A few months before her 50th birthday, Diane Martin pulled her grown daughters aside to tell them a secret. It felt like a naughty secret.
She told them something she couldn't tell anyone at the time: Martin had started pole dancing to play sports. And she loved it.
"I loved it from the start, from the first time I shot," said Martin.
Finding the “rod”, as she calls it, changed Martin's life. She went on to start a movement in Colorado Springs, changing lives and perceptions in the process.
But 2008 was difficult. Pole was not seen as a sport or a vehicle for self-empowerment. It was viewed as what happens in a strip club.
"At the time you were careful about who you tell and how you tell it," says Martin. “It was something really taboo. Some people still see it that way. "
The verdict was especially harsh for someone like Martin, an ordained minister. Sure, she wondered what the people in the church would think of her pastor's hobby. But that wouldn't stop her.
Because in Martin's life she had learned a hard lesson: to stop caring about what people think.
A new way of life
At the beginning of her life, Martin wasn't the one to venture outside of comfort zones. Just think of her as a 19 year old. Just Married. I am just beginning to attend her husband's Pentecostal church, where women have been instructed not to go to college or speak up. She decided to leave the church 13 years later. And leave this man four years later.
The 36-year-old enrolled in a seminary school as one of her first single women. Maybe she was trying to prove a point.
"I thought that would seem counter-cultural to them," she said, speaking of her former church. "Because I had never seen a pastor before."
Martin became one.
"I would never sit on a pulpit more than on a pole," she says now. "Something like that was so strange."
That became her new way of life, to tread unfamiliar paths.
When she took her first pole class at a Colorado Springs dance studio, she was 20 years older than the rest of the students and was studying more slowly. She had to repeat the first level when everyone else passed.
"It can be demoralizing to feel behind everyone else," she said. "If I hadn't loved it so much, I'd quit."
Martin wanted to spread love without pressure, so she started teaching pole classes from her basement. Her 20 daughters were among her first customers.
Interest grew so much that in 2011 she opened a small studio called Pole Revolution, or Pole Rev for short. The name is a reference to Martin's other profession than the Reverend.
"And that it has revolutionized my life," says Martin.
The same happened for Krista Mauss, who went to a Pole Revolution class in 2016. She had taken pole classes in Seattle to keep in shape while studying.
"For a lot of women, we find it difficult to find fitness that we enjoy," said Mauss, who played rugby and was a cheerleader in high school.
Her mother suggested a new sport. “I thought pole dancing?” Says Mauss, 27 years old. "& # 39; Mom please. & # 39;"
Just like Martin, she was immediately enthusiastic. She felt part of a team again. She felt strong again. She felt like she was on a mission to show people another side of pole dancing.
"It became kind of an obsession," said Mauss.
She began to research the history of the pole as a sport, which she learned in strip clubs centuries before the advent of pole dancing.
"We have a lot of scars," she said. "People say," I don't agree with that. "
That is changing as pole fitness classes become more mainstream and participants demonstrate their athleticism.
Some great players in the sport have noticed. Pole has been recognized as a sport by the Global Association of International Sports Federation [GAISF]. According to GAISF, lifting, holding and turning the body requires “great physical and mental effort, strength and endurance”. It also requires a great deal of flexibility to be able to distort lines, pose, demonstrate, and perform techniques.
And pole is currently being tested as an Olympic sport in 2024.
Mauss and Martin say that would be a cornerstone in normalizing their activities.
"That would help people take it seriously," says Mauss. "What they should."
Alyvia Hildebrand, a 23-year-old software engineer, recalls that she felt “extremely nervous” a year ago before her first pole class. When she saw more experienced dancers, she thought, "How am I ever supposed to do this?"
"It's very intimidating when you don't know what you're doing," she said. “You have to remember that everyone starts at the same level. Now I can do some movements that I never thought I could do. "
Five years into the sport, there are movements that Mauss still cannot perform. But she has a lot of passion that 61-year-old Martin quickly saw. That's why Martin wanted to pass her business on to Mauss, who has owned Pole Revolution since 2017.
"Krista has really moved up," said Martin, who stayed as an instructor. "She took it where I knew I couldn't."
During her class, Mauss sees a group of women and some men raising one another. When someone gets a new move, the room bursts into clapping and cheering. Often times, they all forget how hard they are training their muscles because they are having fun.
"I see a massive surge in confidence," she said.
“You can see it in the way people carry themselves. You feel strong. You feel beautiful. "
That is the legacy that Martin left behind. She was happy to see the sport grow in just 13 years. And to see how it has helped people.
“The reward for me is helping other women regain their own self-esteem,” she said.
"That is pure joy."
Love and acceptance
Finding the bar, she says, helped her find that love for herself. It helped her heal. Most recently, it helped her make another big change in her pastoral life.
She was part of a major Christian denomination for most of her days of service. In these church rooms she didn't talk much about pole dancing.
"There were still people who judged me or were never comfortable with this part of my life," said Martin.
And she was tired of hiding it.
She found a local church that is part of the Metropolitan Community Church and, according to Martin, is "all about total love and acceptance."
The label is perhaps best known for applying that acceptance to the LGBTQ community, as Martin pointed out.
"I'm straight, by the way," she says. "I only identify with people who have been suppressed in some way."
Martin joined the staff of this church in November. Now she shows colleagues videos of pole moves and they say, "You go, girl." Now she can proudly speak about pole dancing in a sermon.
For example, when she makes a metaphor about a shared pole movement called "the deer".
"You can just kind of keep your upper body upright in this position," says Martin. "But when you lean in, when you lean in, it really works."
She keeps talking and draws from everything she's been through.
Staying true to yourself wasn't always easy. But she keeps trying.
"If you really want to move forward in your life and on your spiritual journey, you have to make extra efforts," says Martin.
"If you want to overcome the obstacles and overcome them, you have to lean into them."