On Monday, I travelled up to the Wirral to go and hang out at Feelin’ Peachy Empowerment Studio at the Wirral and take part in Roz May’s Inverts and Climbs 101 Workshop.
So as you probably all know, I’m a huge fan of Roz and the work she’s done for our community. So much so that when she started looking for work in the UK as part of her Fish and Chips 2019 tour, we got in touch with her to chat about her plans.
Unfortunately, Kat ended up not being able to make it to any of the workshops due to work commitments, but I was lucky enough to get the time off work to make the 2 and a half hour trip.
If you’ve never been to Peach Lee Ray’s studio in the Wirral, you need to go. Like yesterday.
Until Monday I’d only seen shots of the studio from the Feelin’ Peachy Instagram so I guess the thing that surprised me most was how small the studio actually was, given that Feelin’ Peachy is based within a unit on an industrial estate. This was pretty great though, as it felt like an intimate venue and somewhere very homely.
I think the best way of describing Peach’s studio is an explosion of 90’s Barbie pink and glitter (and I hope she wouldn’t disagree!).
As someone who gets crazy anxiety when going to new places and meeting new people, it was awesome to feel so welcome as soon as I walked through the door.
Inverts and Climbs 101
As you can probably guess from my previous statement, I was super nervous about this workshop.
Even though when we interviewed Roz I asked if it was cool that I’d never inverted before, and she reassured me it was super beginner friendly and the goal of the workshop was to teach the fundamentals, I was nervous I’d be the only person in the room who couldn’t already invert.
So yeah, I spent most of the car ride to the studio from our hotel with anxiety nausea, convincing myself I deserved to go and even if I couldn’t invert, no-one would laugh at me or think less of me.
Hell, I was terrified Roz and Peach would think less of me, even though both of them have been instrumental in improving my confidence and are generally amazing human beings. But anxiety isn’t rational.
Nick drove me to the studio from the hotel, and as we pulled up and I expressed worry about how I did the going into the studio thing (as a closed studio door before class at my studio means our instructors are still setting up) he reassured me he’d wait until I gave him the thumbs up that I was okay.
Cue the unknown angel who left the Coaching Plus Size Dancers workshop that ran before ours, who joyously exclaimed “You’re going to love it! Roz is EVERYTHING!”
Yeah, I was okay!
As with any workshop worth it’s salt we started with a quick warm up to get the blood flowing and prepare our body for what we were about to put it through. Along with Roz snapping to the beat and singing along, we all got into the groove and she explained what the plan of attack was for the workshop.
While we were stretching she reassured us that the workshop was there for people totally new to inverting and climbing, as well as for those who could do them but wanted to improve.
If our bodies were in pain, or we were too tired to attempt a move, she told us there and then to stop pushing and rest. As she kept reminding us, she’d rather see us do something thoughtfully three times, than something sloppy six times.
She also reminded us to kick her ass if she misgendered anyone, which was awesome.
Once we’d warmed up, we got started with the conditioning!
The workshop started with some conditioning exercises done in pairs that focused on engaging our lower abdominal muscles. While one person activated their muscles and tilted their pelvis, the other spotted to make sure they were keeping their lower back connected to the floor, which was even more important when we did the same thing again but using our legs as added weight.
The purpose of this wasn’t just to warm up through those muscles, but to feel where they are, how they affect our movement, and to engage our minds into using them when it came to trying to invert later on.
The second conditioning exercise was one we’re perhaps more familiar with from class. With this one, we used what we’d just learned to ‘invert’ from lying down next to the pole, bringing our legs up and in the correct position to grip.
From there, if we were happy with that, Roz showed us the movements we’d need to move into an outside leg hang, and how to switch to an inside leg hang from there, so if we were feeling confident inverting we could try it later.
The key thing this did for me was positivity.
As Roz talked about later on in the class, it was about connecting with our stomach muscles and reminding ourselves – and particularly those of us who carry more fat around the stomach – that we have the same capability to invert as everyone else because we have exactly the same abdominal muscles.
We all have the same capacity to be strong and badass at pole, regardless of how much cushioning our bodies have.
Once we’d worked on our inverting position, we separated into groups to work on doing exactly the same thing, but from the floor, rather than lying down.
Before we got started, Roz demonstrated exactly it was that we were aiming to do with each attempt, and also demonstrated how to safely spot the dancer in our group, so everyone stayed safe.
It also helped build a bond of trust between us all, and I know I felt super safe training alongside a pair of women I’d only met literally half an hour earlier.
The idea with this exercise was to go into a pole crunch or pole tuck, which might again be a familiar exercise from class for conditioning, with the aim of going as high as we could using those lower abdominal muscles we’d been training.
Roz reminded us that the goal was to get as high as we could, and if we could invert, awesome! But if not, progress is still progress, and we should be proud of what we achieve regardless.
A spotter would stand either side to support your weight as you attempted the tuck, but wouldn’t take your weight. The idea of this being not only did it keep the dancer safe and supported, but it took away the fear aspect of inverting so we could focus on our muscle engagement and what we were trying to do.
And this is exactly where I surprised myself.
With my first few attempts, I focused on making my pole tucks as strong as they could be, given in class I’m usually pretty awful at them.
With each attempt, I was going higher and higher as I got more used to the sensation and had less fear that I was going to crack my neck.
After a few attempts each we took a quick break to discuss what our spotters were doing that really helped and shared tips we’d found while attempting to invert.
HOLY SHIT I MANAGED TO INVERT FOR THE FIRST. GODDAMN. TIME.
There was definitely some Diva Magic going off at Feelin’ Peachy because I went from barely being able to do a single pole tuck a few weeks ago to inverting.
I admit it was very sloppy. And clumsy. Once I was up there I was so shocked that I didn’t really think so much about my leg positioning more than that they were in vaguely the right place to grip.
As we were all attempting our inverts – whether it was sloppy like mine or practised and graceful – Roz came round the room and helped spot, cheer people on, and generally be a wonderful, encouraging diva keeping everyone motivated.
(Also I got a Roz High Five and I will be proud of this until the day I die)
Coming down from the exhilaration of inverting, we then grouped back up as partners to work on our climbs.
While climbing is one of the first major milestones you work on as a pole dancer, it can also be hard to get right. It took me about nine months to be able to climb to the top of the pole (very clumsily!) on my good side, and I still can’t do the same on my dork side.
So this was an awesome opportunity for me to kick my ass back into training it.
Before we got into it, Roz asked us all what the worst thing about climbing was for us, and we all pretty much agreed that it was the second climb that gave us the most problems.
It was actually great to hear Roz say that it’s something that everyone finds tricky, even if they’ve been poling for a while, so this part of the class was dedicated to making that second climb a little easier for all of us.
Roz recapped on good climbing technique, as well as highlighting the key grip points and what muscle groups we should be using – namely ALL THAT ASS – to push up and make our climbs stronger. The spotter would support the dancer by gently cupping their shins to give them extra stability if they needed it, as well as to make sure they were safe and didn’t suddenly fall.
I’m a pretty confident person with my climbs so with my first attempt I reminded my brain how to go about it on my good side without much issue.
And again, that same Diva Magic that got my ass to invert for the first time made my dork side climb so much better, as I was able to climb halfway up the pole in two climbs before my grip failed.
I mean, it was a two-hour workshop. By that point, we were all swampy as hell and breathing like we’d ran the three-minute mile.
Once again Roz danced around the room to make sure everyone was safe, asked them how they were getting on and encouraged everyone to kick that pole’s ass and climb our hearts out.
Once the climb portion of the class was concluded, we had around ten minutes of free time to practice whatever we wanted – if we still had energy left!
Pretty much everyone used this as an opportunity to get pictures or videos of what they had worked on during the class, or get Roz’s advice on things they were working on outside of the sphere of inverts and climbs.
As you can imagine, at this point I was a sweaty mess, but I figured I’d have one last go at inverting so I could get some pictures for the ‘gram.
So I tried inverting again, and unsurprisingly after two hours of hard strength work every inch of my body was leaking sweat and I had no grip left, no matter how much Dry Hands I slapped on myself.
We finished the lesson with some simple stretches, and as we did so Roz summarised the lesson and encouraged us to take what we know and share it with people who may be struggling too.
She asked us to give shout outs to the people we felt helped us the most, as well as give shout outs to ourselves if we surpassed our expectations and kicked ass in the lesson.
We also shared the advice we found most helpful and what we loved about the session, as well as our hopes for the future.
Finally, Roz thanked us all for being there and coming to support her.
As a personal trainer and someone who has made pole and fitness her career, she wanted to thank the people who paid for her to teach them as it made her dreams possible (and also meant she could get paid to jam out to Beyoncé with us).
As we were all packing up, we had the opportunity to get selfies with Roz and thank her for all of her advice and support during the workshop. I was personally astounded by how much progress I made in the lesson given that literally the week before I couldn’t do a solid pole tuck, let alone invert.
In true Diva style, Roz had also brought along postcards that she signed for each of us with three of her favourite things. Here’s mine:
We also had an awesome conversation about how the workshop really summed up for us all the things we loved about the pole community, as it had brought together a group of us who only really knew each other from Instagram; people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds who were there for the very same reason: to celebrate their love for pole.
Honestly, Roz is one of those fantastic people I could have spent HOURS talking to about life and pole and feminism and all things in between.
We ordered room service once I got back to the hotel, and had a cheeky burger and a pint dinner while watching Wonder Woman which honestly, felt super apt given the badass things I’d just achieved that night. We did have plans to actually go down to the bar and eat but, once I’d showered I was pretty much dead on my feet, and neither of us had the energy to be around the football crowd that was watching the match downstairs.
And in true post-pole class fashion, I fell asleep at 9.30pm with no energy left to give the world.
As you can imagine I woke up the next morning aching. HARD.
I wasn’t really expecting to feel it as much in my quads as I did, but it was at breakfast that morning I cursed being put in a room that was two flights of stairs away from breakfast.
I was covered in bruises across my feet, thighs and on my sides where I’d gripped the pole inverting, and if I had any fucks to give about what my body looked like I would have been thankful I’d brought a swimming costume for the pool instead of a bikini.
I was perhaps a bit enthusiastic in thinking that going for a swim might help ease the aches in my muscles as I barely managed two lengths before I was completely tired out again and had to go and sit in the hot tub. Which thankfully, did help ease things up.
What did I take away from this?
Just knowing I can invert now – even if it is with the help of spotters – has boosted my confidence in pole class so, so much.
This workshop proved to me that inverting isn’t actually all that scary, and that the idea of going upside down is worse than just doing it. I know it’s easier said than achieved which is why having the inverting part of the workshop done with spotters to take that fear away was so, so helpful.
I’d also never really put much thought into how being mindful and aware of where your muscle groups are, and what they feel like when they’re engaged, can help so much when it comes to pole.
For me, just knowing how to engage those lower abdominal muscles and what they did helped so much when it came to inverting as I felt like I had a better idea of what to do.
Going forward I’m definitely going to work on this aspect of pole to help me get stronger and more aware of what my body’s doing, as I definitely have a tendency to throw myself into things without always thinking about what muscles I need to be using.
I know I said it before but workshops like this really help cement why I fell in love with pole in the first place.
I’d be lying if I said I never got disillusioned with my own pole journey from time to time, and my depression brain never tried to convince me that it wasn’t worth the fight. (Prozac isn’t infallable, kids)
Not to mention there can be times of drama within our community, like within any, and although we have one of the kindest and most inclusive fitness communities out there this makes any drama feel ten times worse as it feels like it really shouldn’t be happening in this space.
But going to this workshop and meeting Roz, Peach Lee Ray (again!) and a bunch of awesome people I follow on Instagram really helped remind me that pole has the power to bring together people from all over the world to celebrate being strong, courageous and celebratory of our own worth.
Unfortunately Roz has now headed back home to the US, but she’s got a bunch of other workshop dates coming up – check them out here!
Roz also teaches regularly at Body and Pole NYC and IncrediPOLE, as well as being a Personal Trainer herself and running her own business training Divas everywhere. If you’re interested, go get in touch with her – she’s honestly one of the best instructors I’ve ever had the honour of doing a workshop with, and it was worth every penny I spent on the workshop, travelling and on the hotel just to go and learn from her.
Keep on rockin’, Divas!