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Pole Fitness

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Pole Fitness: What Is It?
Pole fitness is poised to become an Olympic discipline, becoming more popular than ever.
Photo © Evelyn Reid
According to Wiktionary, pole fitness -- minus the spelling and grammatical errors -- is “a program of exercise centered around gymnastics performed on a pole.” And as per its practitioners, it's a bonafide sport, one necessitating athletic and acrobatic prowess to master.

For others who, chances are, have not bothered to try executing a pole-centric choreography themselves, pole fitness is the realm of strippers hustling johns with strategic sways and illusory come-hithers in the name of cold, hard cash.

Think China's reluctance, in spite of its growing popularity among women and even men, to fully embrace a sport vying for a spot as an Olympic discipline come 2016 or 2020. Public backlash over pole fitness reached the point where the country's national pole dancing team, in January 2013, felt compelled to arrange a publicity stunt with members pole dancing outdoors in the snow to destigmatize it to onlookers, emphasizing the gymnastic and acrobatic quality of the sport.

Ironic, isn't it? A national competitive team has to freeze its buns off to legitimize a discipline that, when performed by Cirque du Soleil acrobats, is called art. And gymnastics.

In the National Post quoted words of Tracy Little, ex Olympic synchronized swimmer turned communications manager for Montreal's Milan Pole Dance Studio, “so there is the striptease background, that it was done in strip clubs and stuff. But if you go [into a strip club] and you try and ask one of those girls to perform any one of the tricks that we do at the studio here, it’s impossible for them. It takes a lot of athletic talent to be able to do what they’re doing here, and it’s nothing at all compared to what they do in the strip clubs.”

I myself didn't think twice when Milan Pole Dance Studio invited me to try out a class free of charge. I figured, why not? As an avid fitness enthusiast -- think three to four 45-minute cardio sessions a week, two to three weight training sessions a week, two to three traditional Shaolin kung fu stance practice sessions a month, near daily pushups, weekly core training -- I was looking for a challenge, something to break me out of my comfort zone. Did it ever.

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