It’s a fitness trend that is only just starting to infiltrate Winnipeg.
“It’s huge in Europe.
“Russia has a pole studio on every corner the way Winnipeg has yoga studios,” says Tara Meyer, owner of VogueFit Studio. “There’s nine-year-olds starting pole.”
A trailblazing studio in Winnipeg, VogueFit’s mission is to expose more people to the physical gains from pole fitness. “People ask me if I lift weights, and it’s all pole,” laughs Tara.
Though it’s finally enjoying some fringe popularity in North America, partly due to its presence in the Arnold Sports Festivals (named after Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Pole Expo in Las Vegas, the sport still contends with people mistaking it for pole dancing-pole dancing.
Even Tara admits she started out with the same reservations.
“One of my friends was opening up a pole fitness studio (in Victoria),” says Tara. “Like most people, I had that stigma.
“She was going to a workshop and she said, ‘Just come.’” After experiencing the first session, “I thought, ‘Oh my god, that’s what I need to do.’”
Tara didn’t just start socially attending the odd class – she was captivated.
As an accomplished dancer across many disciplines, even performing cirque for several years, Tara realized pole could be a natural extension of her flexibility and lyrical movement.
As fate would have it, a deadline for competitive pole fitness was fast approaching, and though she worried about having the upper body strength to do it, she threw everything she could into four days of strenuous training. Her background in dance paid off – the newfound pole athlete was accepted to go to the Canadian Pole Dance Competition.
By the time the competition had arrived, she had trained for six months, and managed to win first place in her division. The following year, she placed first in the semi-pro division of the Canadian Pole Fitness Championships.
Now a Canadian Pro Champion and Mid-West USA Pro Champion, who competed in the World Pole Sports Championship last year and the Arnold Sports Festival this year, Tara is regularly invited to teach classes in exotic locales. She’s currently completing a Canada-wide tour teaching throughout other Canadian studios; she’ll be off to defend her title in the North American championships in Chicago in July; and she will perform in shows in Las Vegas, California, and Nashville later this year.
Spreading the gospel
Despite all this travelling, Tara’s hubby led her to Winnipeg, where she couldn’t seem to find a pole studio. “Winnipeg didn’t have anything,” she says. “I was trying to find a studio to train, so I set it up in my husband’s grandma’s basement,” she laughs.
Wanting to help introduce the sport to a new market, Tara received her pole instructor certification with X-pert, and now spreads the gospel of pole fitness with her elite studio on Scotland Avenue.
“I just love it so much, so I want people to experience it and know what it’s about,” says Tara, who also holds ballet barre, pilates, silks, and body sculpt classes in her studio.
“People get hooked,” she says. “Most of the people who have started in my fitness classes are now in pole.”
The physical benefits of holding your body weight are pretty self-evident, but there are many aspects to pole fitness that may appeal to former dancers, yoga practitioners, or anyone who likes a physical challenge (men included).
“It’s like gymnastics, just on a vertical pole,” explains Tara. “It’s really different and it’s more an individual practice. You can actually take it at your own pace.”
There are many movements and sequences to teach your body, and different aspects to the sport – some pole athletes compete in interpretive dance-style competitions, and an advanced level of pole requires you to spin one pole and perform holds while periodically switching between that and a stationary one.
Though this may sound intimidating, Tara advises that beginner’s courses mean you are regularly descending the pole for breaks, and given tons of guidance. “People shouldn’t be afraid to try it. I’m here to tell you what to do; you don’t have to know.”
For class listings or to see Tara Meyer in action, visit http://www.vogue-fit.com.