Sunday, 22 January 2012

Cross training and overcoming fear.

As much as I love pole dancing (just in case you hadn't noticed) the new year has been a time to try some new activities, it wasn't a new years resolution as I don't do those, it was more of a chance to cross train, boost my fitness levels and meet new people. Last week I reached one of my big goals, I have been working since September 2011 to be able to get my toes onto the back of my head, to achieve this I had been doing some contortion training Marlo Fisken style (for those of you ho don't know who Marlo is she is a New York based pole dancer with an amazing background in theatre, circus and dance). I had the pleasure last year of a 3 hour workshop with Marlo at Spin City in Bristol and Marlo was able to teach me lots of new stretches to help me to increase my flexibility.

My next goal was to overcome my fear of toppling, I should explain that there are certain moves in pole dancing that require the body to turn in a way that my brain does not like, walkovers generally terrify me so every Thursday night at 8.30pm I'm off to train at Swallows Gym aka Plymouth Gymnastics club. My first session at Swallows was, as expected, terrifying. I went with the lovely Megan Hookins who unfortunately for me is a gymnast, let me set the scene; Swallows is huge and is full of every bit of kit you can imagine. After a brief warm up everyone in the room, apart from me, started somersaulting, vaulting and generally doing things way beyond my ability. As I watched in awe a lady arrived and explained that it was also her first session, brilliant I thought. My happiness was short lived as Tasha then explained that it was her first session after a 2 year break but that she was a former Kent county gymnast, Megan and Tasha then disappeared off across the mats triple somersaulting as they went.

I decided to start with something that might be within my remit, we have a set of gymnastic rings at the Art of Dance so the rings at Swallows seemed plausible. The first hurdle was the height, the rings are several metres of the ground and I wasn't even sure how I could reach them, I managed to shimmy up one of the crash mats and balance precariously before jumping on to the rings, after a few poses and turns I landed rather ungracefully on the crash mats below and then watched as one of the gymnasts lowered the piece of equipment that allows you to get onto the rings with ease! According to Dave, one of the coaches, I managed a German Hang and a dislocater (I felt the dislocater and it's name perfectly described the sensation I felt through my shoulders)) and the German Hang was actually a case of me hanging on for dear life as I became aware of exactly how high the rings are.

Next up was some rope climbing, this should be easy I thought, one of the guys showed me the basic technique and off I went however the gentleman failed to inform me that climbing a rope in bare feet is not such a good idea, I left most of the skin off the top of my foot at the bottom of the rope but did manage to climb a few metres.

Despite being completely out of my depth I loved every minute of it and now on week 3 there is some progress in my ability even if it is very small. This week I got one rotation on the baby pummel horse which may not sound very good but trust me the pummel horse is ridiculously hard work so much so that the first time I tried it with the lovely Vicki Terry we spent most of our time either falling off or laughing. Laughing and falling off things was pretty much the theme of my second week at Swallows.

Week 3 of cross training had one additional element - Zumba! My Mum has been doing Zumba with the lovely Emma Newton-Bates for some time now and I have been wanting to try it for ages, I have never liked traditional aerobics (that is why I hated doing the practical element of my YMCA ETM course) as I find it too restrictive, Zumba allows more free flowing body movement and expression which is much more appealing to me. I expected to be rubbish but wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting, perhaps after being so pathetic at gymnastics anything was going to seem easier?

So if you want to see one of my failed attempts at gymnastics just check out Megan's videos of my springboard faceplant and my first assisted walkover (this one worked - the second one which thankfully wasn't videod involved missing the mat and landing on the back of my neck). Oh and here's Megan showing me how it should be done.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x


Iris said...

Sam! This toes-to-head thing is my goal for 2012! Share your stretches? Pretty please? said...

I have been using a mixture of stretches. The main aim is to stop thinking of it as a back bend and instead thinking of the whole body bending, the chest needs to bulge forward and the next bit for me is getting the elbow higher when I pull the foot up.

We have been doing safe stretching workshops with a yoga instructor to enhance our stretching too :)