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I Pole Danced My Way To Fitness And Confidence

If you hate going to the gym, you're never going to make it part of your life.

27/02/2017 12:36 PM AEDT | Updated 27/02/2017 1:37 PM AEDT
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Despite the scandalous quality people associate with pole dancing, or perhaps because of it, I fell in love with this sport the moment I walked into my first class.

"Lose 10 pounds."

"Get more defined abs."

"Get that 24-inch waist."

Every year, I made these resolutions. Every year, I hit the gym in January. Every year, as March approached, I stopped exercising regularly. Every year, I felt ashamed for not being able to achieve my goal of looking like the Victoria's Secret models I see on TV and online.

This cycle repeated itself EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Until 2016.

In 2016, I said no to the treadmill and the gym membership. Instead, I decided to do what I have always wanted to do but never had the courage to try: pole dancing.

In 2016, I finally managed to find love and peace in the world of physical fitness. In 2016, I said no to the treadmill and the gym membership. Instead, I decided to do what I have always wanted to do but never had the courage to try: pole dancing.

Despite the scandalous quality people associate with pole dancing, or perhaps because of it, I fell in love with this sport the moment I walked into my first class.

Each class starts with a warm-up consisting of hip rolls, body waves, bridge grinds, hip circles, sexy push-ups, regular push-ups, and much more. Each class ends with the girls taking turns free-styling to the music of their choice.

As I watched all of the beautiful women expressing their emotion and sexuality through their movements, I started to see beauty where I couldn't see before. Every single woman in the class, regardless of how tall or short, curvy or thin, young or old, looked stunning as they fearlessly owned the dance floor.

With each milestone I achieved, be it climbing my way up the approximately 20ft pole or mastering a new trick, I became more and more confident as well.

As the confident woman within gradually pushed aside the insecure girl, I was able to slowly fall in love with every inch of my body's perfect imperfection. What pole dancing ultimately gave me, what running and the gym did not, was confidence.

This journey enabled me to realise that the mentality I used to have regarding exercise was not only wrong, but unhealthy. It wasn't the "ideal" body I sought. It was confidence and happiness.

I was pursuing a glorified goal as a filler for the self-confidence and happiness I lacked. I thought that if I were to look like those models I would be happy.

The goal of that subjective "ideal" body was never strong enough to keep me exercising on a regular basis because as time passed, I lost willpower more and more easily.

When I found a source of confidence, however, I no longer viewed the act of physical exercise as a chore. I was no longer forcing myself to do things I didn't enjoy.

Center split and side split! #split #poledance

A post shared by Yiling Chen (@yilingchen520) on

Pole dancing also offered me a medium for self-expression. As I was getting over a painful breakup around mid-2016, I danced my heart out to the Pussycat Dolls' 'Happily Never After' for days. Whenever I needed a boost of confidence, I would put on some music and I let my sensual self take over to the beats of Ariana Grande or Britney Spears.

Pole dancing, and therefore exercising, is now a part of my identity. Telling me to stop pole dancing is like telling me to cut out a piece of what makes me, me.

It was when I finally found something capable of giving me true confidence that I became fitter than I've ever been.

I know a lot of people have said that you're supposed to do the things that you don't want to and keep doing it until it becomes a routine. There is indeed a lot of value in that frame of mind.

However, this outlook might not work for everyone when it comes to exercise. It certainly didn't work for me. It just made me feel worse when I couldn't keep it up.

Therefore, don't buy that gym membership if you will stop going there after a few months, if you hate the treadmill or elliptical. Go out and find the exercises that make you feel good.

So what if it's exploring an alter ego under the dim lights of a pole dancing studio. So what if it's going to salsa lessons once a week. So what if it's doing something completely different each time. There is no correct way to live, just as there is no correct way to exercise.

For me, it was when I found a love in pole dancing that exercise no longer became something I had to do for some new year's resolution. It was when I finally found something capable of giving me true confidence that I became fitter than I've ever been.

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This blog was first published on The Slant.
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