Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • March 2014
Written by  Meegan Kaster

Marathon cross-training with pole exercise

As a five-time marathoner and triathlon winner, I’m not easily intimated. So how could I be more terrified of a 10-foot pole than a starting line with 10,000 people standing behind it?

Pole exercise has challenged me to redefine myself as an athlete. My working definition of athlete used to depend upon PRs and split times, which slowly began to consume me. So when I began my aerial fitness career, it was with the intentions of leaving competitive running behind. Goodbye three-hour training runs on Saturday mornings and hello to a uniquely individualized graceful one-hour workout.

No one was more pleased than my supportive husband. He also understands my love affair (he may say addiction) with running, so he wasn’t surprised when I discovered that instead of replacing running, pole proved to be the perfect cross-training complement, and in the process altered my definition of what it takes to be an athlete. One pole exercise class now induces the same feeling of satisfaction as crossing a finish line for which I trained five months.

Everyone knows running is a great way to drop a few pounds and increase your cardio-respiratory endurance. So you can imagine my surprise to find that pole is indeed a cardio workout in disguise. Pole exercise increases your heart rate by introducing a constant flow of movement. What’s unique to this cardio workout is that it can be as fast-paced or as adaptive as you need. By altering how many repetitions of movement you complete or by decreasing your recovery time between movements you are in full control of your heart rate.

Keeping that in mind, pole exercise is conducive to all physical fitness abilities. It is also great for someone looking to start living a healthier lifestyle, or for veteran athletes looking to mix up their training routines. As skill levels increase for each student, the length of combination movements or number of weight-bearing moves increase. A pole fitness class offers a rare individualized workout that does not suffer the “cardio ceiling” as many other fitness classes do.

Another pleasant side effect of running is the benefit of a strong core. Your posture while running is a huge indication of how strong your core really is. The alignment of your spine will increase your oxygen intake during physical activity, allowing more force with less exertion. Pole exercise preaches proper posture and shoulder engagement on a full-time basis. Strong shoulder engagement commands the opening of your chest and the extension of your spin to minimize muscle strain. Muscle memory of shoulder engagement from pole exercise has improved my daily posture while reducing my lower neck and back pain.

Finally, there can’t be an article written about pole exercise without mentioning the benefits of the amazing upper body strength you gain. Distance runners will tell you upper body strength wins or loses races. Strong shoulders and biceps maintain the momentum of your stride, especially during uphill running. Pole exercise has sculpted my upper body. Runners talk about leg envy. Pole exercise will induce arm envy. As a runner, I often overlooked the importance of strength-training my upper body. With the addition of aerial fitness in my training schedules I run taller. I run stronger. And I’m happy to declare that I run faster solely by increasing my upper body strength.

Pole exercise has transformed the way I look at myself in the mirror. I no longer see just a runner. I see a strong, balanced and confident athlete. Pole exercise has given me the courage to continue running and the drive to better myself by sharing this sport with others. This hysterically fun sport has allowed me to laugh at myself and to quiet that sometimes-critical voice in my head. Best of all, there is no timing chip or records to uphold. No one is watching, but all the women in your class are cheering you on! 


Meegan Kaster is an instructor-in-training at Aerial Dance Pole Exercise, LLC, in Appleton and a marathon runner. She holds multiple nationally accredited fitness certifications and is constantly striving for more! For more information about pole exercise, contact Aerial Dance at 920-750-1441 or go to http://PoleAppleton.com.

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