When was the last time you felt a sparkle? Feeling a "sparkle" in your muscles is when you had a good workout and you've activated muscles you never knew you had.
Street athlete and B-girl Nicola Cher Geismar, founder of brand new fitness classes called NCG Street Pole, refers to "feeling the sparkle" as the sensation you get in your muscles when you have done a good all-over body workout. Nicola recovered from a bad knee injury and discovered that B-boying inspired pole skills are both high-intensity on your muscles but low-impact on the knee joints.NCG Street Pole fitness classes gave Nicola the opportunity to keep exercising but also take her training "from the studio into the streets".
I took part in a pilot NCG Street Pole Classes ("The Experiment") scheme led by Nicola together with a dedicated and passionate group of people who love fitness. When I asked Nicola if anyone can do Street Pole she said "Yes! My teaching format is specifically designed to break down the NCG Street Pole technique into manageable bite-sized chunks."
NCG Street Pole classes are a combination of style, grace, strength, individuality and poise with the added dimension of mindfulness.
Mindful exercise is about staying concentrated and never letting distractions make you lose form and technique. This is particularly important when working out in a park or urban area: dogs and their owners having a wander while you exercise, passing cars or trains, picnics all provide plenty of distraction. You may need to have an exhibitionist side to be able to perform pole fitness classes but you are so absorbed in the exercises that you don't notice it when people stare or take pictures of you.
NCG Street Pole is not pole dancing or parkour. This is a new form of athletic exercise based on Pilates requiring strength and focus. And when NCG Street Pole people talk about "pencil" it has nothing to do with stationery! A "pencil" is the equivalent of doing a plank while hanging off a pole using the strength in your arms. This is not for the faint-hearted. The plank is a Pilates exercise that tones the core muscles in the abdominal area using isometric contractions, ie, by squeezing the muscles without movement.
Working your core abdominal muscles is the best thing you can do to your body. Not only it will ultimately give you that sought after "washboard stomach" look, but it will also strengthen your back and even help prevent back pain.
Some exercises require you to support your body weight with your legs or arms alone. Arm muscles may not be too strong in women; even if you exercise at the gym the weights you lift tend to be much lighter than your whole body weight. Using the inner thigh muscles to lock a position on the pole is a great toning exercise too as the inner thighs are normally quite weak.
I found the sense of achievement and empowerment from Street Pole classes extremely rewarding: being able to support your full body weight with your arms and lift it above ground is exhilarating. In yoga you can do shoulder stands, head stands and hand stands, but the added height of the pole contributes to the sense of uplift. In terms of the physical challenge, the initial daunting prospect of lifting your entire body weight is addressed by doing plenty of Pilates-based conditioning exercises and breaking down each movement to be performed on the pole into simple components.
Will attending pole fitness classes make you lose weight? Nicola recommends combining the toning and strengthening exercises from her NCG Street Pole programme with "a cross training programme which involves high cardio/aerobic activity such as running, swimming or dancing" for maximum results. Nicola plans to roll out NCG Street Pole classes around London, both outdoors and indoors in fitness centres, and later on around the UK and abroad. In true Olympic spirit, Nicola's mission is to "help create the next generation of street athletes."
If your overall fitness goals are to improve your strength, leave the confines of traditional gyms and get creative while you work out then pole fitness classes provide a good combination of physical challenge and artistic performance.
After attending my NCG Street Pole classes I must say that I feel much stronger and more focused. I also seem to have developed a strange attachment to lamp posts, which I now stare at lovingly.
You will never look at a lamp post in the same way again.
Picture credits: Slave 2 The Vibe and NCG Street Pole Nicola Cher Geismar