Blogging Fitness: Pole Dancing Now a Challenging Form of Fitness

Pole dancing is no longer just for the professionals.

A once scandalous hobby is now perceived as a challenging form of fitness.

Could pole dancing be the next Olympic sport? That’s a question you don’t hear raised every day. This may sound absurd and far-fetched but it’s a possibility.

Pole sports are being rallied to serve as an addition to the 2026 Olympics. So there’s your cue to hit up the dance studio and swing your way around the pole.

Now if only it were that simple.

pole dancing exercise classes - pole dancing fitness classes - zensual dance dallas

Pole Dancing Exercise and Fitness Classes: Background

I must preface this with a confession. I initially turned my nose up to the idea of pole dancing classes. I have been hearing about them again and again, whether they are being showcased on television sitcoms or I am listening to friends rave about the workout. Up until a couple weeks ago however, I was having nothing to do with the idea.

I soon realized I needed to open my mind and not be a judgmental shrew. There is a lot of hype about this relatively new fitness craze and it is up to me to see what the fuss is about.

My mom’s friends have even rambled on about these classes. Women my age have also been swearing up and down about the fitness results they are enjoying. In fact, a girl I work with talked about her experience with such enthusiasm, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and give it a whirl. Literally.

I started by contacting Clarissa Pierro, who is the owner of Zensual Dance™ in Dallas, TX. Through Zensual Dance™ classes and program designs, women have the opportunity to attain confidence while toning up and trimming down.

From the get-go, Clarissa was warm and encouraging. I could tell I was in for a real treat when she invited me to her pole fitness class. I was nervous as I have never encountered a pole before. She promised it would be fun and I would get a challenging workout.

That’s all I needed to hear to get me in the door.

Pole Dancing Exercise and Fitness Classes: Clarissa Pierro, Zensual Dance in Dallas

Reading up on Clarissa, I discovered that she has a sports and fitness background and has a Personal Trainer Certification from the Cooper Institute. I figured this lady was the real deal.

“Pole sports and fitness exercises are body weight or calisthenics performed with the use of the pole,” Clarissa said. “Results can be quick and when combined with a cardio program, weight loss is imminent.”

So I walked into the class, which was located at Chi, a swanky art museum off Haskell. The environment was very tranquil and the walls of intimidation began tumbling down. I sat down and interviewed Clarissa for an hour and the minutes rolled by fast as I became fascinated with her craft. I could barely let her finish a sentence as I became incredibly curious.

The first question I asked was “how the heck did you get involved with pole dancing?” It’s safe to say this is not an occupation that is considered traditional.

“I got involved by taking a motivational exotic dance workshop in 2003,” Clarissa said. “I was completely judgmental and my perspective changed after the class. The women who were in class with me were so diverse in background and appearance, yet we were all connected by the challenges with our sensuality. I knew I had to be involved somehow and offered my marketing services and they suggested I teach; and very soon, I was a master instructor and trainer.”

Pole Dancing Exercise and Fitness Classes: The Experience and Benefits

Okay, well now I was in the door. There was no turning back from here. My mind was becoming more open, yet as I looked at the pole, I started to get a little nervous. The class participants started rolling in and I soon faced the realization that other people would see me making a fool out of myself. I decided to hang low for the first few minutes of class and get a grip on the task at hand.

Clarissa started the class with a series of Pilates stretches and core stabilization. I am all about the core strength training so from the get-go, I loved the class. Soon enough though, the Pilates bit was over and the tough stuff was in front of me.

pole dancing exercise classes - pole dancing fitness classes - zensual dance dallasAs I was looking around the room, I realized that these ladies were wearing very little clothing. In my mind I thought, who are they trying to impress? It’s not like they are pole dancing for cold hard cash. I was wearing yoga pants, being a little bit of the prude I am.

I soon realized that these ladies were not trying to flaunt anything. They needed as much skin exposed as possible so they could stick to the pole. Otherwise, they will slip and slide and never be able to execute the exercises.

“The need for exposed skin to stick to the pole might give the impression of a seedy underground pastime,” Clarissa said. “This perspective is getting debunked every day. Women across the globe are pole dancing, associations are being formed, competitions are held, sponsorships are on the rise, and fitness facilities are requesting qualified teachers and programs in record number.”

We have established that pole fitness is not as scandalous as it is perceived to be. Clarissa effectively communicates her instructions in a classy, methodical manner. There is no winding and grinding up on that pole. There is an incredible amount of focus on strengthening the upper body and keeping the core tight.

Below is a list of the primary fitness benefits of pole exercises:

  • Increased upper body strength
  • Increased lower body strength
  • Increased core strength
  • Overall muscle toning
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased confidence
  • Increase level of body awareness
  • Increased self esteem

I can attest to many of the benefits listed above. I was terribly sore the next day after my pole fitness class. My triceps were throbbing; I could barely lift my arms to wash my hair. That is always a goal of mine when engaging the triceps – well done Clarissa!

As far as the confidence goes, I don’t think it naturally comes with one class. I felt like Carrie on the King of Queens episode when Doug begs her to take a pole fitness class and she is absolutely horrified. Actually, Carrie might have been a little bit better than me. But I am proud to say that I improved from the beginning of the class until the end.

I quickly learned the enormous amount of strength required to heave yourself up and properly accomplish the movement. This class had been going on for eight weeks and the participants were incredibly confident, and it was apparent they had developed technique. It was interesting to observe what their strong suits were. You could tell they had confidence written all over their face and they were bursting with pride that they had mastered the moves.

“Clarissa made everyone feel comfortable with themselves and made sure you weren’t self-conscious, regardless of your level,” a new student, Lauren said. “The class environment was much more laid back than I’d anticipated. I think pole fitness takes a lot more strength and endurance than girls are given credit for, as it really focuses on core muscles like abs, obliques and lower back.”

Regardless of her students’ fitness level, Clarissa wants her students to be comfortable and push themselves beyond their comfort zone.

“Growth occurs when we push past our self-imposed limits and compassionate guidance is necessary,” Clarissa said. “As an instructor, I’m a peer, life coach and athletic coach. Different scenarios call for different approaches. Always act with class and tact.”

Whenever I interview people for this column, I always ask them what advice do they have for someone who wants to take that leap and begin their fitness journey, but they don’t quite know how to get there. Clarissa encourages everyone to practice the buddy system. Sharing the same fitness goals with someone else will keep you on track, and they better not let you off the hook!

pole dancing exercise classes - pole dancing fitness classes - zensual dance dallasClarissa also offers some more specific words of wisdom, encouraging us to get involved with pole fitness or exotic dance:

“Sensual dancing requires the free expression of our emotions through dance,” Clarissa said. “To get to a place of freedom, insecurities must be tackled. With a teacher who addresses and guides women through roadblocks, sensual dance can be the key that unlocks the confident and sexy woman who attracts others by how she shines from within.”

Now that your curiosity is spiked, check out Zensual Dance™ yourself. A myriad of classes are offered, including Zensual Dancing, Exotic Dance Boot Camp, Pole Fitness (the class that I attended), Lap Dancing, and Chair Dancing. Specialty workshops are offered such as Sexy Stretching and Pole Conditioning.

“I keep coming back for more because of the positive feedback that I graciously receive,” Clarissa said. “I am touched on a weekly basis by kind words of thanks or how someone’s life has changed. To know that I had a part in helping improve how someone is experiencing life is truly priceless.”

* – All photos taken by Kimberly Westphall, and we thank Clarissa Pierra, Zensual Dance, and its students for the access they provided.

About Clarissa Pierro, founder of Zensual Dance

clarissa-pierro - zensual dance pole fitness classesClarissa’s love of movement and authentic self-expression has led her to dedicate herself to bringing unique dance-inspired fitness and personal growth programs to as many women as possible. After a successful career in the corporate world, she embarked upon an entrepreneurial venture as a businesswoman, speaker, and dance instructor.

During her six year dedicated career, she has taught classes across the country and has worked with many notable groups including Women’s Health Magazine, Southlake Chamber of Commerce, Jr. League, Mocha Moms, and Dallas-based Kidd Kraddick Morning Show. Under Clarissa’s direction, her class and event offerings garnered attention from D Magazine, Modern Luxury Magazine, Dallas Observer’s Best of 2004, Houston Chronicle, and many others. She was also honored to be featured in The Art of Exotic Dancing instructional videos.

She has used her teachings towards Zensual Dance™, a dance company she formed in 2009 teaching the Zensual Dancing™ technique. Through the class and program designs, women attain the self-love and body-confidence that radiates and influences others. With a substantial sports and fitness background, including a Personal Trainer Certification from The Cooper Institute, her expertise has broadened from physical fitness to overall health and well-being for women in all areas of their lives.

* – Clarissa Pierro photo credit:

About the Author

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Kimberly Westphall is a recent graduate of the University of Kansas where she majored in Journalism. She recently participated in a podcast with Jerod, which will help you get to know her even better.

While at KU, she was an anchor and online web producer for Jayhawk Sports Talk. Kimberly recently made her MSF debut discussing the fight between Kansas’ basketball and football teams and also had her column about the Dallas Stars Ice Girls featured at Dallas Sports Fans.

She has a passion for fitness and is on the lookout for emerging fitness trends and workouts. Her favorite group exercise format is kickboxing, which she discusses in her first Blogging Fitness post today.

When she’s not hitting up the aerobics studio both as a participant and instructor, Kimberly is training for the 2010 Washington D.C. Marathon with her best friend Jackie.


[Editor’s note: Midwest Sports Fans was not paid and received no compensation to publish this article. I feel it is important to state this, especially in light of the new regulations by the FCC regarding blogger disclosure.]


  1. I had no idea such classes existed!! I'd have the same response as you did, Kimberly, but this workout sounds pretty legitimate!

  2. Kimberly, Thank you so much for such an insightful article! I have always heard about classes like these, but didn't think they were true work outs. You have shown me that they are true fitness classes and fun! Thanks for stepping out there and exploring different types of fitness.

  3. Thanks for not being a judgemental shrew, Kimberly! Pole dancing is for everyone! Great article.

  4. This is a great article! Glad to hear that there are many benefits to something that was once considered a risky behavior!

  5. great article! i'd heard about classes like this in LA and NY, but didn't know they were available locally. how fun… thanks for the info!

  6. franchesca says:

    You don't really think how hard pole fitness can be, and i never thought of it as a work out, but girl this has opened my eyes and i do want to go try this out. Thank you Kimber for sharing this with us and trying something out that we'd otherwise be scared to try.

  7. This sounds like a blast! Always nice to make working out fun! Great article!

  8. Katie Lane says:

    Interesting! … Sounds like fun, and maybe worth a try after all!

  9. This article was really great and inspiring! I have always wanted to do a pole class but I just thought it was a little scandalous for me but now a really want to go try it!

  10. Love this article. I know from experience this class is AWESOME. You really get a workout.

  11. I understand pole dancing can be seen as a workout, but I still feel that it is a degrading activity! As for having the event in the Olympics…trashy! Overall…love this blog!

  12. This article cracks me up!!! I loved being able to visualize Kimberly going to this class not knowing what to expect!! I remember that exact King of Queens episode when Doug did a better job at pole dancing than Carrie!! I was laughing so hard because I can imagine the awkwardness Kimberly had to feel during this class!!! Great article!! I wish I was as brave to go to this type of class!!

  13. That cracks me up! Pole dancing as an Olympic Sport? What are we going to do…start training girls at a young age to pole dance? I can just envision it now…Soccer moms on their way to practice with poles that collapse and juice boxes.

  14. Great article! I would LOVE to give this a try, but I don't know of any classes nearby! Holly, I laughed out loud at your comment about the new age soccer mom ;)

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