Alternative fitness options

Poles, pilates and Qigong

By Jennifer Johnson on January 8, 2009

Riddle: What’s harder to get rid of as you get older, no one wants it and it goes on easier than it comes off?

Answer: Extra Body Weight.

As a teenager, I had one of the worst diets imaginable: Score bars, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, McDonald’s double cheeseburgers (extra cheese), french fries dipped in strawberry milkshake and avocado and butter sandwiches. I ate this every day and weighed only 100 pounds. And then my metabolism came to an ear-splitting, screeching halt in my late 20s. Hello yo-yo weight-loss adventure. Join gym. Lose weight. Get bored. Quit gym. Regain weight plus 5 pounds. Start diet. Believe you’re starving to death. Lose weight. Get bored. Quit diet. Regain weight plus 5 pounds more. Great. I’m fatter now than ever. Common factors — boredom, failure, and increased weight gain: three things equaling death when trying to get back into shape or just trying to fit into smokin’ hot jeans. Much thought was put into how my attention could be held and how I’d achieve success. Variety seemed to be key and with the four aspects of health in mind — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual — I set out to find alternative fitness options to return me to my former hotness.

The Pole

Dubbed Pole-Lates or Pole Dance, this exciting blend of pilates and pole dancing adds serious fun to working out. Take that smoky bar-strip tease image out of your head. Muscle toning and sculpting, cardio and increased flexibility with a self-esteem boost, this is a far cry from average aerobics classes. Learning to pole dance requires using muscles not used regularly (when’s the last time you hung upside down with your thighs clamped around a pole?). Former student Michelle Edwards raves, “I loved it. It was hard, but great. I moved in ways I hadn’t before; used muscles I didn’t know I had. And it was sexy.”

Owner and instructor at Samsara Pilates and Pole Dance Meli Macourek notes that “Pole Dance is very intense … empowering, liberating, exciting, and fun,” on the Samsara Web site.

Alexandra DeLong, former pole instructor and current certified pilates instructor who learned from Macourek, shares, “The whole experience of pole dancing is funny and fun. The first class is always a little awkward ’cause no one knows what to expect and you get all these women of all different ages experiencing what its like to feel sexy and comfortable with their bodies.”

Classes are specifically for women. “It’s a great way to make new friends quickly, and the environment is super supportive and comfortable, so that everyone can explore different movements that make them feel beautiful,” DeLong continues.


Girl, you’re gonna sweat and have fun doing it. Not sure you’re ready? Try beginners pilates classes at Pilates Arts Tacoma. Pilates is for all fitness levels and can greatly reduce physical stress by strengthening core muscles that support the spine and hips, hold organs in place and reduce mental stress as a result.


The slow, fluid movements of Soaring Crane Qigong combine with mental focus to create a quiet, meditative way to ease into physical activity. Having experienced the healing practice of Qigong (pronounced chee gong) as a beginner, I know it to be an exceptional, beautiful avenue to enhancing inner calm, controlling breathing and developing body self-awareness. Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine theories, Soaring Crane Qigong engages both the mind and body and is believed to be a way to tap into your own qi or life energy. At Tacoma Qigong, certified instructor Marilyn Boyle offers workshops and classes for women and men that will increase energy and decrease stress.

Regardless of current physical ability, these rewarding classes can help eliminate refrigerator grazing episodes meant to alleviate sadness, boredom (the ultimate killer), and fatigue. — and get you closer to that pair of skinny jeans you’ve been eyeing.

[Samsara Pilates and Pole Dance, 2505 Sixth Ave., Ste. B, Tacoma, 253.370.2452,]
[The Pilates Center of Olympia, 515 State Ave. N.E., Olympia, 360.352.3444,]
[Pilates Arts Tacoma, 508 Sixth Ave., Loft 10, Tacoma, 253.272.3513,]
[Soaring Crane Qigong, 917 Pacific Ave., Ste 306, Tacoma, 253.627.1727,]