This article is my complete guide to preparing for your first pole class. I hope you find it helpful!
I’m always surprised at the number of people who, when they find out that I pole dance, say that they have always wanted to try, but they aren’t fit/strong/thin enough.
I get it.
If you look up pole dance videos on Instagram, you’de be forgiven for believing that pole dancers are all tiny little bundles of muscle, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, while gyrating sexily and wearing 8-inch heels.
The reality is, however, that Instagram is not a reflection of the level of skill you will find in your average beginners class. What you WILL find in your average beginners class, is a group of students who, much like yourself, are a little bit nervous and a little bit intimidated, and a really supportive atmosphere where even the smallest successes are celebrated.
If pole dancing is something you have been wanting to try, but haven’t yet, I highly encourage you to take the plunge and book in for your first class or course. In this blog post, I have outlined the things you will most likely need to be aware of before you begin, what you will need to take, what you will need to wear, and a few exercises you can do, if you really feel like you’re not strong enough to get started.
Do I need to be strong/flexible/fit/thin to begin?:
No! Trust me when I say that you really don’t. The way to get stronger/more flexible/fitter is to actually go ahead and DO the thing.
A beginners pole class should be designed to teach basic moves, with a strong focus on technique, and it should lay the groundwork to achieve some of the more spectacular moves. The core purpose of a beginners pole class is to start building the type of strength, flexibility, and fitness you will eventually need, from the ground up.
I will admit, I have heard a few horror stories, where people have enrolled in a beginner class, only to find that the other students in the class have been poling for a few weeks/months already. This is not the ideal situation, because it’s never fun to feel like the only person lagging behind the rest of the group.
There are 2 ways I recommend to avoid this eventuality.
- Find a studio that offers either an “Introduction to Pole” class, designed specifically for people who have never poled before, or a studio that runs courses in terms where you sign up for a beginners course, everyone starts and progresses through the course together.
- If there are no studios near you that offer either of these options (there are none near where I currently live), then find a friend who has also never done pole before to come with you. It’s important that you choose the right person. It needs to be someone who you feel comfortable around, someone you can feel like an idiot around without embarrassment. Having a supportive training partner can be the key to overcoming the intimidation you might feel when doing something like pole dance for the first time.
Just be aware that if you attend a drop-in class labelled “Beginners”, there may be many students there that seem much more advanced than you. Stick with it, because in just a few short weeks, you’ll have caught up with them, I promise.
Before you arrive at your first pole class
The number one thing you can do to prepare for your first pole class might sound absolutely ridiculous, but it’s incredibly important.
DO. NOT. MOISTURISE. YOUR. BODY. ON. THE. DAY. YOU. POLE.
Surprise, surprise, a large part of pole dancing is holding on to and sticking to a pole. Most moisturisers contain hydrating ingredients that sit on the surface of your skin, and even if you can’t feel them there, as soon as you start to sweat, your skin will become slick and slippery. Not at all conducive to a successful pole class.
I cannot stress this enough. Moisturiser is NOT a Pole Dancers friend.
If you absolutely, positively cannot skip moisturising for one day, then might I suggest that you use The Body Shop Body Sorbet (I’ve just found out that this has been discontinued! Waaah! Apparently The Body Shop Body Yoghurt is a suitable replacement, although I haven’t tried it personally). Applied at least one hour, and possibly longer before your pole class, body sorbet absorbs very well into your skin, and for some people with particularly dry skin, it even helps them to stick to the pole.
I also suggest that you take your jewellery off and leave it at home. Rings, watches, and bracelets should not be worn on the pole. Not only can you damage your jewellery, and be more vulnerable to blisters while wearing rings, but they will damage the poles. Every studio I’ve ever trained at has a strict “no jewellery on the poles” rule.
What to wear to your first pole class
One of the reasons Pole gets a bad rap is the skimpy outfits worn by pole athletes. This is 100% related to people’s stereotypes of
The good news is that for your first pole class, you will probably only need your hands, forearms, shins and the backs of your knees exposed.
When attending your first pole class, you should be perfectly fine if you wear a pair of bike shorts or yoga shorts and a t-shirt or tank top. One thing I will suggest is that you do not wear baggy clothes. Running shorts or other non-form-fitting shorts may leave you a little exposed during certain stretches, and potentially some moves on the pole. An oversized t-shirt may get in the way of some spins on the pole.
This really depends on your studio and the style of pole you will be learning. I have trained at studios that teach pole in heels from the very first beginners level, and I have trained at studios that only teach barefoot.
The thing to note here is that you do not need to fork out for an expensive pair of stripper heels for your very first pole class. Bare feet are typically the standard for a beginners class.
If, however, you are starting at a studio that teaches in heels from the beginning, it is important that you do not wear just any old pair of heels. Pleasers are the industry standard for a reason. They are well balanced, stable and designed to support you through a range of movements.
For your first pair of Pleasers, I recommend an ankle boot, no higher than 6 inches (Pleaser Adore is their most popular 6-inch range) in a patent leather finish (it will stick to the pole better). A boot offers good ankle support, and most people struggle to balance in anything higher than 6 inches.
If you don’t want to wear boots, make sure you choose a style with an ankle strap, and I suggest clear plastic straps, as they stretch less than the leather look straps.
Just another friendly reminder to leave your jewellery at home, or take it off and put it somewhere safe when you get to the studio. Dancing while wearing rings, bracelets or watches is not good for your hands, your jewellery or the pole.
What to bring to your first pole class
The only things that are absolutely essential to bring to your first pole class are water and a towel. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll work up a sweat during class, so you’ll want water to stay hydrated and a towel to wipe the sweat away and help you to stick to the pole.
You might want to take your phone with you into class, but if you do, be very aware of the etiquette around phones in class, and make sure you respect the students and studio. I’ll go over this in more detail below.
As you get more experience on the pole, you might want to start using some grip aid. You shouldn’t need it for the first class, but if you really want some, a product called Dry Hands is probably the most popular and universally helpful. It works for most people, except for those with particularly dry skin.
If your studio is quite floorwork heavy, you might want to bring kneepads with you. I use these PoleDancerka ones, but a cheap pair of volleyball or contemporary dance kneepads should do the trick.
I can almost guarantee that you will get a bit bashed up by your first pole class. It’s not a bad idea to bring some Arnica Gel with you, so you can apply it as soon as class is over. The quicker you can apply arnica to a bruise, the more effective it is at healing that bruise. You won’t want to apply it in class, because it will impact your ability to grip the pole, but slather it on after class, before you get changed, and your bruises should fade much faster than they otherwise would.
Safety at your first pole class
Pole dancing is a very athletic, gymnastic sport, and to be perfectly frank, there’s a high risk of injury. While there is very little chance of you injuring yourself in your first pole class, there are steps you can take from your first pole class to minimise your risk of injury down the line.
The most important injury preventative step you can take in your very first pole class is to warm up properly. This is why it is so important that you arrive early or at the very least, on time. A thorough pole dance warmup should get you huffing and puffing, and moving through your range of motion, with a particular focus on your shoulders, back and hips. It should also take at least 5 minutes and probably closer to 10 minutes. If you are late to class, you miss out on this valuable warm-up, and your body may be unprepared to go through the moves you’ll be asked to try during class.
From your very first class, it’s important to get into the habit of paying attention to your instructor. A good instructor will be demonstrating moves, offering technical advice and pointing out some “what not to do’s”. Even if you think you know what you are doing, or a move seems very straightforward, you should still offer the instructor the respect of your full attention. It is both polite and important for your safety.
While you will most likely not need to use a crash mat during your first pole class, it is also very important that you listen to your instructors’ guidance when learning new moves, and if they recommend the use of a crash mat, USE IT. The risk of pole-related injury increases as you start to climb the pole, and it increases again when you start inverting on the pole. Using a crash mat under your pole can mean the difference between feeling a bit embarrassed for falling off the pole and needing to be hospitalised or suffer through months of rehabilitation as a result of falling off the pole (trust me, I’ve done it).
I would also like to remind you AGAIN not to moisturise on the days that you pole dance. During your first few pole classes, being slick with moisturiser is going to be more frustrating than anything else, as you progress in your pole abilities, being slippery can become dangerous. Even the most basic inversions that you might learn during a beginners pole course can lead you to eat the floor if you can’t grip the pole.
Etiquette at your first pole class
There are a few etiquette factors to consider in any pole class, not just in your first one. Many of these revolve around your phone, and some are simply common courtesy.
We all get it, and we all do it – we take our phone into pole class to take photos and record ourselves for technical review/posterity/Instagram. In my experience, most instructors and studios are fine with this, as long as some basic courtesy is used.
- Don’t stop the class progressing onto the next move because you haven’t taken the perfect picture yet – if you miss out this time, try again for the perfect picture next week.
- Don’t ask the instructor to take your photo or record you. If they are focussed on taking your picture or filming you, they are ignoring the rest of the class. Prop your phone up against the wall, or ask a friend to help instead (and only if it doesn’t interfere in their training).
- Don’t post pictures online that feature other students, without their express permission. Pole class is a safe space, and many pole students do not want that side of their life exposed to the world. Think about the impact that public knowledge of her side-gig had on this South Carolina teacher, and don’t become the person responsible for negatively impacting a fellow students life.
- Have your phone on silent – no-one wants their pole dancing class interrupted because your phone started ringing.
Be on time for class. Not only is it unsafe for you to join a class late, but it can be uncomfortable for the instructor if they have to refuse you entry on these grounds. Save everyone the embarrassment and be on time.
Please also try and remember that while your instructor is there for you and the other students, they also have a duty of care to you for your safety, and they are a person deserving of respect. No matter how much fun you are having with your friend/s in class, if your instructor is asking for your attention, explaining something to the group, or demonstrating something, give them your full attention.
After your first pole class
There are a few things you’re almost guaranteed to experience after your first pole class, and not all of them are pleasant:
- Bruises – you’ll sometimes hear these referred to as pole kisses, but let’s call a spade a spade. The insides of your thighs, your shins and the tops of your feet are likely to be black and blue after your first class (and your second, third and many more….). This can happen even if you don’t crack yourself on the pole, simply from the pressure of pushing into the rigid pole. The good news is that as time goes on, your skin will become conditioned to the pressure of the pole, and you will progressively get fewer and fewer bruises.
- DOMS – DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. If you lift weights, or you’ve ever helped a friend move house, chances are you’re familiar with the sensation. It’s that achey muscle feeling that happens a day or two after you’ve really exerted yourself. A day or two after your first pole class, you might have trouble brushing your hair or straightening your arms. This is completely normal, and will progressively improve over time.
- Blisters – if you’re learning any sort of spin on a static pole, there’s a good chance you might get pole burn or even blisters on your hands and wrists. Be aware of the possibility during class, and if you start to feel blisters forming, maybe take a break.
- A sense of excitement for your next class – after just one pole dance class, I was completely hooked, and I hope you will be too!
I hope this blog post has been helpful to you in preparing for your first pole class. If you’re still worried that you’re not strong/fit/flexible enough to start, let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to share an article with some exercises you can do before you start pole dancing, that could help you once you get into class.
If you used this post to get ready for your first pole class, please leave a comment telling me how it went!
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