With the new year’s resolutions pending Belfast pole fitness expert El Fegan has already had an influx of people ready to get in shape at her city centre studio in 2020.
Despite being around for over a decade there’s no sign of pole fitness losing its appeal according to El.
El has been offering pole dancing, pole athletics and other fun activities from her Polercise premises in Belfast’s Donegall Street for almost fifteen years. The studio is located in the former premises of Clark’s Dance Studio and El admits that when she first opened, she expected a bit of opposition.
“Looking back now, I think I was just a bit nervous,” she said. “Given the reputation of the US ‘pole dancing’, I expected to see banners and protests right outside the door, but there was nothing and it all worked out well. I think Northern Ireland – and Belfast in particular – has moved on now.
“We’ve had great interest in the classes for the new year with people coming for a variety of reasons from confidence building and self esteem reasons to exercise, fitness and even core strengthening and more.
“I definitely feel that the popularity of pole certainly hasn’t waned and, in fact, there’s been a little resurgence recently since Belfast hosted the World Pole Sports and Fitness Championships.”
For those who don’t know, pole exercise has remained a popular exercise trend in recent years, with participants able to have fun and get healthy at the same time.
El first came across pole fitness during a trip to Australia.
“I saw this article in a magazine and I was really intrigued,” she explained. “I immediately thought ‘hey, I could do that. I remember going and asking about the classes. For about three weeks I sneaked off to classes but didn’t tell my boyfriend at the time.”
El quickly got the pole ‘bug’ and decided to pursue a career in the activity. But first she had to overcome a bit of a blip!
“When I came home in October 2004,” she added, “I set up a pole in my brother’s house because I didn’t want to speak to my parents about it. I didn’t think they would understand because, at that time, pole still had a seedy sort of image, so I sneaked over to my brother’s house for a while to practise. Pole was, however, becoming more prominent in England and was getting press coverage, so I would leave magazines open for my mum to pick up on it so that she would understand it wasn’t seedy, but a great way of getting stronger, both physically and mentally.”
Since those early days El has pioneered the benefits of pole for all ages – particularly for girls and is encouraging people to consider signing up to the new term next month.
“We’ve actually had girls come in and tell us that pole has changed their lives,” she said. “Through pole, they develop their body confidence and self-confidence, and this can help them in their relationships. Some have come from an abusive relationship and they are able to get the strength to just go and move on from there. And, that, for me, is probably the best, the biggest thing that we get out of it.”
El’s classes are now a major attraction for all types of people. From mothers and daughters to younger children, her classes are a mix of people who are there for fun and for the health benefits.
There’s even a growing number of men joining in.
“Oh, absolutely,” she said. “This year has been good for stag parties and we’ve had a couple of stags who have come in to do pole and had a really great time.”
With taster sessions on the first Friday of every month starting January 3 the one hour long class is perfect for people looking to try before they commit.
And no one should feel it’s not for them. Those who take part in the Polercise classes come in all shapes and sizes.
“We get small girls who have absolutely no upper body strength, and they’re not able to lift their own body,” she explained. “And then, we’ll get stronger, bigger, girls who can just climb up that pole, no bother. It’s just all about being able to lift your own bodyweight, and work from there.
“We have people who are gymnastic, people who come from absolutely no background and love the sexy side of it, and love putting the hands on. We’re not a school that’s going to go ‘No, you’re not allowed to wear high heels, you’re not allowed to do that’.”
In addition to classes, Polercise also offers fun events for parties.
“We offer any kind of themed dance party, like the whole Burlesque, cheerleading, Grease, Dirty Dancing and the like,” El said. “This year is going to be the hustlers, so we’re going to be offering strip tease workshops. We’ve already run a few of those, and they went down a storm. While the classes involve a full-on body workout, the parties are a bit more fun. Everyone comes in and we play a few party games, followed by a champagne reception.”
If you’re intrigued about pole fitness, but not sure whether it’s for you, El suggests a beginners’ class where you learn the basics.
“Everyone starts out as a beginner,” she explained. “Initially we focus on the basics like technique and building your strength. Come and try it and see if it’s for you.”
Taster sessions for Polercise start on Friday January 3 with the 4-week beginners class starting on Monday January 6.
For more information go to https://www.polerciseni.com/