“To train,” according to the Mirriam Webster definition, is to form by instruction, discipline, or drill, or to make prepared for a test of skill. For different pole dancers with different goals, the breakdown of what training is to you may vary by intensity, frequency or repetition. As a competitive pole dancer, I think Webster has it right and the word that speaks to me from those definitions is discipline.
Having a final product of a polished routine with well-executed tricks and flawless transitions and floor work is what I personally work towards as I prepare for competitions. And while the end performance is ideally effortless and enjoyable, the process of getting there is can be anything but. There are hours spent watching an instructor or my insta inspo transition from one move to another, trying it myself and failing. Where exactly is that hand going? Where is her butt in relation to her shoulders? Is that leg staying straight or bending as it comes around? How on earth do you not slide down the pole while your body is moving around like that?! But with repetition, it eventually clicks. Sometimes that happens within a practice or two, other times it’s weeks. Show up, do the work. Try again. Don’t give up and don’t get (too) frustrated. Or do get frustrated but take a breath and try again anyway. Be disciplined. It’ll come.
That said, sometimes your body and that move that would go perfectly just there in your routine just don’t see eye to eye soon enough for the competition. If it ends up not quite working, then you modify. Working with instructors that know you well and have seen your progress as you prepare for competition are game changers in helping you figure out if you just need to keep trying a little longer or if you need to modify. Being okay with that modification is key. The other thing that will surprise is you is that even if that move wasn’t ready by comp time, try it again a month or two after and you’ll be shocked when your body is able to do it. All that repetition and discipline really do pay off.
The other thing that pays off is doing all of those awful parts of pole that our instructors encourage us to do but we all resist. Cardio, conditioning, and rest days, anyone? Again, this is where the discipline comes in. Personally, when I have concrete goals, I’m much more motivated to do something like running or swimming because I know that I want to have the capacity to finish my routine without being winded. Same goes for conditioning. And honestly, some days you just don’t feel like doing anything. You don’t want to dance, you don’t want to do tricks, you certainly don’t want to do another cupid crunch or pole pump! But you really want that routine to be jaw-dropping. So you show up and do the work.
There are lots of other aspects of training beyond just what you do in the studio, too. It’s the mental preparation, building your character and facial expressions, getting enough sleep, making sure you still do aerial activities just for fun, and I could go on. Long story short, competition training is a lot of things and it’s not easy. Some days, it’s downright boring and can often be frustrating or repetitive. But you show up, you do the work. You do that and suddenly you’ll look back and realize all the amazing new things you’ve accomplished. You’ll have grown as an athlete, a dancer, and a performer. That’s the part I love most and while the stage and spotlight are fun, it’s the training that draws me back to competing time and again. See you at the studio – we’ll show up, we’ll do the work, and we’ll fly.