Healthy Concepts
Olivia Meese

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.

Thursday, 31 August 2017 02:38

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.

Thursday, 30 March 2017 20:12

Do not give up on yourself and your passion

I have been dancing my entire life. When it was time to decide the next step after high school I knew that I wanted to major in dance. However, my love and passion while doing so began to fade. I was constantly competing with students next to me to be chosen to perform. I did not feel comfortable expressing myself verbally or through dance with the people around me. I felt judged for the things my body could not do in dance technique. By the time I graduated I was sure that I just wanted to find a normal desk job and let dance fall by the wayside. I was never chosen to perform much; I was criticized because my strong body was not as flexible as other students. I did not move in the same way as other students. Dance had become something that was a chore, and I did not believe myself to be skilled in it any longer. I had negative self-talk about how it was all a dream that would come to a stop after graduation, because sometimes we need to be realistic in our expectations of ourselves and come to terms with reality. Right? Wrong.

After graduation and finally finishing a bachelor’s degree in fine art, I did not feel proud. I felt that I had wasted my time while others were out getting degrees in science, and business. That was until I found a place that not only welcomed women but encouraged them to be strong, and to be themselves. I had always wanted to try pole dance. As a dancer whose feet were always on the ground and who admired the upper body strength I knew it had to take I was not sure if I would do well at it but I loved it anyway. My first class already felt successful. It was only day one and not only was I being encouraged and supported by the women around me for what my body could do, I also felt pride.

As a beginner in pole I was already addicted. It was the highlight of my Monday to know that I could go somewhere and practice and be guided by knowledgeable instructors. I had little successes every week and they were celebrated. I began to feel that passion for dance and movement again. As I moved past the beginner stages and into an intermediate place I was overwhelmed with joy that I did not quit dancing as I had considered so many times before. It was a revival to my heart and soul! I continued to progress and made friends along the way, bonding over our safe space to be ourselves, and the strength we were gaining physically and mentally. Our bodies are very vulnerable. To be judged based on the way it does or does not move can be debilitating. Pole showed me that I could be strong and flexible, and defy gravity in a way I never thought possible.

At this moment, I could not be more proud that not only have I found a way to continue dancing after college, but I have completely changed my mind and the judgments I had made toward my talent and my body. After six months of practicing the aerial arts I was able to show off what I had learned in the Aerial Dance Pole Exercise Christmas show performance. I was soon after offered a chance to train as a new instructor at the studio, which I am so grateful to be able to do.

My experience goes to show that if you have a passion for something it will seek you out. Do not give up on yourself. If I had decided that dance was no longer for me, and if I had let that negative self-talk win, I would not have had the same opportunities. Starting pole dance gave me my self-confidence back. I am doing things now I would have never thought possible. It is an avenue of becoming an even better version of oneself while building camaraderie with those who share the interest. Let pole show you what you can do for yourself, as it showed me. 

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