Cat Meadley: How Pole Dancing Changed My Life
If you follow the current fitness trends, you might have heard about a slightly more controversial one that has recently been becoming more and more popular…This fitness trend is Pole Dancing and I want to talk to you about my experience with pole over the past few years!
For the past 6 years I have spent a large amount of my time training, competing, performing and teaching pole dancing! I have a huge love for my sport and all the personal progression I’ve gained from training it. Pole has led me to develop greater confidence in my ability to achieve whatever I put my mind to as well as teaching me discipline and sacrifice. Regardless of how much I’ve grown as a person, the majority of people will view my sport as negative and immediately will jump to the conclusion of “You must work as a stripper!”
This view is particularly strong among men, who I’ve noticed will frequently form the opinion that I am easy and often times treat me as such, purely based on the fact that I pole dance. This was especially evident at University where I studied Neuroscience and pole dancing would be something most men would discover I did later down the line. Immediately their opinion would go from respect to asking questions such as “So can you do the splits?” or even worse “I’ve got a pole you can dance on” (because clearly originality is lacking…) Between studying and pole dancing, nothing about me changed as a person, so why this dramatic change in how I was viewed? After a while, I found myself masking pole under the umbrella name of “aerial” and brushing it off as something I did casually, feeling as though it made me less desirable as a woman (at least in terms of a serious relationship).
It has taken me awhile to come to peace with the judgement I might receive from people but I now look instead at pole for what it has done for me and how it has improved my life…
Firsty, it has gotten me in great shape! From someone who couldn’t touch my toes, run for 5 minutes or do a push up, to someone who can now drop into hyper splits without warming up or who will handstand whilst cooking dinner! While it has gotten me in good shape, it has also helped me to appreciate my body for what it can do and not just focus on what it looks like. Having to take time off through injuries, you gain such an appreciation for your body and the enjoyment you can have through using and developing it’s abilities that you realise the beauty in a body comes from loving it, taking care of it and enjoying using it!
The most important thing I have gained from pole is the sense of belief in myself! I often tell students about my list of impossible moves I found 2 years after writing it and realised I could now do all of them (of course I keep creating new lists to aim for!). As well as achieving moves I thought my body would never be capable of, I’ve broken other barriers, such as getting on stage in front of a thousand people to perform a routine and finally winning UKPPC after being rejected entry 2 times previously. This has carried over to other elements of my life… As someone who used to get so scared of travelling I would make myself physically ill with stress, I have now managed to do ski seasons in Canada and France and spend over a month in Bali on my own! Without the confidence I have gained through pole I don’t believe I would ever have done this, and my life would be a much duller one!
Last, but definitely not least are the connections I have made! Pole has a great community of strong, independent women (and men) and I have made many friends through my time spent in various studios. I love how up supportive the environment is, with the large majority wanting to help others improve and grow as performers and athletes, understanding how we all need to build each other up instead of trying to knock others down in order to shine. I think this is such an important point for us as women. There can be so many pressures on us to look a certain way or be a certain way that we can sometimes look at each other as competition, when we should be viewing each other as allies!
Now I know that some people will always have their view of pole dancing, and that is OK with me but I will continue to train for as long as I get enjoyment from it, regardless of what others may think. We have a right to do what makes us feel strong, powerful and creates a sense of achievement and no one should try to downplay that!
I’ve now realised that I can’t please everyone but pole will always be there, helping me to feel strong and able as a woman, as an individual… and if anyone isn’t strong enough to accept that, then that is no loss in my eyes!
Written by Cat Meadley