How Martha got her helicopter back:
A journey, by definition, is an act of traveling from one place to another. However, there’s no limit on the number of intermediate stops or how long you take, which is good because my journey with pole has taken some unexpected detours.
My friendship with Shannon dates to the early 1990s. I was in my 20s and fresh out of a divorce. Looking for a change, I moved to the beach and signed up for classes at Bolt Aerobics, a small fitness studio in east Arlington. Shannon was an instructor and we V stepped our way to a close friendship that saw me remarrying, the birth of Carmen (Shannon's daughter) and, in 2000, me moving from Atlantic Beach to a horse ranch on Black Hammock Island in northeast Jacksonville.
Between work, horses, and family we lost touch until April 2013 and the inaugural One Spark festival in downtown Jacksonville. I was walking back to my office after lunch and saw some women in bright tank tops spinning on dance poles. Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to the group and came face to face with Shannon. After a long hug, I took a quick pose on a pole and within a week started a beginner series. I quickly learned to climb and invert and performed my first solo that December to The Zoo by the Scorpions. I was sold.
My journey made a hard stop in June 2014. On Father’s Day, my Dad passed away and, two weeks later, I was thrown from my show horse and broke my right hip and fractured my leg (an intertrochanter spiral fracture for you medical types). I had emergency surgery and the doctor implanted a titanium rod in the marrow shaft of my femur. As my sister Laura put it, I got what I always wanted: a hard rod and two screws. I spent 12 days in the hospital and then a couple more months at home before I returned to work full time.
Ilene Chazan at Ergo Body Pilates and Physical Therapy in San Marco (www.ergobodypt.com) took over my PT and taught me to walk straight and without a limp. Three months to the day, I excitedly climbed back on my horse but it was another six months before I tried pole again.
I continued working with Ilene in twice weekly Pilates sessions and began private lessons with Shannon, working on strength and conditioning. Unfortunately, as my hip and leg got stronger, my back began to fail me. I’d suffered from nagging lower back pain for years and it worsened, aggravated by my hip injury and extensive driving for work. My back got tighter and stiffer and I lost mobility. I was unable to tuck my pelvis without pain. I had always been a strong climber but it took more moves to get up the pole and I couldn’t do shoulder rolls. Most importantly, helicopter eluded me. Without this basic invert, I would be limited in advancing my pole skills.
There is a synergy between the movements of pole and Pilates and in my lessons with Ilene and Shannon it became our mission to regain helicopter. Shannon deconstructed the move in every possible way. Ilene encouraged me to make lifestyle changes, such as a standing desk and a car with better ergonomic seats, which she helped me adjust so that I was sitting properly.
With both, we took the time to rethink each movement and focus on proper execution and use of core strength. Although not an overnight improvement, we began to see positive changes. I could do a long spine in Pilates again. My pole climbs were gooey. Finally, in March 2018, I stood at the pole and helicoptered. Dominant and non-dominant sides. It was if a switch had been flipped.
Cher is famously quoted for saying “Fitness – if it came in a bottle, everyone would have a great body.” There was no pill or easy quick answer to regain mobility but rather a continuous and tenacious desire to reach my goal. It really is about the journey: focus on each step, finish the move and don’t bail, and don’t forget to point your fucking toes.
Away from her pole sisters at Aura Aerial and Yoga, Martha is a professional engineer who focuses on transportation planning, traffic operations and safety. She and her husband own a horse ranch and she shows her home bred Irish Sport Horses, Elle and Fiona, in dressage. (Elle is the guilty party in this story).