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The UniCORNER: And Another Song Bites The Dust

“I hate you.  A lot.”


My computer continued to sit there with its cheerfully bright screen and did not deign to answer me.


I gave it one of my infamous Level 10 death glares.  I really hate being ignored by my electronics.  If my laptop wasn’t, you know, an expensive piece of equipment that I need to write this quirky blog and my (hopefully) award winning novels, I would chuck it at the fuc—, um, flippin’ wall.


Why is it so hard to find THE song?  Something not overdone and boring?  Something that speaks to me and whispers in a sexy accent, “Choose me, and we will go far!”  Or even a little-known variation of a more popular song?


Humanity has been creating music since they discovered beating two rocks together sounded nice, yet I still can’t find something in the thousands of songs available at my first-world-technology fingertips.


I mean, I’m not asking for much.  All I want is a song that when it starts playing the world stops, birds go quiet, crickets stop cricket-ing and someone decides to give me a million bucks because my performance was awesome.   Okay, that may be asking a lot (although if someone wants to give me a million bucks, I’m not going to turn it down.  FYI.  I’m ready and waiting.  I’ll even let the person call me their Dancing Princess.)


Instead of this yet-to-be-found perfect melody, I have the country song “Riding With Private Malone” stuck in my head.


During the song selection process, it’s easy to get numerous songs stuck in your head while trying to solidify your song choice. Photo from YouTube.


On repeat.


For days.




This, if anyone is curious, is not a song I want to dance to, but it sure is catchy.   (Did I mention DAYS????)


Confused?  Let’s go back in time several weeks before I found myself hip deep in YouTube-land and songs about soldiers, ghosts, and corvettes.


xxxxxx funky going-back-in-time musical montage xxxxxxx


“Wait,” I asked my inner Diva in sheer disbelief as I stared at the Triangle Pole Competition website. “I thought you were joking when you said you were thinking about it.  You want us to actually COMPETE?  Like … on stage?  In our KNICKERS?  In front of PEOPLE whose job it is to judge us?  Diva, you are batshit crazy.”


Pole Sport Organization is the world’s largest Professional-Amateur competition. They host numerous regional competitions throughout the year. Logo courtesy of Pole Sport Organization.


“Don’t be boring, Khara.  It’s an experience!  A Bucket List Adventure!” my inner Diva replied on a sugar-high.  (She is responsible for a lot of the more questionable life choices I have made in my life.  Trying to fly as a child, multiple times, being one of them.  I can’t hold flying as an adult against her since, technically, I will have wings strapped to my back a lá hang gliding.)


“Bat. Shit. Crazy.”


“Janine and Xenia said it’s fun …” my inner Diva sulked.


I snorted, deeply unimpressed with that logic.  “JANINE can bend herself into pretzel shapes.  JANINE has long legs and the ability to levitate up a pole using only a single eyelash and the tip of a pinkie finger.  XENIA has some sort of personal multi-phase-dimensional twerk-on-a-pole ability mere mortals do not possess.  WE still have issues with sliding down the pole like a greased noodle during the summer months.”


After a few minutes of angsty pouting, I finally relent to at least look at the competition rules and guidelines.


Then … something happened.  I may have been possessed by a Dancing Demon or influenced by an alien mind-control device because suddenly I found myself actually going to do this.


My inner Diva was amazingly smug while I just shook my head, completely baffled by the turn of events.


“Now,” she chirped happily, “we just have to find a song.  The perfect song!”


Have I mentioned yet the hell of having “Riding With Private Malone” stuck in your head?  For DAYS?




Okay, so you signed up for your first pole dancing competition.  Or maybe it’s your second, your third, or your seventy-eighth.  No matter which it is, you got up the nerve to go on stage and do your thing.


Good job!  Congratulations!  I fist bump you in (nervously on my part) celebration!


Now comes the fun, especially since the only time I was ever on stage performing as a kid I think I might have been a tree in a school play.   I now have to actually create a performance using moves I feel like I most likely won’t screw up while under the bright lights of the stage.  Let the nail biting begin!


Why is it that putting together a 2+ minute performance is more intimidating and stressful than cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal, or being the lead strategy planner behind what I like to call ‘The Christmas Cake War’ at work?


Janine’s info session was informative, and Theresa The Designer Extraordinaire from Booty Candy Polewear showed some interesting and fun ways to gussy up items in your own closet to better match your routine.  They were things that anyone could do, no sewing, mad fabric skills, or lottery winning amounts of money required.


(Does anybody want to join me for a bracing margarita to calm your nerves?)


All joking aside, I am really excited about competing.  So, Step 1 in this adventure was figuring out what style I want for my performance.  I laughed like a loon when I looked over the different genres of pole dancing.  Genres?  Sub-types?  Categories?  Whatever you want to call them, some were an immediate no, nope, and ‘oh HELL no’.


Doubles/Groups?  Yeah … not only would I be in danger of somehow causing a rip in the space-time reality barrier by some esoteric correlation between spin speed, obscene amount of grip slathered on my body, and friction but I might accidentally cause my partner to be sucked into said space rip and disappear forever.


Or, ya know, accidentally kick them in the face and create a geyser of blood.   Either way, it would be bad.  I distinctly remember in the rules that anything not attached to your body becomes a ‘prop’ and you have to get it pre-approved.  Geyser blood would then be a prop, right?  In the rules it also states that liquids (along with dildos and lower body genitalia- real or otherwise- are not permitted.  Am I alone in really wishing I could have seen the performances that created those exemptions?) are a no-no, so not only would blood violate the not getting pre-approval rule, but it’s also on the banned list.  Plus, it’s gross.


The Exotic category?  Yeah, that’s also world of NO from me.  I’ve seen the insanely talented Aida at Metal Pole Mayhem and in Krunky K classes.  I have no clue how she does it, but sultry dancing sort of oozes (sultrily, ofc!) out of her as she does her thing.  With my luck, even though we would be in massively different levels, I would somehow accidentally get put on the stage right after her and I would look like that YouTube video where the cat sort of just hops awkwardly up and down around the pole.   Plus, I’m still searching for my ‘exotic pole dancer extraordinaire’ persona and I think she’s out for an extended lunch.  I may have to put her face on a milk carton, soon.    To be honest, if I tried to be sultry right now, I would probably burst out laughing at myself in the middle of the song, and fall off the pole.


There are numerous categories and levels to enter when considering competing. For example, the Exotic category celebrates sensual movement versus technical components. Model Aida June. Photo by Christopher Donald.


Dramatic?  Well, it may surprise everyone, but I AM a wee bit on the dramatic side of life.  However, I doubt my ability to present a ‘serious, emotional artistic interpretation of a piece of music.’   When done well it can be a really beautiful and impressive performance, but at this stage in the game, it’s not for me.   It’s like those really awesome pants that while you can button them, you can’t breathe and sort of muffin top because they don’t really fit.  In another few weeks of hard work, they’ll look great, but you’re not there yet.    So, Dramatic may be a next year sort of deal.


Championship, Floorwork, and Qualifier were equally a no.  As for Showcase/Plus, while it IS cool that they add that category, if I’m getting up in what is basically my underwear in front of people with recording abilities at their disposal, I’m going to go for the full enchilada and get judged while doing it.   It’s a personal choice, and there is no shame in not wanting to be judged.  Getting up on the big stage is an accomplishment all in itself.


So, alas, what is a girl to do?  Luckily, there is one more category that seems like a perfect fit.  Entertainment.   I may have done a happy dance when I saw, ‘interpret a piece of music to provide a comical or upbeat performance.’


Comical?  Upbeat?  Ha!  Is my name ‘Khara?’


In the words of our Mysterious Maestro of Twerking Mayhem Xenia, “Yaaaaaaaaaaas.”


Okay, so my category is figured out, now I just have to decide on the skill Level.  To be honest, this is a hard one as it can be a battle between ego and actually being realistic about my current comfort level.  I would love going in at a high level, but I am completely aware that I would fall flat on my face.  Badly.   I would also freak out for the next few months and I have enough going on in my life that I don’t need to put out the Welcome mat and fancy hors d’oeuvres for more stress.  Plus I don’t want to end up hating this entire process so much that I would never compete again.  Janine made a great point at the meeting about picking the level you can comfortably do now, and that it is possible to change it later.  Less stress about having to perfect something when you’re already trying to figure out a routine that won’t get rotten produce thrown at you from the peanut gallery.


Seriously, though, there is no shame in choosing a Level 1.  I’m starting at a Level 1, and I’m not embarrassed by that.  I could do a semi-weak Level 2 right now, but I hope through hard work to be at a solid Level 2 by competition time and up my rating.  Yet even if I stay at a Level 1, I plan on enjoying myself and putting on a fun and happy performance.  It’s not always about the crazy tricks (although they are cool), but about both yourself and everyone else enjoying themselves.


So, Step 1 with figuring out the Category is done.  Step 2: Determine your Level is checked off.  That leaves … *ominous music* … Step 3: Picking out the song and theme.


Ugh.  This song choice is going to drive me batty, and my inner Diva is just merrily humming to herself.


Deciding to compete in a pole dance competition is a huge accomplishment. Competing allows family and friends to see all of your hard work put into action. Cartoon by Leen Isabel of Pole Dancing Adventures.


Wait a second …


Is that …?


Ugh!  Great.  She’s humming ’Riding with Private Malone’ and it’s once more stuck in my head.


Have I mentioned that it’s been in my head for DAYS?


The Triangle Pole Championships will be February 17 in Cary, North Carolina.  The local studio coordinator of the event is Aradia Fitness Cary.  To find out more information about this event or other Pole Sport Organization competitions, please visit the PSO website here.


Article Written by Khara Johnson, Student at Aradia Fitness Cary in Cary, North Carolina.

September 18, 2017

The UniCORNER: R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Body

Most of us have been, at some point in our lives, on the Injury Bench. One minute you’re the Mistress Of Your Fate and twirling around a pole, hanging from an aerial device, or trying to survive a cardio class and suddenly … BOOM. Congratulations, you have an injury.


Do not pass go, do not collect $200. It’s a complete bummer and can slow your motivation and forward momentum towards a healthier lifestyle. For some, it can derail their entire desire to exercise as they hang up their lycra forever, while for others it can become what some refer to as a “personal growth opportunity.”



There are many different remedies to heal the aches and pains from your workout. Photo by Leen Isabel.



If you’re lucky it’s a strained muscle that a few days off will heal, but sometimes recovery can take weeks and even involve the expertise of Liz, The Most Wonderful Physical Therapist On The Planet. (Hi, Liz! And no, this is not a sponsored ad, she really is amazing at what she does. I think its magical powers, personally.)



Alas, my major BOOM came because I can be really headstrong and stubborn. Those traits can certainly be positive, but in the wrong circumstances they can really bite a gal on her butt. Which they did.






So, yes, this blog post is about R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and what it means to me. (Sorry ((totally not sorry)) but I had to go there).



The great thing about Aradia is how inclusive it is and how we promote respect towards others and ourselves. In fact, I’m pretty sure there would be a team of sword-wielding, ninja-unicorns leaping out of the woodworks if anybody tried that body-shaming crap towards another person.



Aradia Fitness provides a safe and supportive environment for everyone of all fitness levels. Photo by Christopher Donald.


That being said, I found it amazingly difficult to respect my own body, but not in the way you might think. I’m not talking about thinking body-positive thoughts or feeling warm and fuzzy towards my slowly contouring biceps, but in actually respecting my current physical fitness abilities, and that sometimes my body knows more than my brain on what it actually needs.



We all have physical goals we struggle to conquer. Maybe it’s the ability to do a shoulder mount, a perfect plank, or not pass out during Hot Core class. Sometimes those obstacles can be met and overcome through training and further conditioning, sheer grit, or by approaching the problem from a different angle.



But what happens when life throws you a curveball? How do you react? Do you keep going no matter what, ignoring what doesn’t agree with your Life Plan? Do you change your approach to exercising and try for something less “dangerous?”



About 10 months ago I decided to ignore my body’s exhaustion and the warning signs that things were not well, and go do my normal workout anyway. The result of that poor choice was painfully cracked ribs that required 4 complete weeks of downtime from the gym, and 2-3 more weeks of taking a very light load of classes to finally heal.



Injuries can be common when working out. To avoid exhaustion and further injury, one must give their bodies rest and recovery time.


I’m not going to lie, I was really, really, REALLY pissed off about this. I may have thrown an adult tantrum in the quiet and privacy of my own home, even as I struggled to accept the fact that I was not Super Girl. I wanted to fly, and instead I found my wings (temporarily) clipped.



You would think that after I returned to classes I would have learned about listening to my body, right? That I would be more mindful of myself, perhaps? That I would have realized that working-out and training are more than just the ability to flip and twirl around a pole or do a thousand squats? Surely such a firm rap on the metaphorical knuckles would have enlightened me on these facts, yes?



… have I mentioned that I am a stubborn and headstrong idiot?



So there I was, taking classes and cheerfully ignoring the fact that something was still wrong. I was having fun, I was getting stronger, and I figured it would go away with enough Icy Hot and Tylenol. I was a tough and independent lady with goals and a certain timetable of events, and I would be damned before I let some wussy boo-boo slow me down. I was the Beast Mode, and the Beast Mode was me!



Seriously, I remember thinking, what could go wrong?



Yeah, I know, never say that. Whenever that phrase is used I can literally hear Fate snickering and turning towards his pal, Life Plans, and saying, “Hold my beer, eh?”



So I bet you can guess what happened next.



This time I managed to very badly pull a good number of my abdominal muscles so that even standing or twisting was a new and exciting challenge. This sparked yet ANOTHER few weeks off from the gym, and I constantly fretted that I was going to lose all the strength that I had gained. In the very back of my mind I even started to wonder if maybe I was cursed. Some of my non-gym friends even questioned why I continued when I seemingly kept hurting myself. I think my best friend even suggested perhaps shuffleboard would be more my speed, lol.



It’s always important to truly listen to your body when working out. Overworked muscles can lead to lasting and painful injuries.


After a few weeks I returned even though things still felt a bit wonky, but the difference was that THIS time I listened. THIS time I respected my body’s warnings that not all was right in abdominal paradise. This time I did not bang my head against a wall with my fingers in my ears, demanding reality bend to my whims even as my body crumpled under the weight of my (then currently) unrealistic expectations.



So I called The Bestest Physical Therapist On The Planet, and made an appointment. (*waves* hi, Liz!)



I don’t consider myself a particularly naive person, but at the same time I hadn’t realized how much damage I had done by ignoring my own body and what it had been trying to politely tell me for months leading up to The Original Rib Incident. Instead of listening and learning specific exercises to strengthen my weak areas, focusing on gaining better technical abilities, or even just taking a few days off, I only felt resentment at what I considered an unwanted attitude my body was throwing me.



If I wanted to continue with pole dancing, or even just regular exercise in general (and no, I was not interested in shuffleboard), I needed to fix what I had rather callously busted and abused. Slowly, very slowly, my body healed and grew stronger. I unlearned bad habits, and learned some better ones.



During this “character building” time of my life, I developed a little bit more patience. Real respect for all the crap I put my body through on a daily basis. Determination. The key importance of core strength in everything we do. I finally realized that I needed to listen and hear what my body told me, even though it sometimes meant having to sit on the sidelines. I learned to not be embarrassed that I was currently unable to do what everyone else could, and that comparing my progress to others was a really good way to make me miserable and more pissed off at myself.



All of this happened because I was too stubborn to listen and respect my body when it told me that something was wrong. That I was muscling my way through moves when I should have focused more on correct form. I experienced months of irritation, frustration, impatience, and pain because I was so focused on what I wanted to be doing, that I didn’t keep my mind focused on the now.



Working out is not easy, and everyone will occasionally experience strained muscles or bad bruises. Some soreness is normal, and some injuries can be worked around and do not need bench time. Others require you to do that hateful thing called “adulting” and actually respect the fact that you need a break. That our bodies are more than just luxury high-end vehicles for our brains to ride around in. The instructors at the gym are awesome with giving plenty of alternative exercises, and people are understanding if you have to sit certain activities out, but it is the individual student’s responsibility to set their own pace and goals.



Listen to your body. Set goals. You can achieve your goals, especially with the help of supportive pole friends and instructors. Photo by Leen Isabel.



We all want to exercise and get physically fitter and stronger. To be able to pull off amazing pole tricks or gorgeous aerial displays. Part of the process is realizing we are not made of titanium, and that we all need to have (or gain) enough daily body awareness to know when something is wrong. Respecting our bodies is not just respecting how they look, but also respecting how hard they work to do all that we ask them to do. Showing them a little love and consideration in return can really save a lot of time, pain and irritation down the road.



As for me? I’m finally back to doing all the classes I want to do and as many times a week as I feel up to doing them. I still see Liz The Most Amazingly Magical PT On The Planet (hi, Liz!) a few times a month and I like to think my abs are now made of almost-titanium alloy. I am more mindful of what is going on in my body, and I try and pay attention and not run myself into the ground. Overall, exercising and pole dancing is going fantastic, so what could go wrong?



…. oops …



(Just kidding!)


Aradia Fitness Cary offers classes for all fitness levels.  For a description of classes, along with prerequisite requirements for attendance and levels, please visit our website here.


Article Written by Khara Johnson, Student at Aradia Fitness Cary in Cary, North Carolina.

July 20, 2017

The UniCORNER: Bruises, Unicorn Goddesses, and Rescuing Knights-In-Distress … Oh My!

A long time ago (twelve-ish years) in a galaxy far, far away (Chapel Hill) there once lived a yet-to-reach-her-full-smartass-potential woman (me) who was too embarrassed to wear shorts.  Yep.  Hard to believe from my proud NGAF attitude now, but there once was a time I would have fought to the death gladiator style if anyone tried to get me to wear anything that would show skin from the knees down.


Or rather, anything that showed the surgical scars peppered like angry constellations all over my  lower legs.  Long (and irrelevant) story, but let’s just say that it…the entire situation leading up to said surgeries completely sucked stinky, hairy, unwashed, sailer bal—


*polite cough from off screen by the editor (Er … hi, Janine ? )*


Right.  Sorry.  Not that sort of blog.  Oops.


So, yeah, the entire situation leading up to said surgeries was a “bit of a bother” and left me with some “learning opportunities” and “personal growth moments.”


It’s weird looking back on it, but I used to be hugely self-conscious over my lack of “skin perfection.”  It took me almost seven years to finally get over my insecurities and feelings of unworthiness enough to wear shorts.  Actually, the first time I got up the gumption to pull on a pair of shorts and go out in public, a lady stopped me to very rudely demand to know what happened.  I’ve always had the “fake it until you make it” mentality, so managed a blasé attitude as I spun a deeply traumatic tale of falling into a nest of fire ants as a child (not what happened) and almost dying via allergic response (also not what happened) and tearfully saying that it was the first time in years I had allowed myself to wear shorts (truth) and now she had made me feel bad about myself again (also truth).  I’m not a fan of lying, but 1- it was none of her business and 2- she acted like I was a freak and like she was entitled to my personal business.  I’m hoping that her embarrassed expression meant that she would think twice before trying to make someone feel bad in the future.


As you move up the levels in pole dance class, the need for more skin is prominent to execute certain moves, tricks, and spins.  Photo courtesy of Leen Isabel.


Still, while I had defended myself it had shaken my already shaky confidence.  How dare my body tell the story of my life, and the trials I had overcome?  How dare it not look as unblemished and perfect as the women on magazine covers, or even that of my friends?


How could anyone, whispered that small and insidiously nasty voice that lives within all of us, look at what I considered ugly, and not feel the same?


It’s kinda ironic now that that overcoming that dark time in my life was excellent training for pole dancing.


Or rather, excellent training for _pole kisses_.




So what is a pole kiss?  Basically, it’s the slang term for the marks that pole dancing leaves behind on your skin.  Friction and pressure keeps you from falling off the pole, and unfortunately that sometimes results in pinching and bruising of the skin.  Let’s face it, most of us have never had all our weight held up by our inner thighs desperately wrapped around a metal pole (unless some people had much more entertaining school gym classes than I did), and it takes time for skin and flesh to toughen up.


Pole dancing may cause slight bruising due to the skin-pole contact. Pole dancers refer to these as “pole kisses” to document their fitness journey. Photo by Khara Johnson.


If some of you are like me (hello, anemia), you deeply bruise if a feather falls three counties over.   I’ve been pole dancing for over a year now, and I still bruise like crazy.  Super crazy.  Or maybe you only bruise a little bit from pole classes, but you still feel self-conscious and want to keep everything covered.  Pole dancing, for me, often leaves me with large splotches of dark and lurid bruising across my inner thighs, down my shins, and even on my arms and breasts.  (Seriously, does anyone else besides me practically give your breasts concussions against the pole?)


Friends who have had the (dubious) joy of receiving my gleefully texted pictures would ask how I was going to wear shorts during the summer.  Or skirts.  Didn’t I care that I looked like I had gone ten rounds with a rabid turtle holding a bat, and lost?


Yet here is the difference between who I am now, and who I was twelve years ago when I spent over a half-dozen summers completely and utterly miserable in jeans.


No, I don’t care what other people think of my bruises.   I’m actually rather proud of them.  They are not ugly nor do they somehow make me unworthy of being comfortable in the humid summer heat.  They also will not stop me from going to as many classes as I can.


Pole dancers see their bruises as badges of honor and display them proudly to their families and friends. They represent “leveling up” through their pole fitness classes. Photo by Khara Johnson.


Do you know what my bruises are?  What YOUR bruises, scars, stretch marks, or dimples actually are?


They are more than just damaged capillaries and non-perfect skin.  All of our marks are proof that we have lived and had experiences that have taught us about ourselves and the world around us.  Our pole kisses show that we care enough about our mental, emotional and physical well-being to exercise, and to dare to do something different from a treadmill.  That even though we may fall off the pole (in my case, a lot) we get back up and try again.


They are not bruises, they are badges of honor.  They tell the story of athletes, although many of us may never wear a ribbon or earn a medal.  They tell a story of gritting one’s teeth through the pain of feeling like all the skin is about to rip off, but still getting back on the pole one more time until the move is right.


In my opinion, our bruises inform the world that we kick ass and we don’t bother with names, and how cool is that?


Where some people see ugliness, I instead see the marks of trailblazers and unicorn goddesses.  Whether or not people know we pole dance is unimportant, what IS important is the fact that we enjoy what we do.   That we do not hide behind the embarrassment of not having perfect skin, and wear what we want to wear, and feel badass and beautiful while doing so.


Pole dancing increases confidence in the mind and body. It serves as a self-esteem booster for many. Photo courtesy of Leen Isabel.


Indeed, all of us are both badass and beautiful.


So as the heat of summer climbs, don’t feel nervous about any “unsightly” bruises and don’t hesitate about going to class or wondering what you can wear to hide said marks from the world.  You are unicorn goddesses (or gods) and should be proud of yourselves for your hard work.


That being said, since we have “kissed a pole (and liked it),” we might as well “go big or go home.”  While not everyone is comfortable telling people they pole dance (nor is it anyone’s business) I can give the Pro Tip I learned over years of answering questions about my scars.


*drum roll*


For me, pole kisses are a way to show my family and friends how tough and how much of a badass that I am. I enjoy texting pole kiss photos and posting them on social media. Photo by Khara Johnson.


Fantastical answers to intrusive questions tend to derail people.  Sometimes they even edge away, but it still stops the questions, LOL.  So instead of “I got these bruises kicking major butt in my exercise class” feel free to borrow and embellish upon a crazy story involving a kleptomaniac dragon named Butterscorch, the daring rescue of knights-in-distress, and the importance of watching for the break light while chasing after intergalactic ice cream truck UFOs.


All Aradia Fitness instructors are certified and are knowledgeable in pole dance fitness and other fitness arenas.  They also help their students along their fitness journey, motivating and encouraging them along the way.  Aradia Fitness offers various classes.  To book your class, visit our class schedule here.


Article Written by Khara Johnson, Student at Aradia Fitness Cary in Cary, North Carolina.

June 8, 2017


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