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Cross Training For Aerial – Part 9 : HIIT

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and may well come to become your new fitness best friend.

I have previous watched a few HIIT classes at the gym, and had heard people rave about the benefits, but it wasn’t until it was endorsed by Dr. Jennifer Crane (who has collaborated with The Artist Athlete) that I decided to try it out. She is just laying on the floor lifting her arms, I previously thought. Boy was I wrong!

Why do people do HIIT?

High Intensity Interval Training is where you set yourself a series of exercises with a short rest in between. For my program we do four exercises for 40 seconds each, with a 10 second rest in between, repeated 3 times. Yes, most of your workout is done just over 3 minutes! If you are super fit, do 6 sets! Add in a warm up, some focused body work and stretching and you can be done and dusted in 30 min or so.

This short session time is very appealing. For non-athletes, finding 30 minutes in your day, or even every second day, should not be that hard. Finding 3 min for a little heart rate burst (with a warm up first of course)  should be even easier! For aerialists and pole dancers, if you were to incorporate HIIT into your warm up, on your non-pole/aerial days, or use as part of your conditioning, you will reap the benefits in terms of stamina, agility, strength, and mobility gains.

Think of it as prehab: long enough to feel the burn and get things working, short enough to not reach failure so your form can stay strong for you to target the muscles that should be working. It’s amazing that such simple movements and exercises can be so challenging.

BUT, not all HIIT are made the same …

The four exercises in your sets should cover a whole body workout. Balance your sets to include both upper and lower body exercises as this will also help you give areas of your body a break to during the exercise. You should be focused on form, remembering cues about your abs, neck alignment, where to engage etc. It’s not about busting out as many as you can in 40 seconds, it’s about retraining your movement patterns to support safe and functional movement.

Dr. Jennifer Crane reiterated this idea of neural pathways during her HIIT coaching. It’s not just about your brain and muscles communicating about where they are in space and how to move. It’s about teaching the muscles to respond and keep the joints stable and safe. If you twist or are off balance, how do you ensure your stabilizing muscles will kick in and help and not just let your larger muscles try to grip? When some muscles are overworked and what should be their complimentary muscles are underdeveloped, injuries are likely to occur.

For example, the muscles in my lower back are currently a lot stronger than my abs. During planks and movements from this position I have tendency to arch, which continues to perpetuate this problem. There is usually a lot of core work involved in HIIT programs, and by slowing down and focusing on form, I can start to retrain my core to ensure my back is not taking all the load. This also helps my posture and conditions my abs to be able to support other movements, in the muggle world and the studio.

Need more convincing?

Train evenly – Pole dancers are always talking about the need to train both sides, and HIIT can support this as you work your whole body. This kind of balance will reduce your chance of injury and help you reach your goals as combos and tricks become easier on your goofy side.

Increase stamina – Find yourself exhausted after running your routine, or short of breath after a long combo? Many pole dancers and aerialists actually spend a lot of time in class standing around, listening to instructions or waiting for a turn. This down time is not useful and can actually let your muscles cool down too much between time spent in the air. Classes like this lack a cardio component and so when you go to run through your entire choreography, it’s exhausting! HIIT will get your heart rate up giving you a cardio workout along with your strength training. The 10 second rests are enough to catch your breath and reset for the next sequence, but you will be straight into the next exercise before you know it.

Coordination – Ever find yourself falling over as soon as you let go of the pole? Do you avoid adding dance and floor work to your routines because you feel off balance and uncoordinated?  By incorporating lateral movements (moving side to side), jumping, twisting, and functional movement patterns into your HIIT program, you will be training your brain and muscles to support yourself moving through these positions. Backward rolls, fish flops, stepping up from a lunge, and even pirouettes will suddenly become much cleaner and more achievable when your body is working as a whole.

On a final note, many HIIT programs can be done in your own home, no equipment necessary! So what are you waiting for? Feel free to email me if you have more questions!

If you already do HIIT, I’d love to hear about your favourite exercises and sets! Tag me on Instagram and  Facebook or send me a message with your tips!

 

An Effective Warm Up

Whether you are training in a studio or at home, it is essential that you incorporate a warm up routine into your poledance or floorwork session. An effective warm up will prepare the body for exercise, lubricate the joints to support mobility, and increase blood flow, bringing oxygen to the muscles.

When leading a warm up, your instructor should be able to offer movements that prepare the entire body, and also include exercises which target muscles and joints that are specific to the pole moves you will be working on. For example, extra hip stretches for a class working on split moves, or some added shoulder and upper back exercises to help you engage the correct muscles for deadlifts and ayeshas.

At home, this can be a little tricky. You may remember movements from a warm up in class, but without the instruction and guidance from a teacher, you may be tempted to skip over reps or rush your routine just to get on the pole sooner.

I’ve seen many dancers do this in practice time too. Walking in, getting changed and doing a few shoulder rolls and hip circles before jumping on the pole and pulling out a crazy combo. Nine out of ten times you could do this and be fine. But you increase your chance of injury by not preparing the muscles to engage in such vigorous activity.

When planning your home practice, make sure you have included time for an effective warm up and cool down. Both should take about 10-20 minutes, longer if you are adding conditioning exercises, or working on flexibility and foam rolling.

“The warm-up should be a combination of rhythmic exercise which begins to raise the heartrate and raise muscle temperature, and static stretching through a full range of motion. “ (DanceProject.ca)

Consider the muscle groups that will be active in the types of tricks you are training. Working on Jade Splits? be sure to warm up your hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, and quads. Working on your Handspring? You will need to warm up your shoulders, back, forearms, and wrists.

When creating your own warm up, keep these points in mind:

Keep it Dynamic – you are aiming to increase blood flow and get your heart rate up. Don’t just sit in static stretches. Flow through the movement and explore your range of motion. Yoga flow can be a great way to get started.

Jump Around – Break up the kicks and stretches with some cardio, star jumps, burpees, mountain climbers, or just running on the spot. It will help you feel warm and support your stamina for those long pole routines.

Turn It Up – if you are lacking motivation for your warm up, put on some music that gets you moving. The hardest part is often getting started.

Make it Functional – consider the movements and tricks you want to train and ask, how can your warm up support these? Knee lifts and high kicks for hip mobility. Add a thera band and put in some resistance exercises to warm up your wrists, arms and shoulders.

Range of Motion – Explore the movements from all angles. Lay down on your back and do you leg kicks and extensions. Add a chest roll to your upper body movements, or pause in a pose and do some arm circles, and see how you can target and engage different muscles.

Coordination – remember, a warm up prepares your body for what it is about to do. Pole dancing requires lots of coordination and body awareness, a relationship between your mind and your body. Animal walks are a great way to get you brain in the right mindset for pole, offering exercises that alternate between both sides of the body.

Breath and Movement elevatED Education talk a lot about how breath supports movement. There is no use increasing blood flow if your breath is shallow and not spreading oxygen around the body. If you have been to a yoga class before, you would have been instructed to pair your movements with your inhale and exhale. Try this in your own warm up, finding your own rhythm and breathing into a stretch.

Add Weights – Use a medicine ball, kettle bell, or ankle weights to up the challenge. Keep the ankle weights on as you start some pole conditioning, doing some pencil spins or straight leg straddles!


On a final note, remember that during a warm up you also have a chance to check in with your body. Any injury or illness you have can often be recognized, and further injury prevented. It’s much safer to be alerted to a tight hamstring or unhappy hip flexor when you are still on the ground, rather than mid combo 2 metres up the pole!

Being a regular home poler, I found myself a consistent warm up routine that I have now recorded and can share with you.

 

If you are a subscriber to my newsletter you will also be granted access to my Dance Warm Up at the end of November, a fun way to freestyle around the pole before starting any big tricks. Great for some added cardio and to work on those staple pole moves – body rolls, hip circles and kicks.

 

Time to Say Goodbye

Last month my partner and I landed in Cambodia, the beginning of an undetermined period of time abroad. Saying goodbye to Sydney was full of mixed emotions. I quit my job of over ten years, bid farewell to friends and family, and had to say goodbye to my home pole!

As pole dancers know, dance is therapy. So before taking down my pole and leaving my home studio I spent some time freestyling and revisiting flow, reflecting on the performances that were created in that space.

Each morning for three weeks before we left, I woke with the earworm Time To Say Goodbye. Responding to the call I began to choreograph a piece to the song. There wasn’t enough time to record it as a single take, but whilst wrapping up the lose ends of Sydney over the last month I’ve had time to work with the video, revealing snippets of emotive dance and favourite tricks that have come together for a kind of compilation performance.

There are no big tricks or funky floorwork, just me in my happy place, a bittersweet moment in the process of closing a chapter and preparing for something new.

Thanks for watching!

 

10 Rest Day Tips

20160418_200918We all know that we should have rest days. Between pole days, conditioning days, flexibility training days, training for comps, choreography sessions, and that push to try that move just one more time …soon you find you’ve been poling for three weeks straight!

Your body doesn’t tell you with a polite note slipped under the door either. It bangs on the door in the middle of the night and wakes you up sore, unforgiving, and perhaps even with the flu!

Being run down puts a big hole in your pole practice. You end up having to take a week off instead of just a day, and then you feel like you need to work twice as hard to make up the gains you think you missed.

It’s a vicious cycle, I see many people go through in the studio. Over training leads to injury and burn out. It is also an emotional roller coaster where unrealistic expectations crash with self doubt, and tuning out to the body’s cues.

So let me re-frame your idea of a rest day with these 10 tips that will make sure you are giving your body some love for all the amazing things it can do!

1 – Foam rolling
For a more in depth look at how foam rolling can compliment your pole practice, recovery, and flexibility training read this article. But seriously, your muscles will thank you and so will your soul. Show yourself some love!

2 – Yoga
If you really do feel like you need to move on your rest days, take up some yoga. It can be as flowy or vigorous as you like, even put in some handstands if you want, but it will offer a nice change of pace to pole dancing, and the connection to your breath will support recovery. Don’t forget your long shavasana, even if you have a home practice. Yoga doesn’t neglect rest and neither should you.

3 – Epsom salt bath
You may already be taking a magnesium supplement to help with muscle soreness, but what if I told you you can soak in the stuff! Add some aromatherapy oils, a few candles and a glass of wine …need I say more?

4 – Massage
Do you have tight shoulders? A stiff neck? Sore glutes and hammys? Muscles need circulation and rest to recover. Self massage is great, and foam rolling, but if you can book yourself in for a proper massage at least every 3-6 months your body will thank you. Take the whole day, let yourself be oiled up and let it soak in to those calluses and dry spots. When you get home jump in a Epsom salt bath and laze the afternoon away. Aaaaahhhhhh.

5 – Get outside
Many pole dancers have pole widows at home. They miss you and your rest days are a great chance to catch up on quality time with loved ones. Go for a walk, head to the beach, or just wander. The walk will help you feel like you haven’t just sat around all day, and the time to connect with you partner will also boost your spirits and hopefully make you feel less guilty when you spent the whole day in the studio tomorrow.

6 – Visualization
Maybe you have a pole comp coming up and really can’t let yourself take time off. Did you know, that visualizing your combos and routines can be an effective part of your training? Lie down, close your eyes, and put on your music. Visualize the stage, the audience, your introduction, the lights on the stage, your costume. This exercise will help with your memory of combos and floorwork and also help with your awareness of the music. All while giving you body the time to recharge to tackle the routine tomorrow!

7 – Keep a pole journal
I’m a big fan of journaling, for record keeping and self reflection. After a comp or showcase it’s a lovely way to document photos and the final choreography, and take stock in the experience. It also satisfies the desire to be living, breathing pole, while not actually over training.

8 – Costume making/fixing
Whether you make your own costumes, or just have a wardrobe overflowing with crops, booty shorts, tank tops, and tights, guaranteed some if it needs some TLC. Grab a needle and thread and fix those sequins on the costume you wore last time. Sort through your active wear and cull anything worn out, sweat stained, or that would be more appreciated by a pole friend. Lots of studios run buy/swap/sell events and it’s a great way to trade for new gear.
There are also a tonne of YouTube videos and tutorials about making your own costumes. Many patterns for underwear, bras, and crops are also easily adaptable to pole. Making your own pole wear and costume means you can always have a unique outfit to compliment your routine too, scoring bonus points from the judges.

9 – Colouring books
Cultivating mindfulness through colouring is a trend that’s taken the world by storm. Children colour and draw all the time, so why as adults have we tossed this hobby into the “I don’t have time” basket? There are now books with designs of pole dancers and aerialists! No excuses, take the afternoon off, go sit under a tree, and colour!

10 – Cook
Late night pole classes getting in the way of healthy dinners?
Are you finding yourself grabbing chocolate bars from work to the studio “because there isn’t enough time to eat anything healthy?”
Use your rest days for meal prep! Head to the shops and buy ingredients that you can use to make meals in bulk. Cook up a storm and then freeze the leftovers in single portions, perfect to heat up when you get home from class.
It is also super easy to make your own protein bars and healthy snacks. Cook a batch on the weekend and they will also last you all week, so there is no temptation to cheat while on the run.

Pole dance teaches us that our bodies can do amazing things. Show your body some love and take a rest day. Self care is not selfish. Recharge and refuel and return to your dancing stronger than ever.

If you have any more tips for rest day self care, let me know in the comments below, or tag me on Facebook and Instagram!

Cross Training for Aerial – Part 5: Foam Rolling

I first started foam rolling after subscribing to StudioVeena who recommended it for use before stretching.

In her tutorials she would outline how to roll the large muscles in the legs before flexibility training, as a way to increase blood flow to the muscles and loosen up knots and tight areas before working on regular stretching sequences.

Physios and massage therapists sell a variety of foam rollers and spiky balls of all shapes, sizes, and firmness depending on how they will be used. As well as being a great asset to your flexibility training, foam rolling can work wonders on DOMS, and be generally soothing for an active body. Chunky rollers are great for larger muscles. Spiky balls are perfect for getting into smaller muscle groups in the back and shoulders, or for massaging the forearms after training.

When choosing your foam roller, keep in mind your tolerance during a regular massage. The softer the roller the softer the pressure, and the firmer or spikier the roller, the more it will dig in to those tight spots. A deep tissue experience can be effective but you don’t want to be in so much pain that you can’t commit to rolling up and down your leg!

My preference has been a hard, smooth roller that I picked up at the local Clark Rubber supplier! It’s the perfect density to use everyday, before stretching or after training, large enough to roll my hamstrings, quads, and glutes, but also small enough to throw in the car if I need to bring it along to a comp or showcase.

Foam rolling is a “self-myofascial release technique” that works by massaging the fascia and muscle fibers. Research suggests,

“Self-myofascial release causes an increase in short-term flexibility that lasts for >10 minutes but does not affect athletic performance acutely. Self-myofascial release may also be able to increase flexibility long-term, in programs of >2 weeks.”

Sounds pretty good right?

Here are some photos of how I use my roller at home. You probably need a space similar to what you use for yoga to make sure you can lay down and roll in various directions. It’s a great practice to turn into a habit though, and once you know what you are doing, it’s easy to incorporate into your day, even while watching television!

I like to start on my legs and glutes, remembering to roll up and down the entire muscle and at various angles.

Foam Rolling glutes

 

While sitting on the foam roller, I angle my body to either side, rolling in the direction of the muscle fibers. By placing my foot on the floor or lifting it up, I can change how much of my body weight I am putting in to the motion. Listen to your own body as you roll, slow down on the “sweet spots” – those trigger points that seem to be more painful than others – or even pause for up to 30-60 seconds and you will find the tension begins to release.

Foam Roller HamstringsFoam Roller Calves

My roller is long enough for me to do my hamstrings, calves and quads side by side. Though once again, I can change the amount of pressure I’m applying by rolling them one at a time or leaning into  it at a different angle.

Foam Roller Quads

Fellow polers also roll their ITB. I find this incredibly painful but sometimes have the nerve to work up to it, rolling over from during my quads to catch it as I roll down my outer thigh.

Foam Roller Adductors

Rolling your adductors, or inner thigh, can be a bit tricky, however those with good hip flexibility may find this easier. Try and cover as much of the muscle as possible and don’t forget to slow down or pause over any trigger points.

Foam Rolling Stretch Foam Rolling Forearms

Recently I have been rolling my forearms and upper back and then using the roller to perform and overstretch for my shoulders. After rolling up and down my forearms, with the large foam roller and a tennis ball, I sink back into a child’s pose with my arms resting on the roller. Breathing into the stretch, I try to sink my chest down to the floor, feeling the stretch along my upper arms, down my lats under my shoulder, and across my shoulder blades. Coming out of the stretch I try to curl my spine in the opposite direction, remembering to breath as I come out slowly.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water post foam rolling session. Any type of massage increases blood flow around the area and staying hydrated will help the lymphatic system and circulatory system do it’s job, reducing the chance that you’ll feel groggy and need a nap after your session.

If you have a foam roller at home I’d love to see your favourite techniques and stretches! Post them here or tag me in your photos online!

April Pole Challenge

calendar for tv april

 

Tropical Vertical from Instagram has started an April Pole Challenge directed by the alphabet. Come and join in using any pole move you know that starts with the letter for that day! Sunday is rest day so we can ease in for the month with just two pole poses.

No need to post advanced moves, do what you can as long as it starts with that letter. Just remember to use the #pd__ to help categorise the moves and make for easy searching later on.

See you on Instagram!