Arnold Preview: Let’s Get Legitimate: Pole Fitness makes its name at the Arnold

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From the February 27, 2014 edition

It might be a “sensual, sexy form of fitness,” luring in women hell-bent on finding another exercise outlet other than weight lifting, but Lindsey Kimura would be quick to remind any skeptics of pole fitness’ legitimacy: It requires mad skills.

“It’s not just a pole and a sexy dancer,” said Kimura, director of marketing at X-Pole, the company sponsoring the Pole Fitness National Championship at the Arnold this year. “There’s incredible difficulty and strength and grace that goes into the sport, like gymnastics or dance.”

Carolyn Cull, owner of Columbus’ own Studio Rouge and co-chair for the championship, agreed.

“I think people will be blown away by the level of athleticism of these women,” she said. “If you’ve never tried any type of aerial fitness — pole, hoop — it’s easy to think it’s not that difficult or maybe not really exercise. We want people to see the amount of strength and flexibility that goes into it. People can really tone up their muscles.”

But it’s that blend of strength and grace that lends pole fitness its special stance among the 50 sports represented at the Arnold, each of which tends to gravitate toward one end of the spectrum, Kimura noted.

“To combine dance with lifting your whole body is unique,” she said.

That’s why the Pole Champion Series, which has held numerous regional events across the nation and in Canada and Mexico, decided to have its first National Pole Fitness Championship here at the Arnold Sports Festival, a place where both women and men are respected in the fitness field, a place where many sports are represented and a place that recognized pole fitness as an official sport, she said.

But part of the lure of Columbus might not have been just the Classic, Cull said.

“Columbus is really open to new ideas, and is cutting edge as far as the Midwest is concerned and as far as what they’re interested in and willing to try,” she said. “We have a really diverse population here that is looking for new ways to exercise and have fun and be fit. And the attitudes of the people here have been open and supportive of us. We haven’t really experienced any backlash.”

Whatever the call, pole fitness doesn’t just aim to hold contests. Another goal of the sport is to become an alternative route to fitness for those who don’t like traditional methods, Kimura said, noting X-Pole’s goal of installing poles in gyms across the nation.

But for now, this weekend is an opportunity to get more exposure (no pun intended, we promise) to the sport and to shift some of the preconceived notions of pole fitness and make it more legitimate to the general public.

But even if you don’t latch on to it just yet, come for the amazement.

“They’re dead-lifting their body weight back and forth, and doing death-defying movements,” Cull said. “Then there’s the amazing, can’t-catch-your-breath, gasping moments, seeing death-defying Cirque du Soleil tricks in the air. I think everyone will be amazed by it.”