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This week was Pancake Day, and like everyone else I went to pole class filled with basically lemon, sugar, chocolate spread, chopped nuts and ice cream wrapped in a small bit of batter in the name of tradition. Traditionally the day to use up all the fats and good stuff (yes OK, bad stuff) in the house before the fasting of the 40 days of Lent commences, Pancake Day (Or Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, or Maslenitsa if you are Pagan) is also traditionally a time to give up all sorts of other bad stuff, typically chocolate, alcohol or smoking. Here’s the thing. I don’t actually want to give any of that stuff up. I mean, I could, if I really wanted to, give up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. But I don’t want to, so I’m not going to. However, there are plenty of things we could all give up without having to go without the fun stuff. In fact, it won’t take much effort at all, and will make pole training lots lots better. What’s not to love?


Happy Pancake (stretch) Day

Saying “I can’t…” We all know this one. I can’t do that. I haven’t tried yet, but I know I can’t. Or I tried it once, and it didn’t go too well, so I definitely won’t be able to do it now. WRONG. Pole is all about perseverance. Try, try, try again. you have good days and bad days, so if something doesn’t work today, come back to it another day. Get your instructor to have a look at your technique – there may be some small adjustment that will make things easier. Even if you still can’t do it, just say “I can’t do it… yet”. Your thoughts are manifesting instantly, so of course if you immediately say “I can’t…” you won’t be able to. One of my instructors has spent the past two years saying she can’t do an allegra. She has taught it many times, with the words “I’ve never been able to nail this move, but I’ll demonstrate how it works on the assistant instructor”. At photo shoots, she would admire the beauty of her students’ perfect allegras, simultaneously applauding them and sighing at her own inability to execute such a gorgeous move. Then a funny thing happened. You know that thing where Facebook shows you what you were doing three years ago today? Well there it was in all its glory – a photo of her in a perfect allegra. What? When did this happen?? Turns out she did the move once, perfectly, but for whatever reason she had convinced herself (and all of us) that it never happened. The mind is a powerful thing. It will listen to you a lot more than your body ever will. Use powerful language, keep your mind open and never tell yourself you can’t. Or your instructor will make you do press ups as a punishment. However. Let’s also give up… Unrealistic expectations OK I know it sounds like I’m completely contradicting what I just said but hear me out. It’s all very well saying “Yes I Can” (just ask Obama), but we need to be realistic. I for example have damage to two discs in my vertebrae. I have to be very careful with this, and can only bend in a certain way and to a certain point and engage certain muscles or I am at risk of a slipped disc, and in fact this happens a couple of times a year. So let’s face it, I’m not, realistically, going to be able to rainbow marchenko any time soon. And I’m OK with that. Not every body is built to do everything (well, except for Bendy Kate).  I’ve just managed a cocoon – admittedly not a great cocoon but a cocoon nonetheless – and it has taken me six years and I couldn’t be more chuffed because I never thought it would happen.

Photo by Jon Cook Photography

Basically what I’m saying is, listen to your body. There’s a difference between “I can’t…” and “If I do that I’ll need surgery” Bad technique Hopefully you aren’t regularly practising bad technique. But we all get a bit lazy and sloppy sometimes. Just try, for the 40 days of Lent, to do everything spot-on: Lift your inverts; point your toes; lengthen your lines; make your hands pretty; come down nicely instead of flopping onto a mat; hold everything for a fraction longer. I bet you’ll notice a difference, and who knows, after 40 days it might become a permanent habit. Being stuck in a rut Try something new. Dancing in heels. Dancing in bare feet. Mastering spinny pole. Floorwork or flow. Take a workshop or look on YouTube and Instagram for inspiration. You might end up going in a whole new direction! And even if you don’t, you at least will get a whole new understanding and level of respect for the girls that do. Negative thoughts Remember what we were saying about your thoughts manifesting instantly? What effect do you think negative thoughts have? We’ve already looked at negativity towards yourself and are all agreed never to say “I can’t…” again. Now let’s do a nice thing and agree to cut out negative thoughts about others. Who cares if someone can do something you can’t. Who cares if they can do it first time and it took you a year. What other people can or can’t do makes no difference whatsoever to your training. And whether you think or talk positively or negatively about them makes no difference, other than making YOU feel bad. It’s like eating a load of rubbish food and then feeling sick and bloated and sweaty. It’s true there is a very fine line between inspiring people and making people feel crap about themselves, so if someone falls into that latter camp, look at why they bring these feelings out in you, and consider whether it’s an issue YOU have, rather than them. And if it’s them, well just kick them off your news feed or out of your life. 12666274_563447893821889_1467094111_n Anything that makes you feel crap I’m not here to tell you what to eat or how to live your life. I’m not going to push any sort of lifestyle choice or agenda. There are loads of choices out there from veganism to paleo to dairy free, and by all means take a look at those choices. But what I’m talking about here is making small changes. If you eat bread and it makes you feel crap, then stop eating bread. If meat makes you tired and lethargic, don’t eat it. If smoking makes you… you get the idea. It’s quite simple really. If it doesn’t make you feel good, don’t do it. And why stop at food? Surround yourself with people who lift you up and encourage you and support you. I’m talking about your pole sisters and brothers, but feel free to extend this into all areas of your life. As I said on Facebook this week, I’m giving up ass*oles for Lent (except I used a more offensive word than that, because I’m not giving up swearing for Lent). When was the last time you looked at Facebook and it made you feel good about yourself? (apart from reading this, obviously). If social media has become a habit that invariably brings you down, stop looking at it. Put the phone down. You can do it. Go train instead. BEXIITA ACKLAND

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