Competition Training Begins

I decided to compete in a pole competition after taking pole classes for a little over a year. I did not feel I was ready to compete; however, I was more afraid to miss on a perfect opportunity. (Previous post: Road to the first pole competition)
I started taking private lessons with my coach in April 2022. Then my competition challenge started.

Fear and desire

I decided to compete for achieving a personal milestone and seizing an opportunity or just “Carpe diem”.
Part of me also wanted to challenge myself. I get nervous in front of people and I always admired those who can talk or express themselves freely. I always had a fear of what other people thought of me and I thought this was a chance to work towards overcoming my fear. I wanted to live more freely. Life is too short to not try what your heart tells you to. I needed this challenge for myself.
It sounds exaggerated, but these were my true feelings when I decided to compete. To be honest, I could not tell my parents about my pole passion until I competed. I was afraid what they might have thought of pole dancing. By the time I was committed to compete, I fell in love with pole dancing and I was ready to expound on this passion of mine. I was proud of what I love and ready to pursue my new passion deeply with the competition.

My theme

During the first meeting with my coach Marta, she told me to write down some tricks I was comfortable with and songs that I would like to use for the competition routine. As I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to pick a song which I would not normally pick. My favorite color is pink (like a cherry blossom lighter pink), I love dresses, afternoon tea and all cute things. I am about 148cm ( or 4’11″) and picking a cute theme might be an easier fit for me. Though I wanted to showcase a completely different side of me, something people who know me wouldn’t recognize at all.
I wanted to overcome my fear and I thought I would need to find a strength hidden inside me. At that time, I was watching one of my favorite Japanese anime series called Attack on Titan and the opening song called “The Rumbling”, by a Japanese alternative metal band SiM, ignited my passion even more and I thought it would be perfect. The song is intense, and the part of lyrics “Nobody knows what’s inside of me” was perfect to unveil a different side of me.
My competition category was Pole Classique and it focuses on sensual beauty. I always feel empowered doing seductive and graceful moves with my heels. When I wear heels, I become fearless. I wanted to show this strength in my routine. After discussing with my coach, we decided my theme as a seductive assassin.

The training

Starting April 2022, I took private lesson with my coach once a week. I saw her every week besides a two week break in May until the competition. It might seem like a lot, but I wanted as much help as I could get for my first competition. I have not seen a competition and I had no idea how it was going to be.
After I told her what tricks I could do and my song, she choreographed a routine for me. During the lesson, she taught me pole combos and floor work. I have taken some choreography classes, but I’ve never done a routine for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. The tricks I thought I was good at did not feel the same. It was so hard to execute tricks in a routine. Training was physically and mentally challenging, yet I also had a lot of fun.
So many emotions come to me when I recall the training and it is hard to sum up, but here are some things I wanted to share:

Struggles of practice…lack of stamina!

When I first started my training, I immediately felt I was out of shape. I was ready to practice as many times as possible to master the routine, but I could not do as many pole tricks as I would like during the lesson. Pole moves are intense and my muscles get tired after a few tricks. In addition, my pole tricks get sloppy as I get tired. I soon realized how exhausting to do a pole routine. I could only do whole pole routines for two times until August. Luckily I started training early enough to build my stamina. I could run the routine three times during a session a few weeks before the competition.

Practice strategically was a key to training, but it was mentally difficult. Excessive practice could cause an injury and resting was crucial. I tried to pace myself for the private lesson, but it was always a dilemma to decide when to practice and rest. Rest was necessary, but anxiety of not practicing was always there. There were some private sessions that I was too tired and couldn’t move my body as I wanted to. Eventually I figured out my practice pace. I think I had never cared about my body, from diet to resting this much before.

Lack of experience…pointing toes, cramps and awkwardness

Instructors always tell me to point toes during class. Pointing toes were new to me and it did not come naturally. The only physical challenge I have done prior to pole was running a full marathon and I never paid attention to my toes before. During a pole move, I focus on holding on to a pole more and toes were my last concern, but it makes significant difference in execution. I’ve learned pointing toes are a fundamental factor of pole dancing, but I still forget.
During the training, I often forgot about the toes and I didn’t realize it until my coach told me. I appreciated my coach’s constant reminder of my toes. I got a cramp in my calf two times during the practice (ouch!) as a result of trying to keep my toes pointed.

One of reasons I enjoy pole fitness is learning how to move my body. I’ve never paid attention to my body like this before and even a simple body wave was awkward at first. I wished I had some dance experience, but I was happy to finally discover how my body could move.
The floor work my coach taught me was difficult at first. My brain didn’t register how to move like her. I needed to break it down and understand. I practiced the floor work at home every day.

Accepting my body: recording helps

My coach always told me to record myself so I can watch myself to improve. I didn’t record myself during regular pole classes or open pole session often until my competition training. I was hesitant to record myself at first because I did not like watching myself; I did not like my body, and I was ashamed of how awkward my body moves. After watching myself several times, weirdly I started to like watching myself. I started thinking my body was not that bad and seeing little improvements made me happy. My body was sore after every lesson and I gradually appreciated my body. My body eventually started to move as I wanted and let me do tricks I desired. I also understood tricks and transitions better after watching it. I started to take note while I watch my routine and I counted every little improvement as a win. Even though I’ve decided to compete, fear of being embarrassed in front of people haunted me here and there. I could gradually accept my body and those fears decreased as I appreciated my body. I cared less about what others thought about me. I started afraid of disappointing myself instead. My goal was impressing myself, not others.

Fun part

Private lessons with my coach was fun, but I also enjoyed sharing this experience with my pole mates. Some of my pole mates and instructors have competed before and hearing their experiences was inspiring. I’ve met amazing people who share pole passion at my studio (Vertica Fitness Tucson) and going through the competition with some of them was one of the best parts. We were in the same boat, yet we were on our own journey. We each had different stories to tell on the stage, but we shared all the physical pain and mental struggles. I remember I had a similar feeling while I was running a full marathon. During last 2 km (1.2 mil) of the marathon, I was running with so much physical pain. I ran alone at that time and I didn’t know anyone around me. Regardless, we cheered on each other. I was in so much pain, but I knew everyone else was the same. We all ran over 40 km (24 mil) so far. The goal was so close, but so far. At that time, I wished everyone reached the goal successfully and do their best. That’s what I felt a few weeks before the competition. We each worked on our routine for so long. I wished everyone their best.

Next: The competition

Competition training helped me to grow mentally and physically. I appreciated all the moments, and I am so glad I decided to compete.
Self-acceptance is difficult, but I was able to embrace myself through this experience.

I will write about my competition experience in the next entry. Thank you for reading. 

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