arlene caffrey pole dancing at home

Practical Tips & Motivation: A Guide On The Art Of Training At Home

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So we’re all stuck at home for another while. Whether you have a pole to train on at home (if you’re considering buying one then please read my previous blog on this topic first) or if you don’t, don’t spiral into existential despair just yet. We thankfully have the internet to help us all stay connected and progressing through this time.

Here’s some practical tips on how to stay motivated and safe when it comes to training at home as well as guidance on how to avoid being driven half-demented by the internet. Being honest, most of these tips also apply to normal training, so you can take these with you to the studio, when we can reopen safely.

Part 1: Practical Tips.

Create a schedule:

It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to training at home. My best advice is to treat your home training just as you would if it were a normal class. Create your own schedule for a few weeks at a time and make a commitment to sticking to it by blocking time off for training! Decide what “class” you are going to take by deciding which areas you would like to focus on (e.g.: tricks, floorwork, choreography / flow); it’s a good idea to theme your own at-home sessions so that you can focus your attention and energy into doing one thing well and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Creating a schedule for yourself is important so that we can avoid overtraining and give some shape to the weeks ahead. Choose days and times for home training that you know will fit into your existing schedule. If you enjoy doing exercise before you settle down to work, good for you! If you like dancing at 3am in your bedroom, that’s great too (though this might not be the best for your circadian rhythm, but hey if works for you!).

This might be obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway. Always warm up at the start of each session and have a cool down stretch at the end. Don’t forget I have thorough warm up and cool down follow-along videos available to stream over on my Patreon page! After your warm up, move onto some conditioning moves (pull-up crunches anyone?) or some simple movements to get your pole warmed up (if you have a pole) as well as your body and mind.

arlene caffrey pole dancing at home

Bonus photo of me training on my home pole back in 2009, I had captioned this photo on Facebook “I don’t know what this move is called”. How cute. Also, it’s called Flatline Scorpio, Arlene.

Training tricks at home:

If you’re training pole dance tricks, now is the perfect time to refine and polish the ones that you already know. I always tell our members at IPDA, “You can never get too good at the basics!”. This is a great opportunity to check in with your form when it comes to your favourite tricks (on both sides). Are there any bad habits that need to be addressed? Are there moments that you are rushing through? Are there opportunities for extension and maximising the shapes?

If you’re training tricks that you’ve not fully mastered yet, please don’t be shy in asking for help! Have someone at home spot you and, if you can, show them a photo / video of the movement you’re working on and explain clearly where they need to spot you, so that they know what to expect and how to mind you. If you’re unsure of the in’s and out’s of the move, ask the instructor who taught it to you! They will set you on the right path again and they’ll be glad that you asked them for help.

pole tricks training at home

Here’s an original meme that I made! Lulz.

Learning new pole tricks:

When it comes to new tricks, please, please don’t put yourself at risk. I mentioned this in a previous blog, I know it’s tempting to try out a really cool move that you’ve seen some doing on Instagram but it’s not worth it. Often moves are incorrectly classified or presented in such a way that makes them look easier than they are, or there’s no indication or explanation of how to get in or out of the move in a safe manner.

Taking online classes:

Taking online classes and tutorials is a great way to keep yourself motivated and in safe hands while training at home (plus you get the added bonus of connecting with your community if you’re taking a live online class!). Again, more shameless self promo, don’t forget that here at IPDA we are running live online classes every weekday for exactly this reason, and I have an entire year’s worth of floorwork, conditioning and pole dance tutorials available to stream on my Patreon page.

There are now more online classes and tutorials than ever thanks to Covid-19 forcing us instructors and studio owners to adapt to the circumstances. When choosing from the plethora of online offerings, choose reputable brands and instructors that have the relevant qualifications and insurance to teach (if you’re not sure, ask them!). Just like with normal classes, the quality can vary massively, so it’s worth checking out before you sign up.

pole dancing online classes

Taking online classes is brilliant! Try to not sign up to too many though, you’ll tire yourself out!

Rest:

My next point is easier said than done; resist the urge to sign up to all the classes and tutorials! The benefit of at-home training and having more free time is that we can refine our skills. Just like overtraining at the studio, signing up to “do all the things” can leave you feeling stretched thin and doesn’t give your body and brain time to adequately absorb and fully embody what you’re learning. For me, I see this tendency reflected in the growing pile of half-read or unread books on my bedside table as I continue to order books that I plan on reading during this lockdown… Can you see what I mean?

Having rest days of no exercise is important, as doing too much exercise is just as damaging as doing too little. Remember, I have a blog here with Kathleen Doherty on the subject of rest and overtraining.

Also, listen to your body, and if you can’t hear it, use common sense instead. If you’re feeling tired or notice that your form is slipping (or maybe if you’re on the pole you’re physically slipping!) simply stop. I learned this lesson the hard way back in 2012 when I was training for a pole dance competition. I had been training at home and for waaaay too long (a 3 hour session would have been normal for me back then, which is TOO MUCH pole training for anyone in one session). I was getting tired and frustrated, though I was wired and feeling very focused about making those tricks perfect. So, I said “I’ll just do one more Iron-X”, which at the time, was a “normal” trick for my body (yep, I know, lulz). And I felt my hand slip due to tiredness. I was lucky that I only broke a collarbone and lost the best part of a year in recovering. My point is, even if you know that trick inside out, if you’re tired, just please stop. This is when we slip into complacency and accidents happen.

pole dancing injury

A photo of me with my broken collarbone back in 2012.

Part 2: Mindset and Motivation

The ebb and flow of motivation:

Motivation is a massive subject; as someone who has read a lot of books and blogs, attended seminars and received coaching on this, I have a ton to say (and I’ll try not to rant I promise). There are a lot of self-help and mindset coaches who often distill the concept of motivation as a force that is constant and fixed, and you’re a flawed human who just needs more discipline and life-hacks to improve your productivity and attitude by 1000%; woo yeah!

I feel that as humans we are not designed to be on top-form and off-the-charts productive and kicking-ass at life all of the time; this is absurd and is like expecting to look up and see a perfect full moon every night. We humans ebb and flow, and motivation is something that comes and goes.

When folks ask me how I stay motivated to train at home, my honest answer is that yes, I do have lots of things that help me find inspiration and motivation (I’m going to share them shortly), but I am human too and sometimes I don’t have motivation to train. When I lose my motivation, it can be for many reasons; the main ones being that a.) I’m tired and needing proper rest (remember how I talked about overtraining earlier?), or b.) I’m “in a rut” and needing to take a step back to let my brain enjoy other hobbies (this is linked to overtraining also or it can be due to personal / emotional stuff).

pole dance motivation

One of my most favourite memes. “Big relate”.

Here’s my tips for boosting motivation that you can try!

Pick music that resonates with you:

This sounds obvious; dance to music that you like! Make playlists of songs that make you feel something and categorize them by mood / vibe. If you get tired of your own playlists or need new sources of musical inspiration, ask your pole friends or check out the Spotify playlists of other polers / studios. A lot of studios and dancers share their playlists regularly, or you can ask them; most music lovers are only too eager to share the music they love! 

On that note, here’s a link to our Irish Pole Dance Academy Spotify playlists!

pole dancing at home

I can’t get enough of sad songs when I’m dancing!

Clothes:

I find that what I’m wearing can change my mood massively. Try wearing different sets or mix ‘n’ matching what you own and being creative with your looks. There’s also nothing wrong with putting on a full face of make-up if it makes you feel good. I find that red lipstick instantly makes me feel powerful and physically stronger; I know it’s somewhat of a trope, but I also know that it works for me! Similarly, if you’re someone who’s not into dressing up or putting on make-up, power to you! There’s nothing wrong with giving the proverbial middle-finger to fashion. My point here is to wear something that expresses part of who you are or how you’re feeling, and to feel comfortable with your choice.

arlene caffrey pole dancing tutorial

I like wearing cheap (in both senses of the word) bikinis when I’m training at home.

Connecting with your community on social media:

Social media changed the game for pole dance (I remember a time when all we had was YouTube!). I’m personally very grateful for social media in connecting us pole dancers, especially now since we physically can’t get together.

Instagram is great for pole dancers as it’s a visual platform and uses hashtags to categorize videos and photos. It can be great to hop on and browse hashtags and other poler’s accounts for a bit of motivation in seeing other people’s successes as well as their learning processes.

There’s a fine line however between being positively inspired and feeling shit about yourself after scrolling on social media. I appreciate that what I’m about to suggest is easier said than done: try to not compare yourself to other people.

Be aware of which accounts you follow on social media and how their content makes you feel. Does it uplift you and encourage you? Or does it drain you and reflect your own insecurities back at you? There’s no harm in unfollowing content that doesn’t make you feel inspired.

Or, perhaps you’re having a day when everything you see on social media makes you feel “UGH” and doesn’t inspire, even though it normally does? Time to stop scrolling and log off. If you’re in one of these moods, it’s likely that more scrolling won’t make you feel any better, so do yourself a favour and come back to social media when you feel ready. I promise, you’ll be glad you did! 

For days when I’m not feeling so overjoyed by what I’m seeing on social media, I have my go-to list of things that inspire me! I will never not feel moved after watching Alethea Austin’s USPDF 2012’s Optional Routine, and I always remember why I love pole dancing when I watch Felix Cane’s winning ‘Miss Pole Dance Australia 2008’ performance. My best advice is to make a folder on Instagram, a YouTube playlist, a Pinterest board, anything really, of visual things that inspire you that you can have as a go-to on days when you hit that slump.

Another tip I have is to follow the accounts of your fellow classmates and folks who are at a similar level to you so that you can support each other. It’s easy to find and follow loads of pro-level polers and dancers, but having a feed that is full of nothing but insanely strong and bendy folks can make you slip into comparison mode and leave you feeling inadequate. Find folks that you can relate to!

Sharing your progress on social media:

If you’re not already sharing your progress on social media, I recommend considering it! On a practical level, you can set up an alias account purely to share your pole dance content and to connect with the community, if you don’t fancy your family or workmates having a gawk at your training.  

It’s normal to feel shy about sharing as well as self-critical; do try to share your photos and videos as it’s a great way to document your own progress over time as well as inspiring other folks who are on their pole dance journey too! You can also ask for help and opinions on the content that you are sharing, but remember, it’s not ok to offer opinions and unsolicited advice to other polers unless they specifically ask for it (the same is true across all social media!).

pole dancing at home

Another thing you don’t need to do on social media is list out all of your mistakes! No one is judging you!

Even I have days where I judge my own videos and photos and feel reluctant to share. Try to not be too precious about what you’re sharing and don’t wait until you feel you’ve got it perfect. I often see students in class not wanting to even record themselves dancing because they say “I’m going to wait until I’m better” and that makes me sad when I hear it, but as a recovering perfectionist I do understand. I also know that “better” and “perfect” are mostly impossible standards because there is always going to be something that can be improved upon. Try to share your work for the sake of documentation of your progress as well as to be part of the community. Release attachment to the outcome; if people love it, that’s great! Be mindful of posting purely for validation and praise, of course it’s lovely having your hard work recognised (who doesn’t enjoy that?!) but try to not let it be your main reason for posting that video or picture. You should feel good about your content because you like it, not because it got a billion likes and comments.

The opposite is also true: if you get a negative comment, try to not let it get under your skin. This is HARD I know. When someone says something shitty about your dancing, it can be an opportunity to look within and ask yourself why exactly that comment has hurt you so much, and talk it out with a friend / loved one so that you can understand your own triggers. Oftentimes this is where a self-help coach would jump in and say “Positive vibes only!” or suggest that you simply cut negative people out of your life. Sadly, there’s always going to be someone with an opinion that doesn’t match your’s or someone who’s in a foul mood and feels justified in leaving you a negative remark, so “cutting them out” is an impossible task. And, you’re often missing an opportunity for personal growth if your default setting is “block and delete” on stuff you don’t like.  Don’t interpret this to mean that you have to tolerate every crappy comment that hurts you; you certainly don’t deserve to have random folks on d’internetz telling you all the things they don’t like about your content, just don’t get into a toxic debate or delude yourself into thinking that you can just run away from all negativity.

toxic positivity

I believe that “Positive Vibes Only” is a pretty toxic mantra that avoids accepting responsibility for our emotional responses, not to mention it’s a bit deluded!

Blindboy Boatclub brilliantly sums up this approach to mindset and self-esteem with his mantra that he shared in the episode of his podcast titled ‘Shovel Duds’: “I am no better than anybody else and nobody else is better than me”. In other words, have compassion for yourself as well as others when it comes to both negative and positive criticism.

Lastly, another thing that can happen is that folks don’t interact with your content. Sad face. Remember, when this happens it’s probably because you’ve been shadow banned or the algorithms are doing their thing in restricting the reach of your content. This is a whole other topic for debate! Don’t take it personally.

Conclusion:

Training at home is fun, but it can feel isolating as motivation comes and goes. Be compassionate towards yourself at this time and connect with your classmates and instructors on the internet to help you to feel the support of your community (we’ve always got your back). Soon, we can dance again in real life, but in the meantime we’ll have to make use of the resources available to us.

Happy home-poling!
Arlene Caffrey x