Monday, 27 December 2010

Hot Pulse - Fitness DVD review

The Lovely Lucy Misch (pictured below right) sent me a DVD to review a while ago and I seem to have not found the time to actually watch the DVD so today, being a bank holiday, seemed the perfect time to try the new workout and write the review. Apologies to Lucy for taking so long.

Hot Pulse is a DVD claiming to be a "fierce new fitness workout", it is also described as "sassy, sexy and seriously addictive". The DVD must have been more addictive than I first thought as it felt like I had only done about 20 minutes of exercise but when  looked at the clock I had done the full hour and I hadn't actually done the entire DVD. As it was my first time trying this workout I certainly did get the sexy look achieved by Lucy and her team but hopefully I will get better with practice.

The DVD is cleverly split into sections so you can tailor the workout to your fitness needs focusing on different areas of the body or going for an overall beasting. The DVD has 8 energising routines designed to help you get fit and toned for 2011 and beyond, each routine has a sexy twist so not only can you keep fit but you can also pick up some sexy moves for the dance floor or the bedroom!

I think home fitness DVD's are a great idea but I do recommend combining them with an actual class where an expert can check you are executing moves correctly and look for good placement and spinal alignment. It is very easy to pick up bad techniques when exercising on your own. If you have existing back problems then I air extra caution in trying any home DVD especially if you have no fitness knowledge.

I should add that you may find other members of your household watching this DVD whilst you are not using it but they may not be following Lucy's workout and may be opting for their own instead!!! There are plenty of cleavage and pulsating butt shots to keep any admirer of the female species occupied throughout.

The warm up is a nice, easy to follow, gentle workout suitable for most abilities, a few too many static stretches for my liking but that is just my personal preference and the warm up does fit its sports specific genre perfectly. The first section I opted for was the legs section (see picture above), I decided not to wear the leotard things chosen by Lucy and her team and opted for a tracksuit instead. The legs section does require good balance but you could easily hold onto something if your balance isn't great. There are some lovely moves and repeaters to get those muscles burning.

Next up was the Abs section which was definitely needed after my Xmas indulgence, having had a break from exercising, drinking more than usual and not eating enough of my 5 a day my press-ups were incredibly weak and I dread to think what my first pole practice of 2011 is going to be like :( The abs section seemed much tougher than the legs section but that could just be result of the Xmas ale. As with the legs section there were some brilliant repeaters aimed to really tone and strengthen those abdominal muscles and flatten any Xmas tummies.

Bums and thighs were next on the agenda and it was funny watching the ladies working out in sexy black corsets in a church style setting (see picture right), this section was another nice workout with some sexy dance moves and some lovely squats and leg raises.  I loved the fact that this workout allows you to wiggle your hips and add your own dance element to the workout which I know may not amuse some aerobics teachers but works for me.

The chair section (see picture left) upped the erotic side of the workout but showed some great moves as well as a few variations I will be stealing for my forthcoming chair dance workout classes (full details to follow very soon!). If you are doing this at home using a chair please make sure it is a good sturdy chair as I have seen lots of chair dances go wrong if an unsteady chair is used.

What I really loved about this DVD is that once you have learned the routines you can always play your own music in the background to keep it fresh. The fact that you can choose from the different routines and sections gives this DVD great longevity where other DVD's may end up on the shelf far earlier. Well done to Lucy and the girls for putting together a fun home workout that actually does the job of helping you keep in shape whilst having fun. I am already looking forward to trying more sections of the DVD tomorrow.

You can buy the DVD by visiting the pole dance community shop which also features a large range of instructional pole dancing DVDs too including another Lucy Misch release Pole Exercise 1 and Pole Exercise 2. The DVD costs just £16.49 including UK postage (add £1 for Europe and £2 for the rest of the world).

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Dance and Health

On Thursday 2nd December I was delighted to attend a seminar organised by the Department of Health and Dance South West. The event was held at the Jurys Inn and was designed to be an educational day looking at the benefits of dance and how dance practitioners can reach more people. The event was also a great opportunity to network with other like-minded individuals and it is the first time in 6 years that I have sat in a room with a bunch of professionals who did not turn their noses up when I told them I teach pole dancing!

The morning started with a DVD presentation about dance being used in different ways to promote better physical and mental well-being and focused in particular on a piece of work where dance practitioners went into a children's hospital ward and created dance pieces with the kids, the dance pieces ranged from group work to simpler pieces where a child would dance with the practitioner by the bed-side.  It was truly beautiful to see the response from the kids as they expressed themselves through dance.

Next up was Ken Bartlett, Creative Director, Foundation of Community Dance who spoke about why we should use dance to tackle health issues and came up with some very interesting arguments that bode well for the future of dance in the UK.  Ken argued that dance can be more inclusive than sport as it does not always aim to be competitive, in sport we are always looking for the best for the team whereas in dance there is more freedom for everyone to be the best. With the Olympics approaching and many talented individuals having their skills nurtured it is important that we also develop more person centred planning for those who do not excel in mainstream sports but could excel through dance and similar opportunities.

Ken mentioned research that proved the 'Power of Dance' through improving social cohesion and increasing mobility, flexibility, endurance and cardiovascular ability, he also shared research that showed how dance resulted in significant improvements for individuals suffering with Diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.  

As well as looking at current attitudes towards dance Ken mentioned the history of dance and used a quote from Barbara Ehrenreich's book 'Dancing in the Streets', Barbara talks about the suppression of dance throughout modern history and in particular the Christian's approach to the  'dance of the devil'  a term used for all dance genres but more recently used for the argentine tango, salsa and, of course, pole dancing! Luckily attitudes are changing and the government is now recognising the huge benefits dance can bring not only to individuals but to the whole society.

At present Sport England only recognises 2 genres of dance, Ballet and Contemporary, but the Department of Health understands that there are many more genres that are equally beneficial to health and just as valuable as their more traditional cousins. The government wants to encourage opportunities for dance practitioners to work with health professionals and for both parties to recognise each other skills.

After Ken's informative and eloquent talk we were introduced to Kitrina Douglas, an independent researcher from Bristol University, who has just carried out a large piece of research recordng data from recent dance events organised through the governments change 4 life campaign. Kitrina's evidence looked at 4 events and how they encouraged increased participation in dance as well as their ability to attract new people to dance. The events Kitrina focused on were new ways of getting people into exercise rather than simply asking them to go to a gym. I, personally, love the idea of taking dance to the people through flash mobs, community festivals and street parties, this is such a great way of introducing people to dance, encouraging exercise and enhancing social cohesion.
After Kitrina's fabulous talk we participated in a short piece by Lois Taylor (The Works), a practitioner working with the elderly and focusing on arm-chair based dance, we were all invited to look at the number of ways in which we can dance whilst seated and we were all amazed at exactly how much you do whilst sat as well as how vigorous he exercise could be.  The piece demonstrated how those with decreased mobility could still partake in dance and could reap the benefits of such participation.

Just before we retired for lunch we were treated to a fabulous dance demonstration from member of Attik Dance and Attik 360. I was moved by the performance and hope that I may be able to do some work with Attik 360 in the near future.

After lunch it was time for us to get our brains back into gear and to develop ideas on how we can target individuals and groups to encourage them to participate in dance. Our ideas have now been submitted to the department of health and the full results from the 4 seminars held across the UK will be evaluated and sent back to us, I will post the findings as soon as I receive them.

For me the seminar has given me new hope for the art of dance in 2011, pole dancing s finally being recognised as a great way to keep fit, socialise and ave fun. At long last I am being recogniseded as a performing artist and a dance practitioner rather than being seen as glorified stripper (nothing wrong with strippers but that is not what I practice or teach!).

So watch this space for details of the art of dance's appearance at the International Women's day, The Attik dance strictly collaborative event (Devonport Guildhall - 19th March) and the BA7 fringe festival (commences Sept 17th). Perhaps 2011 will be the year that the art of dance receives some much needed funding to enable it to target new groups and do more comunity projects. Watch this space.....

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Crown Court, Blood, Pole Dancing, Daily Star and Perseid Showers!

After a fabulous day judging at the Bristol Pole Championships on Sunday and a seemingly long drive back to Plymouth in the early hours of Monday morning I was not keen to get up at 8am to view my neighbours pre-court hearing. However, after 10 years of neighbourly disputes I was determined to see his day in court and find out exactly what he had been up to aside from terrorising me and my fellow residents. The horror of hearing the 11 counts of rape and indecent assault against a 14 year old girl sent shivers down my spine and the fact that she now has to relieve the whole ordeal in a court room seems like a second round of torture for her, I just wish my neighbour had pleaded guilty to save the girl yet more hell. Click here to read more about yesterdays hearing. The trial is now set for March.

As I left the courts I noticed that blood transfusion vans outside the Plymouth Guildhall (pictured above) and decided to pop in and make an appointment for my free tea and chocolate biscuit and, of course, to give blood. Giving blood at the place where I got married was great, I laid on the donating table just 2 metes from the exact spot where I said my vows and enjoyed the added bonus of being able to count the number of penises on the statues that adorn the Guildhall ceiling whilst donating, definitely a worthwhile experience.

I mentioned the Bristol Pole Championships (see picture above of all the judges and competitors) at the beginning of this blog and I just wanted to say what a great, well organised and friendly competition it was, I am already looking forward to the 2011 event. A big thanks also to Rosanna for accompanying me to the event and being great company.

On the subject of pole dancing I should mention a poorly written article that featured in the Daily Star last week that I was completely unaware of at the time. My first inkling that something had been written was when I noticed a facebook update about me being in the paper, I was very confused and then saw anther few updates coming in mentioning the Daily Star, so I went to their website typed in my name and was taken straight to an article possibly written by an uneducated child about pole dancing in the Olympics accompanied by a picture of me with my name too!! As I don't own the image there is little I can do but I did have to chuckle at the poor content of the text which left me questioning the readership of such a publication.

So after the court case, giving blood, the fortnightly cash and carry visit, some Pole Dance Community and art of dance admin it was time to drive up to a secluded spot near Cadover Bridge (pictured above) on Dartmoor to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. Seeing a meteor was going to a first for me and it was quite fascinating staring out across the starry sky. I took a while for me to get my night vision but once I was focused I totted up about 6 or 7 meteors. My night vision was halted temporarily as the police arrived to see what my husband and I were up to, the young officer looked a little surprised that we were merely star-gazing rather than partaking in some illicit drugs deal or dogging activity. I thanked the officer for checking we were OK and then re-focused my eyes to see a few more meteors before driving home.

I will blog again soon about the Dance Event I have been meaning to review and the Plymouth Fringe Event planned to coincide with the British Art Show's Plymouth visit on September 17th 2011, if you can't wait for that blog then you must read Steve Clement-Large's blog to learn more. 

Just a quick mention to any of you who normally read my blog via the This is Plymouth website, sadly the website has now decide not to host any of the blogs written by its army of bloggers and they have got rid of the business section. But, fear not, there may be plans to host the blogs on another media platform.....

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Drugs, Prostitutes and Burkhas.

I read an interesting article on the Herald a few months ago where columnist Keith Rossiter discussed his views on the legislation of illegal drugs, it is a viewpoint that I completely agreed with and my liberal views also extend to the legalisation of prostitution. My views are not shared by all so I was particularly interested in a debate by the Plymouth Humanists on the subject of Liberty held last Thursday at Raffles.

Guest Speaker Keith Denby from the Devon Humanists kicked of the debate with a speech about John S Mill, a well known historical figure famous for his views on liberty and for his book, that has never been out of circulation since its publication in 1859, On Liberty. The talk was then followed by a lively debate focusing on legislation, human rights and mainly drugs and prostitution.

Generally the main point of disagreement was where we draw the line on our own personal human rights and the rights of those around us. Is the right of the wider human society more important than the individual and do we need excessive legislation to protect such rights. For example, if someone chooses to smoke cannabis in the privacy of their own home and they cause no harm to anyone else should that be illegal and do we as a wider society benefit from attempts to enforce such legislation. 

The point that Keith Denby had raised was that the actual act of taking a drug should not be the punishable offence, the offence would be any negative behaviour displayed by the individual that caused harm or offence to another. This links in to modern law in the sense that it is not illegal to drink alcohol but there are laws against being drunk and disorderly and drink driving as they cause harm to others. 

For me the biggest problem with the prohibition of drugs and prostitution is the creation of an uncontrolled black market; one gentleman quoted statistics proving that taking soft drugs usually led to involvement with harder drugs. I argued that this may be partly due to the black market where an individual buying drugs may be more likely to be introduced to other drugs or more likely to meet users of harder drugs. The black market prevents education and denies the government the opportunity to earn much needed revenue for the country.

Another issue with illegal dugs is that we create a taboo which may make it more exciting for youngsters to take drugs, this has been partly proven in studies in Holland where school children were reported to say that they did not take cannabis as it was not cool.

As the evening progressed and the alcohol started to flow the debate become even more lively and we moved onto prostitution which I strongly believe should be legalised. We are never going to stop prostitution and I don't believe we should be attempting to do so. We do have a moral responsibility to protect the vulnerable who are involved in the darker side of prostitution and sex trafficking and though legislation I feel we would have far more chance of doing so.  It was funny to see the reactions of the group as they were asked to put their hands up if they had ever used the services of a prostitute, people were much happier to divulge if they and taken drugs and I laughed as a few guys started to raise their hands, look around to see if others were going to do so and then lower their hand again as they decided not to publicise their activities.

I know that today's blog contains huge topics that deserve more than a mere page of ranting from me but I am interested in your views and would love to hear your comments. Perhaps I can do a follow up blog in a few weeks to discuss and share your comments?

Before I sign off for today I have one more controversial topic to discuss - the burqa, hijab or niqab. I wanted to mention that I bought a niqab for my husband (as you do!) and we, and some of our friends, have been experimenting with wearing it. The experiment has been partly about observing peoples reactions to the headwear and partly about the experience of actually wearing it. Whilst I understand that some would argue that it is their choice to wear the niqab I cannot personally understand how the full burqa can be worn without serious discomfort; I felt that my breathing was restricted and my vision was also limited which made me feel very vulnerable, it is also extremely difficult and undignified to try to eat or drink whist wearing it.  One lady was close to tears as she said that the head-dress really upset her as she felt it was a direct attack on women's rights. I will report more on the experiment  and others reactions very soon.......

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 28 November 2010

An Elected Mayor for Plymouth?

Grovelling apologies not only for the lack of blogging but for the failure to blog about last weeks PoleDivas competitions, it was a fabulous event and I will blog about it and post pictures when I get a moment. 

However, an issue has arisen that I felt deserved today's blog space and was very time sensitive as the deadline for submission of comments is the 5th December. As you may know I have various issues with the way Plymouth City Council is run, so much so that I even stood for local elections last year (with no success), I care passionately about the city in which I live and feel we could be doing so much more to nurture and promote this beautiful harbour and surrunding countryside. 

It seems we, the people of Plymouth, have the opportunity to vote to have an elected mayor as opposed to the current arrangements of an unelected chief executive and unelected council leaders yet many people I have spoken to have no idea about the possibility of reform. A personal thanks to the Herald for bringing this matter to my attention.

Here are some links from the thisisplymouth website that help debate the issue and will give you a better idea of exactly what is going on:

I get the idea that our current council leaders don't want change as they are happy with their cosy positions but this is not about what they want, this is about what's best for Plymouth. OK, so details were posted on the PCC website but have you ever tried to navigate the PCC website? It is full of broken links and has a poor search function making it very difficult to actually find what you want. 

If, for example, you wanted to hire the Plymouth Guildhall you would find it difficult to find the right page and when you do find the 'halls for hire' section there are no pictures or information to encourage you to actually book the venue. What I am trying to say is that Plymouth always sells itself short, our waterfront is in a mess, our airport is threatened, our rail links are poor and in desperate need of repair, the bus station is an absolute disgrace and when a recent coach company approached Plymouth about arranging tours a PCC rep stated that Plymouth is not a tourist destination!
                             Would this poster encourage you to visit Plymouth?
Recently we have seen the re-branding of Plymouth, a controversial exercise costing thousands of pounds of taxpayers money with pathetic results, click here for some interesting reporting from the Herald. Surely rather than sitting around a desk talking about 'Positively Plymouth'  and making pretty pictures on a PC (or Mac) we would have gained more from some practical actions such as clearing the streets of litter or repainting the bus station.

Is it unfair to say that PCC has the alternative Midas touch i.e. everything it touches turns to rubbish? What about the East End development, The Pavillions, The Dome, Tinside Lido, The plans for Central park, The Life centre, The disaster that is the Mayflower tourist centre, The fact that PCC can't organise a thanksgiving and it is left to a few individuals to plan?  I could go on.......

Back to the real point of toay's blog, could we benefit from an elected mayor and are we fed up with existing council set-up which sees the same old faces making the same old decisions? I have already aired my opinion in favour of an elected mayor and have raised concerns about the lack of public awareness of this issue.

Here is the actual response I got from Tim Howes after I aired concerns about the mayoral reform option not being publicised enough:

"The option of having a directly elected Mayor came into being in 2000.  Plymouth had a referendum on having an elected Mayor in 2002, where the public rejected the option.

There is a provision where the public, via petition, can request a further referendum but not until10 years after the 2002 referendum. Incidentally, the cost of the referendum alone is £250-300,000.

A new Localism Bill is being published shortly which will provide further options for the political governance of the authority, including a return to the committee system, which was in place prior to 2000. On the basis of those changes, the Government has encouraged Council's to use the most cost-effective form of consultation.

The Council has discussed new executive arrangements in two meetings which were open to the public, the summons, agenda and minutes of those meetings are on our web-site. The Council will be considering this matter again on the 6th December, when again, the meeting will be open to the public.

The Council also published press releases relating to these changes and since October, several articles on the subject have appeared in the local press. Those same press releases were on our web-site.

People have written to the Council, sent e-mails and responded to the on-line consultation to date. That consultation remains open until the 5th December."

If you want your say just e-mail Tim Howes to request a copy of the consultation document and to air your views.

I will stop writing for now as it makes me rather angry but I hope that everyone gets the chance to air the views and that for once the council actually listens to its people.Well done to all those who do care abut Plymouth, the unsung heroes who arrange community activities, run businesses and do their best to make Plymouth great despite a failing council.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Thursday, 18 November 2010

From dying to 10 years younger!

For the last few weeks I thought I might be dying, I was getting increasingly frequent headaches as well as pins and needles in my right hand, I knew I had been training a lot but didn't realise quite how much damage I had done. 

You see the problem is that teaching is not the same as doing your own personal practice and quite often I find myself showing students how not do things to prevent injury and then sustaining those injuries myself. For example, one of my recent session plans, which was laid out over 3 consecutive hours of teaching, involved headstand grips and the potential for pressure to the neck, I showed students the correct technique and then showed them a more advanced technique that could result in neck damage. By the time I got home my neck was really aching but at least my students necks were left protected!

Another problem with teaching is that quite often you are not working to your maximum ability especially when you are teaching less advanced groups. It is difficult to stay warm in some classes and that makes the muscles more prone to injury. The 20+ pole dancing inductions last month certainly had a part to play in my knotted muscles.

Teaching a lot also means I tend to neglect my personal pole dance training and this was reflected in my recent performance at the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club showcase at Plymouth University. I had lost some of my usual fluidity and grace and will definitely no perform again without more rehearsal time. Videos of mine and Tamar's performance to follow very, very soon!

So due to the high number of hours teaching and the lack of time to keep up my own personal yoga practice or regular sports massage  I have been building up a series of niggling injuries. There was I thinking that I was dying when all I needed was a good massage and some nice stretches. Help came in the form of Glen, a local sports masseuse with years of experience and a price tag of just £15 for a whole hour :). I should at this point apologise to my usual masseuse for not getting in contact but I know our hectic diaries sometimes make it difficult for me to get an appointment especially at short notice.

My hour long massage and consultation was exactly the cure I needed and the hour of pummeling meant I could walk out of the treatment room feeling 10 years younger. Since Monday's appointment I have had no more headaches, no more pins and needles and have suddenly regained movement in my back and shoulders that I haven't had for months. I will not be leaving it so long before my next massage.

So my students should be warned that once I return from judging at the finals of PoleDivas this weekend in Manchester I will be bursting full of energy with some very special extra evil session plans. You have been warned.

N.B. Image at top of blog is the fabulous novelty toothpick holder from Worldwide Fred. Click here to view or buy.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Remembering and hoping for better.

As I started today's blog, that was going to be about my sore shoulder, I suddenly realised it was Remembrance Sunday and the idea of merely winging about a small ache in my body seemed completely selfish. To think that so many have lost their lives and so many have been left permanently scarred both physically and mentally definitely outweighs my pole-pain!

I would like to take a moment to remember all those who have suffered both in recent conflict and in wars of the past, the many men, women and children who have been caught up in cruel and bloody conflict. I would love to think that we had said goodbye to the last fatalities of war, that in this day and age no-one would have to die over arguments about religion and oil but I am sure we will see many more lose their lives yet.

My thoughts go out to all those who have lost loved ones or those who still suffer at the hands of war.  I normally sign off my blog with the words 'Stay Healthy' but war has taken that right away from so many. I hope that we can learn from the past and try to avoid such atrocities in the future.

Sam x

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Continuing Professional Development.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending another Keep Fit Association (KFA) training day at Derriford Church Hall in Plymouth. The course was divided into 2 parts with the morning being devoted to a theoretical session looking at Equality and Diversity with Carolyn Drew from Somerset County Council. We also touched on the Disability Discrimination act of 2005. I have to be honest that having come from a NHS and Social services background specialising in adults with learning disabilities the course did not really offer me anything new but was a gentle reminder of basic policy and good practice. The course also tackled institutional racism,  prejudice (click here for a clip of the Equal Somerset film currently being used as a teaching aid in the UK and the US) and its manifestation within the workplace. Carolyn presented well and provoked a few good discussions as well as inviting us to check that our classes are as inclusive as they can be.

The afternoon was devoted to a practical session on personal performance and being a good role model for you students. We looked at learning routines and ensuring we proceed them correctly for our students as well as providing good demonstrations. We used fabulous references about the 7 secrets of Super performers, click here for this great source of advice, I will certainly be reading this resource prior to my next performance.
What I love about the KFA style is that it allows for more freedom of movement than the REP's ETM (Register of Exercise Professionals Exercise to Music course), I found the ETM style very restrictive whereas the KFA allows much more artistic license which I feel gives the students more benefits.

I am always welcomed on the KFA courses and at just £35 for the whole day the courses are great value. I think ongoing training helps to keep your mind open so your classes don't stagnate, to constantly evaluate both my practice and that of those who work with me is an essential part of my business and my responsibilty to my students and staff.

Another bonus of the South West KFA courses is that local trainer, Dell, always brings home made cake and the lemon cake she brought yesterday did not disappoint. The SWKFA ladies are a true pleasure to work with and they are a real inspiration with several members still teaching in their 70's and 80's, I believe Ruth is now 83 and she still looks fabulous.  Recently the SWKFA ladies choreographed an amazing ABBA inspired routine to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, click here to read more.

What was also great about yesterday was that the course reinforced the fact that at the art of dance we are teaching to the best of our ability and within the law. I am so proud of my staff team and the wonderful session plans they provide for our students.

It is now time to sign of for a Sunday Brunch followed by some personal pole dancing practice later this afternoon as I prepare for Tuesdays pending showcase at the Student Union at Plymouth University

More news to follow soon including more pole dance competition judging news (AWPC, Bristol Pole Championships and PoleDivas) as well as a new fitness DVD review and promising new pole dance magazine.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Halloween.

I hope that you all have a fabulous Halloween. I have had the most amazing week at the art of dance with a themed week of spooky fun and Halloween inspired classes. Check out some of the Halloween witches (above) who visited my studio for sinister fun. It seems that the art of dance is not the only school hosting a little Halloween terror, PDC approved pole dance school Emily's Pole Fitness have been sticking sweets to the ceiling and getting their students to climb to the tops of the pole to reach their rewards. One student managed a Gemini at the top of the pole so she could salvage a sweet with her toes!

PDC approved JLN Fitness have also hosted a Halloween pole dancing competition. Thanks to the lovely Jess from JLN for the fabulous bouquet of flowers she sent me to help brighten my week after my friend's funeral. The delivery really picked me up at what would otherwise have been a very low point.

You may want to check out the interview I have just done with US Pole dancer Josiah Grant AKA BadAzz (pictured above), click here to read the full article.

I will keep it short today as there are lots of little jobs I need to catch up on but I will leave you with mine (above) and my husbands (below) pumpkin carvings! 

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Judging at PoleDivas

      picture above of me doing the Extended Frodo (fao Josephine!)

Last night I had the pleasure, or should I say tough job, of judging at the South West heats of the PoleDivas championships in Bristol. I knew it was going to be a stiff competition with several ladies in the finals who all have the potential to win the finals. 

On arrival I met several of the competitors, all from PDC approved schools, and was able to put some names to faces as I met Emily from Emily's Pole Fitness, Shelley Neave from House of Pole and Lucie Tutton from In the Shadows. I also caught up with more familiar faces such as joint competition organiser Robyn Rooke from 360 Pole Dancing (PDC approved school). Robyn was was busy multi tasking but coped brilliantly with organising and MCing - great job!  The lovely Varie Anderson, Professional winner of the South West heats of UKAPP, was busy ensuring all the competitors had filled in their PARQ's, got their music and knew the line-up.

I took my place on the judges table with fellow judges Pippa from PoleNastics (PDC approved) and Stacey from Stacey Pole (PDC approved). Stacey is of course also the sales manager at X-pole and a very busy lady! We were joined by officials Josephine Ford (the original  PoleDivas founder and organiser of the forthcoming Bristol Pole Championships) and Varie Anderson. The judging criteria this year for PoleDivas is tough but fair and the the scoring allows all judges to give marks for Technical elements (40%) as well as Presentation (musicality, choreography etc) and Performance (costume, stage presence etc). The official ensure that all the compulsory elements are included, anyone failing to complete a compulsory element receives a deduction from the judges score. The officials were extremely thorough, checking and double checking the scores and using the video footage of each performer to double and sometimes triple check that the compulsory elements were as they should be.

I have to admit that last year I had my reservations about the complex judging system but this year it seemed to run smoothly and all the judges agreed on the final placings.

The Amateur section was a tough call and I find it really hard to judge critically as these ladies have only been dancing for a matter of months an suddenly they are faced with a strict panel of judges, a large audience and the joy of dealing with performance nerves!

The finals scores were very, very close with Bex Brady from Spin City Pole fitness (PDC approved) taking the title and the place in the finals. I loved Claire's performance too, her song choice and style were perfectly suited and she definitely has potential.

Next up was the amateur advanced section for those who are advanced but not yet ready to take on the professionals. Thus years heat was won by last years Amateur winner Riina Laahanen, who has certainly improved, her trick packed routine kept us all entertained and she showed a great display of strength whilst looking like she was really enjoying her routine, this girl has so much energy!

I have to admit, as amazing as all the amateur were I was eagerly waiting the professionals and already had a few performers who I was expecting to do rather well. Starting the professionals heat was the lovely Lucie Tutton who was obviously very nervous, she said that she didn't expect to win but wanted to enter for her students, which I was thought was extremely brave and admirable. Lucie managed some good tricks within her routine and did her students proud.

Another performer who stated that she didn't enter to in was the fabulous Catherine Payne, a mother in her 40's who performed like a 20 year old athlete, strong, poised and graceful. Despite not winning Catherine and the Spin City girls must have been chuffed with the performance.
            picture above of Amy Williams and Sarah Scott (Studio 22) winning the NSPDS routine for the Nation competition 2010.
For me the 2 acts that completely stole the show were joint winners Sarah Scott from Studio 22,(PDC Approved) and Jamie Alexah-Taylor from Defy Gravity (PDC approved). Both girls had completely different styles with Sarah opting for an urban routine with complex choreography and flawless tricks, Jamie chose the slow controlled option and completed the routine with effortless grace. The final scores left each girl with just 0.5 of a point between them resulting in the joint win. There is a video of Sarah's routine here but it is not great quality and doesn't really do her performance justice.

It was a sad night for former winner Annie Norris who narrowly missed out on a place in the finals lost her reigning title. It is so sad that anyone has to lose especially when Annie was still amazing. Annie has her own unique style but, like me, she suffers from tremendous performance nerves and I think the pressure of trying to retain her title proved too much on the night.

After the results were announce it was time for me to hit the M5/A38 and head home, I managed to get a brief chance to chat with the lovely Kate from Spin City as well as the fabulous Bendy Kate (UKAPP Expert  winner) and finally had the pleasure of meeting Alice Milner from Pole Dancing Bath (PDC approved). It was so nice to meet so many truly lovely people and a chance to make new friends as well as catching up with old ones.

A big thanks to everyone who made last night happen, the competition was well organised, fair and very friendly. Fair play to the audience too for showing the competitors the respect they deserved. Can't wait till the finals now!

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Remembering the Pirate of Mutley

This blog has taken me just over a week to actually write, I tried to write it last Tuesday but just couldn't get the words out.

It was last Tuesday afternoon that I discovered a good friend had died, his body was found just yards from my workplace in a Mutley Service Lane. I had been aware of the large police presence so went to be nosey and see what had happened, I was then informed that Brian AKA 'the Pirate of Mutley' or the 'Dude with the dog' had died.

Brian had been a good friend who I had known for many years, he had chosen to live rough after a series of tragic events left him unable to understand the rat race we seem to live in. One day he left the house he owned, shut the door behind him, posted the keys back through the letterbox and took to a life on the streets with his beloved dog Bella AKA the 'Rattweiller'. Some of you may remember my previous blog about a night with Brian where I referred to him as Bill for obvious reasons.

Brian had been unwell in the weeks before his death with a worsening chest infection that had left him coughing and vomiting, I had repeatedly asked him to see a GP and he had joked that if he went he would make sure he saw a female doctor and get a full physical examination as he could do with some female interaction of a personal nature! I won't describe the full conversation but it did make us both laugh.

I have, like so many, fabulous memories of Brian from the time we lived together in Keyham with Rich to the many days and nights we met on Mutley and North Hill. Often, when I finished work I would buy Brian a sandwich or a portion of spicy potatoes (with ketchup, of course!) and buy Bella a sachet of her favourite Caspers selection.
I now dread walking through Mutley knowing that I will not bump into Brian again.

I am so pleased that someone has set up a facebook tribute site to Brian and so many people have made it clear how loved Brian actually was. I had promised Brian that if anything happened to him I would ensure that Bella was taken care off and I intend to keep that promise, her first food parcel is being delivered tomorrow and will include her favourite Caspers meal and some other lovely doggie treats. 

I will never forget Brian and wish life had dealt him a few more chunks of happiness.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 17 October 2010

An Adventure!

After a difficult week involving the tragic loss of a good friend I really needed to get away from it all and cheer myself up. So, Sid and I planned a little adventure in Cappo (my little red Suzuki Cappucino). We decided to be fooled by the blue sky and sunshine and take the roof off the car and leave it at home whilst we set off to Darts Farm via Elvira's for breakfast and then a cross-Dartmoor route via Princetown, Postbridge and Bovey Tracey.

The drive out was absolutely amazing, the autumnal colours of Dartmoor were striking against the perfect, blue, cloudless sky. The roads were fairly empty and the thrill of the cross-country drive and the fresh air racing through my lungs made it thoroughly invigorating. My husband and I were enjoying ourselves until we hit the A38 at Bovey Tracy heading towards Exeter, the fresh air turned to icy cold wind pummelling our faces and turning my ears into small blocks of ice, we suddenly realised why people driving old, convertible sports car wear such strange attire - to stop them from freezing to death! I suddenly had a desire for Thermal underwear, leather hats and goggles!

Despite the cold we made it to Dart's farm in one piece and started to thaw out as we wandered around the shopping centre. Dart's Farm is an in interesting mix of amazing local produce, beautiful homeware, cute kids clothes and overpriced novelties. Be advised to shop very carefully at this place and look very closely at the prices! I had already decided I needed some more Earl Grey teabags so I picked up a small box of Cornish Tea and checked the price tag, realising the ticket must have been misprinted I replace the box and tried the adjacent packet. I started to giggle, probably in shock, as I called Sid over and asked him to guess the price of the teabags. "£5" he joked, "No, £8.99" I replied. £8.99 for 25 teabags from Cornwall! I am sure the teabags were nice but surely £8.99 for 25 teabags is a little steep? I even checked the ingredients to see if they were infused with gold or platinum but they weren't. So, as you have probably guessed, the Earl grey did not make it into my final list of purchases!

I did manage to get some lovely fresh, local, seasonal veg including Green and Purple Kale, Broccoli, and Brussel Sprouts, I also managed to find some delicious Wholemeal Bread, Salmon & Broccoli Quiche, Stilton & Guinness Pate and a selection of eggs from local farms. It was now time to venture back onto the road and face the cold winds again.

Deciding to take the scenic route again we ventured through Exeter City Centre to Quickes Traditional Farm to purchase some cheese; Mature Cheddar and ripe, stinking Jersey Brie we also bought a pint of the most gorgeous tasting milk I have ever tried, I think we may be returning to Quickes again in the very near future!

Within a mile of Quickes Farm we found another little gem in the form of the Beer Engine. The Beer Engine (pictured above) is a traditional family owned pub and brewery and all their ales (pictured at top of this blog) are brewed on site. The pub has a lovely looking menu and a great beer garden. I would highly recommend a visit!

So, it was time to head for home, I tried to stay on the country lanes for a while and then reluctantly headed for the A38 as the sun started to set and the cold increased its intensity. We didn't even get as far as Newton Abbot before I noticed my husband has stopped moving, I couldn't speak to him as the wind turbulence was deafening, I touched his leg but it was as cold as stone, fearing him dead I gave him a little prod and saw his eyes move behind his sunglasses, his hands were hidden beneath his jumper and his hood was tied closely around is face. My predicament was not much better, the 2 jackets were helping but my ears were in danger of dropping of and my fingerless gloves seemed completely unable to retain any heat. 

I resorted to uncontrollable laughter as I caught the faces of the passers by who were also laughing at the two of us in our strange attire, Sid just resorted to pretending to be dead as he told me later that any movement resulted in cold air finding further ways of invading his body. 

We finally made it home where it took Sid nearly 20 minutes to get out of the car, he then remained in front of the fire for a further 20 minutes before he was able to regain the use of his hands. It was a truly fabulous adventure and I have not laughed so much in ages. I can't wait till the next one.

Before I sign off for today I wanted to say what a fabulous time I had on Thursday evening at Jojo's book launch, the evening was a very sophisticated affair set within the stunning surroundings of the Gin Distillery and it's gorgeous vaulted ceilings. The evening was a chance to catch up with old friends including Local artist Brian Pollard and his wife Jane, Cathy Macabe, who was topless and being painted by another local artist, Jojo's lovely wife Mary and son Milo and other familiar faces. A thoroughly enjoyable evening seemed to be had by all. To order your copy of Jojo's book that celebrates the life of Robert Lenkiewicz through the eyes of his sitters just click here.

Loads more news to follow and don't forget that next week is the Bristol Heats of the PoleDivas Championships, I will be there as I am judging.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Friday, 15 October 2010

Breakfast 4 Life

Just a short blog today to share information I have just received about the Breakfast 4 Life campaign that is part of the Government's Change 4 life initiative. 

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and I feel it is so important towards keeping me healthy. I simply can't imagine skipping breakfast and functioning normally during the day.  I am always amazed when students come in for a pole dancing class and tell me they haven't eaten all day, not only are they risking damaging themselves by training without the right nutrients but they will not be the getting the best out of my training sessions.

For me, most days involve a rather luxurious breakfast consisting of a small slice of smoked salmon or salmon fillet accompanied by wholemeal bread, 2 poached eggs (Cotswold Legbars or Duck Eggs!), a large spoonful of tomato Passatta ( a much healthier alternative to tomato ketchup) and a sprinkling of black pepper.

For some simple eating and nutrition advice just click here and check out the Food Standards agency's 8 top tips for healthy eating.

Stay healthy and don't skip breakfast!

Sam x

Thursday, 7 October 2010

You can help cure Cancer!

I am sure there is not a person out there who has not been affected by Cancer or does not know a friend, family member, pet or work colleague who has suffered with this awful condition. Cancer is one of the words that just sends a cold shiver down my spine and came far to close to home in April when a routine ultrasound uncovered a tumour on my liver. Luckily the tumour turned out to be benign and is not growing but I had to wait from April till September to be told that everything was OK, the wait was horrendous and I simply can't imagine what it is like to live with Cancer or to watch a loved one suffer.

Thankfully, as I type, more research is being done into preventing and curing Cancer and there are many marvellous Charities such as St Luke's Hospice who do amazing things for those suffering with Cancer as well as offering essential support to their friends and families. I am sure that many of you already donate to Cancer charities and give your time and energy to take part in fund-raising events. 

However, there is something else you can do to help that won't cost you a penny! For the past 15 years I have been taking part in several surveys to help identify the causes of Cancer and to further understand what might increase the risk of us getting Cancer in the first place. The first company I started working with was Epic Cancer and nutrition research, Their research not only helps with valuable research but gives you a great insight into your own eating habits as you record your food diary. If you would like to join in with the Epic study just use this link.

The 2nd company I am involved with is Breakthrough Generations, the UK study of the causes of breast Cancer, which to date has over 109,000 participants. This study does involve giving a blood sample which most GP's will do free of charge for you. I think giving a blood sample is a tiny sacrifice towards finding a cure for Cancer. To learn more about Breakthrough or to take part in their ongoing research just use the link above or visit the Institute of Cancer research.

Let's help beat this terrible disease as well as continuing to support charities like St Luke's who look after those for whom finding a cure is too late.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Thursday, 30 September 2010

University of Plymouth Blog

 picture above of the view from Cuba on North Hill looking into the university campus.

It must be a very exciting time for many students as they embark on their first year at University. I had the pleasure of popping into the student union last Sunday to see how my University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club (UPPDC) were getting on at the annual Fresher's Fayre. The student union was buzzing with new and existing students and it was fabulous to see the wide array of clubs and societies on offer to the students. I almost persuaded myself to apply for a university place next year just so I could join some of the clubs myself!
picture above of some of the UPPDC committee.

My  lovely UPPDC committee were working extremely hard and managed to sign up 112 members during the afternoon which has resulted in a very busy couple of weeks for the art of dance as we try to get all the new UPPDC members inducted in the art of pole dancing.

It has been so great to see the studio so busy and to meet so many new faces. I hope that the UPPDC members become as addicted to pole dancing as myself and my UPPDC committee! A huge thank you to all my committee members for working so hard to make this years club a success and a big thank you to Plymouth University for boosting Plymouth's economy and helping to create a vibrant and diverse city.
picture above courtesy of Hannah Bevan.

For those who have criticised the universities decision to occupy the Hoe for a month to hold the graduation ceremonies I have to strongly disagree with their viewpoint. I can't think of a better location for the students to celebrate their success whilst showcasing Plymouth Sound to their friends and families. The occupancy of the Hoe does not prevent the rest of us enjoying our fabulous waterfront and we should be proud to share our harbour with those from outside our city.

Congratulations to our very own art of dance pole dancing instructor Tamar Preston
on her graduation after passing her UoP Photography degree.

Before I sign off for today I wanted to mention the new Ninja Warrior TV series. The programme shows some serious feats of strength and endurance and makes other shows like Total Wipeout and Takeshi's castle seem like easy challenges. This Japanese gameshow features elite athletes taking on seemingly impossible challenges. It is definitely worth a watch!

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Friday, 24 September 2010

Plymouth's delights.

This week has given me the chance to take a little time off to share the delights of Plymouth with my Mother In Law and her partner. My husband and I wanted to show off some of our favourite Plymouth places and where better to start than with a Port of Call breakfast. The Port of Call at West Hoe has a special significance for me as it is where my Mum, Fern (one of my bridesmaids) and I had breakfast prior to my wedding. OK, so the cafe is not fine dining but it is good, honest food with cheap prices and a lovely, friendly, family feel.

We couldn't share the delights of Plymouth without a traditional Devon Cream tea at the Jennycliff Cafe where we could peruse the Sound and the amazing panoramic coastal views (see picture top of blog of the view north from Jennycliff looking back towards the Hoe). Check out this and other fantastic viewpoints along the South West Coast Path.

Tuesday night meant al fresco dining at the
Seafood and Pasta Bar where we could enjoy a mild September evening and Bouillabaisse by the sea. The views across Sutton Harbour are simply stunning and this restaurant has a lovely menu and great customer service.

Another local attraction that seems to be overlooked by many is the Dartmoor Zoological Park at Sparkwell, just 5 miles from Marsh Mills roundabout. The DZP has always been a firm favourite of mine and it as great to see the many improvements being made to the animal enclosures. The visit started with a trip to the Bears, Coati's, Owls and Foxes before making it to the Tiger enclosure just in time for feeding. Whilst I enjoyed the feeding Solomon the Lion treated us to an unplanned roaring session which may have been in protest at the fact that it was not him being fed! Josie the lioness also made an appearance and came within about 3 feet of me before deciding the tiger's meat looked decidedly more interesting.

As the Zoo Park was quiet I was treated to a special close encounters session where I got the chance to pet some of the parks less cuddly creatures including a giant land snail,  hissing cockroach and my favourite reptile, Clive the Bearded Dragon (see picture right). I also got to see 2 of my favourite birds a scarlet macaw and a blue and gold macaw.

It is so sad to hear that the park is facing such financial difficulties and I really hope that the Park can hang on in there until it starts to reap the rewards of the film royalties due next year. 

DZP is a great family day out  and is good value at just £8.95 for an adult pass and £33 for a year's unlimited pass. I can't wait to purchase my annual pass and make DZP a regular day out. I also hope to save up for a behind the scenes day too.

Wednesday evening meant fine drinking courtesy of the Seco Lounge, giving us a chance to peruse the stunning Royal William Yard development before dining at the Butcher's Arms. It was my first trip the this establishment  but it won't be my last, this undiscovered gem ticks all the right boxes for great food, real ale, excellent service and a relaxed atmosphere. The Black Rock Grill is superb value for money and tastes amazing.

I mentioned in a previous blog about the marvellous aroma wood-fired pizzas that I had sampled so I couldn't resist the opportunity to pop down and take a picture of a pizza being pulled from the oven - check out the results below. Once you have tried this pizza you will never eat at a franchised pizza establishment again.

Before I sign off for today I must give a mention to Moet who died on Wednesday night. Moet was the oldest and bravest cockatiel I have ever had. He was rescued from Woodside and was in a poor state, he then endured an attack by my battery chickens which nearly killed him. Despite his injuries Moet battled on regardless and was a big character within the aviary. He had a lovely sea burial by moonlight at 9pm last night on the Hoe. Hopefully he was not caught by any of the local fishermen!

Must get ready for my performance at the Ladies night at Tenpin bowling later!

Stay Healthy,

Sam x