Poling in the Winter
Everything is harder in the winter: driving, waking up, walking the dog, taking out the trash…so is poling, too. In one of the pole groups I’m a member of on Facebook, someone had asked the question, “What’s your reason for not practicing right now?” just a few weeks ago. I can’t tell you how many of the comments had to do with it being winter!
In an effort to combat the lethargy and cold, I put together a list of some of the common reasons people don’t want to pole in winter, and ways to overcome them.
Dry skin and wanting to wear lotion
My skin. My poor, poor skin. This year is the worst my wintery dry skin has even been, and practicing pole isn’t conducive with drenching myself in lotion after every shower in an effort to relieve the itchy, dry mess that my hands are. I tried to ignore it but I just ended up with cracked knuckles and bloody cuticles. I thought all hope was lost: I would either be watching my hands deteriorate for months or slide out of every trick I did until May.
That’s when I found my saviors: oil free moisturizers and facemasks.
Oil free moisturizers and facemasks contain ingredients that help soften and relieve your skin, but they aren’t loaded with the million plant-based oil extracts that most lotions are. Facemasks are literally made to dry out on your skin, and then rinse off. That means relief without the greasy, slippery, useless-for-pole hands that come with regular lotions. Also, who says you can’t mask your hands? Facemasks aren’t just for your face, if you get a little creative.
My favorites? Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian oil free moisturizer with green tea & aloe. It’s not tested on animals, contains 100% vegetarian ingredients, and can be bought at most drugstores for about $10; oh, and it smells amazing.
I also love Shea Moisture’s facemasks in a jar – the shea butter hydrating mud mask works wonders on your face and your hands! Shea Moisture has extremely high ethical standards, and is a Community Commerce partner that supports women-led businesses; you can’t go wrong with any of their masks!
Another option? Corn Huskers Hand Lotion. Also contains 100% vegetarian ingredients, and can be purchased for about $7 at most drugstores.
Lather up, friends – just not the day before or the day of class!
Whenever I think about practicing in the winter, I just imagine how cold I’m going to be without pants and a shirt on, when I’m already freezing fully dressed and under a pile of blankets. Usually, this is enough to deter me, and I just succumb to the cold and stay right where I am under layers of flannel. Sometimes though, I get up and make some magic happen. That magic: layers.
Dressing in layers in Michigan is nothing new to us, but I don’t think we often consider dressing in layers for indoor activities. Honestly though, it’s the key to warming up correctly, especially when you’re freezing to begin with.
When poling in the winter, stack on layers over your pole shorts and sports bra until you feel warm. As you stretch and warm up, shed your layers. When you’re down to what you would usually wear to pole, then you’re warm enough to practice.
Warming up your pole
Touching your pole for the first time when you’re practicing is terrible. It’s absolutely an icicle. You can’t even fathom putting your body on this pole, because you barely want to touch it with the palm of your hand. There are a few ways to get your pole warm enough to get some good comfortable practice in…
- Stretch and warm up on your pole
- Use a pole warmer
- Rub your pole down with a dry hand towel for a minute
Creating any friction on your pole is going to start warming it up, whether it’s friction from your skin or a towel. The option of using a pole warmer would involve purchasing one; X-Pole makes an electric pole warmer that you wrap around the pole and control with an attached remote. I have one of these at home and it’s nice to put it on the pole and let it warm things up while I stretch. Not necessary, but awfully convenient in the middle of winter, and prevents that first freezing contact with the pole.
If you live a bit farther away from your studio, it’s likely you won’t want to drive to class (or can’t drive to class) in inclement weather. You’re probably making a safe choice by staying home, so don’t feel bad! However, missing class can make things difficult: you have to schedule a make up class and then you might go over a week without a class, which can set your progress back. Luckily, there are lots of at-home pole training resources you can use, whether or not you have a pole at home!
This website has a free 15-day trial, and is loaded with tutorials for anything you could need: warm ups, transitions, exotic flows, tricks…the list goes on!
This app is free, and has a variety of information available including pole basics (grips, holds, climbs), pole conditioning exercises, short flows, pole motions (spins, flips, etc.), and pole moves (inverts, poses, mounts). There are places for you to make notes in the app to track your progress on certain skills, required strength levels for different skills, and step-by-step instructions for each skill and exercise.
If you have Amazon Prime, you can get loads of free yoga and workout videos with your membership! Just search “yoga,” “HIIT,” “pole,” “dance fitness,” or whatever you’re feeling like that day for an at-home work out that will keep you from feeling set back, even if you don’t have a pole at home. Anything with the Prime logo in the left corner is free to use when you’re logged in.
Pinterest is loaded with quick workouts and flexibility guides that are totally free. Make sure to always look for guides with clear images so you can follow the flows safely and confidently, and pick things within your range of ability.
Talk to your instructor
Don’t just shoot your instructor a quick “not going to make it tonight – sorry!” text. Ask for some suggestions of things you could do at home to reflect what’s going on in class that night. Maybe your class is working on inverts and they’ll have suggestions for core exercises and hip flexibility you can do at home. Maybe they’re working on spins and they can suggest some shoulder and write conditioning and stretching. You never know until you ask, so definitely ask!
I know it’s obvious, but we’re all terrible at it: give in and rest when your body wants to, especially during the winter. Winter is the time of the year when it’s easiest to get sick, feel tired, and struggle with depression and isolation. It’s important to give yourself lots of opportunities to rest when your body is asking for it. Being well rested keeps us happier, safer, and actually helps us progress more! Curl up with a book or a movie, take naps, soak in your tub, go to restorative yoga, and don’t feel guilty about any of it.
Still not feeling like poling, after warming up you and your pole and moisturizing appropriately and exploring options at home and taking a nap? You can always reach out to a friend, instructor, or online community for support, motivation, and ideas. Try poling with someone else, showing off to someone who doesn’t pole, or taking videos and pictures of yourself to get motivated. Practice putting some of these things into practice now, as we’re moving toward spring, and maybe next winter things will be a little easier from the start.