2023 is well and truly upon us, and as new year tradition often dictates, people are filled with vigour, and an urge to try something different. New looks, new habits, new hobbies. Any frequent gym goers amongst you will know first-hand that the fresh faces eagerly bursting through the doors can be frustrating. Even with the best intentions, suddenly having a waitlist for your regular gym class, or the inability to jump on that equipment whenever you want due to a sudden influx of newbies is enough to fan the flames of micro-resentments.
At pole and aerial studios, we are often cut from a different cloth. Brand new faces are not something to be avoided, but celebrated. Each new person indoctrinated into the aerialist way of life is a thing of beauty, a joy to behold. Our guild is a special one – you don’t need to already be a superhuman to get involved, we just require to have an open mind, a thirst for learning and willingness to try. The passion for pole and enthusiasm for aerial exudes from our spaces, and beguiles all those who join – a one-session-a-week hobbyist or self-certified aerial obsessive are welcome unequivocally. We are always thrilled to see you in class.
In spite of this, embracing new things can be challenging. For many of us, our studio is not only the place we train, but a safe space to escape to and forget our stress from the day. Whether you have trained for years and mastered your craft (if that ever truly happens), or are six months along in your journey, we are ultimately creatures of habit. At the start of my personal pole voyage, you would only ever catch me using one specific pole in the corner of the room, next to the mirror. Flashforward to present day Lottie, and you will still find me gravitating towards that same brass X-POLE, enjoying my ‘prime location’ within the studio space. We all have a trusty pair of leggings that are perfect for everything aerial and will ultimately break out hearts when they are eventually un-wearable. That coveted parking space outside the studio that it is easy to reverse out of. The list could continue forever – the point is, familiarity and consistency is just yet another reason we love our studios, and adore our studio owners for providing that space for us, so much. Even with changes and instability in our own lives, the studio can be our place of reliability, our personal paradise.
January can bring on a lot of changes to your home-from-home. Taster sessions, students daring to try a new discipline, the return of familiar faces who just needed that new-year-
nudge to come back into the fold. With the arrival of these differences, our regular studio habits may have to alter (at least for a little while). So, welcome to my top tips for navigating your way through the new year changes – students AND instructors, stay tuned, there are hints and pointers for you both!
Tips for Students
1 – If you arrive and someone is on ‘your’ pole or aerial apparatus – remember, they don’t know it’s ‘yours’! So, we all know that we don’t actually own our favourite equipment
spot at the studio (although we’d probably pay a couple of quid extra to reserve a space from time to time if we could). If you arrive at your class and a newbie has popped their water bottle down by your favourite hoop, try to remember they more than likely don’t know that that hoop is your proverbial soul-mate. Don’t panic, take a breath.
There will be more than enough apparatus to go around. Jumping on a different hoop, trapeze, silk or pole may even help you on your journey – if you were to ever perform, you
couldn’t bring that same bit of kit along with you.
Alternatively, approach this from a totally different angle – if your class has more than one person to a piece of equipment – why not ask if you can share with them? That new student will feel so much more welcome if you take the first friendship step yourself, and you get to still enjoy your favourite spot. Everyone wins! Either way, these solutions are better than spoiling your own training session by dedicating your time to quietly resenting someone else in the room – especially when that person absolutely has no idea that is happening.
2 – Take the chance to try something new, too. All those taster sessions that have appeared on the studio schedule are not just for totally new faces (unless your studio has
specified otherwise), why not give something else a go? Cross training is not only good for the body, progression and injury prevention – it’s fun too. Having many strings to your bow is a good thing, and you may just surprise yourself with how transferable your existing skills are. And even if those skills don’t quite carry over, being a total newbie can be exhilarating. We don’t do pole and aerial because they are easy (because they’re not, if we wanted ‘easy’ we would have never taken our first steps through the studio door), we do it because we love a challenge – so embrace that. Your studio owner will also be so grateful for your support. Having lovely full classes, with pre-existing students present as a living, breathing positive testament to how good the studio is, is an instructor's dream!
3 – Be kind to yourself. We all know comparison is the thief of joy – but as a practice, much easier to say than put into positive action. There are so many factors that will affect a persons’ progression in pole and aerial, and that new student who seems to be effortlessly busting out those moves you’ve spent months struggling with is not doing it to slight you, or make you feel bad. Your journey is just as valid and individual as anyone else’s, and even the most self-perceived ‘disastrous’ training sessions will have something useful to take away. Sometimes, what can feel like a bad performance could be made even worse when there are new faces in the room, an additional pressure to always ‘be good’ because you’ve been attending for longer. Remember it is okay to feel that way, but you are there for YOU, not to try and impress others. A very wise person said to me that even when you are feeling rubbish, think of one thing that makes you happy. Do this with your classes too – maybe you did a particularly strong straddle, or your teacher complimented your lines, or you got to see an aerial friend you’d not seen in a while. Sometimes, even just turning up to class in the first place is a triumphant win, and worth celebrating.
Tips for Instructors
1 – Value your new and pre-existing students equally. This may seem like an obvious point, but hear me out. Nothing is worse than when we’re renewing insurance and they keep
their best deals for new customers only – seemingly, you can wind up paying more for remaining loyal. Our regular students that keep coming back through the good and bad times need to be championed and prioritised just as much as newbies encouraged through the door. A happy group of regulars are a living, breathing, positive review for you and your
studio. Even if your priorities are temporarily averted due to an influx of new students, there are lots of ways to keep your current learners happy. If you have a student Facebook group, or newsletter – let them know you’re expecting new faces for the start of the year (just because you know this, they may not). Invite them to the taster classes too (if you’re able to facilitate this). Assure them their favourite sessions will still be running even if there are temporary timetable changes. Communication is so key, and your current student-base will be glad to hear from, and be reassured by you.
There is also an importance in making sure things don’t become clique-y. You never want new students to feel your classes are inaccessible because everyone in attendance is
already friends. This is a point that is delved into on your XPERT training – but in essence, your job as an instructor is to facilitate a nice, welcoming environment for all, and not to prioritise anyone unfairly for any reason (including if they’ve been coming for longer). If in doubt, chat to your fellow instructors or studio owner, start a conversation. Your peers will want to help you, and your student base, as best they can.
2 – Remember how being new feels. As a follow on from my last tip – remember that starting a new hobby can be absolutely terrifying. Of course, you do not need to coddle every person who comes through the door – your job is to focus on the whole class, not just an individual, but remain mindful of how it feels. My best advice for this is to actually TRY
being a new person once in a while. I recently went to a hot yoga studio for the first time, and it was a great personal reminder of how awkward, and embarrassing (this is a weird one isn’t it, it really shouldn’t be) walking into a new space is.
3 – You are important too. All these new faces at the studio can increase your workload significantly, especially after what can be a quiet Christmas period. You’re only human, and
you cannot be available every second of the day – especially if you have other commitments outside of pole and aerial. Set clear boundaries with your students and factor in specific lesson planning time for yourself during your training sessions – and make sure you train for yourself too where you can. Your wellbeing is always a top priority, regardless of how many new starters you may have coming to your studio. That’s a wrap! I hope you’ve found some helpful hints and tricks in there to better navigate what can be a very busy time at your studio. Students, new and old – enjoy a brand new year of learning new tricks and finding your identity as a poler or aerialist. Instructors and studio
owners – good luck for a brand new year. May your classes be full and private lessons be many!
If your new year’s resolution is to smash that CPD, or even start your journey to being a pole and aerial instructor – XPERT has the course for you. Head to xpertfitness.com to find a variety of disciplines available all over the world – both in studios and online.