What about height, weight, or size? Does it matter? Really?

by dc
(york, pa)

Big girls like to dance and be sexy too! Some of us size 16 & voluptuous+ need to feel comfortable going into a class of size 6 little girls. We can not do what they may be able to do, so the comfort level may be a reason to stay away. What are your thoughts?

Comments for What about height, weight, or size? Does it matter? Really?

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Jun 28, 2010
Yes it definitely matters...but don't let that stop you!
by: Susan from PDFF

Thanks for your question DC. It's certainly valid, and definitely a common concern among plus size women.

Most pole fitness studios are about much more than getting fit or learning nifty pole tricks. If you visit any of their websites, you'll usually see references to other qualities they aim to develop with their classes, namely self-confidence, body awareness, and learning to feel comfortable in your own skin. They also generally promote inclusivity, and advertise that all women are welcome.

And that's a great start. But I think maybe what you're getting at here is that it's one thing to say that women of every size and shape are welcome in the classes, and quite another to actively address the barriers to participation that DO exist for large women.

Before I go any further, I will qualify the rest of my response with the statement that I've never been overweight so I can't speak from the perspective of someone who has had the experience of living in a big body.

However, my best friend is quite a "substantial" woman at 6 feet tall and close to 300 pounds, and she has given me some insights into what would go on for her in a class situation such as you describe, DC - a room full of young, thin women with apparently perfect bodies who look great in booty shorts and have no concept of what it's like NOT to fit in because of your size (no offense intended to these lovely gals!).

Here's my take on it, based on what my friend has told me (and I welcome input from large women who have first hand experience with what we're talking about):

When you're big, you're always thinking that other people are staring at you, wondering what you're doing there, whether "there" is an exercise class, a beach, a restaurant, a nightclub, or any other public place. Even if someone just glances your way, you make up that they're thinking something negative about you because of your size.

And there's not much a fitness studio can really do about that part of the comfort equation.

Why? Because it's coming from within you. Now I'm not saying you're entirely to blame for not feeling like you fit in. Far from it! There's no doubt that our society has a prejudice against those who are overweight, even if it's on a subconscious level.

What I am saying, is that part of the responsibility for creating a comfort level around what you choose to do, comes from the attitudes and beliefs you hold about yourself.

(continued in next comment block)

Jun 28, 2010
Yes it definitely matters...part 2
by: Susan from PDFF

(continued from previous comment)

At my own studio, I've seen large women flying around the pole and creating wonderful friendships and great memories in my "regular" classes. I've also seen "normal" size women signing up for my Plus Size classes because their body image or their self-confidence - or both - were skewed.

All I'm suggesting is that it may be an interesting exercise to take a look at how much of your discomfort is externally generated, and how much of it is internally generated.

The fact is, you are fabulous just because you are you. Not because of your size or your shape or your weight. And you have every right to take up space in a pole dancing class or anywhere else you so choose. I know, I know....easy for me to say. And I hope I'm not coming across as flippant. I just think it's important to be aware of this part of the equation.

OK, on to reality. So, you're a 300 pound woman like my best friend, and you keep hearing about how all women are welcome at these pole dancing classes and you're wondering "ok, I may be welcome but will I look like an idiot if I can't do what they're doing?"

My best advice? Call up the studio and put it to them point blank. Tell them you love to dance, want to learn the pole and feel sexy just like the skinny girls, but are worried that you won't feel comfortable in the class because the fact is, you may not have the ability to do what's being taught.

The thing is, every studio is different in where they start, what they teach, and how quickly they progress. I offered 7 levels of pole dancing at my own studio and I purposely started off with a super easy first level because I thought it was important to a) lay a good foundation and b) make sure every woman had success early on.

But I've also seen studios where the level two class involved inversions and releases. So knowing what you're getting into will go a long way to helping you feel comfortable if you do decide to sign up.

(continued in next comment block)

Jun 28, 2010
Yes it definitely matters...part 3
by: Susan from PDFF

(continued from previous comment)

The most obvious thing that occurs to me when figuring out how to make sure the space is comfortable for you, is to request that the studio offer a class just for large women. It would help if you knew of 3 or 4 other women who would join you. If you can demonstrate that there's demand, your request is more likely to be acted upon.

You may need to explain to them that it's not just that you want to feel comfortable being in a class with your more voluptuous peers, but that you may need modifications and variations from the studio's standard routines and choreographies because of your size.

When I was preparing to offer Plus Size Pole Dance at my studio, I actually asked my friend to come and try out what I had planned. I did this because as I've said, I haven't had the experience of trying to pole dance in a large body and I didn't know what I didn't know! So I asked her to give me feedback on what I had planned.

She was able to give me lots of insight into what would work well and what might cause problems. ("Nix that move, my boobs keep banging into the pole," was one such comment LOL!)

What I'm saying is that you may need to be persistent in educating the studio about why you're uncomfortable signing up for their regular classes. Of course they want everyone to feel comfortable in their classes, but that's just a theory. You're the reality and hopefully they will respect that.

You may also need to educate them about some of the challenges you perceive because of your size. If the instructors are certified fitness professionals they may have a bit more of an idea what you're getting at, but modifying pole dance moves for large women isn't necessarily on the curriculum at most fitness instructor training programs!

You could always volunteer to "test drive" the moves the instructor plans to use, and offer your feedback. Or suggest that they offer a test class at a reduced fee to a) attract more plus size women, who may be understandably anxious about whether even this option will work for them and b) give the instructor a chance to try out the class format before finalizing it and putting it on the regular schedule.

DC, I wholeheartedly agree with you that big girls should be able to enjoy dancing and feeling sexy too! But as you well know, it's not always as simple as just wanting to do it.

That's because despite the fact that most pole studios have excellent intentions when they promote their inclusive philosophy, only you know how you actually feel once you're in class.

If it's not comfortable for you, for whatever reason, I encourage you not to give up your desire to learn pole dancing. You may need to do a bit of educating and be a bit persistent to get your needs met, but I suspect many other women would thank you for breaking that ground for them.

Jun 15, 2011
Handicapped
by: Karen

I use to dance for a living. Now I have gained 120lbs from sitting in a wheelchair. I want information on pole dancing with one leg and what type of heavy duty pole I can use. Thank you.

Jun 16, 2011
New Page for Karen
by: Susan from PDFF

Hi Karen,

Your question was pretty unique so I thought it deserved a page of its own. I've re-posted your question, and my reply, here.


Aug 12, 2011
Reply to dc's question
by: Megan

Hi There,

I wanted to post a comment about dc's question above. I am 6'1 and weigh about 240. Granted, I am not comfortable at this weight, and am working on losing it, I can shed some light on this subject.

I currently attend pole classes in Seattle, WA with a class full of 5'8 130lb-types. I wasn't as worried about what they would think of me, as I was about what I would and wouldn't be able to do. I've always been an athlete, but I have gained about 60 lbs since my college volleyball days...some things are MUCH harder for me and will take a lot of work (ie, pole crunches to work toward being able to do inversions...) With a little practice, I am doing great with basic spins, and if I can do it, anyone can!

I am only 26, but I have been 6'1 since I was 13, so size has always been a huge issue for me. I have worked hard to learn how to feel sexy and confident, but I do still feel twangs of insecurity from time to time. Everyone in my class has been great. Either they cheer me on or shut up, both are fine with me! The one piece of advice I have, is to call ahead and ask the studio about their poles and weight limits. For example, the place I go to has two locations, and one of the locations can only take girls up to 190 lbs.

I am also in the market for a at home pole, and everything I have read (I am a HUGE researcher) basically says that going with a xpole or lil'mynx is the way to go.

Hope this helps dc!

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