As 2021 begins, you’re probably seeing plenty of exciting new year’s resolutions being set by your friends and family. As a personal trainer and pole dance instructor, I see a lot of folks who want to make extreme changes in their fitness routines at the beginning of the year, and I’ve got a couple of goal setting tips to share with you big dreamers.
Self-confidence and self-efficacy are muscles that must be built up over time - just like your physical muscles, doing too much too fast can cause lasting damage. If you can strengthen those “belief” muscles over time, you’ll be better able to keep up your momentum for the long haul, and therefore more likely to achieve your fitness goals.
If in the past you’ve struggled to stay motivated, or haven’t met previous goals, it can feel impossible to meet new ones, even the ones you’re excited about. So-called “failures” in your history can cloud your confidence and make the first steps toward a new goal feel overwhelming. And something as small as skipping a day of practice can feel like an erasure of all your progress.
So take a moment to think of your new year’s resolution as a delicious pie. You might be tempted to try eating the whole pie at once. However, if you can’t finish it all, you may feel pretty bad about letting it go to waste - or if you can, you may not feel so good afterward. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, cut your pie into slices, or even bite-sized pieces. If you want more when you’re done with your piece, you can always have another.
Let’s say you currently exercise a few times a month, but want to set the goal of exercising every day. Instead of aiming for 30 minutes every day starting on January 1st, start by aiming for 15 minutes once per week - just a sliver of that goal pie. Later, you can increase that to 30 minutes once a week, then twice a week, and so on, until you’re chowing down on that whole pie, a goal setting champion!
Any goal can be broken down like this. Maybe you want to start studying pole dance seriously. Instead of jumping into a class blindly, spend a few days researching studios and trainers in your area. Or, maybe you want to be able to do the splits. Instead of immediately attacking your poor groin muscles, add a few extra minutes of leg stretches to your daily yoga practice, then a few more the next week.
Keep a journal of your progress. Be specific with your goals for yourself, and write down changes that occur in your routine. Talk to your friends about your goals, and how you’re working towards them gradually. Build that accountability, build those belief muscles, and keep going.
Remember, it’s NOT “all or nothing.” Try to avoid the mindset that rescheduling or skipping a day equals “failure.” If you can’t make it work once or twice, all is not lost! Pick up where you left off when you can, and you WILL make progress - I promise!
Ready to work towards a goal in a supportive environment at your own pace? Book a virtual or in-studio session with us today!
Some personal trainers will argue that without the scale and tape measurer, one cannot measure fitness progress. Personally, I think that’s bull. There are so many other weight-neutral ways to quantify progress, and so many changes our bodies can undergo which are invisible to the naked eye.
I’m not saying you always need to have a goal for your workouts - movement for movement’s sake is valid (and awesome!), as is choosing not to track your progress at all, for any reason. But if you do find metrics useful, here are a few that can help you keep track of your progress, whether you’re working on your own or with a personal trainer.
1. Use the RPE Scale
The Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale measures the intensity of a physical activity. It’s a number rating scale based on how difficult an exercise feels - a rating of 1 indicates you feel no exertion, and 10 indicates you feel maximum exertion (originally the rating scale was 6-20, but these days we use the simpler 1-10 scale). Despite its subjectivity, the RPE scale can show concrete evidence of your body growing more comfortable with an exercise over time.
2. Monitor Your Sleep
We all know that exercise improves sleep, but how can that be a weight-neutral indicator of progress? Simple: by tracking the number of hours spent sleeping, as well as the quality of sleep, you can see how your movement program is benefiting your overall quality of life. Keep a notebook by your bed to record time spent asleep and quality of sleep, or use a fitness tracker to get more insight into how your sleep cycle changes over time.
3. Check in With Your Feelings
Every day, scientists find more evidence of the incredible link between mental and physical health. Daily exercise has been proven to elevate mood, and is effective against even severe depression. Checking in with your daily moods, journaling about your feelings, or jotting down notes in a mood-tracking app (such as Moodily or Daylio) can offer an excellent scale of reference to measure the effectiveness of your exercise. It’s also a great way to check in with your feelings about your own body, and to work towards a more body-positive attitude.
4. Watch Your Energy Levels
When just existing feels exhausting, adding in physical activity can seem like more effort than it’s worth. Despite how counterintuitive it sounds, science consistently shows that exerting yourself regularly can increase daily energy levels. Keep a record of how energetic (or fatigued) you feel each day to see how your body gradually adjusts to increased activity.
5. Track Changes in the Workout Itself
Body-positivity is a journey, and we’re all at different stages. In choosing to begin a weight-neutral movement routine, you might already be asking a lot of yourself. Instead of looking to yourself for proof of progress, try looking to the workout. How much weight did you lift today? How far did you run? How long did you spend dancing? Jot down those numbers, and watch as they change over time.
Ready to move towards your fitness goals in a body-positive way? Book an in-person or virtual personal training session with us today!
It’s not uncommon for a client to walk into our Boston studio and be instantly drawn toward our poles. I get it - they’re a mysterious thing, something not everyone has encountered or had access to before (also: shiny). And then they ask, sometimes shyly, sometimes enthusiastically: “Could I try that?”
Pole dance isn’t just a sexy good time - it’s good for you! The benefits of pole dance are many and varied, but here are six reasons why you might want to give pole dance lessons a try.
1. You find regular workouts boring.
Do you look at a treadmill and envision a hamster on a wheel? Does counting reps feel like counting sheep? Pole dancing is a great way to shake up your routine! Its emphasis on control and balance engages the mind just as much as the body, and offers a chance to express yourself creatively.
2. You’d like to reduce chronic pain and/or improve posture.
Sufferers of chronic pain or illness (like me!) know that exercise can help - and pole dance is especially successful at managing chronic pain. Pole dancing strengthens the entire body, focusing on the back, shoulders, and abdominals. Over time, it can improve posture and back pain, as well as conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia. (As always, remember to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.)
3. You’d like to improve your mental health.
2020 hit us hard, and maintaining mental stability is tough these days. Luckily, pole dance is a great activity to boost your brain. Studies show dance of all sorts can have a great impact on mental well-being; but unlike some other forms of dance, pole dance also offers the unique opportunity to safely explore, process, and express our feelings around body image, vulnerability, sexuality, and gender.
4. You'd like to build strength, confidence, and trust in yourself.
Just like with people, building confidence and trust in one’s body takes time and intimacy - and pole dancing is a great way to access that intimacy. Pole dancing’s sensuous nature encourages the dancer to engage deeply with their body on an emotional level, and over time, it strengthens and improves flexibility in all muscle groups. Now that’s a confidence booster!
5. You value and support sex workers.
It’s true that not all pole dancers are strippers - ballerinas, acrobats, and even clowns use pole in their performances and training regimens. However, pole dance as we know it today was developed by Black strippers and by sex workers of color, and is still an integral part of their daily work. Participation in this art form requires that we honor and support sex workers of all experiences, as well as their contributions to art and culture.
6. You want to improve your body image.
Our bodies are truly amazing, and nothing proves that to me more than watching a pole dancer in action. All bodies are pole bodies, capable of sensuous and powerful motion. For many, joining pole dance classes is a chance to witness that astonishing grace and power within themselves, as well as in others.
Like what you see? Book a private or duet pole dance lesson with us today
Jessica Chernicki is a gender-queer Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and pole dance instructor.