I swear I have been trying to write this post for like two weeks! Problem is, I’ve been so busy doing what this post is about that actually writing it has been hard to accomplish, which is okay, I guess.

ANYWAY. Enough about my new year’s writing slump! Let’s talk about cross training. I know we’ve all been told that it’s good for you, and that’s super true. I think cross training when you’re doing something extra crazy like pole dance is the only way to go. Rounding out your physical practice will only help your dancing and it will help prevent injuries and recover from them more quickly.

My cross training includes four activities: pole dance, aerial hoop, pure barre, and lots of stretchy time.

At the present moment, my aerial hoop practice is on the back burner for financial reasons, but when I am doing hoop along with pole, holy hell does it help with shoulder strength and awareness. I lovingly call the hoop my nemesis because parts of it scare me. The sensation of being completely off the floor while upside down is slightly terrifying, but by facing that fear on the hoop, it makes going upside down on a pole so much easier. The pole is fixed to the ground and, while you can eat shit falling off a pole, most likely you’ll just slide to the ground in a very, very silly position. Hoop is gorgeous (even if you sometimes shake like a chihuahua because upside down feels) and it’s another way to use your total body strength and awareness that is different than pole, but totally just as useful.

Pure Barre, which I’ve been doing a ton of lately,  is such a good compliment to pole dancing. I was introduced to Pure Barre by my friend Lauren who gave me the most accurate description of it I’ve heard: “Pure Barre is like yoga, Pilates, and ballet all had an evil love child designed to kick your ass.” She’s right. It’s all isometric movements and for the first month that I did Pure Barre (at home with a DVD set) I was like, “What the fuck do you want me to do?” Because it focuses in so much on individual muscles, you really get to know your body, even parts you didn’t know you could stretch and strengthen. The other bonus is that every position is mean to help you work your core in some way as well, and that is tremendously useful for pole dance.

If I’m being honest, I kind of use Pure Barre to torture myself, but in a nice way. The other week, we were working on Rock Star in pole class and my Rock Star looks more like a Groupie because of my lack of active hip flexibility. I was displeased with that, so the next day I decided to do a Pure Barre seat workout, which helps with active flexibility in your outer hips. It hurt. My butt was on fire. It’s worth doing for the Rock Star. (But of course I have to keep training this way, because you don’t go from Groupie to Rock Star overnight).

Pole dance always feels very global to me. It’s full body engagement, so it’s pretty hard for me to focus in on one specific muscle in class. So much is going on at once in any one move. Pure Barre helps me take the time to focus in on the local, very small components that are needed for all that global pole dance work.

Pure Barre is also a very nice lead in to my last piece of cross training. One of my favorite things to do is to go through a 30 minute Pure Barre DVD to get warm and then work on my flexibility. I try to work on it every single day. Admittedly, it’s sometimes hard to be motivated to do something that is as painful as improving your flexibility, but it’s so worth it.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a crappy knee and for a long time it prevented me from training my flexibility. Thanks mostly to Pure Barre, that’s not the case anymore and, in fact, my knee feels better when I stretch. Flexibility training has also taught me a lot about how much I protect my knee and what aspects of that protection can be let go now that my injury is healed. Right now my flexibility work is very splits focused, but I do also try to work on my back flexibility when I can and I tend to group hand/headstand work in with this piece of my training.

The point is, no single activity can teach you everything that you need to know about your body. Different tasks bring different awareness around your body in space. Without each piece of my training, I’d be missing parts of an awareness that is useful for all of the physical activities that I love doing. So yes, cross training is good for you so you don’t hurt yourself, but it also makes you “smarter” and at times, I’ve even found that it helps me learn new things more quickly, because I’ve got such a strong, yet varied foundation. Here’s to doing ALL THE THINGS.