SINEAD Fawcett admits she regularly sees frowning faces when people learn about her teenage daughter’s passion for the pole - making her all the more keen to change perceptions....

“It is like gymnastics but you are on a pole,” says Sinead, explaining the difference between the sport her 13-year-old daughter Elise is positively pursuing competitively, as well as for fitness and fun, as opposed to the sexy side of pole dancing.

“When Elise started three years ago she was one of very few youths who did it but I think it has helped because International Pole Sports is a big federation - they have done a massive amount to get it recognised as a sport so I think that helps massively,” says Sinead, from Bradford.

Yet despite moves to raise the positive profile of pole fitness, Sinead says she still has to contend with frowning faces when people learn about her daughter’s pastime.

The connotations of it being associated with strippers still exists - according to Sinead. “It takes a long time to change perceptions,” she says.

However, she says they soon change their mind then they see footage of Elise in action.

“In any sport you have various versions of it and that is what it is.

“People do pole for fitness, people do it for sport and to compete like Elise, there are those who do it for fun and people do it to make a career out of it but the one that has been the most well known has been the stripper side of it,” says Sinead.

People’s ignorance to the positive side of pole fitness can certainly be challenging for young girls, such as Elise, who are eager to make a career out of their pastime.

“I get mixed emotions to the fact I do it - most of it is positive - but I do get people saying ‘you’re a stripper’ but it never really bothers me,” says Elise, whose passion is driven by her love of fitness.

Says Sinead: “Elise is massively into fitness and health as well so rather than sit in her bedroom she’s always doing work-outs. We do have a pole at home and I think it is shaping who she will be because she is out keeping fit.”

Elise is currently training to become a qualified pole fitness instructor at the Bolton studio where she regularly trains - and she is eager to develop her role.

“I absolutely love it,” says Elise, whose clients in the ladies mixed ability class she helps to teach range up to the age of 53.

“I definitely like the fitness side of it because I am a physical person, but it has helped me with confidence and doing it has helped me with my health.

“It is building up muscles and stamina and it is so supportive and a friendly environment.

“I really enjoy it and you get a massive sense of achievement as well when you learn a new move, and when they are learning a new move I have helped them to achieve something and that is probably one of my favourite things about it,” explains Elise, who is taking her qualification in June.

Her interest in pole sport and fitness stemmed from seeking an alternative pastime to the freestyle dancing she had enjoyed previously.

Sinead explains it was attending a circus skills event in Bradford which introduced Elise to the pole. “She had a go and there was no looking back,” she recalls.

Elise’s eagerness to progress prompted the introduction to the Bolton studio, Pole Sisters, where she is now developing her expertise.

As well as instructing, Elise also enjoys competing which involves creating her own routines in preparation for the competitions.

“So far I have won six UK youth titles and I won the UK elite title - that has been one of the biggest achievements,” says Elise, referring to the International Pole and Aerial competitions she has competed in.

Elise hopes they may introduce pole sport in future Olympics - just as they are currently looking at including

break dancing in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“It is classed as a sport,” says Elise.

In terms of fitness, pole is certainly growing in popularity.

“It has become popular as a fitness exercise in the past few years because it has become more and more known as more of a fitness sport,” says Elise.

“It’s something that is new, a new fitness that people will not have tried before and it’s fun,” says Sinead, who admits she has tried it but had to give up as she found it gave her travel sickness.

Now she’s focused on supporting Elise and believes social media is also playing a part in helping to raise the profile of pole fitness and increasing its popularity.

“Social media helps massively,” says Sinead, referring to the fact when people can see pole fitness in action they realise it isn’t what they perceived it to be.

“There is lots and lots of pole fitness and different pole skills..

“It’s not sexy and it’s not people gyrating up and down a pole, it’s another form of fitness - you have strength, flexibility, endurance and it incorporates lots of different forms of fitness. That is why it is very popular and long may it continue,” adds Sinead.

Michaela Wharmby, who runs Pole Sisters which stands for Strength, Inspiration, Self Belief, Team, Encouragement, Respect and Solidarity, says she has seen Elise’s confidence grow and has plenty of praise for Elise and her passion for the sport.

“She is so good at what she does, she works so hard,” says Michaela.

The 49-year-old took up pole fitness at the age of 45 after seeing it advertised.

“I fancied it. I’d seen it advertised at gyms first of all and I thought that sounds good and I’d seen a few pole studios so me and a friend went along - it looked different and it looked fun and I was hooked - even at my age.”

Michaela believes the origins of Pole began in China with men doing acrobatics on a pole. Since then it has grown in popularity for fitness.

Michaela says since opening in February last year she has noticed the popularity of pole fitness has increased.

“I get so many new people coming in who have never tried it before - it is one of those sports until you try it you don’t know how hard it actually is. You are lifting your whole body weight, using muscles you didn’t think you had,” explains Michaela.

She says Pole Sisters welcomes women - and men - from all walks of life. “We do have a few men who come, we call them Pole Brothers,” says Michaela.

“It’s like a big family and you will find a lot of pole studios are like that.”

“It doesn’t matter what size, what age, what level of fitness you can have a good time, meet lots of new people.”

For more information, or to get involved, visit Pole Sisters Bolton on Facebook.

Pole Facts:-

Pole fitness involves exercising around a pole. There are many benefits including strength; flexibility; confidence and it’s a fun way to keep fit.

“All round it is good for everything,” says Michaela.

“Strength, flexibility, it’s healthy and you don’t realise when you are doing it that you are exercising because you are having so much fun.”