Every woman knows the importance of a good workout—strengthening your bones and muscles, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, helping control your weight. But everyone also knows the difficulties of sticking with consistent exercise—finding the time, mustering up the motivation, working through the aches and pains. Maybe one of the most challenging parts is finding a workout that truly works for you that isn’t mind-numbingly dull, that tricks you into having fun instead of counting the minutes until you can finally escape.

That’s where pole dancing fitness comes in.

Pole dancing is relatively new to the fitness scene—at least in the Midwest—but it’s quickly taking the region by storm. Minnesota already has several pole dance fitness studios scattered across the state. While many are clustered in the Twin Cities, there are some available further south for women brave enough to give pole dancing a whirl.

Frestyl Fitness, located in downtown Mankato, is one such studio. It was started in January 2013 by Minnesota native Brittin Leigh, who has pole danced for fitness since 2011.

"I love pole dancing because I don’t know I’m working out," she said. "I’m just having fun. There’s a freedom to the motion. It’s the fact that when it’s over…I’ve lost track of time." 

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Besides its Mankato headquarters, it offers classes in three other locations—Rochester, Stillwater and Minneapolis—and a regional staff of 14 people. Edge Fitnessin Rochester has weekly Frestyl classes. Drop-in rates are $25 for non-members, or $12.50 for member. Everyone is welcome at the classes, members, non-members, beginners or experienced dancers.

Frestyl has also branched out into gyms, offering pole fitness classes taught by Frestyl instructors. Currently, five gyms have started offering Frestyl classes, in places as far flung as Denver and Chicago, and several more have expressed an interest.

Frestyl’s various locations offer all sorts of classes, from a beginner course that doesn’t even include poles to advanced choreography classes that help students prepare for different pole dance fitness competitions. Because of this, anyone from any background can participate—men and women, young and old. Leigh said students tend to be in their mid-thirties, many of them career women, but they’ve had students as young as teens and as old as in their 60s.

The studio often receives referrals from physical therapists, cardiologists, chiropractors and even health systems like the Mayo Clinic, suggesting patients utilize pole fitness to help recover from everything from injuries to assault. Frestyl’s classes are even accessible for people who have lost limbs or are differently abled, since Leigh specifically designed her curriculum to be able to be used by every type of student.

While it may seem intimidating at first, Leigh stressed that pole dancing, when properly supervised, isn’t nearly as dangerous as new students may fear. Frestyl’s top priority is keeping its students safe, and one of the ways studio instructors ensure this is by never "spotting" (lifting) a student into a position that they aren’t able to get into—or more importantly, out of—by themselves.

"We’re pretty focused on safety and empowerment," she said. "Students can do things on their own, if they’re allowed the time and the energy to grow."

Mankato resident Rachel Tanquist, 26, is one of the studio’s newer students. She took Frestyl’s Basic Intro class in late 2016 and the Climbing class afterwards.

She said pole fitness is great because it offers change and variety instead of the same boring routine every time.

"With pole dancing, I am so focused on accomplishing the task/trick at hand that I don’t even feel like I’m working out—until the soreness hits after," she said. "I actually look forward to going into class every week instead of dreading working out because I can’t wait to see what new move I can accomplish next!"