Sarah Darby and Hannah Watson make a shape on the Pole
Sarah Darby and Hannah Watson make a shape on the pole

UWE Pole Fitness drew in crowds again at UWE’S biggest ever Fresher’s Fair to watch their demonstration in the main arena.

Each year, Pole Fitness show off their moves to wow the crowd and encourage new members to join their society, and this year was no different.
Hundreds gathered to watch as the girls performed tricks and demonstrated their strength, flexibility and ‘gravity-defying’ moves.
During the day, the society celebrated receiving over 700 sign-ups to their mailing list and their taster sessions were fully booked by the following day. Not only that, but the society welcomed ten new members before the taster sessions had even begun.
To find out what we are missing out on, WesternEye talked to Pole Fitness Society president Gemma Heywood to change anyone’s mind who might still be sitting on the fence.

What is Pole about?
Pole is about getting fit the fun way! The Pole community is one of the most welcoming, friendly and supportive communities to be a part of. Pole can really be life changing by significantly building your confidence and self-esteem. Our members begin feeling shy and insecure about stripping off in to small shorts and a sports bra but after a short while they are more than happy to join in in every way.

Are there any misconceptions?
There is an obvious misconception, which is the assumption that we all want to peruse a ‘career’ in the sex industry. This is most definitely not the case and after joining pole you will realise there are a number of different aims but most frequently to get fit, have fun and find a new and exciting hobby and surround yourselves with some wonderful people. Many go on to enter competitions and perform in front of hundreds of people which they wouldn’t even begin to imagine doing before starting Pole.
Another misunderstanding is the reason we wear what we do. We provide our members with their free hot pants as you need almost every surface area of your legs to grip on to the pole. When you become more advanced, you also need your stomach skin to grip on in a number of moves. We don’t wear small amounts of clothing to impress or to gain attention but because we need to!
Another consistent misconception is how easy pole fitness can be. But this is definitely changing where we are performing almost gravity-defying moves and non-members often say ‘how the hell do you do that?’ There is also an increased appreciation with how strong you must be and how much dedication it takes to do what we can do.

How many members do you meet with regularly and how often do you meet?
We have over 100 members join the society each year but out of them we get the very dedicated members who get completely addicted to pole and join us at every event we hold. We have socials almost every other week but we also do so much more. We organise showcases for members to take part in, regular practice sessions, and offer the opportunity for members to compete and subsidize the costs for joining us on sports tour each year. Last year we went on tour to Salou with 21 of our members and committee which involved two days in a pole studio with plenty of poles, silks, trapeze and aerial hoop equipment… As well as all the clubbing and partying of course!

In what way does it keep you fit?
The first thing people tend to ask me is ‘does pole keep you fit?’ and I almost scream YES! I have never been so toned in my life and as mentioned before I have done sport or danced all my life. There are lots of guys out there that watch what we do and assess that we are probably stronger than them! Some classes teach you a routine over a course of weeks which can really work your cardio as to continue popping out move after move takes a lot of stamina.
Even from the very beginning it takes a lot of upper body strength, which if you start off with very little or none, you will build quickly. I couldn’t change gear in my car after my first few classes because my arms were in agony! But as we say, no pain, no gain! I personally love the feeling of aching muscles as it shows I really achieved something in class and that I’m only going to get stronger and better. I have been doing Pole for 3 years and train regularly but I am still always aching after training… it shows how much hard work we put in!
I started off attending one class per week which will feel like plenty as it is such an intense workout especially for your upper body. I became addicted and upped my classes quite quickly to two or more classes per week which we give our members the option to do, along with free practice sessions on the weekend if they have attended a class in the week to get more of their ‘Pole fix’.

Why do you love it?
As you can tell, pole is my life. where I train most days of the week, teach, recently competing nationally and on top of that organising and running a regional competition we are holding to provide more opportunities for members of pole societies in the South West to compete and showcase their skills. I couldn’t imagine not performing, competing, teaching and doing what I love on a daily basis.

How is your society different from all the rest?

Pole Society is not cliquey in any way like people might assume, though the majority of members are female, we pride ourselves in being welcoming and friendly and providing as many opportunities possible to our members. We want our members to get as much as possible out of being in the society. We have been running for over five years now and the Students’ Union and university are fully behind what we do as we have well and truly built a great community to be a part of at UWE.

If you’re still not convinced, just ask some current members. Maarit Voitto, a second year Occupational Therapy student joined at Freshers’ Fair last year, after just moving to England to study at UWE. She is now an active member of the group and has made close friends through the society. She also participates in regular social events and trips, including a holiday to Spain last summer.
“I have done Pole for three years on and off as I was travelling- I never liked to go to gym. UWE Pole Society are one of the most welcoming and supportive groups I never been part of”.
“When I went to my first class here in England, I shared the pole with a girl and we were straight away good pals, supporting each other with tricks and talking about things which non-polers wouldn’t understand or wouldn’t even want to hear about.”
Maarit explains why Pole is so addictive. “It is so rewarding when you succeed at a trick that you once thought would be impossible for you.”
So, it seems that Pole is not like the usual form of will-power-challenging fitness we know about. Plus, the rise in pole ‘dancing’ as a form of fitness is possibly starting to re-adjust the common stigma towards the activity.
“I know Pole Fitness gets lot of criticism, and association and references to ‘strippers’, but for me Pole is fitness and I would never do pole dancing in strip club”
“That said I do love the sexy side of the pole dancing. When I started Pole in Australia we always had high heels with us too and it was so much fun. I don’t see anything bad about little sexiness. It can give you a lot of confidence.”

To find out more about the society visit the UWE Pole Society Facebook group.

By Belinda George