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Credit: Caroline Gibson

As an English major, I’m asked quite often what I’m going to practically do for a living after graduation. I typically retort by saying my back-up career of choice if poetry doesn’t pay the bills is to join a circus. While I doubt I’ll actually pay my impending bills via poetry or cicustry, I used to be involved in a circus back in Orlando, where I performed on the aerial silks. It was the most fun and incredible workout I’ve had the luxury of doing, and it beats running on Pottruck’s treadmills by miles (pun intended). 

Exercise is obviously an extremely important factor that contributes to having a healthy body and happy mind. The release of endorphins that exercise can induce may help students relieve anxiety from stressful workloads while keeping your body strong. I think Pottruck can be great when you want to fit a quick workout in between classes, but there’s a reason some people dread going. Luckily, it isn’t the only place in the city you can visit to get an effective workout in. 

In the past, I have advocated for Pottruck to allocate an all-female or non-binary level so people who aren’t built jocks can feel more comfortable exercising and work out free from the judgement or stares that often accompany a sweat session on the third floor. While I still advocate for this, I have since ventured out into the city of Philadelphia to find a space free of judgement that offered more unusual exercise options. I longed to go back to swinging on those silks, and while I didn’t find a Philadelphia circus ready to hire an out of shape college student, I did find a pole dancing class. 

The class I have been attending is open to all people, no matter what gender they identify as, and welcomes those who have no experience in pole dancing or adjacent activities. Classes are small, with 15 people in each lesson at most, and brimming with the antonym of judgement. Though the price for a drop-in class can be a bit high at $25, the deals get better when you purchase specific packages or bundles. Whether you can climb up the pole like a natural, or you struggle to just wrap both your hands around it, the instructors are encouraging and understanding while still pushing you to get the best workout you can. 

And it is hard work. Professional pole dancers make their movements look smooth as butter, and while my beginner spins and climbs are punctuated by hands sliding all over the place and flexed feet that my old gymnastics coach would scoff at, I feel strong and empowered by the time the class is over. Pottruck is great if you feel comfortable in a traditional gym setting, or if lifting weights gives you the results and sense of strength you so crave. That kind of exercise environment isn’t where I most thrive, and I encourage anyone looking for a more unique way of exercise to venture out of Penn’s campus. 

I am a huge advocate for healthy relationships with exercise, which is why I love finding ways to workout that make me happy instead of simply dripping in sweat and miserable. When you’re doing something good for your body, you should be happy to be doing it. Pole dancing makes me feel more confident in my own skin, encouraging me to actually show some of it off every once in awhile instead of hiding behind my trusted hoodies and sweats. I know I’m getting a great workout in every time I attend a class — the kind of workout I couldn’t accomplish if I had never left Pottruck. 

Exercise has been shown to increase energy, heighten focus, and relieve stress. I don’t know a single Penn student who wouldn’t like a boost in all three of those areas, but why not do it in a fun, empowering, and judgement-free way? I genuinely look forward to learning new skills and growing my abilities in pole dancing, and if anyone out there doesn’t think it’s a real workout, then please feel free to join me for a class. 

SOPHIA DUROSE is a College sophomore from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email address is

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