The Beginner Struggle is very real.
The huge learning curve. Who knew there were so many ways to move on/with a pole?!  And so many names to remember!
The ever-so-lovely muscle ache.  I mean seriously, who engages their shoulders that much? Not many non-pole people I know! Lifting one’s arms above their head can remind them quickly of exactly how much they engaged their shoulders in class the night before!
The conundrum of newfound body awareness was especially challenging. One comes in to a Beginner class thinking that they have full spatial awareness. Send them spinning on a pole and *poof* –NOPE. It’s a whole new level of crazy!
For some strange reason, once you get to Intermediate, things seem to progress at a faster rate. Sure, you’ll still have aches from class, and the body awareness still causes problems sometimes, but you start to learn moves at a faster pace. I remember adding spins and poses to my “proficient” repertoire on a weekly/bi-weekly basis.I hit some moves that kicked my butt more than others, but I was building my skills at (what I felt was) a faster pace, and it was thrilling.
At about the Advanced 2 to Extreme level, the speed at which I became proficient at new things dropped immensely. This frustrated me. Why wasn’t I learning things as fast? Why wasn’t I checking things off my list at the same pace? I brought it up to Instructor Leah, who said that she hears the same sentiments from  Advanced and Extreme students, and she remembers feeling the same. Between our conversation and my own reasoning, I determined that there is a struggle that is not publicly recognized:
The Advanced Struggle
It DOES exist. Why?
The moves are more complex. Remember that whole-body awareness thing you struggled with in Beginner? It comes back with a vengance when you’re trying new things upside-down! You think you know where your legs and arms are, and which way they’re supposed to go, but when you go upside down– *POOF*–the awareness seems to disappear. It’s normal! Think about it– your spend all day upright. You don’t brush your teeth, get dressed, or drive your car positioned upside down,do you? Nope! It’s not a “normal” thing to your brain to be upside-down. It’s  a whole new way to move that you are learning, and it’s not easy! It’s also part of the reason you feel like you’re slowing down. Relax—you’re learning a whole new world!
Don’t lie. When I said “a whole new world,” this song is exactly what ran through your mind. Since it’s stuck in your head now, I figured I’d give you a chance to listen to it ;D . If it wasn’t… not sorry. You’re welcome 🙂 .
Moving on…
The moves are dangerous. You, my friend, are a bada**. You are doing feats of flexibility, strength, and grace suspended anywhere from 4-8 ft off the ground. If you haven’t heard it from Paula or the instructors, hear me now–pole is dangerous. BUUUUUUUUT that’s why ALL of the instructors are trained to save your tush if you fall, and why they teach with your safety in mind! They love you and want you to stay in one piece! 🙂 Even if you know your instructor will catch you, your brain still knows the risk of being upside-down that far off the ground. The fear factor comes out. You might be all for this move, but the primitave part of your brain might not be on board. You will know to let go or lean away from the pole at a certain point, but your brain might very well disagree and direct your body to keep holding on. It’s one thing that happens to me when I do Superman. It takes some time to fight it off!

I have been doing ^^this^^ move for a while now. I have also been a very naughty student when I’ve done it–I tried it on my own early on, near the top of the pole. I did it when the instructor wasn’t around. I couldn’t sit myself up, so I tried to descend. FYI, not a good idea.  I fell–on the back of my neck. I was VERY lucky I didn’t majorly hurt myself! It’s easy to forget how dangerous this amazing sport can be sometimes! I can sit up way better now, but I still don’t try this without an instructor, just in case.
They’re TOUGH. Do you remember the very first time you tried to do an aerial invert? If you were like me and didn’t get it on the first try, you realized something: it’s a lot harder than it looks! Let’s be honest here—the Advanced and Extreme curriculum is not for the faint of heart. When you combine that complexity and danger I already mentioned with the amount of power and flexibility you need to get into these moves–upside down–it becomes especially challenging. You become a flying bada**. Seriously.
So what? Give yourself a freaking break! Once you get upside-down, the whole game changes. In some ways, you start all over! You might hit your stride now and again, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re not learning moves as quickly as you used to. The type of things you’re learning to do in Advanced and Extreme really do need to take twice (or more) of the time than previous skills did. You’re not broken–you’re learning some hard stuff!  It’s more important that you learn to do it slowly and safely. Don’t rush perfection ;).
Thanks Instructor Leah for talking about this and inspiring me to write this post! 😀