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Woman of Steele: Pole dancing a new way to get fit

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Published by The Windsor Star | December 15, 2015
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The Real Housewives of New York gave it a spin. J Lo, Lady Gaga and even Kate Middleton have embraced the pole and all its fitness benefits.

One of the newest fitness trends has hit Windsor and women of all ages are finding their inner sexuality and giving the pole a spin. Alexandra Urbano and Caita Clemerson opened Vertika Windsor, a pole fitness studio on Ottawa Street. The pair had dabbled in dance, gymnastics and even cheerleading for years, but after trying a pole fitness class they were hooked.

“I’ve tried almost every workout there is,” Urbano said. “But about two years ago, when I tried pole, it just clicked and I knew this was what I wanted to do.”

Urbano and Clemerson became pole fitness teachers and opened Vertika last month.

“It’s funny when people ask about the business they either say ‘What?’ or they assume it’s a stripper place and we are strippers,” Urbano said, with a laugh. “Then most of them give it a try and say what an awesome workout.”

I had watched the Real Housewives attempt pole fitness and they made it look easy but as I stood at one of the eight poles in the brightly lit studio with a wall of mirrors, I was having my doubts. Clemerson decided the Fresh Meat: Intro to Pole class was probably the best fit for me. She suggested I wear a tank top and shorts because the body needs to grip the pole for certain moves.

Pole fitness incorporates strength training, endurance, and flexibility. Most people are surprised how much upper body strength you need to pull yourself up on the pole and hold.

Our first big move for the class was similar to a fireman slide. I put my hands high on the pole, jumped up and tried to gracefully wrap my legs around the pole. I tried to hold the position for a few seconds but soon my arms where shaking. As I slid down, my bare thighs gripped the pole and it felt like I was leaving my skin on it.

“You have to work on your grip and be willing to tolerate a bit of pain and a few bruises,” she said. “Pole fitness is about trusting yourself and trying something new. You need to have an open mind to a different style of workout.”

Urbano believes poling gives you confidence, strength, sense of self, sensuality, grace and poise. At Vertika, the beginner classes focus on strength training and some basic moves, while some of the most advanced classes are choreographed. Some students are former dancers while others are like me, curious to give it a try.

“Most are surprised with how tough it is,” Urbano said. “For women we don’t usually do anything with our upper body, we do cardio. This incorporates upper body, so it takes some time. You do need some co-ordination because there is some element of dance.”

Urbano makes it look easy. As she spun around the pole suspended by her leg and arms it looked so simply and beautiful. But, when it was my turn, graceful was not a word I would use. My one arm was getting tired from trying to hold my body up and the back of my legs and knees felt raw. Halfway through the routine I was getting dizzy but didn’t want to stop because everyone around me was spinning gracefully. I didn’t dare even look in the mirror at my pole debacle.

When the class was done, I was tired. My arms were sore and my body felt like it had quite the workout. I could also feel that I was going to get bruises on the inside of both my knees. Looking at Urbano with her strong muscular arms and legs, the benefits of pole fitness are clear.

Rebecca Bonner, 38, of Windsor has been doing pole fitness for two years and loves it so much she bought her own pole. She uses it at home as well as coming to the weekly advanced classes. When friends come over and see the pole she’s usually greeted with an odd look.

“I think sometimes they are surprised and they think it’s just for strippers,” she said. “Then they try it and are surprised how tough it is. My arms are definitely more muscular and I’m loving all the great people I meet at class.”

Vertika is at 1437 Ottawa St. There are drop-in rates, memberships and even parties. Check out