Q&A: Lili Parallax pole fitness competitor

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Lili Parallax (born Leslie Hoerig) discovered pole fitness almost accidentally. The 28-year-old interior designer attended her first pole fitness class with a friend and immediately became addicted. Now, four years later, Parallax is a pole fitness instructor and set to compete in the Arnold Amateur Pole Championships at the Arnold Fitness Expo on Saturday, March 7.

I was complaining about needing something to do, so a friend suggested I try pole fitness. When I first moved to Columbus in 2011, a friend bought a Groupon for pole fitness classes, so I decided to tag along. I’d always been generally healthy, but I had never been really into fitness and movement. The first class we took was mostly about learning spins; I felt like a kid at recess. A lot of people work out to lose weight so they focus on a number; pole fitness is skill-based, so you focus on what you can do, which motivated me more. All tricks have progressions, so you learn what you’re able to do. You think you’ll never get there, but finally executing a trick you’ve been working on is really rewarding. After I had been practicing about a year, my studio had a showcase. It was amazing how much more driven I was once I had something to prepare for. After that, I wanted to keep setting goals for myself to keep pushing. I love that I’m to the point I can teach and compete.

Pole fitness is addictive. I have become so much stronger since starting pole fitness, I almost can’t believe it. Because I kept focusing on what tricks I could perform, I didn’t notice how much bigger my shoulders had become until I accidentally “Hulk-smashed” a suit jacket when I put it on. You don’t realize how much of a workout you’re getting while you do pole fitness because it’s so fun, but it’s also a great way to build strength. I feel like I level-up every time I’m in the studio.

It took me a while to “come out” about pole fitness. When people think of pole dancing, they think of strip clubs; but it’s more than that. I think the pole fitness world is trying to distance itself from the “pole dancing” you might see in a strip club. There is definitely a “stripper style” to pole fitness, but at competitions it is more like a gymnastics routine. At most competitions (including the Arnold Fitness Expo) there are strict rules on what can be worn during a routine, and a wardrobe malfunction can get you disqualified. “Excessive gluteal exposure” and excessive cleavage are not allowed, for example. Both sides definitely blend together, but the competitions are trying to legitimize pole fitness and want to separate it from the club atmosphere. Personally I don’t see a problem with pole dancing being in strip clubs or out of them; I just do it because I like it.

It’s weird having people translate your skills into numbers.I’ve only done one competition before, so I’m really excited, but I don’t know what to expect at the Arnold Fitness Expo. I’ve never really been into competing, I just like to perform. There are some really experienced people competing, so I’m not as transfixed on placing [in the competition] as I am meeting the other contestants backstage. I’m excited that my friends and family will be out to support me as well.

Almost everybody is intimidated about trying pole fitness.If you want to try it, you should! Remember everybody starts out as an insecure beginner,but they always surprise themselves with what they can do. You have to start somewhere. Everyone starts at their own skill level, and all different ages and demographics of people show up for classes. Every class starts with a warm-up and a conditioning exercise and then the instructor will demonstrate a trick and go around to help each student. It’s a bit more customized than a yoga class. You can always tell the seasoned pole fitness people from the newbies by the amount of clothing they wear. At first, everyone starts off keeping their regular work-out clothes on, but the farther along you go, the fewer clothes you wear because you need your skin to be exposed to stick to the pole. At a certain point everyone always gets over the insecurity and just has a good time.

Photo by Meghan Ralston

Name: Leslie Hoerig by day, Lili Parallax by night.

Hometown: Beavercreek

Current neighborhood: Short North

Day job: Interior designer

Currently listening to: Damn the Witch Siren


Playing favorites

Favorite movie: "Chicken Run"

Favorite TV show: "Orange is the New Black"

Favorite restaurant in Columbus: Aab India

Favorite beverage: Kentucky mule

Favorite '80s action movie: "Predator" 

Favorite accessory: Glitter

Best way to spend $10 in Columbus: "The Classy Lady and a Puff the Magic Popper from Dirty Frank's."