Pole dancing is alternative form of exercise
Whether it's with a dumbbell, kettlebell or a bosu ball, for some people exercise in its traditional manner is very tedious. It's also often quite intimidating and no fun at all.
That's why the fitness industry is always coming up with new ways to keep people interested and not so stuck in a rut.
A few people who've heeded the call that running in one place on a stationary bike is not the way to go are Lerato Mannya and choreographer Nkateko Takkies Dinwiddy.
Mannya is a social media manager, features writer and co-owner of the Motherland Connect with Professor Christopher Daniels, which specialises in planning cultural immersion experiences, conferences, internships and volunteer experiences for students in the US and SA.
A video of Mannya's pole dancing exercise caught my attention on social media.
Contrary to most popularised belief, pole dancing is indeed a sport. In 2018, a world championship by the International Pole Sports Federation, was held in Brazil where over 200 athletes from over 40 countries competed.
"In 2014, I walked into a gym and walked out an hour later knowing that I would never be back there again. I didn't enjoy the environment but also training felt boring to me.
"I eventually decided to look for something different and I remember seeing Rihanna's Pour It Up video and being fascinated with the sexiness of the pole dancer in the back ground (Nicole the Pole), at that point I wasn't very comfortable in my body, and I decided I needed something different to try. I went to one class in November, and never looked back," says Mannya.
She has been using pole dancing as an exercise for five years now, however, she kept it a secret for a while when she started.
"We're often taught to be demure and to never show or speak about anything sexual because of the perception or stigma that comes with it. So yes, I had such intense reservations about doing pole dancing that I kept the fact that I had started pole dancing from my own mother for a year. I had simply told her that I was doing dancing, it was only once I was comfortable that I told her about it," she says.
Mannya says her mother didn't understand at first but once she realised and saw the positive changes it brought she relented and is now a staunch advocate for the sport.
The 30-year-old was an avid athlete and partook in ballet when she was younger. The flexibility she's re-gained from pole dancing is something she welcomes as she missed it after quitting ballet.
"I lost quite a bit of weight and managed to tone my stomach, butt and legs. My arms were getting more defined and most importantly, I became a lot more flexible," she adds.
The full body workout is also something she's happy about.
"Pole dancing is a full body exercise. Obviously, there will be days where you focus on one area than another but it is honestly a full body work out. From arms (lifting your body), to legs (thigh grip for example), to back (for things like backbend) and to core training," Mannya explains.
Mannya stresses that without proper training pole dancing is dangerous, so get all those ideas of just installing a pole at home for entertainment out of your head.
Her parting shot was this: "Pole dancing is also not only for small women, You don't have to be a specific size in order to do it. Also, I would love more men to try it out and see the changes to their body.
"However, I would like people to understand that pole dancing, as much as it is a personal journey, we share our pole journeys to inspire other people, not for perverts."
Another woman who has taken the path less travelled in terms of fitness is Nkateko Dinwiddy, popularly known as Takkies. She's a choreographer and owner of the cult dance exercise Rocking in Heels. A class where women workout by dancing to music while wearing heels.
"First of all, it's a form of healing because dance relieves stress and it's also a great cardio workout," she said.
Women who wish to join the class are alerted beforehand what types of foot wear to bring, normally shoes with a steady heel are advised, not pencil heeled.
"I also teach them about the kind of shoes to wear, whether they are good for their feet or not. You need to buy something that works for your actual foot," Takkies says.
The mother of one is honest about the gains that women get from her exercise class.
"It depends on the person, some people are slower than others. When people walk into my class for the first time they feel intimidated, but the improvement I quickly see mostly is confidence to owning their bodies, because that's what I push more than anything. It's not about the steps nor the choreography, it's about feeling good about yourself," she explained.
Her fitness tip is simple; just do what you love.
"Do what works for your personality, not what works for someone else. Do trial and error, if skipping is not your thing, go to yoga, if that's not for you come to Rockin in Heels. Find out what makes you happy, because you want to do something you enjoy, keep going back and you're going to get the results."