The fine art of fitness

The fine art of fitness

By: Hailey Fernelius

Fitness is a finicky thing. It is not always the same for everybody. Some go to a traditional gym and work on strength training with machines that target certain muscles. Some take dance classes, some swim. The list goes on and on. All forms of exercise should be considered equal.

Megan Retzko and Abigail Harris take pole dancing classes. Retzko started taking classes five years ago in Ogden, Utah. She started six months before she competed in Miss Utah USA.

“I needed to switch up my routine fast to get the results I desired for competition weekend,” Retzko said.

At her studio she is able to take aerial (pole, hoop, hammock, silks, and ropes), flexibility, core training, chair dancing, ballet and booty popping classes. She continues to participate in pole fitness.

“Five years later, I have the body I have longed for and the strength I never imagined possible,” Retzko said.

Retzko’s father, Kennedy Retzko, understands that this is her hobby, as well as her fitness routine, but cautions her.

“You are on a pole that represents a penis, and you are a woman spinning on that with your legs spread. Women may look at that as strength, beauty, and flexibility, but men are looking at you as a symbol.”

She reassures him by letting him know that she is not interested in competing or showing her talents for a profit. She does this because she feels muscles engaging that she didn’t even know she had. In one trip to the gym, she could focus on arms or legs, but with one trip to the studio, she can engage all muscles and feel her strength building.

For Harris, it is a different story. She started taking classes in July of 2013. One of her close friends told her that it was a great way to get fit while also having fun. Her husband, mom, and step-dad were all hesitant. They would make comments like, “Oh you’re going to stripper class?”

They didn’t derail her.

The more she showed her support for pole fitness, and the more she could see the fast results of this type of fitness, her family and friends stopped their comments and became curious about how they could get involved.

Harris is proud of the strength she has gained, and just like most people, she wanted to share her progress with family and friends, so she posted photos on social media. However, she has had several of her photos flagged on social media sites. When pole dancing, you wear very little clothing.

“We wear sports bras and short shorts because it helps with grip,” Harris said.

Neither Retzko nor Harris ever plan on making a profit from their hobby, and they are both amazed at the results they have gained.

“After two years of poling, I am now a size five, have gained 30 pounds of muscle and have lost an equal 30 pounds of fat,” says Harris, who was a size 9 before she started taking classes.

Christie Washburn sees it from a different perspective. Washburn has been a stripper —she refers to herself as a female entertainer — for more than 16 years and believes that entertaining and pole dancing/fitness are the same thing.

“They are both a beautiful expression of the female body and sexuality,” Washburn said. She has both taken and taught pole dancing classes.

Retkzo sees pole fitness as something she does for yourself.

“I dance for myself, not to get anything out of it but feeling good,” Retzko said.

She said she is often asked if she is training to be a stripper. She doesn’t take offense at the question, and gives the same reply, “No, I am training to be Miss Universe.”

Harris agrees that pole dancing and entertaining are the same in that they are both performed on the pole, but she sees them differently.

“Pole fitness is an art, making beautiful shapes with your body.”

She notes that she has been called a stripper jokingly, “but I feel that the more studios that open, the less it becomes such a taboo sport.”

Washburn has been judged for her profession by “ignorant people,” she said.

“Being in the sexually oriented business was my decision, and one I am thankful I made. For me entertaining is a beautiful expression of being an incredible, phenomenal woman. I love myself and feel empowered whether I am entertaining or I am vacuuming.”

And that is what it is all about, loving yourself, Retzko said.

“It’s not all sexy,” she said.

Her skin gets bruised from hitting against the pole. When she climbs to the top and then slides down with the pole in-between her legs, it makes an awful noise, but “nothing is more motivating than getting to the top of that pole,” she said, continuing by saying that everyone can learn the art of pole fitness.

Retzko says some of the common mistakes people make when first starting to pole dance is choice of clothing, wearing lotion, and shaving before they go. All of these things can prevent a person from being able to grip the pole. She doesn’t want this to discourage those interested in the sport. She has seen women and men of all ages from 10 to late 40s participating in this kind of fitness.

“Your goals are whatever you want them to be, which is what is so great about these classes,” Retzko said.

 

Washburn says that even if someone doesn’t want to pursue pole-dancing professionally like she does, she says women should take the fitness classes.

“I believe it encourages confidence, high self-esteem and inner love of one’s self.”

This is something they can all agree on.

“Yes! Anyone can pole dance. It doesn’t matter what shape you are in, how strong you are or any other excuse not to try,” Harris Said.

Retzko thinks anyone with even a romote interest should give it a try.

“I recommend pole fitness to everyone, even guys,” Retzko said. “Its great fitness, and It’s fun.

Some places in Salt Lake City that offer these classes are La Bombe Pole Fitness, Bella Me Pole Fitness, Studio Soiree, and Cirque Asylum. Pricing varies depending on how many visits you choose or the type of membership you want.