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Unconventional Fitness: Physical Wellness Without the War

By: Taylor Starke

Right off the bat, I’ll admit it: I am not a huge fan of traditional exercise. To me, it’s the equivalent of my mother reminding me to eat my brussel sprouts or that dreaded alarm clock going off first thing on a Monday morning. I think it’s because I can’t stand the idea of people everywhere hurrying to exercise enough to feel beautiful in their swimsuits in the Summer months and chastising themselves for indulging in the occasional red velvet cupcake.

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I own Pole Position Dance Studio, an aerial dance space in the heart of White Plains, NY. When a group of fresh faced students come for their first class, antsy and eager in their excitement, the very first thing we tell them is, “We are not a gym.” We won’t urge you to get your bikini body ready nor will we measure you by numbers on a scale. We measure your success in the number of times you jump up and down because you nailed a move or in the way you admire the natural curves of your body.

 
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Traditional gyms serve an incredible purpose where fitness junkies can chase their body sculpting dreams, but in pole dancing we aim to unlock movement and develop dancers who fall in love with what their bodies can do, rather than frown at what their bodies look like. 

Imagine, you’re cleaning your house and the best song comes blasting through the radio: none of us can resist dancing around, right? The same concept applies to how I stay active and give my body the love it needs! For me, physical wellness starts from an emotional place.

 
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I had to learn to accept my body as it was —scars, stretch marks, flaws and all—in order to start thinking of it as an old friend who’s on this life’s journey with me. So, when I start warming up to dance, I’m really chatting with my body and saying, “How you doin’, baby girl? A little cranky in the left shoulder? Okay, let’s see if we can stretch that out a bit.” Day by day, dance by dance, I get a little stronger, not from doing drills, but from having this need to express myself through movement. I hear a song and I just want to shimmy, shake, and show out. 

 

Somehow, loving our bodies has become a revolutionary, uncommon idea, but for me it was the instrumental first step in discovering the natural skill (and limitations!) my body possesses. If I want to do a basic spin around the pole, I’ll have to engage my lat muscles, driving my shoulders down my back, creating momentum from an externally rotated outer leg and hooking that same ankle on the pole to pivot and float.

The mechanics are carefully taught, but by the third spin, all a dancer feels is weightlessness, success, freedom. That addictive feeling and joyful repetition, with all the little mechanical details meshing to become seamless, is what creates increased strength in the body and that feeling of, “Damn, I look good!” a few weeks later. Pole

 
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The mechanics are carefully taught, but by the third spin, all a dancer feels is weightlessness, success, freedom. That addictive feeling and joyful repetition, with all the little mechanical details meshing to become seamless, is what creates increased strength in the body and that feeling of, “Damn, I look good!” a few weeks later.

Pole Position is grounded in the idea that we can rid ourselves of society’s expectation of perfection, love how we naturally move, and when we just so happen to see a little more definition in our muscle tone, it’s a beautiful bonus. That is how our tagline, “Feel free,” was created and is now passed down from seasoned dancers to our fresh-faced newbies. They tell each other to eat that cupcake, wear the tiny shorts, and dance like no one’s watching, because you’re free here. 

 

Of course, there are some days where we just feel overwhelmed and not in the mood to move. Our “Feel free” revolution extends to guilt-free rest days, so my advice? Listen to your body because wellness starts when you aren’t at war with yourself. Maybe you stay home, but let me remind you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with grabbing a hairbrush and singing into it in front of your mirror in nothing but your socks. Love on yourself! Your mind and body deserve it. 

Also, check out other ways to feel free & stay fit at a studio or in your living room!

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  • Belly Dancing Classes

  • Aerial Yoga Classes

  • Hiking

  • Twerk Classes

  • Hula Hooping Classes

  • Zumba Classes

 

Feel free,

Taylor

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About the Author

Taylor Starke is a professional aerialist and proud owner of Pole Position Dance Studio (@poleposition_ny) in White Plains, NY. She discovered her love for dance in 2015 when she ventured into a pole dance class and hasn’t looked back since. She’s been featured in venues such as the 2019 International Pole Convention and Schtick a Pole In It event in NYC. When she isn’t teaching pole, you can find her at home bingeing the latest series on Netflix or throwing a frisbee for her Mini Aussie, Hazel. You can follow her fitness journey @starkestruck.