One of my favourite places in the world is the studio where I train and some of my favourite people in the world are the women I train with there.
Many a practice session is filled with mishaps and mayhem (for me at least…) but there is always encouragement, support, compassion, and inspiration.
I am by nature a people person and enjoy the energy of training with and around other polers but – as is the case for many others – I cannot spend every waking moment at the studio. I have two children, a house to run, and literally a million things that I have to do every single day – my point being that I often have to train alone.
Although not a perfect situation, there are many things about training solo that can be positive – the pole is all mine (except if my 5 year old decides it is her turn and I just absolutely have to watch her for “new moves”), and no one is watching me, fail or triumph.
I began thinking more about the impact of training alone versus in a group/class setting after a conversation with a friend I train with so I roped her into giving me her list of pros and cons:
Pros and Cons of Poling Alone: Jen Coughlan:
Pros (in no particular order):
Free to flow, trick, choreo, roll around on floor; whatever you want to work on you can work on and not just what an instructor has decided for class that day.
No “wasting” time sharing poles or waiting to work on something you want to work on when you have limited time available to train.
Get a lot more achieved especially as it takes me personally a long time to “get” stuff so if I’m on my own I can really work out what my body needs to do with no distractions; on the good training days that is.
Free to fail with no one else there to see the fail. If no one else saw you being daft or “crap” then it stands to reason you are actually mostly epic right?
Cons (kind of opposing to above just to make pole more frustrating)
When in a class environment you have the benefit of an instructor with years of experience. Teaching points, and the knowledge to point you in the right direction or give you a variation which may better suit your level or body; this is something that takes years to work out by yourself so you are cutting out a lot of the “middle man” when under instruction, i.e. All the frustration and hard work your teacher has put in over the years to get to their level.
When in a group training scenario/class you have pole sistership and camaraderie. It can make a huge difference to your progression to have someone else there to point out something you can do differently in order to nail a trick or transition. It can be difficult to maintain your pole mojo when you train alone so your pole buddies are a massive bonus… if you have them. On your own it’s just you and your brain having a battle most days.
You may get more done when you are training alone but this can only be done if you have MASSIVE self-discipline and don’t sit around on the floor for a couple of hours procrastinating; I would be lost without my list which I strictly keep along with video inspo from other polers with alternates if that is going pear-shaped. And video is your best friend in the absence of pole buddies; the only way to see mistakes or progression. Insta polers have been a great addition to my solo training as there is a fab community of home poler self teachers out there.
If it seems ok to fail alone sometimes your brain arrives to spoil the party… the FEAR. Often I’m not sure if it’s the fear of failing or the fear of dying which can totally obliterate a solo training session. Things you can do in your sleep are now terrifying and you have to talk yourself down from the ledge. This is a real thing and I only recently discovered it happens to other, big name, polers. It is the top con for me of training alone.
*Jen started training pole when some pole classes started in a fitness program where she works at Uni. From day one she was obsessed and can’t see any way out! She gets to one class a week and two days a week has her own space to train in. “All pole time is precious time”.
Number 3 and 4 on Jen’s Con list speak very loudly to me – I seem to be easily distracted from the task at hand when training all by my lonesome, and then of course there is the FEAR. I am the queen of psyching myself out and eventually avoiding even the moves I feel comfortable doing most of the time. There are so many different ways in which to make sure you are safe in your training space by yourself but there is always that comfort one feels when your instructor or pole mates are around – there is always someone who is willing to spot you in a move you are not sure of yet and there is an abundance of people to help you make sense of a move that seems to be infuriatingly complicated on your own.
I for one cannot see a way for me to avoid having to pole by myself, so even though I prefer training with people I will endeavour to make the most of any situation I land in. Reading Jen’s Pros list opens my eyes to the very reasons I should embrace my periodic solo sessions; the presence of social media has by far been one of the most dramatic influences on not only pole but every other discipline out there – we can now be with other pole dancers while in the privacy of our own home, so – as Jen also pointed out – we are always surrounded by inspiration from around the world if we are able to connect to Instagram or Facebook and can reach out to other dancers for support if in need.
Of course, poling with my pole sisters (and sometimes brothers) will always be my favourite way to train, but I will strive to conquer the FEAR and learn from Jen by keeping a list my flighty brain might actually stick to!