The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

99° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    A pole new world

    Tucson Pole Fitness, owned by Jessica McCain, encourages women to get fit in a fun and expressive way. McCain started Pole Fitness 3 years ago and has two locations in the Tucson area.
    Tucson Pole Fitness, owned by Jessica McCain, encourages women to get fit in a fun and expressive way. McCain started Pole Fitness 3 years ago and has two locations in the Tucson area.

    Wedged into a strip mall on East Grant Road, the room looks like a ballet studio dressed up for a very progressive Christmas. Metallic stars, orange icicle lights and disco balls in varying sizes adorn the ceiling, while on the linoleum floor 10 women in spandex shorts and seven-inch heels stand more or less still against the mirrors, absorbing the largest disco ball’s glancing light and Eminem’s “”Ass Like That.”” The poles, brass and steel, shine yet unclaimed.

    So goes the beginning of Tucson Pole Fitness’ “”Intro to Pole/Pole Foundation”” class. But by the end of the hour, the motley group of young and not-so-young women in platforms will be transformed into a sea of spinning legs and arching backs, all sweating and forgetting that they weren’t this tall to begin with.

    Jessica McCain, owner of Tucson Pole Fitness, has been in this business for three of the five years since she first took a pole fit class herself.

    “”When I opened this, my family and my friends and my clients — because I was an artist — were shocked,”” McCain said. “”But they didn’t understand what it is and what’s going on in the industry across the United States.””

    What’s going on is that people are beginning to recognize pole fit as a legitimate form of athletics — many, McCain says, are even pushing for it to become an Olympic sport.

    The U.S. has been slower than Europe, Australia and other nations to accept pole fitness because, as McCain puts it, “”everybody is deathly afraid that we are a stripper school, (but) I’m not a stripper. I’ve never danced in a club, and we don’t really train girls to do that.””

    Instead, McCain and her group of four teachers — operating out of two Tucson locations — provide a serious workout in an innovative format. Drawing students interested in weight loss as well as those with dance, gymnastics and figure skating backgrounds, Tucson Pole Fitness caters to all corners of the community except, perhaps, men.

    Though men aren’t disallowed from classes, per se, the few that McCain does see tend to come for advanced or private lessons and are often most interested in training for Cirque du Soleil-type feats. Meanwhile, many of the women who seek these classes out come in search of their own feminine sides, with hopes of health and fitness along the way.

    “”It’s pretty and it’s sexy, and women want that,”” McCain said. “”Women have been in gyms for their whole life — like me — dressed like a guy in sneakers and sweats, belonging to no gender in exercising.””

    Drawing on such feminine arts as belly dancing, McCain hopes to engage women’s sensual sides without veering toward the trashy.

    “”Women want to be sexy, they want to learn how to walk in high heels, they want to move their hips … they don’t want to be strippers, but they want to be women,”” McCain said.

    And being a woman doesn’t take much. The bare-bones studio, though glammed up enough to feel flirty, remains ultimately utilitarian. The 25 cents you’ll be asked to pay for a bottle of Costco water matches in sensibility the dry erase routines written out on mirrors reflecting sole-scuffed floors. The elegant union of workout and feminine affirmation pervades the space.

    In McCain’s words: “”Having one piece of equipment that looks like this — a gleaming pole — that you can actually put your body on is just really cool. You don’t need a huge gym, you just need this. How cool is that?””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search