struggling to get back to pole. Injuries aren’t just painful: they affect your self-esteem and your beliefs about your own abilities as a dancer and as an instructor. I was scared to pole at full power after my injuries because I was afraid I’d make them worse, or that they’d get so bad I couldn’t pole anymore. Part of me also knew that I’d have to rebuild my strength slowly, and I was feeling too fragile to start again at a time when I just needed to feel good about myself.

Some people react in the opposite way: instead of stopping, they continue, and they make their injuries worse. So what to do? How can you find a happy medium of activity post-injury?

What to do when you’re coming back to pole after an injury

First of all, make sure you speak to a specialist – a GP, an osteopath, a chiropractor, whatever’s your vibe. But make sure you feel safe and healed, and only then get back on the pole. Depending on the type of injury you’ve faced, your chosen expert may tell you that fully stopping is not a good idea, and they may even give you exercises to re-build your strength back.

Once you’re ready to pole, start from the basics and see how your injured bits respond. Then gradually begin incorporating some conditioning, and remember to take your time: it’s better to wait an extra week to allow your body to re-learn to support you than having to go all the way back again.

For reference: it took me at least a couple of months, a physio sesh, two osteo sessions and a few weeks’ break to recover from my wrist injury and get my Iron X again. So it takes a while.

Of work

You’ve started a new job and want to impress your bosses and colleagues; or maybe you’ve gone up the career ladder and now have more responsibility. That’s great! But if you feel you don’t have time for pole now, there’s a solution.

What to do when work gets in the way of pole

Particularly in the first few weeks of a new job or role, it may feel a bit naughty to say: “Bye! I’m off to a class,” particularly in industries where over-time is seen as proof of commitment and interest. Having worked in those industries, I firmly believe you should only work the hours you’re paid for… but it isn’t always that clear cut, and some people may want to show they’re up for over-time to make a good impression.

Either way, it’s good to set boundaries at work. A happy worker is a better worker, and as trials for a four-day working week are showing, there’s an argument to be made about flexible working making people more productive. So after you’ve made your good impression, you can simply say: this [insert mode and time of training] is important to me, and it makes me happier and more productive. Mark it down in your calendar (in whichever way you feel comfortable) and treasure it, while also making clear that you’ll be available in an emergency.

Scheduling time in your calendar for your own training will hopefully make sure you stick to it like a work meeting, it will show that time as ‘busy’ to your colleagues (who should respect it and not book meetings then) and may make your training sessions even more productive because you have less time to mess around.

Of big life events

I’ll never get tired of saying that we don’t pole dance in a vacuum: pole is part of life. And life, sometimes, gets in the way and makes sure that pole dancing takes the back seat. Sometimes it’s for happy reasons: you’ve had a baby or a puppy that you really wanted, a job change (already covered above) or moved to the city of your dreams. However, sometimes it’s for something bad, like a break-up, the death of someone you love or some other emotionally challenging reasons. So how can you find your way back?

What to do when life gets in the way of pole

When it’s because of a good thing – like a baby or a puppy – the old scheduling trick does the job. I always remember what Naomii, owner of The Warehouse Dance Studios, mother of two and total babe, told me: when you have a baby, you have even less time for training so the one hour you get in has to be a good one. If you can, negotiate care with a partner or whatever is accessible to you and get your jiggles in as soon as you’re ready to get back to it. Similarly, if you’ve moved to a new place, get on apps like ClassPass to try out new studios, or schedule in some time to try out new classes to find your crowd.

If, however, pole has taken the back seat because you’re dealing with grief (in whichever shape or form), we’re dealing with a whole other issue. While I took up pole when I was healing from depression caused by an abusive relationship, when I found myself dealing with a major break-up five years later I didn’t find my favourite hobby to be so helpful. When I first took up pole, I was re-discovering my sexuality. When I had to deal with my recent break-up, pole was my job, something I had to show I was good at, something I had to be creative with… and I just felt like curling up into a ball and crying instead.

In this case, things may change for everyone, and depending on how you deal with each type of grief. It may help to work towards a goal – e.g. getting a move, creating a choreo, working towards a competition. You may find learning from others helpful, instead of always have to produce things yourself. Whatever helps – but make sure you also address what it is about pole that makes you not want to go back after the grief you’ve faced. Getting my mojo back has never been separate from therapy and trying to get support from my loved ones.

Of the wrong crowd

You love pole, but your studio or pole buddies are bad vibes – such bad vibes that you wanna quit. What to do?

What to do when your pole crowd makes you want to quit

It’s difficult to change studio when the one you train at is closer, or cheaper. But if the instructors, owners or even the students don’t make you feel welcome, don’t sacrifice something you love for the wrong crowd. Go ‘studio shopping,’ figure out the instructors that make you feel like you got this, the studios that make you feel welcome, the right class for you. You and your love for pole may blossom even more after that!

Of lost love for it

Pole dancing was your favourite thing and now you’re not doing anymore. You’ve lost love or interest for it, maybe because your training has hit a plateau, or because it’s too expensive, or because other forms of movement or entertainment have taken priority in your life.

What to do when you lose love for pole dancing

The most important question to ask yourself in this case is: do I want to go back to pole? If for whatever reason the answer is no, just don’t. Pole can be a huge part of our identity, and it may hurt to let it go. But mourning old parts of ourselves is part of growing and changing, and your pole dancer self might be what you need to be mourning this time.

If you do wanna go back to pole, you may have to face starting from scratch, scheduling in the time to learn from others. It may be upsetting if you remember being stronger or more fluid in your dancing, but if it’s what you really want, it’s worth it. It’s part of the humbling experience that is pole: it changes with you, and sometimes it takes you back to your previous self.

Final thoughts

In this post, I have shared some tips and ideas about making your way back into pole dance when it has taken the back seat. I’m fully aware these may not work for everyone, but sometimes, when different things in life add up, finding the motivation to go back to something may seem stressful and impossible – and tackling just one issue at a time may be the solution.

But the key is in the idea of motivation: unlike what many tutorials or motivational stories may tell you, finding motivation, particularly when overwhelmed by grief or other life events, isn’t that straight-forward. And when you’re not doing pole because it’s too expensive, or other reasons of force majeure, it’s difficult to even try before your circumstances change. So take these ideas as a starting point, not as the be-all-end-and-all, of letting pole back into your life.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve also injured my wrist, however my doctor basically said it’s because I’m older and it’s a stupid hobby/exercise for someone my age to do. So no help there sadly. Also had a wrong crowd group which made me feel uncomfortable, but my studio is the only one within a hours drive. But I’m in love with the badassery that I’m now able to do.

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