Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • September 2017
Written by 

What are you really training for?

Everyone wants to be fit. We want to have the six-pack abs we see in every advertisement and look good at the beach, so we train at the gym and try to eat the right foods. In my past five years as a personal trainer in the fitness industry I have trained for many different types of things. I have worked out to look aesthetically pleasing. I have trained to gain strength for heavy Olympic lifting. When I started pole dance fitness I figured that I would be pretty good at it because of my experience with lifting weights. This is not necessarily the case as pole dance is a functional sport requiring movement-specific strength. When I began pole I was challenged by each new move that was introduced to me. Because I wanted to be able to execute it I was motivated to work toward it. Before I knew it I would have one move and be working on another, and another, soon after I was able to do things that I never believed my body could do while getting stronger in the process.

There is a difference in training methods between trying to lift more weight, or build more muscle, versus training to be able to perform a certain skill or movement. Exercising to build muscle would be called hypertrophy training. This means that you are including a certain amount of exercises, sets and reps to accomplish your muscle growth. When one is training for a skill or movement it is called functional training. Does this mean that your muscles will not get bigger or stronger as a result? Not at all! The repetition of functional training builds both strength and muscle mass while also accomplishing other goals. So while a powerlifter may be able to bench press an immense amount of weight, there are few real world skills or situations that it actually coincides with.

What I have come to find is that the obsession with how our bodies look and exercising for aesthetics can lead down a path of negativity. Perhaps we never get to the point that we would like and get frustrated or give up. Perhaps we compare ourselves to others who have different genetics and will always look different from us despite trying to change it. This is where functional training for something that your body can do comes into play in a healthy way. When one trains for functionality, they are focused on becoming successful at that particular movement. Once this is accomplished, it is motivation to continue working on more difficult movements and continue to push the boundaries of what your body can do! This is more than looking at a scale, or looking at yourself in the mirror. 

One day we will all be a bit older, and a bit larger than we were in our younger years. What really matters is what our older body can do. Can you move around with your pets and your loved ones? Can you get around without the assistance of another person or a cane? Focusing on what the body can do and achieve is so much more worthwhile than obsessing over the culturally approved way our bodies should look! Sure, working out in the gym will keep you moving, but is it entertaining? Do you enjoy it or is it a chore? Would you rather spend hours in the gym working toward an aesthetic goal? Or would you rather work toward something that is fun and functional while also receiving the benefits of exercise for your body? This is what pole and many other sports and activities can do. 

Find what works for you, find what you enjoy and push yourself to become better at it! This way when we grow old and grey, we are not confined to chairs or beds, we are able to enjoy the entirety of our lifetime.

Olivia Meese

Olivia Meese is an instructor at Aerial Dance Pole Exercise in Appleton. With a degree in dance, multiple fitness degrees and a passion for the art form, join her for an inspiring class by registering online at or call 920-750-1441.

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