Ever since I can remember, I was running around in a leotard tumbling and challenging my body to see what it could do. I grew up as a gymnast from the age of four until fifteen. Between beginning to attend a private school and my home gym being some distance away, I hung my leotard and simply stayed active by running in track and doing competition cheerleading. As I continued to grow up, organized sports being obsolete, but my desire to stay active never faded. I enjoyed playing intramurals in college, taking physical fitness classes, going on long hikes, kayaking, attending Zumba, and overall working out, but I longed to be back in a sport where I could grow, achieve, challenge myself, and work with a team. I missed gymnastics, but as anyone knows, the body can only handle so much, and it could never be a lifelong activity.

One extremely late night in college, when I got completely distracted from studying I stumbled upon a pole dancing video with artist Karo Swen. I was blown away by the strength, flexibility, concentration, beauty and overall art this athlete possessed. I knew I wanted to give it a try, but between my questions regarding the stigma and schooling, it took two years after watching that video to finally step foot into the studio. I kid you not, when I say, it only took one class to have me hooked.

Pole offered an environment where I could, once again, challenge the limits of my body, complete death-defying tricks, pull off insane stunts, and tumble, but the depth of what pole offered me didn't stop there. Pole offered me an invitation into the world of dance and artful expression, an aspect I always wished gymnastics offered.  The idea of dancing definitely did not come easy to me though. When I attended my first pole dance class, I never felt more awkward and clunky in my entire life. All I ever knew was strength and power.  I was never challenged to stay engaged but still be fluid, flow, and express art.  After continuing to attend all different types of classes, freestyling regardless of how funny I thought I looked, and being open to trying new shapes and new moves I have grown immensely in my ability and confidence in dance.

All in all, I found a lifelong activity that encourages both mental and physical health, keeps me flexible, helps me stay strong, constantly challenges me, offers me a pole family, boosts my self-confidence,  provides an outlet for daily emotions and stress, and never stops being a beautiful journey.

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