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Pole Fitness: The Sexy Workout

Pole Fitness is heating things up in Fairfield County

Upon walking into the Vertical Addiction studio, I half expected to find a dark, seedy nightclub-ish room smelling of stale beer. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the light-drenched space that awaited me with its glossy hardwood-esque floors, dark gray walls and exposed ceiling beams. I was there to meet Ashley Popoli, Owner of the Stamford-based pole fitness studio, and to ask some questions about a workout that claims to render a long, lean physique from moving around, up and down on a stainless steel pole.

Pole dancing, which got its start in the strip clubs of yore, has morphed into a popular fitness routine over the past 20 years. Demi Moore made it look good in Striptease, and since then it’s only become more mainstream. Today, it’s a hard-core workout practiced around the world.

According to Popoli, pole fitness is a calorie-burning, full body workout that packs an extra punch to the upper back muscles and arms. “Most women complain of a lack of upper body strength, and this workout requires a lot of lifting and holding on the pole so it really helps with that,” she explains. Other purported boons of the workout include increased cardio stamina and overall body strength, and improved muscle tone and fat burning benefits. The result? A more toned, sleek figure. “If you’re consistently taking classes 2-3 times a week, it’s 100% guaranteed that your body will change,” promises Popoli.

Popoli, a former competitive gymnast and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer and pole fitness instructor, opened Vertical Addiction in Sept 2012. Despite the sordid origins of the workout, she has seen a steady growth in clientele, including everyone from soccer moms to fitness professionals lining up for time on the pole.

How does it work? There are 12 spots available per class, with 2 girls per pole. Each session starts with a cardio and stretching warm up, then continues with choreography from different types of dancing, including ballet. Add in some gymnastics, yoga and pilates poses and you’ve got an aerobic workout that can often be as much around the pole as on it. A typical class might include spins around the pole, floor work like cartwheels or shoulder stands, and forward rolls and “tricks”—this is “pole speak” for various isometric positions that are held mid-pole. This is challenging, given you must hold your own body weight for several seconds in each position. “Tricks” are followed by dance moves, often freestyle, until the end of class. Popoli stresses the fun aspect of the workout and the confidence it brings to clients. “It’s working out in a fun, sensual way that makes our clients feel good about themselves,” she explains.

Pole Fitness instructors complete a 2 ½ day training session entitled “Elevated,” which was created by top pole fitness pros in the industry. This intensive class teaches instructors pole moves for different levels, how to spot clients while they are on the pole, how to tighten and adjust the poles, and all the basics of a typical workout.

When asked about the stripper stigma that will be forever attached to this genre of workout, Popoli just smiles. “We are a serious fitness-based studio,” she says, “but every woman should be able to feel confident and sexy, so it’s ok to let your sensual side out in whatever way feels comfortable.” Popoli adds that while they don’t support raunchiness, they do encourage learning to move your body, roll your hips and feel beautiful and sexy. “Every woman should be able to feel that way,” she says.

Here’s a list of Vertical Addiction classes that will help you make your way up the pole:

Pole principles: A beginner class that teaches fundamental, bare-bones moves of pole fitness (60 minutes).  

Level 1: Students start to delve into spins and upright moves, then learn how to do flow work (a combo of different spins and turns, stringing different upright moves together) 75 minutes.

Level 2: This class involves mostly inverted positions on the pole. Once you get into these positions, holding them is part of the workout (75 minutes).

Level 3: This class covers advanced moves and stringing inverted moves together (75 minutes).

Pole Tricks: A class without spins and floor work, just focusing on 2-3 “tricks”, or positions you hold on the pole, per class (75 minutes).

Strength and Stretch: A strength training class where the first 30 minutes involves exercises on the pole, and the last 30 minutes consists of stretching (60 minutes).

Flygym: An aerial fitness class that has participants climb into a solid hammock that hangs from the ceiling and do yoga, pilates, strength training moves, acrobatic flips and more, using the pole for support and leverage (60 minutes).

Private or semi-private lessons for pole fitness and general personal training sessions are available. Visit Vertical Addiction at 1100 High Ridge Road in Stamford, CT or call (203) 883-8383, and verticaladdictionct.com for more information and a schedule of their classes. Prices begin at $25 for the first class, $75 for the next 3 classes, packages of 5 classes for $160, 10 for $280, and 20 for $500. Monthly membership is $275 for unlimited classes, and online reservations are recommended.

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