Give Pole Dancing Fitness Classes a Whirl

Lisa Johnson is a fitness blogger at She has been teaching Pilates since 1998 and owns Modern Pilates in Brookline, MA. She can frequently be found on Twitter @LisaJohnson.

I’m standing between an adorable blonde wearing red, sparkly boy shorts and a lanky brunette with a gorgeous, flowing ponytail and a tank top that says “Survivor.” I’m feeling the very awkward duckling.

I grab the tall, shiny pole with my hand and yank my t-shirt sleeve up over my shoulder so I can show more skin. This isn’t to be sexy; skin is stickier than cotton and it will help me to stay up longer. I take two big steps, my other hand grabs the pole, feet go in the air, and I whiz around once, twice, and then land my two feet almost gracefully. Success! I give out a little squeal because I finally did it on the tenth try.

“Good,” smiles Star, my instructor/torturer, as she nods approvingly. “Next time, step bigger.”

I’m bruised, I’m sweaty, my hands hurt from gripping the pole so hard, and I know my shoulders and legs are going to feel it tomorrow. And I’m only halfway through my first Pole Fitness class not sure I’m going to make it.

My illusions of having a fun, sexy workout have been left in the dust. I’m working hard, OMG, so hard, and I have a new, profound level of respect for strippers. Those girls do not get paid enough.

Pole dancing has come out of the dark, flashy gentlemen’s clubs and into the fitness realm, and for good reason. This is a tough workout that sculpts every body part and leaves you strong and taut in all the right places. There’s also an amazing sense of accomplishment as you master a new move. I walked out of my class with a little pep in my step because I managed to do the fireman’s slide and grip the pole with just my legs and stay on. How cool is that?

Pole dancing or pole fitness classes are popping up all over the country. Students use a stripper pole firmly anchored in the ceiling and floor to do all kinds of exercises. The pole works as an anchor to increase stretches and to put your body in a whole new position as you work your abs. You’ll be burning a lot of calories too; beginners will expend around 200 to 250 and intermediate and advanced students can burn up to 400 an hour.

Then, of course, there are the dance moves where you whirl around using legs, abs, back, and arm muscles to achieve each position. You might not start off feeling sexy (I didn’t) but that lanky brunette was on her fourth class and she looked great and was really enjoying herself. I’ve already signed up for two more classes and I can’t wait to go.

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