By Miranda Hardenberg
Body Mechanics Expert
I am so excited for the new season that has begun and for my role as Body Mechanics Expert here at Pole Princess. For those who I have not had the pleasure of meeting, here is a little bit about me which will explain what has lead me to write this first blog.
I have been poling for 5 years, instructing at Pole Princess for the last two and I have been competing in doubles and representing Pole Princess for the last 3 years. My strength in pole is definitely my upper body. I am fortunate to have a body type that easily builds muscle and I love anything strength based. My achilles in pole….flexibility…. While I am now considered flexible, this is something I have had to train extensively; after all I used to be referred to as the letter “i” (I swear I was bending). I love the human body and understanding the amazing things it can do. I will always ask how and why when it comes to learning and for those I have taught, sometimes they feel like they are in an anatomy and physiology lesson. But I am passionate about teaching students how their bodies work. This to me is fundamental in achieving perfect technique and more importantly keeping ourselves safe in our sport.
I am about to take a break from physically instructing and the competition scene for the year; I am currently working on growing a little human. This is an awesome time in my life, but how does this lead me back to pole? Because for the past 15 weeks I have had to really listen to my body and pay particular attention to my safety; after all, it is not just about me any more! Today I want to talk to you all about understanding your own bodies, to be able to safely achieve your goals.
As a student I was always in awe of the senior students above me. I remember waiting for my class to start and hoping the doors to the senior level classes would be left ajar. I would then enter my class and while working on a momentum turn, would be dreaming of flying like the girls I had just seen. Surely it can’t be that hard…. As my journey continued I mustered up the courage to use the practice rooms outside of my class times and found myself so often sitting there watching others achieving my dreams. The temptation to do what these girls were doing was insane. I wasn’t bound by the rules of my “structured course”, I was free to practice wasn’t I? But what stopped me from trying all of these amazing things?
If I am honest I would probably say that initially it was my ultimate fear of failing in front of other people. So I continued to perfect my momentum turns and quashed my inner desire to fly. The other reason I didn’t try these tricks I had never heard of before was the risk assessment…. My life outside of dance has been a long career of picking up the pieces when people have miscalculated the risks and I am all too aware of the consequences that this may lead to. I knew at the time that I was unusually strong for my level, but I also understood that the curriculum had been specifically designed in a way to safely develop the correct technique to execute tricks in the right order. To have strength is one thing, but without technique it is useless.
I have spent a lot of time lately watching students, reading endless posts and observing practice sessions. I love the enthusiasm of the Pole Princess students and the dedication so many of you have to continuously practice and improve. But I also want to highlight one of my greatest fears; and this is that so often I see students doing tricks their bodies just aren’t ready for, or I see them incorrectly entering tricks. As much as I love social media, as we all do, I think this is one of the biggest contributors to this issue. There is nothing more inspiring than watching our pole idols smash out an epic combo, but how many of us probably try things we are not ready for because of this? Guilty as charged…
As I mentioned earlier, the curriculum is designed to build strength and technique in a very calculated and well thought out way. The tricks are chosen for each level specifically for this reason. As frustrating as it may seem sometimes, we need to understand the order of the curriculum and how our bodies work and develop to help avoid unnecessary injuries. So, how can we as instructors help you with this?
1. Ask us lots of questions. If you want to know how to train specific areas, we will be able to give you drills to do that will assist. If we cannot answer your question on the spot, we have the skills and knowledge in our Pole Princess Expert Team to find out and get back to you. To join the group and speak directly to the Experts, just search for ‘Pole Princess Club’ group on FB (linked here) and send a request to join.
2. If you EVER feel pain when executing a trick, stop and inform us immediately. Tricks should not hurt. Yes, sometimes you will feel some burning if a trick hits a fresh spot on your skin, but pain through the muscles and bones means that you are either executing the trick with incorrect technique or there may be another reason your body is not able to do it. We will always try to offer you an alternative, be it a different grip, entry, or a similar shape to keep you safe. For me I physically cannot execute the “Star” because I have extra ribs (yep….). When I do this trick the pain in those ribs is not normal. I can definitely teach you how to do it, but I have learnt to make the shape in a way that keeps me safe and I am ok with this.
3. If you are going to use the practice rooms and work on different tricks or combinations, run them by an instructor that knows you first. If they are outside of the syllabus, we will be completely honest with you about whether you are ready. We will also be able to offer suggestions for alternatives that are safe for you at your current level. You would be surprised at the number of ways shapes can be made. (I think I am almost an expert at faking flexibility!)
4. If you attend other studios and there are discrepancies in the way tricks are taught, do not be afraid to question this. It is your right and ultimately your responsibility to keep yourself free of injury. I have met lots of students with shoulder injuries from trying handsprings with their bodies too high and far too much strain being unnecessarily put through their shoulders. These injuries take a long time to recover from and who wants to take time off from their favourite sport because of injury?
5. Finally, listen to your body. Only you can feel when things aren’t right. Give your body time to recover. Pole is considered in many ways an “extreme” sport based on the energy it uses and the amount of muscles worked in a single session. It’s why we love it, right?
If you have any questions at all about safety and keeping yourself safe in pole, or any of the information covered today I would love to chat to you, as would the rest of the Pole Princess team. If you have any requests for things you would like to hear about in the area of Body Mechanics, I would love to hear from you.
Until next time team, stay safe