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The Pole Fitness Journey A customer report by TeamUp

Real customer research for
Pole Fitness businesses.

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Introduction to the Fitness Journey research

Jessica is 20 years old. She’s a university student, and a dancer. Since starting university, she hasn’t been going to a studio, and misses moving her body. There is a dance club on campus, but that wasn’t a fit. She goes clubbing every now and then but that’s not the same. Mostly, Jessica focuses on her studying and her friends.

Then, something shifts. Something changes in Jessica’s life. She wants to work out. What happened to cause the shift? We don’t know.

So, Jessica chats to her friends. One of them has joined the swim team, but registration is closed. Another goes to the campus gym every couple days. That might work for her. How is Jessica choosing where to workout? We don’t know.

After a week, Jessica finally talks to the right person. Her friend knows someone who teaches at the Pole Fitness studio in town. They decide to book a class together, because it sounds like fun. How is she choosing whether to book? We don’t know.

The girls decide to book a class and arrive together. Jessica wonders if her dance training will come in handy for this type of fitness, or if she’ll even be strong enough to get on the pole. What does she need in this first class to make her feel that this is the right place for her? We don’t know.

Fitness business owners have strong instincts for answering these questions. When you decided to run a successful fitness business, you had to pay attention to what drives your customers to choose you, book with you, and stay with you. This research is meant to supplement your instinct.

With this data, fitness business owners can identify with this problem in a way that resonates with how your customers speak, or with the situation happening in their lives, to make sure they buy from you. This work makes sure your business attracts the people you are trying to attract.

The results in this report can be used for company strategy, class planning, and marketing strategy, messaging, and distribution.

You can use the information from this report when making big decisions, planning a marketing campaign, choosing where to put your marketing, when you’re writing out flyers, emails and web pages, hiring contractors, and onboarding new instructors or employees.

The Challenge

Lorna has built a strong culture of compassion, support, and ambition at her pole fitness studio, Pole Athletes. It’s inspiring reading this feedback from members. So, what exactly makes Pole Athletes such a strong community hub? Lorna’s next steps will benefit from knowing exactly what makes her company so special.

The stages of the Pole Journey

The beginning
1
I noticed that I was feeling down about myself and my body. I needed to find a community to help me through.
Finding Pole Athletes
2
My friend’s coworker goes to Pole Athletes , and we weren’t sure what to expect so she and I decided to go together.
Choosing Pole Athletes
3
OMG. The moment we walked in we realized how nice everyone was. There was no need to be nervous.
Deciding to buy
4
The class we took was for beginners, so I didn’t feel out of my depth. And I wanted to improve, so I committed.
Happy member
5
The most amazing part of Pole Athletes is that it always picks me up, even when I’m having a really bad day.

The Research

Lorna and TeamUp worked together on a customer research project. We sent a survey to her members and requested interviews from 20 of her best customers. 57 people filled out the survey, and 10 people agreed to interviews. That was enough to give Lorna the insight she needs to plan her next steps.

The Experts

This panel reviewed the research and provided helpful insights and feedback on the data.

Claire Atkin
Marketing Expert
Tim Green
TeamUp

Top struggles the customer was feeling

What were customers struggling with? What happened
in life to cause that struggle?

Help me develop strength and fitness
13
Introduce me to a new thing
13
Give me confidence and a stronger sense of self
9
Take away the boredom of working out
8

Help me develop strength and fitness

Survey mentions: 13

I was looking for something that included flow and movement with my body, I missed this and I did feel I was losing touch of it.

I went to a demonstration and noticed how toned Lorna was so thought I’d give it a go.

I think it was being unhappy with how my body looked but not really settling down into traditional exercise regimes like gyms and aerobics, that kind of thing. I first went along to a stretch class, which then turned into a pole class.

Introduce me to a new thing

Survey mentions: 13

"I’d never ever stuck to an exercise routine in my life. I was just looking for something interesting which would keep me coming back."

I wasn’t enjoying any of the hobbies I was doing before and I struggled to stick to something, but with pole fitness when you saw a really cool move or your instructor did something impressive, it gave me something to work towards, like one day I’m gonna do that awesome move or trick.

Basically I've been poling at uni for a while, but I train with Lisa, who is also an instructor at Pole Athletes. And I was just working on a routine with her, so went to Pole Athletes to train. I was doing Irish dance too and gym but I don't know I just feel like I just preferred the whole ... Pole is lot more free, you can sort of do more like what you want, whereas Irish is quite a lot stricter, and it's like, you don't use your arms, for example. You don't do certain things and that, and it's just ... It was a lot more restrictive than pole and I just started to enjoy it a lot more than Irish, so I decided that this was what I wanted to do more. It just suited me a lot better.

I wanted to go sort of start a hobby, and something to do in the evenings exercise. I just started a new job, an office job, so, I wasn't really doing any exercise, I used to be up and about in my old job like sort of doing a lot of walking and stuff and I thought I really need to get back in exercise. I've struggled in the past sort of quite badly with depression and things like that and I find that that is a really good distraction.

Give me confidence and a stronger sense of self

Survey mentions: 9

Depression and feeling lost… and needing to take care of myself and not just be a mummy and unappreciated wife.

I was coming out of a hard period in my life and looking for something for me that in my previous situation i had been pressured not to do and persuaded i couldn't do if i tried. So I wanted to try something new I always dreamed of being able to do.

My initial reason was to build some confidence. Heading towards 40 I wanted a goal. The fitness side was a revelation and never looked back.

I started pole because I signed up for a choreography course with Sophie Duncan and everybody was encouraging me to start it. I didn’t really have the confidence or the strength to even start with that. I like movement, I like flow, so I thought I’d start it again. Before that, I was dedicated to the gym. I like keeping fit as well, but I had a serious injury at the gym and that really knocked my confidence. Every time I went to the gym I got anxiety. So I started to dance. I think I didn’t feel I’d have the strength because of the injury. That was a real set back. Pole was abou more strength than going to the gym and lifting weights. At pole, you’re holding your own body weight. It was that… I suppose I didn’t think life would be better but I needed something to keep me moving, keep me strong. I’m a performer, going to the gym. I needed that connection with myself again, combat the anxiety.

I had gone through a breakup and no longer fit in anywhere. I was looking for an open minded place of support to try to build myself back up again, which is when I came across Pole Athletes.

"I didn’t realise I needed pole in my life until I went to watch Steph practise and just wanted to be swinging around on the poles with her!
It was after I had joined and got to know everyone that I realised how much Pole Athletes had brought into my life, the new opportunities it opened up and how much it helped me through my sad times by giving me something to focus on and look forward to. Pole Athletes also gave me a new support network, people who inspired and motivated me and a whole bunch of friends/family to enjoy spending time with."

Take away the boredom of working out

Survey mentions: 8

Just sounded like good fun. I don't really like exercise, this sounded like a better way to keep fit than the boring gym.

I wanted to try something new with dance and expression. I hated the gym.

I was in my second year. I'd say my first year of uni I didn't do much regular exercise. I'd do an occasional class here and there, but I wasn't really settled into anything like I wasn't in a gym. I was still kind of finding my feet in a new city.
I use it as stress management 'cause obviously I've got a fairly stressful job teaching. It's just one of things that I just take it out on the pole, if that makes sense.'Cause it's just a good way to express yourself. I don't know. I thought that other forms of exercise would be fine, like doing yoga, it's like, "Well, I'm still exercising", but it's just not the same kind of exercise that you don't get the same expression. You don't get the same ... I don't know ... Maybe sense of achievement from it.

I was doing my A levels, and I was about 17, and I wanted to do some sort of fitness, but I wanted something different from a regular gym. Before I wasn't really doing anything and that's why I wanted to start something because my gym classes, my p.e. classes, they finished when I was 16 so I wasn't actually doing anything at that time.

I've always done a little bit of running, and I've kind of gone to a gym, hit or miss. But I've never ever liked gym. I've always felt uncomfortable, and I've always felt, I don't know, a bit of an intimidating place. Not like when I've done light aerobics classes. I just feel as if it's so competitive, on a people looking at each other, comparing what people are wearing, comparing what people are looking like, obviously if it's a gym situation, it's a mixed situation with men who may be doing heavy weights, who are big, burly chaps, again that can be an intimidation, I think, for a woman. It's just completely different, and I find it boring.

I was feeling down in myself and I knew this wasn't me, and I knew that I was a strong person, as in mentally strong. I was relatively fit, and when I saw the pole show, and I saw what girls were doing, I looked to what they were doing, and I thought, "That looks amazing!"

How customers found Pole Athletes

How customers found Pole Athletes

A friend or family member referred me
36
Google
13
Facebook
5

A friend or family member referred me

Survey mentions: 36

A girl in a beauty salon in Sheffield was chatting to me during an appointment and she mentioned she went to Pole Athletics. I asked her all about it and she sent me details.

I was doing my teacher training. I was training to be a secondary school teacher, and the school I was working at, the IT technician is actually one of the instructors at Pole Athletes. And we were talking about Christmas shows, and she was like, "Oh, we're doing a Christmas show, but it's a bit of an unorthodox show." I was like, "Oh. What do you mean?" And we kind of ended up talking about that. And she was like, "No way. You do pole?" And so she is an instructor ... Was telling me about Pole Athletes, and it was from that, that I decided to go and try it.

It was word of mouth from Lorna's mum, who was my friend and client, who sort of outlined what it was all about, and Lorna's background, that then gave me the confidence to go and have a go, you know, when I saw the show, where she showcased what she did. That just sold it to me, I just thought, "This is what I need to learn how to do."

My friend who I originally went with had actually become one of the instructors at Pole Athletes.

It was word of mouth for me. I'd gone to a little lady who was doing pole in Chesterfield, then work had kind of took over and I've not got the time to be going. She stopped doing them, so when she stopped doing them, and then I was ready to go back, I asked her if she recommended, and Lorna came by recommendation.

I knew nothing about pole, nothing at all. So I went along to watch the show, and as I stood and watched the people perform, I just stood and said to myself, "I need to know how to do that. I want to do that." And that's literally how it happened.

Google

Survey mentions: 13

Search engine, looking for pole fitness venues.

My friend found, she was googling around different places for fitness in Chesterfield and she came across Pole Athletes.

I think I saw it on the website.

Facebook

Survey mentions: 5

Facebook search for pole schools. I knew I wanted to try pole as I thought it would suit my gymnastics background.

What stood out about Pole Athletes?

What were the differentiators that stood out for customers?

The studio has a convenient location and good lesson times for me
16
A different way to be fit and healthy
13
I felt welcomed by the community
12
The instructors made me feel safe and confident
9

The studio has a convenient location and good lesson times for me

Survey mentions: 16

Location as it is very close to home and also the studio space looked very professional.

Because it was close to my work but also because you offered other aerial apparatus I could try without having to face the stigma of saying I wanted to learn to pole dance.

She was showing me loads of pictures, like things that she was doing. So she does hoop, as well, and so I think just seeing all the pictures, and the studio in the background looked really professional and really well kept and things like that. So yeah, just from that, all the positivity around it really.

A different way to be fit and healthy

Survey mentions: 13

Full body workout, promotes body confidence, health and empowerment. All team friendly and supportive. Bit of a niche sport.

It appealed to me cos it is different form of exercise.

Just sounded unusual and more fun than traditional exercise.

I think it's a challenge, and I think it's a completely different way of keeping fit, on all the levels I've told you, from mental strength, physical strength, camaraderie. Anybody who's got inhibitions, or is a little bit body conscious, it's just the thing for them. And when people say they haven't got the strength, they wouldn't be able to do it, I've actually told a lot of people to try it, and in fact they have, 'cause of the environment I work in. Because it's just a life changing experience.

I remember that when I first started your first class was free, so you could try it and you didn’t have to invest in a course, so it was quite good to go a few times and see if you liked it, I also think the teachers are excellent and it’s really good if you are new to the sport, I’ve been to other places that have felt unsafe and wasn’t comfortable.

I felt welcomed by the community

Survey mentions: 12

I liked the fact that there was a sense of community around Pole Athletes. It wasn’t just a place to work out.

I don't think I looked at other options, you responded to my message quickly and were so helpful and welcoming I didn't want to look anywhere else.

Just the atmosphere. Really, really good atmosphere. I've never been to a single class where I haven't come away feeling better than when I arrived. No matter who's there, whether it's a class that's ram full or whether it's a class that's just got two or three in it, and whichever instructor it is ... Obviously, they've got, what, four or five instructors, maybe more now, and I just never ever have come away from a class feeling bad, feeling worse. I always come away from it feeling loads better than when I went.

It's definitely the community of support. Definitely 'cause you can get decent pole instructors wherever you are in the world. Whatever city you're in, you can probably find a class and learn a few things, but definitely the community of people 'cause we have like a Facebook group and things like that and chats, and everyone's just always just picking each other.

The friendly atmosphere when I got there, how supportive it was. And the flexibility of the classes as well. And how there are multiple bays. And how I can set it around my personal schedule.

It's the camaraderie of all the girls, the belief and all the encouragement that everybody gives each other, and that's another thing that you don't get in other fitness environments, where everybody is rooting for you, and caring for you. So, outside of pole, no matter what you're feeling, you always know there's somebody there for you. I could drop a text, or ring somebody from pole, and say, "I'm having a bad day," or whatever, because a lot of people are going through similar things, and that's similar reasons why we started pole.

A few months ago, I was feeling really down and I didn't know if it was my age and what my body's going through. And so, rather than keeping it in, I felt with the pole girls I can talk it out, because a lot of people have anxiety or depression issues and instead of keeping it in, I let it out, and the response from that was amazing, and I've realized, that's what I've got to do. I then got texted, days after, of these girls checking up on me, "How are you, Linda? Are you okay? Are you feeling better?" And that is just one example of the amazingness of everybody and the caring environment, not only just the exercise.

The people that I go with I've build quite a little group, a friendship group. The social side of it as well. We all message each other like oh are you going tonight and the sort of mutual support that you get. There's one of my friends that I've only met since going back this year, she only managed to go upside down literally weeks in and the whole room exploded when she finally did it we were all like yeah, so we were all just proud of each other it's quite cute.

Just sort of the support. Like even if you're having a crap day you can guarantee that you'll go and someone will make you laugh, like it will pick you up and again just sort of any little progress that you see and it is an achievement like you kind of think it is worthwhile, I am able to do something and again it's sort of like a bit of an escape, it's a break really from just sort of being at work or home so I kind of like the escape side of it, like sometimes for myself to kind of do something that I enjoy.

I'm comfortable there. I like the people. That's the biggest thing going there. Every week. There's always something, some form of encouragement from somebody there. With such an alternate form of fitness, it's not an easy one. So every little accomplishment is recognized by so many people.

Just probably the people, like the instructors, and the students as well, just everyone there. Because everyone's just so supportive, and I just get on with everyone so well. And I don't know, you just have such a good ... like, a good laugh with everyone as well, like no one takes anything too seriously, so to say. But it's like ... Yeah, you just have, like, really good friends.

The instructors made me feel safe and confident

Survey mentions: 9

The lovely instructors and the range of classes, I really enjoyed the atmosphere as I didn’t feel self conscious like I did at other places.

I googled pole athletics and pole dancing classes and looked at all those (at the time there weren't as many to choose from) but PA came highly recommended. I looked at the website and gallery photos and the people in them did not look scary!! So I emailed Lorna, who was welcoming and reassuring.

Friendly, different. But also quite clearly safe with qualified instructors.

I think it's the support of most of the instructors because even if it's just a small thing, they are really supportive and make it like a big achievement for you. And it's just such a good atmosphere to learn in. I definitely think of the support of most of the instructors. I think if they weren't as supportive it wouldn't be as enjoyable to go to. They're really encouraging. They're very good at what they do in teaching and instructing. And it's like the genuineness of them. It's not like a false I'm doing this so you will spend more money. It's more like a genuine want for us to get better.

Well, the instructor was just really friendly, and really helpful. And I don't know, it was just really fun, and I don't know, just think I had such a good time, and everyone else there was really enjoying themselves too. So, everyone was just really supportive as well, which was really nice.

The variety of the instructors. That's a really good thing. Like, I know people that go to other places and they only have one person all the time. But people don't learn the same way, you know, everybody's got little tricks and stuff that it'll just click for them. But it you've only got one person then you're not gonna get that 'cause it's how they learnt it and how they're teaching you, but because there's half a dozen of them, you know, you get loads of different tips and tricks from loads of different people. And I think if it was only one instructor again, I'd miss that because the different moves that I do, everybody's got their own particular like skill-set if you like. So one of them is flexible, one of them is strong, et cetera, et cetera. So, if you don't have that variety of instructors you're not gonna get that same variety of skill and experience to be able to teach it. So I'd definitely miss that.

I wanted the confidence in getting over the anxiety of training again. All the girls are very warming. They encourage you in pole to bring out the best. It was a slow process. I really struggled at first. But the encouragement keeps you going. The instructors keep you going, they keep you focused on your achievement to get what you wanted.

What made members realize that Pole Athletes was right for them?

What was the “aha” moment that influenced purchase?

The welcoming, supportive community
28
The instructors were very supportive
14
I was able to work at my own level
7
My self confidence and mental health improved
3
My physical health improved / fitness
3

The welcoming, supportive community

Survey mentions: 28

I arrived expecting to feel incredibly self conscious but that didn’t happen, there is a welcoming atmosphere and I felt included from day one.

The atmosphere and people and trainers were all so amazing. Despite the fact i regularly couldn't keep up with those around me i always felt encouraged and part of a team. No matter how simple or complex we all celebrated each others achievements together. It became a place i could go to and feel strong and like i was achieving things. I'm not someone who regularly feels attractive or pretty especially in the presence of other far bendier slimmer fitter women but at pole athletes no matter no rubbish i was at doing something i never felt compared to anyone and i felt like i was liked and celebrated like everyone and i enjoyed taking part in celebrating others and cheering people on so we could all feel beautiful and strong together. Basically I love it here.

I suppose that the one thing that surprised me a little bit ... It's not like sports related, but just the community of people and strong women and inspirational figures, and you literally you look around there's people that have overcome injuries, and it's just such an inspirational place. I think the physical gains from going to pole ... I don't think they are the things that I go to pole for. I go for the community, for the support, for just having an amazing community of people around you. I think the fact that you're going to exercise and you're going to kind of progress forward is kind of like a bonus, if that makes sense.

Whenever I’m going through grief, that was really a struggle to even go there. That was really difficult. Being around the girls at the studio, that’s really helpful in getting over a massive loss in my life. The grief, what I was going through, it was different from normal. But that part in time what I was going through, I suppose that was a significant difference, the way I felt, etc.

I wouldn't say anything changed in my life. I would say I've always been a person that enjoyed challenges, and what I'd tried so far wasn't challenging enough, or it was just something that wasn't keeping me interested, to enjoy it. I'm not particularly a people person, so I found going to the gym ... The gym had a certain group of clientele that I wasn't particularly interested in connecting with, whereas at Pole Athletes I I would say we're a similar group of people, as in we all have our own lives. Once they're in that environment as well, the environment contributes to the continuity of going.

The instructors were very supportive

Survey mentions: 14

I found all the instructors very supportive and friendly and all the students like myself encouraging each other.

The support of the instructors, that I could progress and that they were here to help me in my own personal journey.

The energy of the studio and all the instructors were so pleasant and encouraging. Pole became addictive but I feel this is a healthy addiction.

Oh, Lorna, she's just, she's amazing. She just welcomes you, and even though you can't do anything and, you know, it's surprising even I started with an advantage really because I'd done a bit of sport already and I was quite strong. But it's amazing how different it is. And yeah, she just welcomes you in with welcome arms and you just never want to leave. And you don't get that at climbing.

I was able to work at my own level

Survey mentions: 7

Progression through my own commitment and the welcome feeling of the studio as a whole.

I think it just felt right for me. It fitted in with work, it fitted in with family, it was what I was looking for, and that fed my desire for it. It fed the challenges that I was looking for.

Probably when ... whenever I sort of we're taught a new move or something, and I just look at it and think there is absolutely no way I'll be able to do that, and then first time you just manage to do it. And you just get so surprised because you're like, I just ... you just never believed that you'd be able to do something like that, but now you can.

I suppose when you first start beginners, you’re all in the same boat. But when you go to mixed pole and you go into mixed ability, you thinking bloody hell. You’re looking at other girls and they’re doing fantastic moves and you think god I’ve got such a long way to go. But they’ve been doing it 5, 6 years and everybody has strength in different way. If I don’t get a move for a while, at least I’m trying. It’s just me on my own journey. It’s a process. It’s what you want from it. If your mind’s set in your own achievements, you get what you want, you get what you put in. It’s not a specific time limit. If you set yourselves goals in time, it sets you back a bit. It’s not about time for me, it’s just a journey. I can’t specifically say “I’m feeling a whole lot better.” It's just a journey.

My self confidence and mental health improved

Survey mentions: 3

It made me feel better about myself in times that i was really struggling with confidence and mental health.

It really has give me load more confidence. I got married fairly recently, and I felt really confident in my dress and things like that. And I think you getting to see so many other women and be inspired by them. It makes you stop being hung up about things and just thinking, "You know what? My body can do the splits. It can hang upside down. It can do this. It doesn't matter kind of what it looks like."

I mean sometimes I go and I don't know if it feels like it's been a really long day and you feel like it's, you just feel really really tired, it's been only one or two occasions that I'm thinking it's going to be an absolutely write off of a lesson I'm not going to be able to do anything, or learn any new moves.
And then suddenly I don't know, I'll be able to do just sort of a new move that I never expected to be able to do, just like oh try this on the off chance and I've actually just managed to do it first time and wow I didn't even realize I could bend that way.

My physical health improved / fitness

Survey mentions: 3

I could physically feel that pole exercised every part of my body, which exactly what I was looking for. It's also fun and challenging.

When I first did the Superman role in hoop, I was surprised that I actually managed to hold on and I was really happy with that. And another time would be when I got on to the highest trapeze, by myself, without anybody supporting me and that just showed how much my strength has improved since I've started because before I couldn't get up there but now I can.

With pole, you get an addiction, and I think, once you start to realize your own body strength, the belief in yourself, you then start to progress, and because you're using every muscle in your body, but you're not really realizing that you're doing what you're doing. You maintain that fitness. And I've personally, personally experienced that. By looking at my body shape in the mirror, and then realizing. For example, I remember, I put a little bit of weight on and for a lady, with a bra, sometimes you get a little bit of back fat, when you change your bra and I remember seeing that one day, and I was horrified, and I thought, "That has got to go!" As soon as I thought that, and I'm doing my pole like I normally do, within no time, it's just gone! And it's never come back.
Now, if I'd've done that in a gym situation, and then stopped going to the gym, or stopped going running, I don't think I would have had the results that have been maintainable. You know, it's just ... I can't explain it, I just know it works!

It does make you sort of more body aware and what your body is actually able to do. Like just some of the things you see acrobats and things like that and you think how do they even begin to train to do that but then you see some of the moves that you do in pole and the tricks and you think, oh I will never be able to do that. But the more you sort of learn and stretch and twist you kind of end up impressing yourself.

You think oh, you'll see a photo and you're like is that really me? It sort of amazes you what your body can actually achieve.

It was really good, really body positive and everything like that, it was women of all shapes size and ages like really inclusive.
I imagined, I remember it helping my balance quite a lot, I'm a bit clumsy, so I imagined that it would make me generally sort of stronger, my balance better.
So I just envisioned it would really improve me fitness but also like mentally.
It's so when I go and I feel like I've achieved something I'm not wasting my evenings and that it sort of gives me energy. Like I didn't really used to feel excited or motivated to do anything.

Top benefits and ways life is better for students of Pole Athletes

Benefits created by new solution.

I am more confident and comfortable in my body
26
I am stronger and more flexible
26
My pole dancing has improved
2

I am more confident and comfortable in my body

Survey mentions: 26

I am now comfortable talking to new people and not as shy.

I have accepted my body a lot more than before. When I started I could not expose my midriff-it took months before I wore low waisted shorts! Now I strip at every opportunity!!!!

I'm now actually able to believe in myself.

I just love my new found confidence. I'm not very outgoing or particularly good at making conversation with people I don't know. But once you've been to the same class for a few weeks it's like a little family. Miss my Thursday family 😭

Embrace my inner BADASS.

I can dance around a pole with no cares in the world maybe only as a beginner but hey I can climb & spin! All because of the instructors there.

It sounds trivial but I feel very happy in my body and I’m now happy to wear shorts in summer at any time and not just when I’m on holiday like I used to do.

Dance in front of people half naked - celebrating my big bum and mummy figure.

Get my belly/legs out and be more girly. I would never have dreamed of wearing a bikini before. And I rarely wore dresses/skirts. Pole Athletes has given me the confidence to do that.

So many things - I can't just pick one! From feeling stronger and impressed by my bodies capabilities, to learning to be less socially awkward (I've actually made friends with beautiful amazing ladies and don't feel intimidated anymore), learned I can walk in pleasers better than I can high heels and finally I bought my 1st stomach exposing top and feel confident enough to wear it out (just need better weather and a reason)!

"Hang upside down on a pole without fearing for my life!!

There are too many things!! Being able to feel comfortable and confident to try new things with no judgement from others. To be able to have a passion for something that also has a positive impact on my body, mind and soul! To have a whole new world of pole adventures to look forward to! To have had new amazing people believe in me!"

From when I look back to when I first started to where I am now, there’s a massive improvement and change in the way I feel and the way I.. well it’s got me over my anxiety. And the confidence to go and train and train hard. When I leave the studio some days I feel on top of the world.

I am stronger and more flexible

Survey mentions: 26

Climb the silks! All my life I've never been able to climb a rope. Rewind back to PE in school I dreaded being the only kid that couldn't do the 'pretty simple' task of climbing a rope and being once again told by the gym teacher I needed to 'work on my fitness'.

I can go upside down on a pole. I can do moves that I never thought I’d do. I can practice and show a routine. Through performing I have been able to express a side of myself that I had lost and that has helped me so much you wouldn’t believe. I have a Pole Family and you are all glorious human beings.

Invert and lift my own body weight. Better posture, less back problems, improved strength and fitness.

Strength I can hold and manage my own body weight. Following diagnosed osteopenia I was told I need to increase weight bearing exercise. Aerial looked loads more fun than running and no dodgy knees. Love my new muscles.

Nearly front splits, I can plank without my arms giving out. I can do a headstand. Every week my body can do more.

I'm much more flexible, I've got a lot more strength. It's enabled me to do my job. I'm a beautician and I do lots and lots of massage, so it's made me stronger, to be able to do my work. It's just the most amazing thing, I can't imagine never not doing it. It's given me mental strength, physical strength, confidence, I'm not as self-critical, self belief, it has just done more things than just the physical exercise, it's just done so many things on so many levels and obviously, to push myself into areas unknown, like going forward into a competition. That I never ever thought I would do. It's just the most amazing feeling, and achievement.

My pole dancing has improved

Survey mentions: 2

Learn routines and flow.

I improve and learn new things every time I go.

Body wave! Still not perfect but I've never done dancing/gymnastics before and found flow/floorwork really difficult when I started. Now I really enjoy it thanks to lots of practice and lots of encouragement from instructors and other students.

I can do the splits. To say that I've danced all my life since I was like ... What? ... 10 years old, and I used to be a dance instructor when I was at sixth form. I've never been able to do that, and I never thought that in my mid-twenties I'd be more flexible than I was like 10. So that's pretty cool. And just all the strength training things like you look at the pictures. You think, "Oh, I'm never gonna be able to get that," and then all the moves, you just think with a sport like pole, you literally go in it with no experience, and so everything that I can do now is ... Well, I couldn't do anything before, so it's all new.

Other interesting notes

I suppose it's friendship. If you don't have people around you saying things like that. It's like having your achievements recognized, so going to the same classes, week in, week out, there's one particular move that kind of everyone knows that you can't. For me it was superman, and for years and years and years, I've just not been able to do it, and then when I finally got it, and people were posting pictures of it, like, "She finally got it," and things like that. So I don't know. It just really gives you a sense of achievement that you're not just going and exercising, but people appreciate you, and I don't know. Just that feeling inside.
I don't know. Why should they not? I don't know. I don't know how to even put it into words. I don't have any reason for them not to do it. I guess, everything that I've said to you is all of the reasons and more. You're not going there to get fit. You're going there to kind of make friends for life and to kind of be involved in each other's achievement, but also kind of anything sad that they're going through. There's been times when you'll walk up to a pole class, you've had an awful day on the verge of tears, and you just smash out an amazing class, and you just think, "All right. I don't even know why I was upset."
It is addictive. I have done every single course in class that they offered. So yeah I think it's addictive because you see the improvement from when you start, you see like such results that you want to keep going and you want to do more and you want to keep pushing yourself to be better.
It's fun and will give you confidence in yourself.
I think that pole is like something, and I've described this to people, like no other sport, nothing like I've ever done before. 'Cause as I say, I've dabbled in classes, I've dabbled with a bit of gym, I've swum and I've run and you think you're getting fit, and you think your body is changing, and then say something happens in your life, and you stop doing it, and it's so easy to stop the running, the swimming, the other things.
And I've still got the mentality of a child on a climbing frame, I've still got my climbing frame, I'll still climb a tree. I'll still go upside-down on parallel bars and things like that, like you used to do as a kid. So pole made me look at things like that, like it was fun.
Many years ago, I did learn how to horse ride, and I liken it to horse riding, in a very crazy kind of way, when you're on a horse, you can't think about anything else, so if you've got troubles going on in your life, or anything going on that's bothering you, you've got to block it out. Pole is exactly the same. You park your troubles and any more that's going off in your mind, at the door, because for that hour, you've got to concentrate and really focus on what you're doing. But it's not only a physical strength, it's a mental strength. I was happy to be challenged, I knew nothing about it, and I wanted to learn. The only thing, I think, that possibly could have been in the back of me mind, "How do you explain to all the people what you're doing?" You're pole dancing, but you're not actually, you're doing pole athletics. So, to explain that element of it, people just see the strip club kind of scenario. That was the only little element that bothered me slightly, but not enough to make me not do it.
I'm probably one of the oldest who does pole, I'm now 51, I started when I was 41 and so also, I'm always reiterating to everybody, age is not a barrier. It is not a barrier. It's your mind, that's a barrier. Don't think about your age, just go and give it a try. Well I hope that helps, because obviously, that's my personal experience, and obviously I'm always talking to my clients too, in fact there's quite a lot of people, from me chatting and raving about it, 'cause I'm so passionate about it, who've actually joined pole athletes and they're loving it. So ... yeah. I think, like I said to Lorna, I mean, if you ever want to fly the flag for the oldies, and you want to ever use me as an example ..." And I think me going in this competition is going to be a really good one, for people who think they can't, haven't got the confidence, la la la. I was that person, once. So I've even said to my little girl, "It won't be a pretty sight, but when I'm 90, if I can still get on it, I'll be on that pole. I'm warning you now." So that's me in a nutshell.
I don't know really, just boredom. And sort of I don't know it just, you see loads of things advertised for gyms and things like that, and exercise but I don't know it's just something that hadn't crossed my mind because it's not something that everyone talks about like I do this. Like if someone talks about exercise you most often hear people say something like oh I run this marathon I do this triathlon and all this and stuff but no one says oh yeah I'm a champion pole dancing, pole dancer UK or anything like that.
I've noticed before they're like oh people go to a yoga class or something and I said oh I've got my exercise class because I tend to work with older ladies so there's quite a mix in the office and they're like oh, what exercise class are you in, is it bums and tums or something? And I'm like no actually it's a pole dancing class and you see their eyes kind of go ooh. And I'm like no no, not like that, it's purely fitness and stuff like that. And you see a few pictures on Instagram and kind of get the gist that I'm not stripping or anything like that. But I think there is maybe a little bit of stigma behind it a little but and I think sometimes the bruising might people off. Like I've come home quite a lot of times and my boyfriend's like why do you do it, you get such bad bruises? And I'm like you feel like you've achieved something, I don't know.
Just because I don't think people do find time in sort of life to do things for themselves. And it's, I don't know, it's important, it kind of just sort of gives me a break from ... I don't know, just other people around me. Just to really focus, like no one else really goes with their problems or anything like that. It's yeah, it's just a sort of opportunity to sort of be yourself, have fun. No one's gonna judge you at all, it's completely nonjudgmental so it's nice to sort of have that bit of time where you know it's just you and everyone there really.
I don't know if it makes life better...it just offers some contentment...again it just goes back to feel good factor because it's hard, I can't give compliments to other people on something I've possibly personally achieved, but I personally achieved it by opportunities offered by others, if that makes sense. It's not about one particularly thing. It's about all those things - about the studio, it's about the instructors, it's about fellow students, it's about learning to become an instructor, it's about the training offered, it's about walking in after a shitty day and just there being somebody, doesn't matter who, somebody who's there to listen at that right moment in time, so it's not one thing. I couldn't pinpoint it down to one thing.To find their own feel good factor, it's there waiting. They've just got to trust, they've got to open that door, walk through, and feel what can be found. It's getting them there sometimes and I think we still have an air of 'to-do-ness' around pole. I've known some students come to aerial yoga - one woman in particular, her husband dropped her off, noticed on the advertisement board outside that it said pole-dancing, and told her she wasn't coming back again, and she hasn't been back since. It's really sad isn't it, because maybe she, with such a husband like that, maybe she was needing to find something and she won't find it now, because of that. I think that's still a difficult area for a lot. Still trying to overcome the misconceptions of pole dancing, and don't get me wrong I'm not slating pole dancers. I think they've chosen a very difficult path, and a very difficult job, and I admire them but what people think is behind the door isn't what's behind the door - and it's getting them through that door.
It just sort of, like, give you ... It's almost like escapism. It gives you somewhere to just switch off and forget about everything else that's been stressing you out all day, or all week, or whatever, that you can just completely forget everything that's been going on. You can just focus on having a good time, and on yourself, and it's almost like self care almost, like, just looking after yourself instead of worrying about everything and everyone else. I think other people should try it just so they've at least experienced what it's like to have ... I'm not going to be able to explain it. Yeah, I just guess that people should try it so that they can have the opportunity to have somewhere to go, and somewhere to switch off, and learn a new skill which is really fun.
It's really impressive as well. Like, if you tell someone that you do pole then, like, they're just ... every time they're always like oh, my gosh, you must be so strong. And, like, even if that's all you want, like, strength and fitness, that's brilliant for that side of it. But let's just say for me it's mainly just so important to have the people.
Pole, it's difficult. It's become more popular now and the more you talk about it, the more people seem to understand. But I always thought it was just something people did in a club. I didn't realize that it was actually like an actual sport, or you could use it to keep fit and stuff. So, yeah, there's nothing like it.
It's just really friendly and welcoming, and it's not like any other workout. It is similar to climbing but it's not the same. It works all your body, every little-bit of it in loads of different ways, even the flexibility, the strength, everything. And I like I say, it's just empowering to be able to get your kit off and show people what you can do as well. And a lot of people don't expect that from pole dancing. They'd probably thought and think about it in the same way I did when I first found out about it that it'd be in the clubs and stuff. So, yeah, I'd just say, get out there give it a try and what's the worst thing could happen, you just don't like it do you? And then you don't come back.
I’m willing to give anything a go. I’ll just try anything and see which I prefer. I do like doing the choreography and the flow because it keeps you moving - it’s training your brain, listening the movement, instead of just going up the pole and doing this move.
It’s such a confidence building for women (or men! We shouldn’t exclude them). It’s really hard to put into words what it gives somebody. It takes you on a journey. It’s quite exhilarating being there. It’s such a sociable thing as well, keeping your fitness up, keeping your mental state. I really do. I talk about it. When I talk to people when I say pole it’s got a stigma to it. IT’s about building strength, confidence, everybody’s friendly, you don’t have to be body conscious. I do talk about it a lot to people but unfortunately not everybody's got the confidence to go. I have one friend who just doesn’t think she would be able to do it but you don’t know until you try.

Marketing Pole Fitness

Pole Fitness is a burgeoning sport the world over. Like any fitness business, it needs regular members to be successful. Unlike other fitness businesses, Pole Fitness has built one of the most robust, supportive communities in the fitness industry. How do you grow a business and maintain that sense of camaraderie?

Tim Green at TeamUp says:

Liberated environment - appeal to people who want to make a change in their lives. They see others that they regard as liberated and free and understand that they can be themselves in that environment. Also that they see people who are freer in their lives and want that too for themselves.

Easy entry points for people who aren’t ready to admit they want to to try pole yet seems very important for maximising audience. Make it easy and pressure free for people to come and try a class “not ready to say I’m a pole dancer yet”.

Safety important - show symbols to reassure people. This could be something like Pole Safe, or even just instructor qualifications. Reassurance seems really important. Success stories / testimonials that focus on how safe the experience is will be helpful here.

Lorna has created an amazing atmosphere at Pole Athletes and a challenge will be scaling that approach as the business grows.

Claire Atkin at TeamUp says:

Lorna has built a strong culture of compassion, support, and ambition at Pole Athletes. So, what exactly makes Pole Athletes such a strong community hub?

What I found most striking about the data was that people who ended up at Pole Athletes had two main goals: they wanted to feel stronger physically, and they wanted to feel stronger in their sense of self. Each of the interviews I did during this project was inspiring, but the most moving ones were with Pole Athletes members. These women - they were all women - understand what it means to be part of a supportive, encouraging community. Some of the people I interviewed had been through intense life changes. They had wanted to join in an activity that would help centre them.

According to these women, Pole Athletes didn’t just help them becomes stronger and more flexible. At the studio, they found they could do things they had never thought possible. And, they attribute this miracle to the encouragement and relentless posivity of the instructors and participants in the studio.

The accomplishment and confidence that the members of Pole Athletes feel is reflected in the statistics of how customers found Pole Athletes; Over 65% of surveyed members said that they found Pole Athletes because another member had introduced it to them.

And, once they attended their first class, new attendees quickly felt that Pole Athletes was right for them. Why? Well, 76% of surveyed members said that it was because of either the supportive community, or the supportive instructors. Compare this to the 12% of respondents who said that they felt Pole Athletes was right for them because they were able to work at their own level, and it’s easy to see that it’s the qualitative, rather than quantitative feeling of the studio that makes the biggest difference to newcomers.

So, what can Lorna do to maintain the supportive community feel that she has fostered so well? She’s already doing all the right things, providing unconditional friendship and support to newcomers. If Pole Athletes decides to grow, their biggest challenge will be to ensure that their powerful community spirit remains consistent throughout their classes and studios. If Pole Athletes ever expands, Lorna would do best to bring as many incumbent instructors and members over to the new studio to maintain as much of the same culture as there is now.

Acknowledgements

The research for this report was conducted by TeamUp Sports Inc., with assistance from Pole Athletes and Lorna Walker. We would like to thank Lorna and the members of Pole Athletes for offering their time and stories for this report.

If you’d like to learn more about running a fitness business, check out the Launch! Video series at goteamup.com/launch.