As of today, I’ve dedicated 38 hours, 45 minutes and 6.5 thousand calories toward obtaining my splits and improving my backbends.
I have never been flexible. I’ve never once done a split, except for the time I ran through my parent’s newly mopped house, slipped, and accidentally landed in one (I spent the next few days with an ice pack wedged between my legs).
When I started pole, I just thought I could skip the flexibility practice and stick to moves that didn’t need a bendy back or long, straight legs. I remember one of the pole instructors at my home studio, Ecdysiast, telling my class how much more difficult it would be to advance to higher levels without having some flexibility. As I continued to move up myself, I realized just how true that was.
I’d get stuck in otherwise easy transitions, with my inability to swing my legs across my hands or reach back far enough to grab the pole being the only things standing in my way. It was beyond frustrating.
So, a few months ago I decided to get serious my flexibility. That meant more than trying to touch reach my toes every morning. It meant doing passive stretches throughout the day and active movements multiple times per week until I’d break into a sweat (but not push past my limits, because that could do more harm than good).
For a long time flexibility was my least favorite type of training. Enduring so much pain for such little progress seemed daunting and discouraging. But then I started to noticing change in how I felt. I’d get a little lower one day. It wouldn’t hurt so much the next. Poses would become more comfortable to relax into.
And two months later, the evidence of progress was there.
Still not a full split on either side, but when I first started I couldn’t even prop my torso up or get my back hip open.
Now I enjoy the process, not just because I’m seeing results, but because I’m starting to understand by body better. Each stretch session serves as a conversation of sorts with my limbs: I listen to the areas that feel neglected and give breaks to the other parts that need it.
This got me thinking about my journey with pole dance as a whole.
For the longest time, I’d get frustrated when I couldn’t get a move on the first or second try, and that frustration would overshadow the little triumphs I’d have with the things I could manage. I’ve come to realize now that you can’t control how long it will take for your body understand something new. You can only control your patience and consistency.
That’s the only way the victories—little and big—are guaranteed.