Pole Dancing

The happiness of freedom

Anytime in my life I had a goal, desire or passion for something, and fulfilling that certain dream was up to my own decision and action, I gave all myself. The first time I remember doing it, was for a wrong cause, but at the time I didn't know it. I was 16 and I wanted to be a fashion model. In Italy models are extremely  skinny (seriously, fashion world is sick and I now hate it) Fashion-Model-Health-thumb-375x561-63474

So being a teenager and not knowing any better, I wanted to be like them... to the point where the more bones were showing, the better. I dedicated a whole 3-4 years to that purpose. I left any interest and close person behind, I don't have many memories of that time because my brain was zooming in one only point: being skinny and whatever I had to do in order to become that way. It was the most brutal fight I had within myself, I was fighting hunger everyday, dieting was my sport, losing weight was all that made me happy, really. I expressed my feelings with drawing, I remember drawing a skinny mean Sofia beating up the good pretty Sofia, or the good Sofia trying to escape...

 

I don't even want to spend too much time talking about it, anyway my goal turned into a compulsion and I became victim of it. I lost track and it ate me up, I was trapped. Slowly and painfully I got out of that sickening mentality and found a "healthier" passion (wasn't so healthy as it sounds). I literally fell in love with fitness and weight training, I loved strong, fit bodies and since I was coming from a past of obsessive control, the idea of controlling my body diversely (to be lean and strong) really excited me. I could eat! But extremely controlled still, and everything had to be in a certain way (no oil, no butter, no wheat, no carbs, everything measured etc). I started getting some muscle but still I wasn't getting the point: beating myself up wasn't necessary the best way to reach a goal or fulfill a passion, nor being isolated from the rest of the world because I had to go home and eat my three egg-whites...

So again I learned a lot from that, I got better, ate more, still I was going thru a lot of body-mind conflicts. I couldn't find a balance, I was happy to train, cook, go to the market, study the body, test my limits but deep down I knew something wasn't right. I just didn't know how to live differently anymore. What did it mean "eat whatever you want"? "Train tomorrow relax today/go out with friends/do something different"? I was still drawing, better situations, bad Sofia now was friend with good, fit Sofia. But she was still there...

With many ups and downs, body weight fluctuations, I kept fitness/body building as my steady passion for many years. I really loved weight training and how it made my body look. I competed several times and did fitness modeling.

Image When I found pole dancing, I started to feel the desire to explore a part of me I never knew I had: a sensual, "sexy" side, which was nothing but my woman/feminine side, that side I neglected all my life with my insanely strict diet and training ! So all in a sudden I wanted to nurture that side (surely not thru food). Pole dancing did nurture it, and beside feeling completely awkward and disgraceful at the beginning, I loved it. So at that time I had weight training still my #1 passion, and pole dancing right up the alley. I started drawing pole dancers and heels ;)

 

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I wasn't completely out of my body-mind war, still controlling a lot my food and training, with little to no time for anything else (beside school).

I'm talking about years here... So all I said so far is about a 10 years evolution. Now, this is the last biggest part. While pole dancing my butt off day in and out, I started to grow more and more interest for flexibility. At the beginning I wanted to be more flexible to be better on the pole. But then, about six months after, I lost some of my pole enthusiasm (it turned out I preferred Floorwork) and figured that I would dedicate myself fully to flexibility, and more specifically, contortion!

 

Image Few months into contortion, I realized there was NO WAY I could keep up with weight training, at least the way I used to. So slowly I had to take it out of my life :( Leg training was actually the HARDEST thing to give up to. I LOVED training legs. I loved squats, dead lifts... And I mean, pretty freaking heavy. Wasn't squatting 10lbs just to clarify, more like 130-140lbs. I said bye to my round full butt and opted for a smaller one lol, still trained my body but very differently, whatever was making me stiff was off limits.

But the biggest change I experienced with discovering this new passion (contortion), was that I didn't need to focus so much on my appearance (therefore diet); that draining control on food wasn't necessary anymore. All I had to do was training! And yes eating healthy, but at least not to the point I had to refuse going out for dinner, go to a bar with friends, hang out at a party etc... So I ended up fueling my body better and my mind "flourished", I became more social and relaxed, finally BALANCED. I felt a new way of happy...The happiness of freedom. Freedom to move, go out, eat... Flexibility has a huge meaning to me. So I'm sorry if sometimes I talk about it so much but 1. It's my passion and I give all myself to it 2. It gave me the greatest freedom I ever had

And bad Sofia is no longer in the drawings. It's only good Sofia, and she's very flexible :)

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Training for flexibility while maintaining muscle

First of all... Wow, I'm back blogging! It's been so long, I almost considered deleting this blog, but then I thought that there are so many posts I care about and wrote in different moments of my life, I wanna keep them available to anyone interested in reading. So as many of you know, I've been training pretty intensely on my flexibility for the last year or so (about 5-6 days a week), and noticed a lot of changes happening in my body. First biggest thing I saw was that my body couldn't keep up with the amount of weight training I was putting it into, so I found myself at a crossroad: I had to either re-think my training in the gym or be ok with a 'little' flexibility. I wasn't ok with that, I wanted to be the most flexible I could! So priorities switched, and flexibility took place NUMERO UNO. First I tried to go days with no weights at all... but then, like a subconscious need, I was taking a day off stretching to feel that blood rush coming back, the pump, throwing weights here and there, my body would just miss those feelings!... but then I would slack on flexibility because I'd be too sore, too stiff for too many days. A little about me: I've been lifting weights since I was 16 and I'm 28 now. I dont remember taking more than a week OFF my weight training and cardio, they just became an habit. I had to find a way to keep some weights or body exercises in my life to keep myself 'sane' and my muscles still nice and firm, while achieving my dreams of flexibility.

So slowly, with a lot of trial and error, I found out what worked for my body in order to avoid stiffness (some soreness is ok) but at the same time keep exercising in the gym or at home or wherever, this is a list of discoveries I made:

- Cardio is good (running, stairmaster, elliptical etc.). It doesn't affect my flexibility training, but I do only 1 session a week, no more than 45 min. I do it mostly to keep my heart trained too. If you like swimming, that's the BEST 'anti-stiffness' activity you can do! Too bad I don't like swimming lol.

-Shoulder/arms/back training: OUCH. I couldn't make it work. When doing back bending, you're not just moving your spine backward, there an ENORMOUS amount of muscles involved, at a superficial and deep level. Your neck, traps, shoulders, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, QL, multifidi... all stretching and pulling, so if you do heavy weights, you'll probably have a hard time adding flexibility there, and you might have to spend some time working on softening knots, scar tissue and all that comes as a consequence of weight training. (NOTE: I'm talking from a 'contortionist wannabe' point. Not all of you wanna be contortionists, I know. So of course, this is my experience, maybe for some of you just lowering the weight and adding reps would work. I used that technique a lot before quitting training my upper body with weights).

- Push ups, pull ups, handstand press ups (on the wall), handstand practice: there you go, few classic exercises that strengthen your upper body without getting in the way of flexibility too much. ALWAYS STRETCH IN BETWEEN SETS

-Abs: I do abs maybe every two weeks. Again, sore abs means stiff hip flexors and a harder time back bending... so you choose. In my case it didn't make a huge impact, so I still do abs here and there. ALWAYS STRETCH IN BETWEEN SETS

-Legs: The only body part that I managed to train every week! Seriously, who can live without training legs? Someone like me certainly can't. So this is an example routine for you, all those exercises do not add stiffness on my back (my biggest concern), just some healthy and needed soreness on legs:

1. Plyometrics. Yes! Jump as much as you want. I wear ankle weights during my whole workout, so I jump with them (like jump squats)

2. Squats with weighted bar. I know what you're gonna say... NO PLATES? JUST THE BAR? Yes. This is what you gotta do, what you always thought it was ineffective to build a great butt... it's gonna be of great help for your back flexibility. Won't add muscle on your legs, but it will keep them firm and strong. Add more reps and sets. You're welcome to add few plates, NOT the 45'...

3. Split squats. Lunges. Side lunges. Step ups. All those exercises you can do using your body weight are great. Add more reps and sets. Enough to feel the burn!

4. Kickbacks, side kicks, leg extension, leg curs, butt bridges. Yes! But light weight.

5. NO'S --> DEADLIFTS. Hell no. Even if they're amazing to build strong legs and butt, they destroy your back flexibility. Deadlifts were the first ones I eliminated from my workout. LEG PRESSES. Again, no for the same reason.

Always remember to STRETCH in between sets! Add reps if you don't feel working enough, I know at the beginning you might feel you're not doing much but it's not true! You're training and saving your flexibility. Wear ankle weights the whole session. An example of stretches in the gym, between sets:

Photo (22)  photo (23)

-Pole dancing: surely pole dancing add strength to your upper body, but with strength comes stiffness. I don't think you have to stop pole dancing to get more flexible, especially if that's the reason why you wanna stretch! To be more flexible on the pole :) Just make sure you spend at least half hour after your pole session, to work on your neck, shoulders and back flexibility. I hope this post helped you to understand more how weight training and training for flexibility work together. There  will be always one that has to sacrifice more in order for the other one to progress, but at least one doesn't have to exclude the another one ;)

Defining pole dancing

I've come to the realization that there are several way to interpret pole dancing. The first, most common way is definitely the one related to "exotic dancing": this type of pole dancing originated as a form of entertainment and it's the "strip club inspired" one, where is often combined with sexy floor work, striptease and lap dancing. It's performed often to rock or hip hop songs, wearing nothing but a bikini and 6-7 inch platform heels. Basically a very erotic, explicit, provocative dance, undeniably kinda dirty.

Here's a really great example...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADs04O9T0Ks&context=C3f7ebeeADOEgsToPDskJFXqr6t8rQvWwGk1gVSkpG]

The second way to look at pole dancing is from a fitness point of view. Pole dancing can be done as a physical activity: a display of flexibility, strength, coordination, balance and -let me tell you- GUTS. Usually done without shoes, little to no sexy moves, some floor work and using two poles, one static and one spinning (for more dramatic spins and poses). It may lack personality at times since it's often executed in competitions and judged by professionals looking at perfect form and moves' precision.

A performance of this type

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9SjLpyeOtU

The third and last way to define pole dancing is by looking at it as a real form of art. It can assume a wide range of interpretations (costumes and acting performances often accompany it) and it's the most expressive way of pole dancing. It reaches a point accessible to only gymnasts and expert athletes which spend years and years of complete dedication. The pole itself is part of Circus's special tools like trapeze, hoop, hammock and silk (aerial art).

A beautiful video of artistic pole dance here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWLkLCd3c_Q&feature=fvsr

In my honest opinion, having witnessed all three, believe it or not...I'd stick with the first one. It might not be the best, but it's the one that most define what pole dance is about. I think it CAN be athletic and artistic, but at the core pole dancing is seduction, flirt; it's about unveiling your inner sexy persona, feel beautiful and boost your confidence.

Now get a pole at home and start playing! Lol :)

The last dance

Today has been quite a fun day. I was supposed to meet up in the morning with this guys friends of Ivan (my personal farmer lol) to move my stuff with their truck. I had to bring all my furniture and boxes from South Beach to Hollywood, FL where my aunt lives and got a big house. At 10am I receive a call from Ivan very apologetic telling me the guys let him down and his son is on his way to help me... who is 16 years old.

His name is Ivan too (I know lack of fantasy in the family lol) and he's the sweetest teenager ever, Colombian, always working hard and helping his father in the weekend with the fruit and vegetables stand. Apparently so well-trained that can even drive a TRUCK.

The truck in question is not a regular truck though. It has the followings characteristics:

Hand brake doesn't work. If you are parking slightly downhill or uphill, someone gotta keep pushing main brake. Which in this case was me

push it or roll backward till I-95 lol

Left side mirror turn by itself so you gotta drive with window down and fix it every now and then

I don't know the name of this but that's how it looks and doesn't seem right to me

The back door (where you unload) used to be opened electronically with a button now you gotta keep it closed with a rope, which gave up half way there

Oh and the coolest thing was the American flag waving in the wind

LOVE IT.

It was a fun scary experience lol... Ivan is adorable and we worked together, here he is unloading last stuff

I told him I'm gonna be his girlfriend as soon as he turns 21 :P

So now I'm at my place where I'm left with my computer, a little lamp, my bike, the bed and... my pole :)

I couldn't leave before doing a last dance. So here it is, hope you enjoy xoxo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKfnSBWNcsY

Training in heels

A pole dancing session can be divided in two. The first part is stretching and warm up. Then you can either try tricks, spins and transitions barefoot (usually when I wanna try some advanced stuff) or you can wear high PLATFORM heels (aka stripper shoes!), to get more into a dancing mood and practicing your moves, either on the pole or floor. I love floor work- a combination of sexy turns, transitions, stretches and even yoga poses. I like to warm up with my heels already on lol

You'd think its a lot harder to pole dance with those shoes but its not. The shoes actually help you with the walk, you can "drag" your feet and the platform protect your toes from hitting the floor. I'm like 6'3  when I wear those, a giant ahah!

Today I did  about 30 min floor work, 20 min hula hop, 30 more min of stretching and foam rolling. Here its me hula hoping!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klnEaj1-wFI]

I'm on day 2 on my experimental Survivor ROC Diet and I'm not planning to do high intensity cardio till I'm done with it (2 weeks). But if I feel good maybe I'd do some short sessions ;)