A New Era for Pole Dancing: The Women of Muse Pole Fitness

“For such a long time, women were told that it is not okay to be sexy.”

Jordan Mazur is used to dancing with a pole. She moved to Columbia, Missouri in 2011 as an apprentice with the Missouri Contemporary Ballet company and had grown up dancing on ballet bars. That’s why she did not struggle when she channeled her passion and skill into pole fitness  — now the bar was just sideways.

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Mazur opened Muse Pole Fitness on Providence Road in 2012 as a way to share the growing dance form with the Columbia community. As the studio became increasingly popular, she eventually had to leave the ballet in 2015 to focus on being a full-time business owner and pole dancing instructor.

Pole dancing wears a multicolored robe: For some, it’s an art form; for others, it’s a sport on its way into the Olympics. But for the dancers at Muse, it’s also a community of support, a judgement-free zone and a home for the misfits.

“We always joke about the fact that pole attracts misfits,” said Leah Franklin, an instructor at Muse. For her, Muse is not just an exercise studio or the source of her pay check — it’s her family.

“Pole is so unique and somewhat stigmatized that I think we all bond off of that,” Franklin said.

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The stigma associated with pole dancing only brings the dancers closer together, Stef Lim agrees. Lim has done pole all around the world: She started in Australia, then Canada, and eventually found her way to Columbia, Missouri and her friends at Muse. Next month, she’ll leave the city for a neurology neurosurgery residency in veterinary medicine, but she plans to keep dancing and to come back and see her friends compete.

Lim believes any negative stigma associated with pole fitness comes from a lack of an open mind.

“I encourage people that if they look at it and say ‘hey, this is inappropriate, this is not a workout’ — I challenge [them] to try it,” Lim said. “Being judgmental or pre-judgmental about something you have never tried is not going to do you any favors.”

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Pole is about building strength, finding empowerment and discovering what you love about yourself, Mazur said. In six years, her studio has accrued 13 different classes (all with a feline pun) — from an introductory “Pole Kitten” class to “Power Panther” Strength and Conditioning to Exotic and Contemporary “Pawgraphy.”

She also said there is nothing wrong with expressing your sexy side — “if someone is really against what we are doing, we are not going to constantly seek their opinion.”

Mazur encourages her dancers to use pole not just as a workout but as an outlet for self-expression.

“Whatever makes you feel confident and whatever makes you feel good about yourself is inherently sexy,” she said.

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High-intensity workouts are growing in popularity throughout mid-Missouri

By Rachel Foster-Gimbel, Madeline McClain and Katelyn Brown

COLUMBIA — Getting the full benefits of a 45-minute workout in just 10 minutes sounds too good to be true.

In a study out of McMaster University in Canada, one group of participants rode a stationary bike for about 10 minutes, with three 20-second spurts of all-out intensity. The other group rode a stationary bike for 45 minutes of moderate intensity. The results of the study showed similar health benefits for both groups.

Dylan Olver, an exercise physiologist at MU, said this is not the first study of its kind.

“The goal in many studies is to add just an incremental step or a small piece of the puzzle just one piece at a time and certainly this study was able to do that,” Olver said. “But there were no monumental changes or shifts in the way we think about exercise as a result of the study.”

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, as well as other high-intensity exercise programs, are gaining more momentum thanks to these studies. According to a 2015 survey from the American College of Sports Medicine, wearable technology, workouts that incorporate using your own body weight and HIIT are projected to be the top fitness trends for 2016.

This kind of training can already be found at gyms around mid-Missouri.

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Sarah McRae adjusts the weight on a barbell at the Bluff Street CrossFit gym in Fulton, Missouri on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. McRae runs track at William Woods University and often uses high-intensity workouts in her training.

Mike Halliburton, a personal trainer at PRO Fitness in Columbia, said that more clients are asking for these short, high-intensity workouts.

“The training is very, very popular these days because it doesn’t take much time,” Halliburton said. “You can get a great workout in under 30 minutes. That’s a huge benefit of this training, that it fits people’s schedules as we constantly get busier and busier as a society.”

However, the trade-off for less time in the gym is a harder workout. These workouts can be strenuous on the body, especially for beginners, Garrett Buschjost, head trainer at MU Human Performance Institute, said.

“The problem is beginners tear their muscles down and don’t give enough time to recover and sometimes that muscle degenerates,” Buschjost said.

Buschjost said that many people are not aware of these negative effects when they get caught up in the latest workout trend.

“It’s like that old saying, there’s many ways to skin a cat,” Buschjost said. “There’s many different types of programs out there, from HIIT training to body-weight training, there’s so many types of training out there. But you need to know what works best for you.”

Sarah McRae is a short-distance track runner at William Woods University and a member of the Bluff Street Crossfit gym in Fulton. As a track runner, she said high-intensity workouts are a good fit for her.

“I mean endurance training is great if you want to do marathons or, you know, long bike rides or long swims, but I don’t want to do that,” McRae said.

McRae said she usually does about 20 minutes of an interval workout with high-intensity training when she’s at the gym. However, that makes up only one component of her overall routine.

High-intensity training is not a perfect substitute for an endurance workout, Mike Wuest, owner of CrossFit COMO, said, but it works for people who don’t feel they have a lot of time to dedicate to the gym.

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“You can get a lot of bang for your buck when you do interval training, especially in a short amount of time,” Wuest said. “However, it’s going to be hard to replace like a 6-mile run, a 10K or a marathon.”

Buschjost agrees. He said a person’s workout needs to be varied but also tailored to the person’s background, age and interests.

“If you want to create a lifestyle that’s going to be with you the rest of your life, don’t focus on getting a beach bod,” Buschjost said. “ Focus on your health and how you feel.”