Progress Not Perfection – Why You Should Be Taking Progress Photos by Lottie ‘Adore’ Sanders

At the start of the year, we often cast our minds both forwards and backwards simultaneously. January comes around, and we may consider where we were the year before and ponder just where we would like to be twelve months from now – which often leads us to form our goals and aspirations. These goals can manifest themselves in a variety of ways – these could be life goals, mindset
goals, flexibility goals, or pole and aerial goals.

I was lucky enough to nab a space on one of XPERT’s amazing courses this month – Flexibility Flow (don’t worry, I’ll give you the full low down of my
experience in next month’s blog). Part of the course entailed taking a photo of a flexy move such as our split or backbend, then implementing the tips from the incredible trainer Amy, and executing the move again for a comparison photo. Needless to say, the change was incredible – but the experience got me thinking. Where are my photos of my early training days where I struggled to get myself up into a bridge, or the snaps of my not-so-flat Jade split? Well, these records just don’t exist.

Personally, this prospect made me a little sad. Baby pole dancer Lottie was pretty harsh on herself in retrospect. My attitude towards my self-perceived shortcomings was simply ‘don’t film me doing this, it’s rubbish’, batting away friends and instructors who offered to take a snap of my attempts at moves in class. My mindset led me to believe that the only real reason to take a photo or video of literally anything was if it was already, whatever that was in my mind, perfection.

Progress photos are a funny one. The name in itself suggests that each photo needs to be better than the one before. But any seasoned aerialist or sports person will tell you, the road to true progression is absolutely not a linear one. One week, you will come in and your split may be pretty close to the ground. The following week, you can feel like you’re back to square one. I won’t go into the several different reasons for this – tiredness, muscle soreness, hormones, temperature, lifestyle (the list goes on forever) – but what I will say is documenting these ‘setbacks’ is just as important as every shiny new progression you make.

Let’s take working on your front splits, for example, a fairly common goal for tonnes of polers and aerialists. You dutifully attend your stretch classes twice a week, and at the end of each class you give your splits a go. Your classmate offers to nab a photo of you, and they really insist on doing it because they’re a good training buddy, so you finally agree to handing over your phone. Sure, you’re wearing those leggings with a hole in them and your hair is scraped back in a Miss Trunchbull-from-Matilda style bun, and the lighting isn’t exactly Insta worthy. But that is a snapshot in time, a freeze frame of your very best efforts that day, a record of your hard work within that stretching session – and it’s important. Week to week, your splits may look frustratingly similar. But month to month? You may just see that space between you and the floor inch that little bit closer. Six months on, you may even be totally flat and contemplating throwing a yoga block under that front leg to start working on your over split.

When you’re living in the moment, it can become difficult to remember what things used to be like. Within the blink of the eye, you can forget just how hard you worked to get on the path you’re now on. The split that you now easily get into up the pole was months in the making; the active flex work, the strength training, the skin grip training, the breathwork fine-tuning. And what better reminder of all that culmination of your efforts is there than the ability to look back to where it all began.

The purpose of this month’s blog is pretty straight forward really, when you boil it down. Make 2024 the year that you truly commit to taking photos of your efforts in class. It doesn’t matter if you’re not looking Instagram ready, or if it’s not your best attempt of the day, because you forgot to get your phone out the first time. Heck, even if it’s the very first attempt you’ve given to get into your
splits in what seems like forever – take the damn photo. One day, when you’re flying through the air in a flawlessly flat Jallegra, you’ll be glad that you’re able to look back and see the start of your journey, too. This time next year, when you’re reading this blog and you remember the advice I gave you – that you followed, because you know I’m right – and you have a start-to-finish selection of photos of the amazing things you’ve learnt, you’ll thank me!

Tune in next month on the XPERT blog to find out all about Lottie’s experience on the amazing Flexibility Flow course – it’s going to be a good read!