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High in the Sky

Workouts with lift



Those who excel working out on the pole develop balance and great core and upper arm strength.

 Take a quick look around town and you’ll find plenty of walkers, joggers, and cyclists. Fairfield boasts a pretty active crew. But sometimes, you need to ditch the same old routine and reach for the sky— literally.

A few places in the area have got just the thing. Vertical Addiction in Stamford has aerial silks and hammocks for a nice stretch. But the real draw is the pole dancing. It’s not a strip club. It’s a hardcore fitness regimen. “There are only so many times you can modify a ‘butts and guts’ boot camp,” says fitness club owner Ashley Popoli. “This is certainly not boring and it’s never the same.”

Popoli consistently competes in “pole” and even commented that there’s talk of it becoming an Olympic sport. She and business partner Trevor Mullineaux, a marriage and family therapist in Southport, recently opened Vertical Addition at the Sportsplex in Fairfield. Eventually, they hope to go nationwide. “This is the new wave,” says Mullineaux. “We’re going to be the ‘SoulCycle’ of pole.”

What makes it different from other sports? The problem areas it targets: upper body and core strength. If you don’t have them now, you’ll get them doing this. Just think about the sheer effort it would take to keep your body elevated and spinning around a stainless steel mast in the middle of the room. “I thought it was one of the most difficult workouts, but I’m addicted to it now,” said Ellen Brodsky of Westchester. She has been attending classes in Stamford for nearly four years. “I feel more in control of my body, more graceful and flexible, more empowered.” 

Pole dancing certainly has its burlesque past. But the stigma of the sport started to change in 1996 with Demi Moore in Strip Tease. Once audiences saw her physical transformation from this workout, pole was on a roll. “It’s courageous,” Mullineaux gushes about her favorite pastime. “It takes guts to be upside down on a pole 13 feet up.”

If pole dancing is not on your agenda, you might want to give aerial silks a try at Kaia Yoga in Westport. They initially introduced it as a workshop eventually making it a regular class. What started out as something circus-y and fun became a standard feature in their schedule. “People love the class. There’s been a big demand for it,” says Kaia’s managerial assistant Ashley Cooke. “It’s relaxing and restorative. It allows you to get into spaces and stretch you out without having to be an advanced instructor.”

Aerial silk, often referred to as aerial fabrics, is a type of acrobatics using thick bands of material hung from the ceiling. Building strength and flexibility, you can climb, twist, spin, drop, and contort your way to a strong physique all while remaining off the floor. Although physically challenging, many people like the suspension of the fabric because it doesn’t aggravate sensitive tendons and ligaments. “The silk supports you being upside down without the stress and pressure on joints,” Cooke explains. “You may not necessarily be able to go into a headstand, but with aerial you can.”

It’s fun and many of Kaia Yoga’s regular clients make it part of their fitness routine. If you can’t make it to Westport, Rock Climb Fairfield also offers aerial silk classes. 

One activity that has been gaining popularity is adult gymnastics and tumbling. Chelsea Piers offers an opportunity to cartwheel away. When it became a hot class to join in New York City, it was an obvious addition to their schedule once they set up in Stamford. “It’s difficult and strenuous and takes time and dedication,” explains Shay Grogan, assistant gymnastics director in Stamford. “It’s something different that exercises your body in a completely different way.”

Grogan said they get a lot of high-school gymnasts and cheerleaders who just want to keep up their tone. But, novices sign up for the class too as an alternative exercise to get them back in shape. Handsprings, round offs, and dive rolls seem like a lot more fun than a stationary bike any day. “Why not try a new activity while enjoying the health benefits?” asks Ann Roth, team director of gymnastics at the Piers. “There is a nice camaraderie and social aspect as well. We also offer adult parkour, which is a growing program that many are eager to explore.”

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