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Interview with Pro Pole Strength and Conditioning Coach, Fran

This is the transcript of our Episode 8: Meet Fran: Professional Pole Strength & Conditioning Coach from Pole On The Call that aired Thursday, February 24, 2022.

You can watch this episode on YouTube, or listen to it on Spotify, Apple Music, or your favorite podcast service.

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Hi, I'm Fran... Teaching Health and Fitness is My Passion!

I started my pole journey after working in the health & fitness industry for over 25 years.

When I first started pole dancing, I had a hard time balancing my pole training with training off the pole. And there was no one out there who understood my dilemma! So, I put my sports conditioning experience to work and developed the PoleStrong Method of Training. In #PoleBodyBootcamp, I use foundational pole conditioning exercises along with targeted pole conditioning and off the pole resistance training to develop a lean, strong, healthy pole body! I've been using this method for myself, and with hundreds of clients for over 8 years now, and the results have been incredible.

I'm 54 years old and my body feels better than ever!

It's my goal to help you build the body of your dreams. A body that feels strong, looks healthy, and resists injury from this demanding activity that we love!


Hey, well hello and welcome everyone, we’re back! This is episode eight of Pole on the Call. My name is Mændy Mac and I’m here with Cris Rivers, and today we were super excited to interview Fran of Body by Fran, and learn a little bit more about her coaching and her background as a pole coach, and all the wonderful things that she’s done with her whole career! Thank you so much for joining us!

It’s an honor to be here I’m so excited!

Yes thank you so much! Welcome! Yes so do you want to start off just telling us a bit about your your pole history and what made you start pole dancing?

Absolutely! About nine years ago now I was watching the Oprah Winfrey show and Terry Hatcher was on and she was talking about pole dance. Now, I’ve been a fitness professional at that point for like 25 years, and she was saying it was a great workout. So I’m like I’ve got to look into this!

There wasn’t much around me in New Jersey at the time so I drove a little over an hour up to North Jersey and jumped into my first pole class and I was hooked! Even though I was bruised and I felt like a bull in a china shop, I tried to muscle my way through everything. I just thought it was so fun and so much more than a workout and I really enjoyed it.

And then you were hooked?

Yeah and it just really took off from there. I started teaching within maybe that first year. I was competing within that first year, and it just it just blew up, you know! It was it was an obsession.

Nice! And then what what were you doing before that? Were you doing any sort of like fitness or dance or anything like that?

I come from a bodybuilding background so in the mid 90's after having two kids, I found myself wanting to exercise. And you know the extreme person that I am, I got into bodybuilding and competing in women’s fitness. And became a personal trainer, and a group fitness instructor, and then a strength and conditioning coach. I’ve worked with Rutger's football and I’ve worked with competitive bodybuilders. So I really I take everything to the n'th degree, and that’s what led me up to it! So I had been in the fitness industry for so many years and really just loving movement. I’m not a dancer! I did dance when I was like six, seven years old, but I quit because I really only wanted to wear the blue eyeshadow in the recitals I really didn’t enjoy the dancing so much, so…

But now now the dancing is a little bit more fun. It is. I’m still not a very good dancer, and I still enjoy performing really just for the blue eyeshadow, but I’m a little bit more of an athletic performer. So if anyone goes to my youtube channel Francis, and you’ll see I do perform more. You know I try to describe it as lik,e look what I can do! I’m not very flowy.

I understand that.

Youtube link to the comments below so they can have access to that?

Yes absolutely!

All right so Cris, you want to hit her with another question?

Sure! So a question people were wondering about, they’re always wondering, your favorite pole trick and or your problem trick that you remember?

Okay yeah I’ll start with my favorite because I just, uh I love a good shoulder mount plank! And I’ve worked really hard to be able to do it with the legs straight out. You know coming from a bodybuilding background, I’m very strong in my upper body, and once I figured out what muscles really need to activate for that trick, it became so easy for me. I also like like hands, uh deadlifts and iron x’s, and flags. But I think the shoulder mount plank is really my favorite because you know it wows the audience when you come down in it and everyone goes!!!

And that’s me! Nemesis are our least favorite. I’m gonna say tricks because anything bendy, you know. I do work on mobility and flexibility but at 54 like it’s tough for me to even get into a good ballerina spin sometimes. So you know janeiro, my back is never gonna bend like that. I could watch people do an eagle, oh that’s never gonna be on the table for me. So those are the kind of things that you know, I wish that I could do, but I know what my body can do and can achieve, and that’s not something I’m willing to really work that hard for so.

That’s awesome, knowing your body and knowing when "yep I’m good with it."

I’m glad I’m glad you mentioned that too. Yeah yeah because a lot of times people will come in and they’re like oh they just assume that you know because you’re a teacher you can do all of the tricks. But I appreciate that you brought that up. Because not all the tricks are for everybody.

Yeah absolutely we have to look at lever length when we’re looking at tricks too. I tend to watch a lot of men and uh Chinese pole, and men tend to have longer arms a lot of the time, and on top of that upper body strength. But I’ll look at a trick and wonder why I can’t do it, and you know I’ve got shorter arms and a tinier frame, so it you know, bio-mechanically it may not work right. So we have to look at that too. So don’t get so discouraged if you’re trying tricks and they’re just not working on your body. They just might not be for you!

Yeah yeah and there’s like a bazillion other tricks so it really doesn’t matter.

Absolutely so many fun things!

Yes, and so you talked a little bit about competing. Do you still compete?

My last competition was November of 2019, and I did the Artistic level 5 at the PSO Northeast and then the world shutdown so that kind of stopped.

I competed for a while and it was my goal to turn pro by age 50, and I did it at 48! And I got to I’ve competed with all the younger uh polers and I actually got to go to World Pole Art in Italy and got the silver medal in the masters elite category! So that was like the defining moment, I think was to get to do that traveling. And competing is challenging — especially with jet lag, so it was a really exciting moment for me that.

Oh yeah that’s amazing yeah that makes me want to add one more question! Well because I just I recently decided to train for World Pole and I’m super excited but super nervous. What advice or tips would you give myself, or anyone else, who wants to go for that hardcore endeavor?

Yeah it’s a big stage so be prepared to be nervous. It’s okay you know I had tears before I went on stage. My nerves were that big that day. If you are traveling, especially internationally, prepare if you can get there early to get rid of the jet lag and sort of settle in. I would highly advise that. I did not I got in on a Friday night and rehearsed and then Sunday morning performed and I was all over the place. So it was definitely a challenge if you can get there, like I said little early, prepare yourself, get used to the area, the time change, feed yourself, well rest before, and then just have fun! You’re going to meet so many people! It’s such an awesome opportunity, and you know sometimes on the international stage people are nervous and they may not be as open and friendly, but that’s okay afterwards everybody’s a little happier.

Thank you excellent! And so what would you say was your favorite moment in your pole career?

I think you know World Pole Championships was definitely up there. And you know getting that medal put on you, and then afterwards talking to the judges and having them say, you know how thrilled and stunned they were with my performance. So I think that was it.

Yes love it and I also love that you know, like as pole dancers are getting older, and you mentioned, you know, competing against the younger ones. Sometimes it’s intimidating because they have, you know, much more energy than we do. But it’s good to know that like you know, with the perseverance and everything, you can still you know pole at any age, you can win medals at any age! A

Absolutely, absolutely! I have had the honor of sharing the stage in competition with Ashley Fox and she we all know she is just badass, fearless. She’s the kindest most wonderful person! And that’s intimidating! But you know I know when I look at it, wow she’s awesome that’s a not my style of pole and I could be home. So I have to try to put things in perspective. And it’s okay. I’m happy with my placings would I like to place higher, yeah wouldn’t we all? But it’s okay. I’m so grateful that I have this opportunity to use this body and to share what I love at that level and with those people. It’s just it’s awesome, yes!

Excellent! Okay Cris do you have another another question?

I do! Do you have any, I guess, conditioning tips or tidbits you would give people especially? I guess beginner tidbits? Or even advanced tidbits?

Yeah I – you know, my whole, my whole business revolves around creating solid foundations of strength and conditioning before advancing in pole. So I developed the strong method of training which really looks at those foundational elements and designs conditioning programs towards the goals or the tricks that you want to do.

So I would say for the beginner, really start focusing on basic conditioning whether you’re in the gym or you’re on the pole. Don’t just expect to go to pole class once or twice a week and everything to fall into place. It is a demanding activity and I think that’s why a lot of beginners stop, because they get sort of to a sticking point and they can’t push past that.

And it really does require some more conditioning work after that, when you look at elite level athletes, they are conditioning off the pole and on the pole as well — especially during competition time.

Advanced polers just keep checking. Checking your form on things if you’re seeing that something looks like it’s struggling or it’s not looking so strong, come back to your basic conditioning drills. And I always condition for at least 15-20 minutes before I start poling. That’s just me. But doing something, I’m conditioning now three days a week on pole, and before I start my training. And it’s important at every level just to set that foundation and get the proper muscle engagement to move forward.

Definitely! I’m so glad you talked, as many of us, especially when I started, wanted to learn trick trick trick! Some tricks I wasn’t ready for and now years later my body is like why the hell did you do that?

Absolutely Cris, I can totally relate to that. Oh my gosh, you know I started muscling into everything, and I think I was maybe six months into poling and I was doing a twisted grip handspring, you know. I was strong. I just hung from that top arm and flipped myself up. Like why is my shoulder hurting all the time?

And it took me really years to figure out what I needed to do. And I took my strength and conditioning coaching background and then applied that to pole, and really made changes in myself, and in the students in my pole classes, and my one-on-one clients. And that’s really why I’m here sharing all of this now, because it was like a game changer, you know. That you don’t have to get injured, and you can slow it down and progress into these more advanced tricks, and really nail them. It doesn’t have to be all the things right now, right?

Yes yeah! And one thing about your instagram page, I love following all of your tips and everything! If you want to follow, it’s @BodyByFran on instagram. But you always, the ones I really appreciate — are like the ones where you show like "if you want to do this trick, then you’ll need to do this…" And I love those because it really like explains like the the things you need to get first before you can go into those tricks. And it’s really just doing the things!

Yeah you have to do it! You know, and I like to repeat moves in those little posts that I do, because there’s so many different ways to condition for a move. So I don’t want you to think that you can only do this exercise the condition for this. There’s so much that you can do, and and looking at the different muscle groups, so I really like to try to educate people and and give you all something that you can take away from that and use on your own, and get a little bit of what the pole strong method is.

Love it! Yeah and your conditioning exercises, at least the ones that you posted for free on your instagram, are so inspiring too — and I have to say like I’ve used a few of them in my classes! I’ll always let let everyone know where I got them from, for sure!

Thank you I appreciate that! So if anyone listening, I have my my pole body power up free challenge going on now and I’m posting all of the exercises in the challenge and my story highlights on instagram, so you can use those and have them, and create a 10 exercise pole conditioning workout for yourself!

Love it yes! That’s incredible, hell yeah!

So I have another question about your favorite style of pole?

Okay! Chinese pole! Yeah I started poling, and and one of my first teachers was Carol Helms and it was all sexy style, and I was putting the heels on and I felt like a bull in a China shop and that you know baby girl giraffe, like why doesn’t this work for me? And then you know I was just cruising through youtube, and I saw those Chinese pole acrobats in the circus and I went ah I need this in my life! Oh my god I just love that style, feet on the pole, strength bling! So I’m enamored by that and I’ve had the awesome opportunity to train with a couple of Cirque du Soleil acrobats Albodro del Campo and Afghani Kirkin. And I actually got to perform in a virtual competition on a Chinese pole! I grip wrapped my pole and I did a whole performance. But it was for Cleo’s Rock and Pole and I was the only one in clothes, so I’m sure I probably was last place in that competition, but it was so much fun to do! It it didn’t even matter!

That is just amazing I’ve seen Chinese pole videos and I’m just like oh omg my poor body! So just that you like went for it that’s just so incredible and inspiring!

Yes right there’s so many different types of poling and like Chinese pole is not one that you could really see too often offered where you could like learn lessons, at least around here that I’ve noticed but, it does seem really fun!

Cris do you have another another question?

At this moment I do not! I am just looking back — you want to go ahead?

Yeah I have a few more. You talked a little bit about the other types of fitness you enjoy, like the bodybuilding, do you like, and you said that you do conditioning like three times a week, but can you let us a little bit, know, a little bit more about like your fitness regimen? Like do you do pilates, yoga, anything else?

You know I used to teach yoga actually many years ago I have done so many things: cardio kickboxing, yoga, spinning, aerobics, step, boxing… Right now though, my personal program is three days of pole conditioning. And I’m doing the workouts that I developed for my new program pole body boot camp, so you know I always do what I uh what I share with everyone else. I also like to hit the gym three days a week and lift, so I’ll have to schedule that around my pole conditioning, so that I’m not over training the shoulders, or you know getting closer to injury. I love a good leg day! So I love the gym for that. I do mobility, flexibility work maybe twice a week, or 30 minutes to an hour. I probably should do it more, but again you know I’m a strength person not my focus.

Yeah so that’s it I take one full rest day a week and if my body needs it, I’ll add more. I just sort of, I’ve been doing it for so long that I can tell I get cranky, you know if I’m a little [ __ ] I’m like I’m over tired I probably should take a rest day.

Excellent .....I’m so glad you mentioned your boot camp program because that reminded me of a question......

What other programs or courses you may offer?.... that you can definitely link down in the comments and they can....

Absolutely...... right now I have two uh self-paced courses that people can enroll in and they are , inverts lab which is a conditioning and technique program to nail those inverts without jumping and I have hand springs 101 true grip.

So many people struggle with that handspring and this again is a conditioning based program with technique tips to help you really nail that trigger.

Perhaps my baby,...... though my signature program that’s starting in february and will be starting to enroll next week is full body boot camp and this is a 12 week total body transformation so you’ll get stronger for pull...... you’ll feel better in your skin....... just have more energy and feel like putting those little pole clothes on and jumping into class and showing off what you can do.

It’ll be three workouts a week for 12 weeks; with weights and pull and bands, and built-in rest and recovery ......but the best part of it is coaching with me so we’ll be doing live coaching calls..... where I’ll be doing little educational tidbits about over training and injury prevention ,nutrition for polars.

All kinds of great information and everyone that signs up will get a chance to talk with me live like we’re doing now and ask questions and then we can tailor those programs a little more to everyone’s personal goals and fitness. I’m really excited about it and I can’t wait to get started with it .

That is so exciting!1 Are you marketing it on your page so we can definitely share it on our stories and posts?

Yes I am and I’ll actually uh give you a link for people to sign up for my email list as well so they can get that information delivered right to their inbox and they don’t have to look for it on instagram.

Awesome!!..... yeah yeah and I know you’re...... you’re based out of New York City right?

No I was in New Jersey and I moved last year I am in coastal South Carolina right now..... oh wow...... my husband and I retired..... well I retired from teaching high school and now I’m doing this full time.

Nice I was going to ask you, what other things you might do in your spare time?

But this is just it now then?

Yeah this is it now.... yes science teacher for 14 years and uh taught uh AP bio and Anatomy and Physiology and all kinds of fun stuff ......and I’m over it really..... was quite challenging with high school kids.

So I retired and now I’m just blessed to be able to do this full time and to share everything that I love with everyone.

Nice and is it just like the online coaching or do you have like a home-based studio?

I am only doing online coaching right now, my studio is in my home but..... I’m no longer .....and when I was in New Jersey I was traveling all over New Jersey, Pennsylvania and teaching live..... but if anybody’s interested in having me to their studio for workshops..... you know.

For sure!

All right I think I have just one more question....... unless Cris you have another one .......

We’ve talked I guess so much about pole what are your hobbies besides pole dancing?

Hobbies besides pole dancing ?.... Well I moved to the beach so I love walking on the beach...... I love now that I live in the south .......I post in my stories all the time I love alligator spotting they’re all over down here so I just go looking for them because I think they’re the most amazing creatures .

I am kind of a foodie even though I tend to eat really healthy , I love to find new restaurants and and there’s a lot of it down here and but mostly you know I’m..... I’m a workaholic...... so some days my neighbors are like we can see you like I’ve been in the studio all day.

Oh well what are your some of your plans for the future when it comes to pole?

I am hoping that I get chosen to perform at PoleCon this year. I’m definitely going to go either way ..... and I also applied to teach some workshops there so if anybody’s looking and I get chosen come see me and play with me!

As far as besides that...... it’s really just bringing these programs to polers who need it...... so many people out there just don’t really get the conditioning in their studios or in their home pole training.

So I’m just out here working my butt off making the best programs for everyone to get you all stronger for poling.

Yes love it!

Yes I think that’s all the questions I had for a friend... do you have any others Cris?

I think that’s all I could think of from myself and from listeners that ..... we’ll have..... can we get all your links and everything just for the comment

Anything you want relate to any polers, anything at all.... beginner....... advance before we leave....... like anything?

If you’re just starting out stick with it .....condition your body....... take your time. There’s no fire, you don’t need to nail a specific trick to be anything.

You won’t arrive at some magical level ever, you’re just gonna move into the next area where you feel like you suck again compared to everyone else..... so it’s okay...... keep going...... keep enjoying the journey...... and you know listen to the podcast for information and check out new Coaching Program for condition.

Perfect love it so much!

Thank you so so much for just inspiring everyone. I know I ....the first time I saw you was at a PSO competition, and I just thought you were so amazing and then I ended up taking a class with you at body and pole...... and you probably don’t remember it was so so long ago....... but I was like yay and then you know just getting to like speak with you it’s really awesome!

Thank you so much for having me I really love what you’re doing and I really appreciate that you’re out there helping the whole pole community!

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