This January, Nadia, April, Donna, and Sarah, from Defy Gravity of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois left their beloved cornfields *cough* to spend a week training at Body & Pole. After reading their responses, you can checkout their hashtag #DGDoesBP to see all of their (sometimes NSFW) adventures in NYC!

What was your first reaction to entering the studio? Were you nervous, excited, scared, etc.?

S: I was dying of excitement. When we began conceptualizing our space at Defy Gravity, we leaned heavily on Kyra and ElevatED’s recommendations for poles and spacing, floor materials, mirrors and the overall flow of the studio. So the excitement for me was two-fold: not only was I going to get to train with some of the most talented pole fitness instructors in the world (and studio owners all know how wonderful it is to FINALLY get some training time!), I was finally going to get to see first hand how Kyra had her space set up. And of course, I wasn’t disappointed. As expected, Body & Pole is a 3-story playground/pole mecca with great ambiance. AND I got to see all my fav pole crushes (Roz, Dani, Jeni, Kyra – winky face-ing at y’all), so basically, my excitement was on level “Channing Tatum just asked me on a date.”

N: I had completed one Traincation in the past, so I knew what I was getting myself into the second time around. I was beyond ecstatic to be back and so happy to share the experience with my pole besties, who were there for the first time. Coming into Body and Pole has always felt like entering a room full of celebrities. So many of the pole dancers and aerialists that I had long admired were roaming the halls and I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to learn from them.

D: I vividly remember how excited I was to be back at Body & Pole on my second Traincation, eager to learn lots of new things and ready to come back home with all the gains.

What was your first class like?

S: My first class was Flexibility Training – Beginner (Level 1) with Allison Schieler. If I had to use one single word, it would be fantastic. Allison is extremely knowledgeable about spotting and helping her clients deepen stretches comfortably (well, as comfortable as one can be) and confidently. It was a great way to start the week!

N: It is hard to remember the details of my first class over the blinding memory of perpetual funny grip. But, seriously. Our Traincation week must have been unofficially dubbed “funny grip” week, because almost every class utilized this hold. Behold our matching funny grip bruises.

D: I tried to sign up for a wide range of class types with a variety of teachers, hoping to get a lot of different approaches to the movements taught in each class. Day one in Level III with Sam Star we learned funny grip meat hooks and inverts — a grip that I had never tried before and actually was a pretty big fan of, but afterwards left me with massive bruises on the sides of both of my arms. Hilariously enough, the first four days we were in New York training we were all given combinations in almost every class with some variation of this “funny grip.” Whether it was a fan kick variation in Michelle Stanek’s class or a crazy kick-up back flip entrance into inside leg hang in Kyra’s, we were fully immersed into the world of the funny grip. At one point we thought all of the instructors at their last staff meeting had schemed to all include some form of funny grip variation in their classes. When I asked Kyra about it, she thought it was hilarious because none of them had planned that at all. She said it had happened to them a couple weeks ago also with the Russian Splits too (el oh el).

What was the most rewarding part of the experience?

S: Kyra is my pole instructor muse. Not only is she an insanely talented choreographer and dancer in general, as an instructor, she is the perfect combination of supportive and challenging. For me, getting to take class and chat with this dynamic-a$$ woman is always an amazing experience. Her classes breathe life back into my dance and my passion for pole.

N: The most rewarding part of this Traincation was noticing how I had changed since my last Traincation. I had become significantly stronger both mentally and physically. During my first traincation, I remember struggling just to make it through the warmups. I worked myself so hard, that by the end of the third day I felt so exhausted that one particularly hard class almost brought me to tears. This time, I understood how to train smarter. I didn’t overload my schedule with classes and I listened to what my body needed. The ability to say “no” when I really needed to was a huge step for me in my pole and non-pole life. Also, in the two years in between Traincations, I had become certified through elevatED and had been teaching for a year at my local pole studio, Defy Gravity in Champaign, IL. This completely changed how I approached every class. I came into class as not only a student of pole, but also a student of pole pedagogy. I closely observed how the masters broke down the moves, how they structured their classes, what they chose to include in warmups and conditioning. I came back to Champaign with a fresh wave of inspiration and new energy to bring to my students – which, really, was the most rewarding moment of all.

D: The most rewarding part of my experience was going with my good friends/fellow instructors and just reflecting on the different combinations we were taught and the way the instructors broke it down for us. I always felt like at the end of a class in one way or another I succeeded. The instructors made things attainable even when I felt like it was outside of my physical capabilities.

What would you do differently next time?

S: When I first arrived, I was really nervous about being able to keep up with everyone. I wanted to take challenging classes, but not slow down the class too much with my 31 year old “can-you-repeat-that-for-the-50th-time” ass. I took a few level 3 classes, but quickly got discouraged because I wasn’t getting everything immediately, and decided to slow it down, jumping into level 2. (That funny grip life y’all! The pain is REAL!) But next time, I will definitely keep some perspective and hold on to my positive attitude, and just stick it out the best I can! After all, isn’t there some cliché gym-poster saying that says: “Success is 99% failure”?

N: There are still so many classes I haven’t had a chance to try. This Traincation I finally tried Jeni Janover’s Liquid Motion class for the first time (obsessed). I finally got the chance to see Roz the Diva teaching one of her leveled classes. It’s hard to say where I’ll be by the next time. Two years ago, the only thing on my mind was: tricks, tricks, tricks! This year, all I want to do is slither on the floor and work on my flow around the pole. As I change, my pole style and priorities change with me. I don’t know who I’ll “be” next, but I am willing to bet the pole community has a place for it.

D: The #1 thing I learned from this Traincation is that I will always make sure I bring epsom salts with me and stay somewhere with a bath tub whenever I go to B&P! It absolutely saved my body soaking in the tub every night after a long day of classes and having Arnica parties with Sarah and April to help heal the funny-grip bruises.

In general, Traincation: worth it or not?

S: 100% worth every penny and second of your time. It was amazing to cut loose and have some fun with my fellow instructors (who are also my besties!) So, if you can get a group together to go, that would be my recommendation! I didn’t even max out my schedule with classes (I averaged about 3 a day) and I still feel that the experience was enriching and inspiring. If you haven’t done a Traincation yet, it’s time.

N: 1000% worth it. Period.

D: 110% worth it! I found myself leaving even more motivated than before coming to NYC. The energy at Body & Pole is infectious, leaving you itching to try more things. The level of instruction provided by the staff is amazing and you can always count on them to push you outside of your comfort zone. I can’t wait to go back again and conquer even more nemesis tricks and further build my knowledge base.