When I first started working out and going to the gym, my biggest fear was that other people would watch me. I would imagine myself walking on a treadmill and have everyone think why is she running? Or her form is terrible. At the time, I had a belly, zero stamina and ate Kraft Dinner on the weekly. I remember pulling into a big box gym parking lot and seeing all these tanned, incredibly large men leaving the gym and thinking, I don’t belong here.

It was about two years ago that I started going to the City of Ottawa gyms. At these gyms, clients came in all sorts of shape of sizes and did any and all exercises. Once, I even saw a woman using a squat rack as a ballet barre (which I was actually kind of annoyed of because I needed to work on my booty)!

Despite feeling much more comfortable here with a more diverse clientele, I still felt the need to cover up my body. After cycling for half an hour, dripping sweat in areas I didn’t even know could sweat, and all I would want to do was take off my tank top to cool down except I couldn’t. While the gym’s dress code didn’t explicitly say that I couldn’t work out in just a sports bra, it definitely seemed frowned-upon. In fact, I often felt I was being quite revealing and provocative in just a tank top and leggings.

Fast forward to a year ago, to when I took my first pole intro class at Iron X Fitness. And yes, I will be that cliche person to say, it was love at first spin! In my first few weeks at pole, I started noticing that wearing very little clothing was quite normal while practicing. It was only until I started advancing into higher levels that I realized that it is sometimes necessary to have your skin exposed to do certain moves in pole. Sometimes in this sport, the more naked you are, the better! (I mean, to an extent. I feel like getting pole burn on your hoo-hah would be incredibly painful and also unsanitary).

I remember one of the first days I wore just a sports bra and shorts to class.  While I was dressed like most others in my class, I couldn’t help but look at my imperfections in the mirror; my belly isn’t flat, I have cellulite on my thighs, and I only had one bicep back then. Looking around I noticed that I was not the only person with imperfections on their body, yet nobody seemed to care. If I walked into a big box gym or a City of Ottawa gym wearing short-shorts and a bra top, I would likely get a lot of looks, some complaints, and maybe even a few cat-calls (because hey, my booty is fine). In my short while practicing pole fitness, I have noticed that this sport definitely promotes body positivity and being comfortable in your skin. No matter what shape or size you are, you should feel comfortable wearing whatever makes you perform best even if that uniform is a thong and bra top.

A year into my pole practice, and I am much more comfortable showing my body to others. I still don’t have a flat belly, my cellulite shows, and if I wear the wrong shorts I get major muffin top, but I am confident I’m not being silently judged or cat-called. If you are looking to feel better about your body (and just being stronger!), go against what your dad always told you not to do and give pole a try!

*Disclaimer: I would just like to note that exposing your skin is not always necessary for all pole moves. Many dancers do beautiful work while staying covered up, and others just choose to stay covered. The point is that this sport gives you the confidence and positivity to be able to wear whatever you want to perform*

Written by Leah Wilkinson.