We’ve all had concerns about how much pole is too much. Maybe that little twinge wasn’t nothing after all.
How do you tell the difference between a potential injury and your body asking for a rest day?
How do you know when to stop and when to push yourself?
Maybe you are weeks away from performing in a showcase, or maybe you just started poling a few days ago. As you build endurance, work towards your goals and get closer to milestones, it can be tempting to sign up for more classes and fill up your entire week with pole. After all, there’s a reason why #poleeverydamnday is a favorite hashtag for many dancers.
Pushing through the exhaustion to pack up your bag, grab a protein bar and head out for the studio every single day may not be as good for your body as you think, even if those baby abs are starting to peek through. There are so many variables that factor into your performance as an athlete, no matter the style of pole you’re passionate about, such as:
- Overall health
- Diet quality and consistency
- Emotional health
- Mental preoccupations
- Sleep quality and length
A rule of thumb for if you think you have an injury, even if it’s small, is: don’t risk it. Give your body time to heal, and if it lingers, book a doctor’s or a PT appointment to get it looked at.
Getting in one extra day of poling isn’t worth being kept off the pole for another month.
Injuries show up in a variety of forms, from sharp pains and dull aches to panging or pressure along muscles and bone. It can be hard to tell when something’s not quite right, especially if you’re not familiar with sports.
Almost every pole dancer has pushed themselves a little too far, whether it was just a little too much for their body, they didn’t warm up enough, or moved slightly wrong. Sometimes it’s one simple mistake – or repetitive simple mistakes – that cause one injury or another.
No matter if it’s a twinge in your wrist or a torn ACL, taking care of your body should be your priority.
How do you take care of your body, and how much time should you take off the pole?
There are too many variables to give a straight answer, as many of them are reliant on things such as mental health, diet, general health, level of activity, what was injured, the severity of the injury, and so on. Have your doctor diagnose the injury and establish an estimated timeline for full healing. Knowing what your injury is will also give you direction for further research.
When you’re at your doctor’s appointment, disclose that you do acrobatics. This may help your doctor determine a better timeline of when you can expect to be fully healed. You may want to ask how long until you’re cleared for light poling.
I learned split grip wrong at my first studio, and I practiced it a little too much one night. I came out of it very poorly and felt a sharp pain along the inside of my forearm. It felt fine after a few minutes, though, so I sat down to make progress crocheting a heavy, King-sized winter blanket for my fiancé.
A few hours in, I started getting sharp pains and could hardly hold my arm up. I took the week off from pole and waited for it to get better, but it just didn’t. I couldn’t lift a notebook, a pen, nothing. Feeling along the outer forearm, the bone felt bruised and sore. I thought I had fractured my forearm – I had fractured and re-fractured my tailbone years before, and the pain felt strikingly similar.
I called the doctor and made an appointment thinking I was going to be thousands of dollars in debt by the end of the month. It turns out, in one exam, the doctor diagnosed it as Lateral Epicondylitis – also known as tennis elbow. I was out a copay and had a 6 to 12-month timeline until it would be fully healed. I found physical therapy exercises online to heal and strengthen the area, and I avoided using my arm, icing it and taking ibuprofen frequently.
Because I knew what I was dealing with, I was able to help the injury heal. I was out of pole for a month and had to avoid certain moves like tabletop, shoulder mount, butterfly, apprentice – anything that put pressure down my forearm or relied on the elbow. My injury improved enough for me to start adding in more weight-bearing moves to my routines at the 3-month mark, and at the 6-month mark, I hardly thought about it anymore.
Though confident, I was always careful about my right knee and its reconstructive surgery. About 3 years after the surgery, and 2 years into pole dancing, I had injured my knee. One night at the club on stage, I didn’t land steadily on my heels after a trick and twisted my knee out in a way it did not enjoy. Fortunately, I did not fall (😉), but I noticed immediate weakening and swelling.
I made the decision to take a break from pole dancing for about a month, and I’m grateful I did. Having done recovery therapy for my knee before, I knew to keep it low stress, but moving. Intense activity was a no, but I made time to walk around and do simple exercises to maintain blood flow, ultimately minimizing stiffness and promoting recovery. If it hurt, I listened and took a break. When it was swollen, I would keep it elevated, icing and massaging whenever I could.
By the end of the month, I had made a full recovery, listening and checking in on my body. I still made time for the club while I was healing, even DJ’ing a few nights to spend some time with my girls and make some money. I’ve encountered lots of mini-injuries since, and always make a conscious (yet frustrating because pole is life) effort to take a break from pole and heal. Always take your time with an injury and educate yourself in proper recovery techniques, no matter how big or small. Your body is the greatest instrument you’ll ever own, so treat it well!
Rest days are incredibly important for your body. You are practicing acrobatics. You are an athlete. Your body needs time to recoup from all the activity and energy expense.
Tim Ferriss, famous for testing efficiency in dieting, working out, and business, tells The Telegraph:
“You can work out as often as every other day if you are eating and sleeping well. If you still feel sore, only every third day.”
While this is his rule of thumb when it comes to rest days, you may feel your body works best on a different schedule. That’s okay – listen to your body.
We’ve all woken up groggy and exhausted even though we got a solid 8 hours. This is a big sign that your body doesn’t have enough energy to expend between everything you’re doing throughout the day.
What can you do to help give your body a boost?
- A banana, chocolate, and whey protein smoothie.
Some sugars from the banana for fast energy, chocolate for taste, and whey protein to help your body catch up to itself, heal, and recover. Add water or milk to the desired thickness.
As a tip on whey protein, your body can only process about 20-30 grams of protein in one sitting, so after a certain number of scoops, you’ve lost the effect. Always check the nutrition label to see how much protein is really there per scoop.
- Drink more water!
Water is a lubricant for our bodies, helping it function properly and smoothly. Your muscles are 70-75% water, so staying hydrated not only helps your muscles recover but also helps your flexibility. As a bonus, you may find that drinking enough water helps you remain mentally alert, perhaps even happier!
- Always give yourself permission to take a rest day.
Yes, that even means if you just took a rest day. Don’t force yourself out to the gym, studio, or club. If you’re considering doing it anyway just for the gainz, just remember that your body repairs itself during post-workout rest days, so that’s where a lot of your muscle growth will be coming from. Don’t wear yourself out trying to chase something that’s already happening.
How to Tell When You’re Pushing Your Body Too Far
Of course, there are blanket answers such as “stop before it hurts,” or as I hear in the studio often during flexibility class: “you should feel intensity, not pain.”
It’s good advice, and honestly, sometimes that’s what we all need to be reminded of from time to time with sayings like “no pain no gain” floating around our heads.
The real answer is, it’s all about body awareness and listening to what your body needs.
Now, “stop if it hurts” is not always a helpful answer, however, but it really does boil down to understanding your body and being aware of how far you can push it.
I can’t tell you what your body feels like. I can tell you what my body feels like on any given day, but I can’t tell you about yours.
You’re the only one who is familiar enough with your body and your limits, both in general and today.
I can tell you that it’s okay to feel less than 100%, have a crappy day, or take that extra rest day.
So, absolutely, push the edges of your comfort zone, but listen to your body first.