Deb Roach Pole gives me a reason for everything!
We met Deb Roach born without most of her left arm. She entered the limelight of the pole world when she won her division in the International Pole Championships for the first time, in March 2012. Since then, she has toured the world performing, judging and teaching workshops; inspiring students and audiences everywhere to do their best, no matter what.
1. How long have you been pole dancing?
It feels like forever now! I started in late 2007 I think, making 2017 my tenth year. I did have a year’s break while I focused on personal training, group fitness and cycling, in 2011. It became more than a hobby when I started training for the International Pole Championship in 2012, and it became my life and career after I won.
“Pole community is an incredible brains trust.”
2. How does your disability affect your training?
Well there are certain moves I can’t train on both sides, certain moves that have taken me years to figure out how to do on both sides, and many, many moves that I’ve had to work out adaptations for. Lucky for me the pole community is an incredible brains trust and we all love challenges and puzzles! I’ve got good help, and time to spend putting puzzle pieces together.
In the beginning, because I was always loading one side, I got LOTS of injuries, but I’ve built my body pole strong and those strains are a thing of the past. I still remember the overuse injuries of so many different kinds – popping ribs and vertebrae were most frequent. In serious comp training mode, inverting repeatedly through my elbow and pulling down with all my might to deadlift my pole handstands in the same routine, I put a lot of strain through my only arm and hand. One day I woke up unable to move my fingers. The hamstrings stuff was the same for me as every other serious pole dancer. I don’t go anywhere without my spiky ball because glutes and piriformis are always working over time, but I’m used to managing that. I’m really lucky that I had Terry from Free Your Body Therapy to fix me properly in the end! For anyone struggling with pole injuries and long term pain – P-DTR was my magic bullet and I’m loving being pain and injury free.
3. Tell us more about your athletic accomplishments. How did you get started?
I’ve done some serious running and some serious cycling. Although I was a good cyclist and I’m quite a terrible runner, I now HATE cycling and I still love jogging. I was working with a fitness fanatic in my early 20s who encouraged me to get started. I’d had a health scare and this motivated me to heed her advice. Also, my then boyfriend told me I was soft bodied. I’d like to see him do what I can ;).
“I can only ever learn more, I can only improve, develop, grow. There is no backwards.”
4. Why do you Pole Dance?
That’s like asking me why I breathe. It’s become a huge part of who I am. I love that there’s no end point. That I can only ever learn more, I can only improve, develop, grow. There is no backwards. I’ve even gotten beyond getting frustrated – because I know that for every shit training session where I can’t get it, I’ll have a great training session where I’ll nail it. All I have to do is keep showing up, investing my best self and the ah huh moments will keep coming. Every time I miss a trick, I learn something. Even the crap training sessions are great teachers. I run my own race and I play my own game – the luxury of being different to everyone else means I’m not comparing myself to you, or your journey -just encouraging you for your own. I’m really glad I don’t feel like I have to ‘try to keep up’. If I was doing that, I would be a darker person, with less love and joy associated with pole.
That’s not to say I’m not competitive. I’m RIDICULOUS. I’m in competition with myself though, mostly. And mostly because I want to know what my BEST best feels like. I already know what lots of worsts feel like. I have years of nothing but worsts in my past.
Pole gives me a reason for everything, like training strength, flexibility AND cardio – and my favourite thing? Pole gives me connectedness. I share a room with people with a common interest/passion for endless hours every single week. The ones I don’t see, I talk to online. The community I give my interest and attention to is a supportive one, made up of funny, hard working, determined people just like me. Every one of my years with pole in my life is one of my golden years, for sure.
5. Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?
Oh geez. I hate inspirational quotes. I live my life by my own standards and my own moral compass, part of which means that I do my best by others and by myself and that I spend a lot of time thinking about my choices.
I won’t listen to anyone trying to sell me my own self worth as a women, or tell me that my sensuality/sexuality is radical, or that I’m a special unique snowflake worth more than I know (rife in the current pole industry) – despite the fact that I love being a strong, opinionated woman who not only loves to show up to a dance studio and grind away on the floor, but also encourages others to join in. Female sexuality is FABULOUS. My self worth can only be calculated by ME. I own my package. I know what I’ve done. I know what I want. What the big bad world out there thinks of what I know doesn’t actually matter to me in the big picture. It couldn’t change me. If you have self worth, you chose it, if you don’t have it, work on it – just like anything else in life! You can’t get it by osmosis. It’s all completely normal. Also, did you know that some men are nice people? And that some disabled people are complete DICKS? Revolutionary stuff, huh? No. Not even.
I believe in something called normalisation, which I talk about extensively in my TED talk. In a nutshell: I believe that media is responsible for portraying people with disability as being as prevalent and normal as everyone else in society, and for disability inspiration porn to be dumped, so I believe that we, as women, need to behave as though our sexiness and equality are normal and common place things, in order that they can become so. Awesomeness and badassery in all their many forms are not limited to a specific gender, race or number of fingers and toes.
6. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Pretty much the same place as everyone else – great instagram videos and facebook updates from my peers! An incredible yoga class. A great session at the gym, a cool thing I notice on a run or a walk. A song I hear on the radio while I’m driving. It’s literally everywhere.
7. What advice do you have for a young athlete that wants to start Pole Dancing?
Throw all but 1 bottle of lotion in the bin. You don’t want to keep one that’s too full, either, because it will dry up long before you use it all. Maybe give it to someone you like, who happens to have dry skin. Depending how much you like them, hey, maybe you’ll even apply it, too! Then you’ll need to spray alcohol on your hands. Oh yeah, vodka isn’t for drinking anymore. Well, most of the time. That stuff is primo pole cleaner. So your alcohol bill won’t change, but your liver and kidney function might improve.
The money you were spending on lotion you’ll need for grip aids. The time you spent applying the lotion will need to be reinvested in paying meticulous attention to your bikini line. Stop buying so many jeans and so much ‘social/leisure’ wear – you’ll want that money for pole gear and soon you won’t have time to wear anything other than your pole clothes and whatever you throw over that to get to and from the studio anyway… BTW – hemorrhoid cream is GREAT for healing bruises and, please, start pointing your toes and learning about your pelvic floor. These skills will change your pole life.
“If you have self worth, you chose it, if you don’t have it, work on it – just like anything else in life!”
8.Anything else you’d like to share?
HAVEN’T I GIVEN YOU ENOUGH!? Hahahaha
9. What advice can you give to other women who are living with disabilities?
Advice giving without invitation is something I’m not comfortable with. I respect that other women with disabilities are living their life how they want to, within the reaches of their available choices, without me preaching to them how they could do it differently. If they want my help, I am only ever an email away.
I wish all people on the earth with good intentions the very things that they desire from this life – that’s irrespective of gender, race or “ability”. We’re all someone’s child, we have all been someone’s friend. All of us have smiled and laughed a few times, and probably cried a few times too. The one thing I think we all take for granted from time to time is that *every single little thing* is a choice, right down to our own happiness. Every tiny decision we make in every moment either takes us closer to the things we value and the things that make us happy, or they take us further away. Getting beyond our desire for instant gratification is the key, but also really tricky to navigate… Developing your pole technique and repertoire is a skill, so is developing your life habits! Good luck!
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