Women in Wellness: Self-expression through Pole Dancing with Jane from PoleFit Nation

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jane Wilson, the founder of Polefit Nation

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“PoleFit Nation was born out of desire to change lives because I know what it is like to feel stagnant and hidden.”

Jane Wilson

I believe that people are here in order to make a bigger impact in the world — and with my book, ‘Make an Impact’, I had the chance to prove that hundreds of people are using their influence to improve other people’s lives.

As the founder of the Health Bloggers Community, my mission is to support people with growing their passion into a business — and so many women are building businesses empires all over the world.

This series is a chance to spotlight some of these women.

For the past 10 years, Jane Wilson has taught over 10,000 people how to feel strong, empowered and confident through pole dancing for fitness. Her path to the pole began when she was 31 years old and feeling uncomfortable with her body, overwhelmed by motherhood and bored in life — she took her first lesson and fell in love with it. She is the founder of PoleFit Nation — a pole dancing for fitness studio, creator of Reclaim Your Spark Podcast, has won the Canadian Masters Pole Fitness Championship Division for 2015 and 2018 and speaks at Conferences about living a strong and empowered life.

Hello Jane, thank you for joining us! Could you please share with us when it all began?

I never thought I would be involved with Pole Dancing.

Growing up, if you had asked me what I wanted to be — my response was a Teacher or a Dancer. A pole dancer would never have been a sentence I would have said! Let’s be honest, many people have a stereotypical view of pole dancing. Unfortunately, I was one of them.

I fell into this world of pole when I was on a leave of absence from my position as an Early Childhood Educator. At the time, my boys were young — aged 5 and 2 — I was in the thick of motherhood.

On top of that, I had gained a lot of weight and resigned myself to thinking that this was how a mother’s body would be. All my friends and my mother were overweight, so I had believed it was the natural way of motherhood.

As I was sobbing to my friend about how unhappy I was and bored with my life, a friend of mine suggested I take a pole dancing lesson. I instantly responded with “You know! Good mamas don’t do the pole!” (I am embarrassed to admit that I was judgemental.)

This was in 2007, Pole was an underground activity and steadily growing in attention to become a mainstream sport. However, I had never heard of it as a way to get fit. Putting my silly misconceptions aside, I took the class.

Fell in love with it. And. Never. Looked. Back.

I soon took class after class, shaking off the doldrums and became excited about life again! I couldn’t wait to go to class and get back on the pole! I found biceps that I never had before and the curves that I hadn’t in seen in years. I learned to love and accept my body instead of wanting to hide and cover it up. Every time I attended a class, I celebrated my effort and basked in the glow of feeling strong. I discovered my need for self-expression and opened myself up to challenges. I was now obsessed and wanted the world to know!

PoleFit Nation was born out of desire to change lives because I know what it is like to feel stagnant and hidden.

Since 2008, I have taught over 10,000 people to embrace the pole and use it as a way for self-expression, build strength, challenge their limitations and beliefs. Now I share stories on how to live a strong, confident and inspired life.

Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?

  1. Love Your Body — Right Now. In wellness and fitness, there is an emphasis on losing weight in order to be happy with your body. In the media, we celebrate people who have “The Look” — the toned abs, muscular body and flawless (ahem photoshopped) body. We have been taught to love THAT type of body. Through working with 10,000 people, I have learned that the people who are loving their bodies for how it is right now, instead of waiting until it is tighter and thinner, are the ones who are happier in life. Loving our bodies NOW is a form of self-acceptance and is freeing. No more hiding. No more apologizing. Love your body right now.
  2. Celebrate Every Time You Move Your Body Look — I know it is easy to bail on a workout. Being on the other side of a fitness studio, I see people sign up for class and then ditch their workout. I have heard all the excuses for not showing up. I know how hard it is to follow through on a workout. We allow deadlines, responsibility and procrastination to rob us of feeling good and healthy. That’s why it is important to celebrate every time you follow through on your intention to exercise. I cheer on the people who make it to the end of the workout, the ones who intend, show up and complete. Boom!
  3. Play- Remember when we were kids, and we played? “Go outside and play!” our parents would tell us! We ran around, jumped rope, climbed trees and played tag. We moved our bodies through play. However, as an adult, we are serious. We became responsible. Sometimes we are too serious in our workouts. Add more playtime into your life as a way to move your body.

I always saw pole dancing as a form of play time, which is why I have had a long career in this sport. I never viewed it as work. I played on the pole!

Look for ways to play. And if you can’t think of way to play — go back to your childhood. Back then, what did you do that was fun? Make a list and start exploring them! Go play! Lighten up! Have fun!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I survived a protest! A one-woman protest, to be specific!

It was the beginning of the Summer of2014, and a person named Jennifer (not her real name) passed by the studio, looked in the window and saw all the brass poles. Realizing it was a pole dancing studio, she freaked out and turned to a Facebook group that was specific to the residents of our town.

“People! Join me in protesting this pole dancing studio! It is wrong and we must work together to shut it down. The owner of the studio is teaching people to become prostitutes” No, I am not turning people into prostitutes!

However, Jennifer believed the poles represented prostitution and she felt it was her purpose to save people from my business. Over three days, in the Facebook group, the community and fans of PoleFit Nation defended my business. It was amazing to see how many lives this studio has positively affected. Jennifer stopped posting in the group and I had thought the coast was clear. It was not. She started a physical protest, standing in front of our studio, holding a sign that read “Pole dancing is wrong.” Her protest lasted for one week- approximately 5 hours a day — she even brought a lunch with her every day! According to the Canadian Charter Of Rights, a person can protest a business, so I learned how to conduct myself through a protest.

I learned to keep my cool and not allow myself to be goaded. I handle the situation with grace and dignity.

I learned when you have fostered positive relationships in a community, people will defend your work. The support from the community was wonderful.

Lastly, the reality is not everyone is going to like you or your business. There will always be someone who finds fault and disagrees. On flip side, there will be people who are going to be inspired by your work and will join you.

Jennifer ended up getting sunstroke/heat exhaustion from standing out in front of our studio with the hot sun beaming down on her for hours on end. She picked the hottest week of the summer to protest us and ended up in the hospital to recover. The natural elements brought an end to her protest.

To this day, people in the studio’s neighborhood will refer to her protest. And yes! Our business did increase in registrations due to the attention.

“I learned when you have fostered positive relationships in a community, people will defend your work. The support from the community was wonderful.”

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This one is for the business owner — never neglect your bookkeeping!

I was not a “numbers” person. There is a reason why I gravitated towards dance, arts, performance and people — math and finance were intimidating to me. Plus, I did not find novelty and fun in learning about the financial side of owning a business. I dug my head in the sand, subsequently ploughing a financial hole that nearly sunk the business.

It took swallowing my pride, an excellent bookkeeper and creating a system to ensure financial neglect would never happen again. I refer to it as the “$14,000 mistake” — an expensive and preventable one!

When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I help people to love their bodies for how they are right now. To no longer hide and apologize for their “shortcomings” and “flaws”. I believe when we are kinder to ourselves, we develop the strength to face any obstacle that comes our way with grace and courage. When we feel this way, we increase our confidence. When we are more confident, we have better relationships. When we have better relationships, we live happier and more peaceful lives.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

It was June 2008. After receiving the keys to my studio space, I couldn’t contain my excitement! After viewing twelve rental units and experiencing twelve denials from landlords, I finally received a lease agreement for a cute 1,000 sq. ft unit. Feeling relieved and full of possibilities, I handwrote a note and posted it on the entrance door of the space. I didn’t have a website or a business email address yet, but I did have a personal email! I decided it was time to start promoting this new business and telling the world.

I wrote on the paper: “Yes! It’s true! A Pole Dancing For Fitness Studio is opening in this space in July! Want to join in? Send me an email! You can connect with me at….”

Leaving my personal email on the paper and taping it to the front door. Later that day, I received my very first email from a person named Cat. (As a brand-new entrepreneur, I jumped for joy to receive my first email!)

Cathryn Haynes, otherwise known as Cat, was a young graphics designer who happened to walk by the studio space and saw the note taped to the front door. Excited about the idea of pole dancing studio, opening in her neighbourhood, she sent an email asking for our Grand Opening and date of our first class.

Little did I realize that Cat would play a major role with PoleFit Nation. Not only did she become our longest attending member of PoleFit Nation, she became an instructor and using her incredible graphic designing ability, redesigned our branding. I call her “The Keeper Of The Brand” and when I go off-brand, I always hear from her to “get back on brand!”

Who knew that a handwritten note on a front door, could lead to a decade long friendship and business relationship? I am so grateful.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a movement — the Pole Dancing Movement. When I am older and I look back at this time of my life, I know that I played a role in a global movement called Pole Dancing. Due to the arrival of social media and video, Pole Dancing exploded from a fad into a form of fitness that is here to stay. It is widely regarded as a legitimate form of fitness, thanks to the availability of video on our phones and the ease of sharing. I started teaching pole dancing when a flip phone was cool! Now, people, around the world, are pole dancing as a way to stay in shape and tap into their empowered energy.

My own personal mission has been to encourage people to design a life where they move their bodies to feel strong, challenged and inspired.

What is your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

There Are Different Types Of Students

I was a dedicated and enthusiastic pole student so I automatically assumed that everyone would be the same as me when they started their pole training. I had to understand that not everyone is going to be as obsessed as I was! There are people who will take a class for a one-time experience and move on. You will have students who will be fully dedicated, joining you in the studio night after night, revelling in the joy of pole dancing! Then you will have students who you will see once in awhile. Also, you will have people will take a class, find out that it is not the right fit for them but will become a fan of your business. Treat them with kindness and give them a fantastic experience so they will recommend your studio to their friends.

A Complimentary Class Will Grow Your Business

With a non-traditional form of fitness, many people are unsure about what to expect. Uncertainty forces people to hold back and resist trying a new experience. One way to remove that uncertainty is to offer a complimentary class — a “dip a toe” opportunity.

When I started out, I was advised NOT to offer a free class because it would attract people who are only looking for “free”. I listened to this guidance, followed it and wouldn’t allow anyone the chance to try — they had to pay first! When I switched gears and began offering a complimentary class, our studio experienced rapid and sustaining growth. I always thought people would take a class and not come back — I ended up experiencing the opposite. They took a complimentary class, signed up for their first session package, became raving fans and have stayed for many years.

Google Reviews Are King

There is power in Google reviews, more so than Facebook reviews! I didn’t start focussing on Google reviews until 2015, I lost many opportunities and potential clients! What you focus on grows, once I realized the importance of Google reviews, I developed a system to increase our reviews and now we have close to forty “5 star” reviews. People do check reviews before they commit to a purchase.

Do you have a “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would it be?

When I started out as a pole dancing student and You Tube was a new medium, there was a pole performer named Felix Cane. She is Australian, and her performance videos can be found on You Tube. I obsessed over her pole work — turns out that many people did as well! Felix Cane was offered a position with Cirque Du Soleil as a performer. With her videos on YouTube (and now Instagram) she continues to inspire thousands of pole students throughout the world.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Mental health, definitely.

Growing up, my mother suffered from manic depression. My childhood memories of my mother involved her struggles with mental illness and the frustration of not having the typical mother-daughter bond. Back then, there was shame attached to mental illness. Unfortunately, I experience heartbreak of witnessing the effects of mental illness on a loved one. I openly share the importance of taking care of our mental health, seeking support when needed and removing the shame of mental illness. When I am invited to speak at conferences and events, it’s a message I share because it is so close to my heart.

Are you looking to connect with Jane? Make sure to follow her @TheJaneWilson as well as the studio @PoleFitNation on Instagram

About the author:

Fab Giovanetti is a business mentor, published author, influencer-specialist, best known as the founder of the Health Bloggers Community and co-founder of the Register of Health and Wellness Influencers. Serial start-up founder and professional troublemaker, she is obsessed with avocados and helping people making an impact in health and wellness. Sounds like you? Get daily tips on how to grow your influence via the HBC magazine.

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