Exhibitionistic Exercise 

Pole dancing class changes one athlete's mind

Not long ago, the Voodoo Lounge downtown began hosting a pole-dancing fitness class open to anyone 21 and older.

The instructions at voodoolounge.com were simple: "To sign up, text 'POLE' to 914-1670." So I did what any mid-30s, outdoorsy and somewhat nerdy woman with an impulse-control problem would do. I texted the word "POLE" to the number I spent the next hour waiting for a response and cursing the developers who had designed the Blackberry without an "un-do" button.

Other kinds of classes I sign up for involve registration forms and maybe even a liability waiver. But I had to hand it to Voodoo--anonymity fosters boldness. Just as I was about to forget about the whole thing, I received a response: "See you on Thursday. Wear shorts and a tank top. Don't use any moisturizing lotion on that day--it makes it harder to grip the pole."

And that is why I headed out one weeknight clad in a spaghetti-strap tank and teeny-tiny shorts that I only ever dared use as sleepwear.

Not easily intimidated in the arena of sports, I was surprised at how uncharacteristically self-conscious I was when our gorgeous instructor, Eva, opened the class with a demonstration. Her straight black hair made a perfect arc across her shoulders as she swung around the pole. Although she was petite, her toned legs appeared to extend for miles, each ending with a delicately pointed toe. She owned that pole effortlessly.

Using just the right blend of flattery and encouragement, Eva convinced me that I was a natural. For some reason, she had me believing that I had been endowed with a divine gift--that I was born to wrap my half-naked body around brass and spin 360s in the name of entertainment (or fitness).

"We're gonna get you upside down tonight," she said. "No doubt about it."

As the class progressed, I broke a sweat, huffing and puffing more than I had anticipated. My perspective on professional pole dancers was evolving as rapidly as my heart rate. I had always considered them to be little more than pretty distractions for men in seedy bars, but I was learning that they might actually be high-caliber athletes.

As a seasoned marathoner, I'm well-acquainted with quad pain. But for the next four days, the entire right side of my body was wrecked with a muscle soreness unlike any other I had ever experienced. Rolling over in bed was ill-advised, and the upper body action of running made even a slow jog out of the question.

While I don't like being sidelined for any reason, I do enjoy a good ache from an effective workout. I also enjoy being good at sports. So although my "booty pop" is solid, I'll be back at Voodoo Lounge to work on my "inverted corkscrew." Uh ... I mean my internal core strength.

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