Lili Parallax (born Leslie Hoerig) discovered pole fitness almost accidentally. The 28-year-old interior designer attended her first pole fitness class with a friend and immediately became addicted. Now, four years later, Parallax is a pole fitness instructor and set to compete in the Arnold Amateur Pole Championships at the Arnold Fitness Expo on Saturday, March 7.

Lili Parallax (born Leslie Hoerig) discovered pole fitness almost accidentally. The 28-year-old interior designer attended her first pole fitness class with a friend and immediately became addicted. Now, four years later, Parallax is a pole fitness instructor and set to compete in the Arnold Amateur Pole Championships at the Arnold Fitness Expo on Saturday, March 7.

I was complaining about needing something to do, so a friend suggested I try pole fitness. When I first moved to Columbus in 2011, a friend bought a Groupon for pole fitness classes, so I decided to tag along. Iíd always been generally healthy, but I had never been really into fitness and movement. The first class we took was mostly about learning spins; I felt like a kid at recess. A lot of people work out to lose weight so they focus on a number; pole fitness is skill-based, so you focus on what you can do, which motivated me more. All tricks have progressions, so you learn what youíre able to do. You think youíll never get there, but finally executing a trick youíve been working on is really rewarding. After I had been practicing about a year, my studio had a showcase. It was amazing how much more driven I was once I had something to prepare for. After that, I wanted to keep setting goals for myself to keep pushing. I love that Iím to the point I can teach and compete.

Pole fitness is addictive. I have become so much stronger since starting pole fitness, I almost canít believe it. Because I kept focusing on what tricks I could perform, I didnít notice how much bigger my shoulders had become until I accidentally ďHulk-smashedĒ a suit jacket when I put it on. You donít realize how much of a workout youíre getting while you do pole fitness because itís so fun, but itís also a great way to build strength. I feel like I level-up every time Iím in the studio.

It took me a while to ďcome outĒ about pole fitness. When people think of pole dancing, they think of strip clubs; but itís more than that. I think the pole fitness world is trying to distance itself from the ďpole dancingĒ you might see in a strip club. There is definitely a ďstripper styleĒ to pole fitness, but at competitions it is more like a gymnastics routine. At most competitions (including the Arnold Fitness Expo) there are strict rules on what can be worn during a routine, and a wardrobe malfunction can get you disqualified. ďExcessive gluteal exposureĒ and excessive cleavage are not allowed, for example. Both sides definitely blend together, but the competitions are trying to legitimize pole fitness and want to separate it from the club atmosphere. Personally I donít see a problem with pole dancing being in strip clubs or out of them; I just do it because I like it.

Itís weird having people translate your skills into numbers. Iíve only done one competition before, so Iím really excited, but I donít know what to expect at the Arnold Fitness Expo. Iíve never really been into competing, I just like to perform. There are some really experienced people competing, so Iím not as transfixed on placing [in the competition] as I am meeting the other contestants backstage. Iím excited that my friends and family will be out to support me as well.

Almost everybody is intimidated about trying pole fitness. If you want to try it, you should! Remember everybody starts out as an insecure beginner, but they always surprise themselves with what they can do. You have to start somewhere. Everyone starts at their own skill level, and all different ages and demographics of people show up for classes. Every class starts with a warm-up and a conditioning exercise and then the instructor will demonstrate a trick and go around to help each student. Itís a bit more customized than a yoga class. You can always tell the seasoned pole fitness people from the newbies by the amount of clothing they wear. At first, everyone starts off keeping their regular work-out clothes on, but the farther along you go, the fewer clothes you wear because you need your skin to be exposed to stick to the pole. At a certain point everyone always gets over the insecurity and just has a good time.

Photo by Meghan Ralston