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Against the Odds: Stories of Inspiration from the Pole- Dajuan

Against the Odds: Stories of Inspiration from the Pole- Dajuan

Against the Odds: Stories of Inspiration from the Pole- Dajuan

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Dajuan is a math professor who enjoys pole fitness in her spare time. After struggling with weight issues for years, she discovered a pole fitness program at TGR Fitness in Ankeny, Iowa. She then went on to lose 45 lbs in about a year. She was so inspired by her progress that she decided to start a blog to write about her experience. Read on to learn about what motivated her to try pole and what motivates her not to stop!  
When did you first learn about pole dancing?  

The first time I learned about poling for fitness was around July 2012. After my doctor scared me into getting off my ass and working out, I searched for new gyms in my area. I never went to my old one anymore so I figured I needed a change in scenery. I stumbled across TGR Fitness’s website. I had a thousand reasons why the gym and pole dancing would never work for me. Curiosity won out in the end and I stopped in the gym. When I joined, I focused on the regular fitness classes and slowly worked up my courage to try pole.

How did you feel after that first day?
Well, I started when I was 45lbs heavier and a hell of a lot weaker. The first day I felt fat, awkward, ungraceful, and a little discouraged. I’m fairly certain I tried to hide behind my pole that first day and I know I stared at my feet instead of looking in the mirror. Even though I felt silly, I was encouraged to keep trying and keep coming back. It took me months to not stare to at my feet constantly and it’s something I still struggle with today. 
Dajuan’s first pole climb

What made you stick with it?

Pole got easier as my weight decreased and my strength increased. I still felt awkward, but less so. It wasn’t until that November that I really felt like I had any sort of future with pole. It was the day before Thanksgiving and I finally made it to Pole Trix, which is a pole circuit training class where you practice a trick for a set amount of time then switch poles and tricks. It was near the end of class and we were climbing. Or, rather, the other girls were climbing and I was trying to get a step above. I made it a step above and was pretty proud. Then, as I was gripping the pole I decided to try for another, then another, and then everyone was cheering me along and I was at the top of our 12 foot pole! I have a picture of me from that day. I’m near the top of the pole hanging on for dear life. It’s an awful pic of me to be honest, but it was such a proud moment that I don’t even care.

I know you have been open in the past about struggles with your weight. Can you tell me about this?

I can’t give one particular moment when my weight struggles started. I noticed some weight gain creeping up on me in college. After college the gain sped up some. I never had a steady exercise plan. I would work out for a couple weeks daily, then not visit my gym again for weeks. Even when I was at the gym, I never exerted myself overly much. If I couldn’t read while on a machine, I didn’t use the machine. My eating habits were crap too. I have a weakness for candy and cake and I lived on Dr. Pepper. A few years after college, I got pregnant with my little guy and just kind of gave up. I ate absolute crap and a lot of it. I stopped even pretending to go to the gym. I gained something like 50-60lbs with the pregnancy and held onto 30 of them a year later. With the weight gain came the health issues. High blood pressure and pre-diabetes were the scariest two issues I had.

 
I hope my story and situation can serve as some encouragement to others facing similar issues. Even though I’m not alone with my weight struggles, I certainly felt alone for years. I was afraid to start pole because I felt too fat and unsexy to do it. Finally I just got tired to telling myself what I couldn’t do and decided to just do it. Pole helped me find my sexy and lose my weight. Weight loss and fitness is so freaking hard! It is definitely a journey and not a destination. It is something you have to constantly work toward. It took me decades to realize that. You have to find something you love doing or it will be a long, miserable journey. 
Do you believe pole dancing has been psychologically healing for you as well? 

Without a doubt. Pole has led me to new friends. If I’m having a great day or a crap day I know I can go to the studio and get some high fives, hugs, sympathetic ears, or whatever I need. And I am there to do the same for everyone else. It has given me my self-confidence and pride back. It’s not even the weight loss (though it helps). It’s knowing that I can climb a 12 foot pole without breaking a sweat. It’s knowing that I can do an invert without fear. It’s knowing that I may not be able to do an outside leg hang yet, but I’m closer today than I was yesterday and will be closer yet tomorrow. My poling may not always be pretty and it’s never perfect, but it is mine. Poling gives me something to work toward every day. I like pole because it gives me a far away, possibly unachievable goal that can be broken into thousands of small accomplishments along the way. It lets me feel successful without every feeling finished. I love that feeling. It is what I lacked when I went to traditional gyms.
Have you ever performed live or competed?

This past August I traveled to Vegas to compete in the level one entertainment division of PSO.  I took home 3rd in my division.  I’m a huge nerd, Star Wars nerd in particular, so my song was Cello Wars by the Piano Guys and I was dressed as Slave Leia. A year before I joked that if I lost a bunch of weight I’d do that costume, thinking it would never happen. When it did, I kept my promise! I plan to submit to more competitions in 2014 and maybe try out for my studio’s performance troupe. 

Dajuan at PSO Nationals

I know you are a math professor. Are you open about your hobby where you work?

I’m quietly out at work.  If a student or coworker finds out or asks, I will tell them what I do and try to dispel any misconceptions. But aside from a few coworkers whom I’m close to, it also isn’t something I regularly talk about at work either. There are no pole pictures on my desk at this time. People have noticed my weight loss and more toned body but they generally accept answer I give them.  I say that I found a new gym which I love and that I spend a lot of time there, which is 100% true.  
UPA recently interviewed Marina, a teacher who resigned after she believed she was discriminated against for pole dancing. What do you think about this?

I read about her and several of my friends who got to meet her at Midwest this August told me about her too. Her story brings up so many emotions for me. First is fear. Being forced to resign or being fired over what I do on my off time is my biggest fear. Next is sadness and sympathy for Marina’s situation. She has done absolutely nothing wrong and is being punished for it. Most of all I feel sadness and disgust at the prejudices that still exist in this world. A person finds a creative, albeit non-traditional, way to work out and have fun doing it. You would think with the obesity problem in the US people would be applauding her for finding a way to stay fit instead of shunning and punishing her. 
What message do you have for those who criticize pole dancing?

There is still such a stigma associated with pole dancing.  The stigma is largely born out of ignorance and people refusing to look beyond their own prejudices. The only way to dispel the stigma is for more people to come out as dancers and show people what we actually do instead of what people think we do. But coming out has its own challenges as we see with cases like Marina’s. Sure pole dancing can be sexy and naughty, if that’s what the dancer decided her/his dance is supposed to be. But so can any form of art or expression. There are people who could make doing the dishes look sexy and naughty.  Most pole routines are no more inappropriate than a gymnastics routine or a dance recital. 
Anything else you would like to add?

I haven’t really mentioned this before, but I’ve been a costumer for years.  I love to sew and create costumes for myself and others. Until recently I created mainly Star Wars costumes. My segue into pole costuming started with a few minor alterations to pole wear. Then came the pole competition summer season. This summer, I created at least five complete or nearly complete costumes for people attending various pole competitions. After some encouragement from friends, I decided to create a pole costuming company: PolerForm Costuming. After I have a few costumes to show I plan to launch a website showcasing my work with ordering information. My goal is to have a few basic patterns that people can have customized however they wish, but still be open to creating entirely new patterns or designs.  I do love a challenging project! 
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