Recently, I joined a meetup group that wasn’t my typical book club, pub club, or wine tasting group. The title of this one is “Crunch Gym Pole Dancing,” and it was started by a woman named Sandy who was looking for girlfriends to accompany her to the pole dancing classes at Crunch gyms. For those of you who aren’t New Yorkers are aren’t quite used to our unabashed ways, yes, our gyms offer classes like pole dancing and cardio striptease 🙂
I had tried a “strip bar” class at Crunch once before and not really liked it too much. Described by Crunch as being like cardio striptease but using the body bar as a prop, I found it to be a little different, but not quite my cup of tea, particularly since the Crunch location where I attended had the dance studio right next to the free weight room, so I spent the class feeling kind of embarrassed doing sexy striptease-esque moves while the big brawny guys in the next room ogled everyone through the giant windows. I guess some people like it (check out a video here, but I didn’t go back for more.
But pole dancing? It still had the risk of mortification, but it was different enough that I was willing to give it a try. At the very least, I knew Boyfriend would get a kick out of my plans for the night 🙂 The group planned to meet at Land Thai beforehand, and I was really pleased with the choice in restaurants. When I first moved to New York a few years ago, I did a lot of research to find out the good restaurants in my area, and Land was one of the “don’t miss” places according to reviews… but until now, I had somehow managed to miss it. There ended up being five of us in attendance, none of whom had been to Land before, but it was really good and reasonably priced, so perhaps I’ll even start using it as my go-to Thai delivery place from now on.
From there, we headed over to Crunch for the class. We arrived about 30 minutes early (the class sometimes fills up, so we wanted to be among the first to sign in for it), and waited outside the studio for the class to start. A lot of class regulars were chit chatting about pole dancing and all the studios they’ve gone to for classes – I had no idea pole dancing classes had such a following!
The first sign that it was not a usual gym class was the warmup. Instead of getting me warmed up in the traditional manner that exercise does, it seemed designed to get us… ahem… “warmed up.” Sure, we did a few squats and the like, but we were encouraged to rub our hands all over our body and make moaning noises as we did so. I’m no prude, but that was pretty darn awkward! On the plus side, it was fun to get to try some sexy club dancing that I could follow along with… when I go clubbing, I often feel a little lost on the dance floor! Haha.
Though I never quite got into the moaning aspect of the warmup, I did get more comfortable with seeing myself dancing so provocatively. I found myself enjoying the workout, though I wasn’t breaking a sweat yet so I don’t know if it really counts as a workout. The instructor then announced we were moving over to the poles. Most of the girls immediately headed for the bags on the edges of the room, where they pulled out honest-to-god stripper shoes with 4 inch platforms in order for this part of the workout. Me, I was rocking my Asics GT-2140s (thanks for all the shoe recs, guys!) with tennis socks… sexy.
We got into groups of three in order to share the poles, and she encouraged us to first just get comfortable with the poles. I went last, following the leads of the other girls, and basically just did some strutting around i a circle while hanging onto the pole with one hand. She then paused the music to show us the first moves we’d be doing… again with the noises as she did so. The rest of the class was just like that: brief demonstration, then a few minutes for each group to take turns trying it out. I never got my heart rate up due to the short spurts in which it was my turn, and even when it was my turn at the pole, it was so much about standing and learning where to put my hands and feet that it didn’t keep me moving.
I did enjoy learning the move where you grab the pole up high and you spin around to land in a split… mostly because it was one of the few moves I could do well (yup, still got the splits!). However, I was pretty lost for most of the class, and I felt especially awkward to see how good some of the girls were. Seriously, I think a lot of them were professional strippers who just came to the class to learn new moves. They could climb up and down the pole, pausing at any point to pose upside down and flash various body parts at the mirror, where I struggled just to hold my body off the ground… not too sexy. In order to hold yourself, you needed to really brace yourself with your legs, and it was just painful. I had heard some of the girls talking before class about the bruises they get from practicing, but now I saw exactly what they meant. By the end of class, I could already see the bruises forming on my legs. How do strippers do it? I would assume that customers don’t want to see bruises on the legs of strippers, so I don’t know if they just use makeup or what.
Not being a “professional” myself, I was less concerned about the aesthetics and more concerned about the pain, which caused me to avoid the climbing stuff and stick more to the on the ground stuff. Unfortunately, this further limited the workout I got, as one of the best things about it is supposed to be the upper body work.
Overall, I thought the class was really interesting and kind of fun, and the girls were really sweet, but it didn’t make much of a workout for me. I don’t think I’ll be going back, but it was a cool one-time experience.