Long gone are the days of strippers dominating poles. As thousands of classes are offered all over the country, pole dancing has managed to slip itself from a sexual taboo to a legitimate sport shared by groups of passionate students. With the U.S. Pole Dance Federation hosting nationwide competitions and competitors being recruited by gyms across the country, it’s clear that pole dancing, the sport, is not a simple dip and twist that anyone can master.

A graduate of Brown University, Registered Nurse, and practicing vegan, Gabrielle Valliere proves that competitive pole dancers are diverse in background, shape, and size. After dancing five years as a NFL cheerleader, she tried a pole dancing class six years ago and simply fell in love. As Valliere has been dancing since the age of three, she quickly excelled in the sport and became a pole dance instructor in 2005. Now living in New York, she teaches at New York Pole Dancing and has competed in numerous competitions with the U.S. Pole Dance Federation.

“Pole dancing is a great workout because it encompasses so many things – resistance training and toning, cardio, flexibility, balance and stability, and coordination…many things you do work against gravity and are weight bearing, so it’s good for your bones,” explains Valliere, 2nd place titleholder of the 2011 U.S. Pole Dance National Pro Championship, “many women leave class telling me they worked muscles they never even knew they had.”

As pole dancing targets the abdominals, back, and shoulders, it hits several trouble spots for many women. Not to mention, it can help with that area of flesh that bulges over and under the bra. While the sport primarily builds upper body strength, it also gives your legs a workout, challenging your balance and stability as you walk around the platform in heels.

Although many women feel intimidated and reluctant to sign up for a pole dancing class, the workout is incomparable and frankly, more fun than traditional exercise. Not only does pole dancing effectively work numerous muscles in your body, but also it builds confidence. In the words of Valliere, “throwing yourself off balance and doing something outside of your comfort zone can make you more confident and effective in other aspects of your life.”

As a pole dancer and instructor, Valliere practices what she preaches, taking another genre of dance or an unfamiliar physical challenge to re-instill empathy for her students. It allows her to reflect and look back on moments in which she was scared to death and relying on a stranger to help her learn something new. She concludes that pole dancing, while intimidating at first, can transform those moments of fear into clarity and confidence.

In terms of nutrition, Valliere swears by her vegan lifestyle and recommends quinoa, different kinds of rice with protein, and homemade soups as energy boosters for class. While working, she also munches on raw nuts or eats a good ol’ fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich on multigrain bread. But like anyone else, she’ll enjoy vegan ice cream or a glass of wine during her non-teaching hours. A well-balanced lifestyle is part of her world everyday, not to mention her practice of Bikram yoga for mental and spiritual health.

If anything above sounds appealing, perhaps, you’re ready for a workout and lifestyle change that will positively impact your health. Celebrate Frugivore Month by taking a pole dancing class. Or if you’re already a student, share your experience!


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