WEST OCEAN CITY — Finding the balance between realistic, attainable goals and the will to complete them is really what being part of an exercise program is all about. As an instructor, Angela Houck, who owns and runs the Pole Power studio, is responsible for keeping that distinction in the minds of her students. As a competitor, it is something of which she must be constantly aware.
Pole Power is a fitness regimen that focuses on using vertical poles not unlike those found in particular gentleman’s clubs as weight and stamina training tools. They act as an aid for using a participant’s weight as the resistance for shaping and toning but also as a way of taking the drudgery out of the workout equation.
“It’s not about dancing around the pole,” Houck said. “It’s about the aerial aspect of it.”
If you’ve tried to climb a pole recently, you understand that it isn’t as easy as it might appear. Shear strength aside, it takes a combination of balance and coordination as well as regular practice to even begin to climb a pole, let alone perform acrobatic feats upon it.
Having acquired the skill to perform consistently at a high level as well as to teach others to do the same, Houck set her sights on a new goal.
As with any professional athletic endeavor, there comes a point where the clock begins to tick. It is the rarest of athletes who can manage to remain at the top of the game indefinitely, and when it comes to the gymnastic sports, the window is narrower and closes all the faster.
Over the last several years, Houck has continued to work on her skills as an instructor and as a competitor, attending classes and conventions that allow her to network with experts in the field and to improve her standing in the pole power community.
Through this continued education and connection making, she recently attained the PDC-USA Level 2 status as an instructor, one of the highest professional designations available. The certification requires more than demonstrating knowledge attained; it requires recommendations from other professionals familiar with the candidate’s work.
Having just about topped out as far as professional goals — her business is well established and growing and there isn’t much more Houck can do as far as professional development — she’s begun to pursue a personal goal: to compete as a Masters Finalist for the American Pole Fitness Championship.
Because the routines can be so complex and take a significant amount of time — there are often thousands of competitors — in order to qualify for the annual final competition in N.Y. would-be champions must submit a videotape of a workout they’ve choreographed and performed on their own.
Just as with, say, the rings in gymnastic competitions, judging is based on combined criteria rather than aesthetic concerns alone. This means that the routine has to be aesthetically pleasing but that the way it looks isn’t as important as the pieces that are combined to make it complete.
Participants must demonstrate agility, flexibility and strength. So while a complicated or novel pose counts for something, the ability to hold that pose gracefully counts for even more.
“It’s all about the sport and athleticism [in the competitions],” Houck said.
This year, Houck advanced as an Elite Finalist, placing in the top 18 of 80 competitors nationally who had been selected from many more, but didn’t make the final cut for the Masters Finalist division, which competes for the championship.
It’s an accomplishment of which she is rightfully both proud and dissatisfied and this is where balancing goals and the will to achieve them comes in.
Houck expects to be selected to compete as a Masters Finalist within the next four years. She feels physically and psychologically able to complete the task and, given how she’s used those tools to grow the professional side of her business, her likelihood of success is promising.