If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question...
This is the best 'one size fits all' answer I have come up with in my 20 years of teaching:
It will take you as long as it will take you.
This means that your progression depends on a multitude of varying factors that are 'you specific'. Some of those factors include: your fitness background, kinesthetic awareness and time available to dedicate to your practice, but no matter how you break it down, every Pole Journey is very personal and what one person can do easily and quickly another person can take 6 months of frustration and struggle to obtain.
Sometimes a Pole Journey can feel overwhelming and even discouraging so I have compiled a list of tips to help new and seasoned Pole students stay focused and motivated during their Pole Journeys.
Tip #1 - Get Primitive
Basically, learn the fundamentals so you can break free.
I am an artist by nature and I was lucky enough to have a very smart Art Teacher when I was in grade school. Like my classmates I wanted to be an amazing artist who's artwork was visually stunning and 'cool' but I kept attempting techniques and mediums that were outside of my skill set. In my head I knew what I wanted to create but I would fail at the execution and become frustrated and discouraged in my attempts. One day my Art Teacher said something that resonated with me, he said, "If you don't know the rules how do you know if you are breaking them, bending them or following them?"
Learn the basics, they might seem remedial or even boring at times but they are your foundation and an important part of your journey. When you get stuck or feel lost you can return to them. When you want to push the label, you will know where the label begins and ends. When you want to twist the frame, you will know how far it can bend before it breaks.
We all want to be great artists but every great artist learned the rules before he was able to break them. Your Pole Journey begins with the basics and will continue to return to the basics throughout your journey.
Tip #2 - Set Smart Goals
Smart Goals. Realistic Goals. Achievable Goals.
No one can run a Marathon on their first day running.
My Dad loves to ask me questions that seem ridiculous and silly but have big meanings behind them. His favorite question to ask me when I was a kid was, "Do you know the best way to eat a whale? One small bite at a time." He thought this was hysterical every time he told it to me but aside from his dry humor, this is actually good advice for life in general. We all want to achieve that amazing trick we saw on Instagram or we all have that one movement that seems to be our nemesis, and the way to approach both of them is one small step at a time.
I know people love to say things like "you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it!", and yes, this is a positive way to approach life, and I am 100% all in for positivity, but let's look at situations realistically. For example, if your goal is to land your Jade Split (photo below) then you are going to have to break that move down into its smaller bits to achieve it.
First, you need the ability to invert.
Second, you need to have a strong hip hold.
Third, and probably most important, you need the ability to do a split.
If you are not able to invert then this move is out of your wheelhouse! You will need to break down an invert into its basic parts, and once you learn that you will need to move onto the next step of the journey. Every step you take and succeed at is a small victory and a step towards the ultimate goal you want to achieve.
Breaking down the road to a goal into smaller, attainable and realistic paths will not only make the journey more enjoyable but it will also make it less stressful and essentially, easier.
Tip #3 - You are the Barometer
You are your only competition.
If you have ever taken a class with me you may have heard me say this, "Do not compare your chapter 1 to someone else's chapter 20, you are being unkind to yourself in doing so."
It is so easy to look around at your classmates and compare yourself to them but you are not them and they are not you. They have not walked in your shoes, you have not walked in theirs. The only comparison you should make is against yourself, and even then you should be kind to yourself when trying new things or returning to class after weeks away from your practice.
Your Pole Journey is not a competition, it is a journey and a journey is the act of traveling from one place to another, be it physically, spiritually or metaphorically. Sometimes you need to travel backwards to move forwards. Sometimes you will travel a great distance in a short time frame and other times you will travel 2 inches in 2 hours, but that is the journey. Embrace it, enjoy it, accept it and keep traveling at the pace that is working for you.
Tip #4 - Walk Away
Stop overthinking. Stop overworking. Stop trying too hard.
Have you ever watched someone try to push open a door that is clearly marked pull?
For New Pole Students overthinking is normal. It can be nerve wracking and your brain will over complicate simple movements, it will misunderstand simple directions and messages from the brain to the body will be miscommunicated. The best advice I can give new students is to take a step back, take a breath, relax, reset and restart. You are trying something new and it is okay to be nervous! It is okay to not get it right away and it is more than ok to take a moment to collect yourself.
For seasoned students frustration is your biggest enemy. While over working and over pushing yourself can lead to injuries and plateaus. Again my advice is to take a step back, take a breath, take a break, and even work on something else. As a seasoned student your muscles need breaks, it is more than okay to take a week off from Pole, or just simply refocus your efforts on a different movement or trick. Taking a step back allows us to appreciate how far we have come, recognize that we may have further to go before we achieve our goals and accept that, it's okay.
Tip #5 - 2:1 Ratio of Kindness
2 Easy : 1 Hard
I have been using this method for years now and it is super helpful!
When you are practicing Pole, focus on only 3 things at a time; 2 easy things and 1 harder thing. Praise yourself for the 2 things that you know you are doing well and then challenge yourself with 1 thing you find to be more difficult. This is tricking your mind to look at the positive over the negative. Yes, you had a challenge today but you also had 2 things that you did really well! Give yourself a hand!
The 2 'easy' things should be things that you feel you are 75-80% comfortable and confident with. These should be things that you know you still need to perfect but that you know you are doing well with. The 1 'hard' thing should be something you feel you are 20-30% comfortable with, something that you know you are struggling with but understand the ground rules of. Stick with these 3 things for an allotted period of time. Two to four weeks is good, then change out the old things for new things.
This tip will help foster feelings of confidence and accomplishment and help keep you motivated while limiting feelings of frustration and boredom while you train. This tip slowly add 'tools' to your 'tool belt' and helps you to track your progress as you start to move your 'harder' moves into the 'easy' category.
The concept of time is a social construct ... don't buy into it!
You take all the time you need to in order to feel comfortable and confident while you Pole Dance. Do not worry about anyone but yourself. Pole is an activity that should be fun and challenging and exciting and sexy - but it should not have a time limit on how long it takes to learn. No matter if you have taken one Pole Class or ninety Pole classes there is always something new to try, there is always a different way to apply a fundamental, there are always going to be things that come easy and things that seem out of reach for you. You just keep plugging away and enjoying your journey, and we will be here to guide you.