Fitness enthusiasts are adding sensual, sexy classes to their workout repertoires. "I was incredibly burned out on spinning classes and step classes, and all of my progress was starting to slow down ... until I took my first strip fitness class and then a pole dancing class," says stay-at-home mom Mindy Arnold, who has lost 30 pounds in the past year. "A friend invited me to join her at a striptease class, and I expected sleazy moves. But it wasn't that way at all! Plus, it was fun to move like that."
Arnold says that it was initially nerve-racking to strut, bump and grind in front of a roomful of other students, but she quickly got over her intimidation and "unlocked" her "sensual side again, which isn't easy after three kids."
Proponents of striptease, burlesque and pole dancing classes praise the boost in self-confidence that students experience during the classes and over time as their fitness levels build, their muscles develop and their positive attitudes grow. Simply put, these are challenging workouts that work and can deliver, almost immediately, a boost in self-esteem.
There are two types of striptease classes offered at most gyms and health clubs. One is simply a course designed to teach the basic moves of striptease -- hip movements, arm movements, walking -- as well as a brief choreographed routine that students can use at home. The other is a cardio striptease class, which is a hybrid of a pulse-pounding cardiovascular workout and a sensual-move striptease. Actress Carmen Electra has the popular "Aerobic Striptease" DVD on the market right now, for those who wish to do the workout outside of a class environment.
Cardio striptease reportedly burns 500 calories during a 45-minute course of moderate intensity, with students losing approximately 10 to 15 pounds during four to six weeks of classes.
Experts advise shopping for the type and intensity of striptease class that suits your fitness level. As the trend of striptease classes has continued, a great many variations on the style of class have emerged, from Latin striptease to chair-based moves to burlesque classes with feather fans and other props.
In addition to Carmen Electra, celebrity fans of striptease fitness classes include Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kirsten Dunst. And with the recent movie "Burlesque" -- featuring Christina Aguilera and Julianne Hough onstage -- the sensual art of burlesque and striptease are even more popular now.
Once considered the domain of dancers at strip clubs, pole dancing has gone mainstream, with many gyms, health clubs and even independent licensed instructors offering beginner and advanced classes. Pole dancing offers the combination of dance and gymnastics, with inverted and climbing moves offered as a fitness benefit, toning arms and thighs. Add in the grace of the swirling movements and dance moves around the pole and this workout offers many cardio and strength-training perks, as well as confidence-boosting and sensuality-awakening benefits.
Sheila Kelley, founder of the popular "S Factor" series of pole dancing and strip-cardio DVDs and books, says she originally despised working out but found out what a workout stripping could be while playing a stripper in the independent film "Dancing at the Blue Iguana." "'S Factor' was born when I discovered my sensual power and the best body of my life while preparing for my role as an exotic dancer." Kelley says. "My life changed so profoundly just from moving in this organically feminine way that I've dedicated myself to sharing this extraordinary journey with other women."
Kelley reports that women of every size and shape can enjoy the benefits of "S Factor" workouts, and she even has seen women with breast cancer, whom she calls "breast cancer warriors," enjoying the movements and freedoms afforded by strip and pole-dancing workouts. Clearly, the concept of "working out" becomes far more attractive and motivating when the class includes flexibility, balance and strength-training moves combined with relaxing inhibitions and enjoying what the body can do gracefully. Many reviews call these classes a "return to femininity" and a welcome new twist on fitness classes that keeps fitness buffs coming back for more, improving their skills and enjoying the benefits in their love lives.
*What To Wear
Some classes and instructors do invite students to dress in stilettos and skin-baring outfits, but the vast majority of strip and pole-dancing classes see students in everyday workout outfits or yoga clothes -- no 6-inch heels to be seen. Students may go barefoot or wear sneakers as they learn the moves and climbing skills on a pole. Some students do like to practice the act of stripping during their routines, but no nudity occurs. Many wear sports bras under T-shirts and simply remove their T-shirts to practice the slow, dancelike movements of clothing removal.
Strip and pole-dancing classes have become so popular that some fitness enthusiasts book private classes just for them and their friends. This might be the activity for a 30th birthday party, a bachelorette party or a girls' night outing, with all friends comfortable in one another's presence and gaining even more confidence to let loose and learn new skills on the gym's poles. And of course, some enthusiasts are so committed to the workout that they purchase and install stripper poles in their homes and purchase revealing workout outfits to get in the sensual frame of mind, making this workout part of their regular fitness regimens, to their and their partners' delight.