Exercising in 7-inch heels | SierraSun.com

Exercising in 7-inch heels

Cassandra Walker | cwalker@sierrasun.com | @snow1cass

I can hardly contain my excitement to share with you, hands-down, the most fun and challenging exercise class I've ever participated in: pole fitness.

In my quest to find unique health and wellness experts around Lake Tahoe I was fortunate enough to come across Cindy Coverdale, owner of Vertical Fitness in Incline Village.

She and her team are all certified fitness instructors who are coming up on 10 years this July, of teaching classes and hosting parties for clients in Pilates, yoga, aerial yoga, personal training and pole fitness.

"Of course there will always be a stigma linking the pole to stripping" said Coverdale of people's typical reaction to pole classes.

"But we all take pole fitness very seriously, we do get flirty but we aren't teaching exotic movements, we are building a solid foundation of alignment and proper technique. We want strong, flexible, happy bodies, not injuries."

Opening a Pole Fitness Studio

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Coverdale said she was first introduced to pole fitness when she noticed her best friend had a bruise on the top of her foot. After hearing it had gotten there from a pole dancing class Coverdale knew she wanted to give it a try.

Her background in gymnastics made her a quick learner, but Coverdale said the sensual movement was tricky at first.

"I loved the physicality of it, but the slinky moves definitely took me out of my comfort zone," she said.

Coverdale was instantly hooked to her newfound exercise and six months later she decided to open a pole fitness studio in Tahoe.

Vertical Fitness has since grown to include Pilates and yoga exercise rooms within the studio; but I jumped at the opportunity to gather a group of women for our first pole class, and share the awesome experience with all of you.

Dance Team, Assemble!

Now, my mother is the strongest, sweetest woman I know. She always does the right thing; that is not an exaggeration, the woman is a saint — so naturally, she was first on my pole dancing guest list.

After a thorough explanation and plenty of laughter, she and our best friends Amy LaPierre and Cheyanne Birchall were onboard.

Once we arrived to the studio, Coverdale and another instructor in yoga therapy, aerial yoga and pole, Jesalyn White, greeted us and began explaining some of the benefits of pole fitness.

"Here we've created a safe environment for women to express themselves while building strength, flexibility and femininity," Coverdale said.

White added, "In some countries, like Russia, pole is seen similarly to how gymnastics is seen here; they even begin training in pole at a young age."

Coverdale said their approach to pole fitness is first to build strong bodies, but also to help women work through body image issues.

"New people are almost always nervous at the beginning of class, but by the end of class they feel empowered, they've come out of their shell and are really having a good time."

White said that if she'd had the opportunity to participate in a pole fitness class when she was younger, she would have gained more confidence in herself.

"You're being very mindful of yourself; you're working on fitness but still feeling flirty," White said.

"It is just so empowering to be comfortable with your body; feeling comfortable in your own skin."

We were a bit nervous but eager to get to the poles.

Grab Your Heels & Get Started

The pole studio is completely private and beautiful inside. Mirrored walls allow students to see proper technique and body alignment under pretty, soft lighting.

After picking out a pair of heels for class, strapping in and finding our new center of gravity, we each were stationed by a pole with a yoga mat for deep stretches and a warm-up to be sure no one suffered any injuries.

There is something instantly empowering about wearing a pair of these skyscraper stilettos — the energy in the room was instantly lighter and we were laughing as we clumsily tried to be graceful in our movements.

"This is so much fun, I really like these shoes!" student Amy LaPierre said. "It's such a safe place to try something like this and feel sexy, and just laugh and laugh with your girlfriends."

The Vertical Fitness instructors are kind and professional women who make their groups feel at ease. They set their students up for success by breaking down each phase of the workout, pinpointing any adjustments and encouraging the ladies every step of the way.

Coverdale taught our group to walk around the pole, positioning your heel as close to the base as possible, standing tall and taking light, graceful steps in flowing, feminine motion.

Next, we learned to turn around the pole and then linking into a turn while walking around the pole. These may sound like small victories, but trust me, we were crushing it in those shoes.

Walking and turning, check. Now it was time to gracefully set ourselves up for some spinning tricks off of the ground — we were ecstatic to land a graceful dismount.

The final phase of our class was putting all of the moves together in a routine and by this time the entire room was filled with laughter and excitement.

Coverdale and her team firmly believe in a strong teaching foundation to be sure students aren't picking up any bad habits that could lead to injury.

"The beginner learning curve in pole is super fast," Coverdale said. "We're learning new things and feeling empowered and good about ourselves. Intermediate classes take more practice to nail tricks, but even in those classes students are working through their fears, supporting each other and advancing."

Intermediate and advanced classes get further into technique. It's important to build strong core muscles as well as develop upper and lower body strength to properly and safely advance to new tricks.

A Glimmering Success

Along with our newfound strength and excitement for getting out of our comfort zones, we felt proud of ourselves and of each other.

"Classes are so supportive of each other," Coverdale said. "People might think that there is some kind of competitive nature of the girls in a class but it isn't competitive at all, everyone is cheering each other on, boosting each other up and motivating one another."

And she was right, with each new trick one of us would nail the entire group would clap and yell. Whenever we'd definitely not nail the trick, we were laying on the floor laughing together with newly aching muscles.

People are more likely to stick with an exercise routine they enjoy and pole class is a whole new world of fun exercise.

"Athletic women oftentimes only have masculine workouts in their routine," Coverdale said.

"Pole is the complete opposite because you're flowing and embracing your femininity. But each time you spin around that pole you're working your core muscles — all of these routines are targeting your upper body, core and legs."

The group definitely felt the burn, felt closer to each other, and had a great time appreciating our bodies and letting go of whatever mental block we created saying we "couldn't" or "shouldn't" give it a try.

Oh yes, we will be back.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.