Jen's Journey - arthritis, a thirst for a challenge and a growing love for pole and aerials
Feel the fear and do it anyway!
This blog was written by one of our Altitude Wigram members, Jen. Read about her story with Altitude, pole dancing and aerials.
I started Altitude in July 2017. I was at a point where my rheumatoid arthritis had been in remission (due to medication) for about six months, I wanted to build up as much muscle as possible to support my joints before the next flare up and aquacise was no longer challenging me.
Dance, in general, was already on my radar and pole dance had always seemed like something that was awesome, yet unattainable. A conversation with Oliva (an Altitude Instructor) at a party convinced me that, no I didn't have to wear 8-inch heels, and yes I could do it (even with a bit of a gammy knee). So, after mulling for a few more months I took the plunge and haven't looked back!
I started off going along twice a week focusing on pole. I had no idea what I was doing for the first lesson. I couldn’t lift myself off the ground, I kept bashing my shins and I was terrified of leaning away from the pole. Fortunately after a few weeks things started to click. After a few months I was addicted and increased my membership to 4 times a week.
Upon moving up to level 2 pole I started dabbling in silks although this came with a new challenge. Since I’d spent a good 7 years before pole being very inactive and having my muscles compensate for ankle and knee inflammation I discovered that I wasn’t using my glute muscles on my left side, I was only using my piriformis.
I dropped silks as I found that Russian climbs were exacerbating it (cue the butt cramps) and started physio. 6 months later I could activate my glutes and plunged back into silks and started toying with the idea of hoop.
Hoop was intimidating, everyone talks about how you 'have to' be able to invert (the strength comes quick) and that it hurts (it's not that bad). I was also worried about spreading myself too thin but I fell in love and it quickly usurped silks when it came to planning my week.
Two and a bit years on and I still haven't had that next arthritis flare-up!
My Rheumatologist reckons that pole and aerials is probably one of the best things I've done as it's helped stabilise my joints.
I’ve performed in two showcases (one pole the other hoop) and inspired a number of friends to come along and give it a go.
I’ve embraced the mantra of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, am constantly amazed at what my body can do and have had huge confidence gains in everyday life.
The most challenging thing with aerials is having patience and being happy in your own abilities. Although it's fun unlocking new moves, there's always going to be something that stumps you until you build up the strength and technique or take a step back for six months to practise muscle activation.
I've loved being surrounded by so many supportive people at Altitude as I've pushed my comfort zone and tried to do more things 'because' they scare me. Whether it's hook and roll (which seemed impossible), crucifix (literally panic inducing), or showcase (needlessly stressful); everyone is so encouraging and ready to cheer you on.