WHEN you picture a pole dancer, you may well conjure up an image of a scantily clad, attractive, young woman.

Almost certainly, a 55-year-old male IT specialist isn’t what springs to mind.

But father-of-two, Paul Bradley, is not only a keen pole dancer, he also teaches pole dancing and is entering his first pole dancing competitions later this year.

He’s unusual, but not unique – he is one of a growing number of men who are taking up pole dancing.

This is, perhaps, the latest step in a journey that has seen pole dancing going from being a diversion at strip clubs to a popular fitness craze.

Pole dancing competitions today showcase strength, flexibility and not a little courage. And Paul, from West Wellow, says it’s time that more men got in on the act.

Paul used to play rugby, is a qualified weightlifting instructor, chairman of the Romsey Runners road running club and a triathlete.

But for the last two years his fitness passion has become pole dancing.

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Paul dressed for his day job

His wife, Kitty, even bought him a freestanding competition- standard pole for the couple’s 30th wedding anniversary last year.

Paul got hooked when a friend of his who taught pole dancing invited him along to try her class.

“She knew my love of all and varied sports,”

explains Paul, who is an IT manager for a national research organisation in Southampton.

“I thought ‘I can’t really lose – it’s either good exercise or there are lots of nice women about!’ I went along and had a great, fun time.

“But what really surprised me was I didn’t notice that it was exercise, but I ached for a week afterwards, which considering all the other sports I do, was a shock.

“I went back and became hooked.”

Since then he has trained as a pole dancing instructor and now teaches regular classes at Pole Performers in Southampton.

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Paul admits that he had the preconceived idea of pole dancing as being a sexualised performance that women do, but adds that he knew there had to be more to it than that as his friend told him it was a great workout.

But friends do sometimes tease him about his unusual hobby.

“People refer to my ‘lap dancing’ and things like that, but as soon as they see pictures of what I do they realise that this isn’t wiggling round and taking your kit off – it’s serious exercise.”

And he says that his wife and adult sons, Nick and Simon, are proud of him.

“My wife has never had any qualms about me doing it,”he says.

“She trusts me and I trust her. This is just another strange sport that I love doing.

“My sons think it’s good because it’s a real novelty. It’s a good talking point for all my family.

They drop it into conversation whenever they can – particularly as I’ve gradually got better and can now do things that most people haven’t got a hope in hell of doing!”

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He’s not wrong. One of Paul’s ‘signature moves’ is holding himself at right angles to the floor by his arms with a woman standing on him.

“I’ve definitely noticed changes in my body since I’ve been pole dancing,”he says.

“My core strength has rocketed and my six-pack has almost returned. I thought it had gone for good 20 or 30 years ago!”

Paul is now preparing for his first pole dancing competitions including Southampton’s Solent Pole Competition in November.

“I love challenges and one of the things I like about pole dancing is there’s no end to the challenges. There are always things that I need to get stronger, more coordination or a bit more bottle to do. You can always improve.

“I like getting better with things. With my running I’m getting slower because I’m getting older, but with my pole dancing, I’m continuing to make big improvements and I’m doing lots of things that people much younger than me can’t.”

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Paul says that people can assume that part of the appeal of pole dancing for him is being surrounded by women, but that this is far from the case.

“Most people who do it are attractive young women who don’t wear very much because that’s appropriate for what they’re doing – you need your skin to be in contact with the pole to grip.

“But I just don’t notice it. When you’re hanging upside down by your ankles a few metres off the ground, the last thing you’re interested in is what everyone’s wearing!”

  • For more information about Pole Performers visit poleperformers.co.uk. For more information about the Solent Pole Competition, visit: juliesdance.co.uk/solent-pole-competition /4560418898. ANDY Wright from east Hampshire is another one of the growing number of men taking up pole dancing.

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ANDY Wright from east Hampshire is another one of the growing number of men who are taking up pole dancing.

Andy, who is a product development manager for a cake company by day, teaches a range of fitnesses classes, including pole dancing, in his free time.

“I started pole dancing two or three years ago,” says the 31- year-old, pictued above.

“I wanted to do something new.

There are definitely more men getting into it, especially with Dan Rosen (who won the UK Amateur Pole Performer expert competition in 2011) doing so well.

“With men, it’s very much the gymnastic side and strength that are focused on. Men are getting into it once they realise how much core strength is involved.”

Andy is also preparing to take part in his first competition – the Solent Pole Competition.

“I think the women pole dancers see men doing it as healthy competition and the moves you can do are very different,” he says.

“Women tend to focus on flexibility and dance moves whereas for the boys, it’s more tricks and strength work.

“I’d say to any men thinking of trying it to give it a go. It’s not about stripping. It’s a great fitness workout.”

  • Andy teaches at Princess K Fitness princessk.co.uk