By Shelby Brooks
Hanging upside down by just her ankles, Laura Papov smiles through the pain and exertion of performing impressive tricks and manoeuvres on a metal pole at Aerial Fit Studio Narre Warren.
As a pole fitness instructor, Hallam-raised Laura has watched the sport grow into what could be described as a fitness phenomenon.
Young women are seemingly flocking to pole dance studios that are popping up across the state as an alternative way get fit, meet friends and have fun.
“I started pole back in 2016 and it definitely wasn’t as popular as it is now,” Laura said.
“Over the last five years I’ve seen more acceptance and less stigma than there was back when I started.”
Laura said in the beginning, learning the sport was a lot more difficult than she originally expected.
“Before starting, my perception of pole was that those who did it were unbelievably strong,” Laura said.
“I was intrigued by the level of femininity and fluidity that they displayed whilst doing such hard tricks.
“I thought it would be hard but I enjoyed going to the gym at the time and didn’t think I’d be as challenged as I was. It was hard because I was using muscles in ways I hadn’t much before and lifting my own body weight was something I’d never really attempted either.”
Laura said she loved the challenge that pole fitness presented and had also found health benefits from her time at the studio.
“I’ve personally found pole has built my upper body strength which I expected, but also my legs which was a surprise!” she said.
“I’ve built muscle and burnt fat, along with the mental benefits of finding a healthy outlet for those days where I’m not feeling my best.
“You’re always working towards something and constantly achieving things which builds a level of confidence that nothing else had ever shown me before.”
As an instructor, Laura enjoys taking beginner students and watching their skills progress.
“The smiles my students get when they achieve something they didn’t think they could do or have been working towards is amazing. I love watching their confidence grow and start to see them feel as strong as they are!” she said.
“Don’t judge it until you give it a go and don’t be afraid to try! You may surprise yourself and have a lot of fun.
“There are so many different elements to it that go beyond the general perception people have towards pole fitness.”