Originally Published February 2011 in The Daily Sound, a Santa Barbara, California newspaper that was published from 2006-2012. Pasch Bodies has since closed.
A new exercise studio opened in Paseo Nuevo with a bang this past New Year’s Eve. Heidi Pasch, a longtime top-flight gymnast and dancer, has been working as a personal trainer in the Santa Barbara area since 2008. But she spent the days leading up to her New Year’s kickoff renovating the space, which was formerly part of former hot spot Rocks, in preparation for teaching classes at Pasch Bodies.
It’s an appropriate venue for a trainer who is simultaneously very serious about fitness—and very serious that it should be fun. Perhaps nothing better exemplifies this approach than her studio’s centerpiece exercise class: pole dancing.
“The reason women work out is usually to achieve the ideal body type,” said Pasch, 24. “This needs to be changed to doing it for fun and health, not necessarily for fitting into a dress or jeans.”
Pasch designed the space to be conducive to a fun atmosphere.
“I have limited mirrors in gold frames, so you see yourself as a piece of art,” she explained.
The studio still has remnants of when it was part of a nightclub—a small bar in the corner and a stage, for instance. It’s spacious, with extremely high ceilings. The lighting is subdued, much of it natural due to a skylight. And, of course, there are the gold-colored poles that Pasch installed.
It’s an atmosphere that’s simultaneously comfortable, and maybe a little naughty, but certainly not tawdry. More like a secret club house, where the price of admission is losing your self-doubt. Or perhaps it’s like a dojo where you show your skill level with the height of your heels and the amount of skin you bare, versus the color of your belt. Because in the realm of pole dancing as an exercise, heels and bare skin are far more than a fashion preference.
“You see these scratches?” Pasch asked, pointing to marks on the floor around each pole. “The shoes are not necessary, but part of my beginner class is learning how to walk in heels.”
A more advanced student won’t leave such marks. She also explains that showing skin is a practical matter for advanced students, as certain techniques/tricks require skin for proper traction on the pole. Examples of the athleticism, effort, and conditioning required to perform these feats can be found at Pasch Bodies’ Web site, as performed by Pasch herself.
Pasch explains that the “gravity-defying fitness” approach has participants using their own body weight for resistance training.
“Your body weight is so much grander than a 15-pound dumbbell that you get much faster results,” she said.
Pasch is taking a multipronged approach to her business.
While the pole dancing classes, and the Polates (“pole + pilates”) classes, are perhaps the most buzz-worthy in concept, Pasch also offers Zumba (a very popular Latin-dance-inspired class) and Go Go Cardio. In addition to the scheduled classes, Pasch Bodies can be reserved for special events, such as birthday or “breakup” parties. In all cases, classes and events fit with Pasch’s constant refrain of “fun, feisty fitness.” It’s a philosophy that’s caught on with her clientele.
“Zumba with Heidi has given me a fun and exciting way to get in shape,” said Shauna Warner, 28, who found that using a treadmill was “boring” and added that “any other type of exercise felt like work.”
Andie Solar, who has done both pole dancing and personal training with Pasch, said, “She pays attention to what you want to achieve and then leads you there.”
Candice Anderson echoes these sentiments.
“I have taken many dance classes over the years, yoga, pilates, samba workouts,” she said. “The teacher makes all the difference in the energy of the class and workout you get. I appreciate a teacher who knows how to work you out and prevent injuries.”
It was an injury that set Pasch on her current path.
“One day after training too much, I blew out my knee. Six knee surgeries later, I became a personal trainer because I saw a disconnect between physical therapy, where you get somebody walking, and personal training, where you get somebody moving. I wanted to fill the space between.”
The impetus to move specifically into dance-inspired training was inspired when watching Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity show. Performer Felix Cane executed what Pasch calls an “incredible aerial pole dance act.”
“I was like ‘that’s it, that’s what I am going to do,'” she recalled. “It’s gymnastics and dance, it’s crazy athleticism, it’s sexy, it’s fun … and from there, I never had to work out again, because I was having too much fun.”
Pasch says the assistance of WEV—Women’s Economic Ventures—was invaluable in terms of networking and getting a “crash course” in business, including accounting and marketing.
Pasch is participating in the U.S. Pole Dance Federation Championship on April 29, striving to compete even as she spreads the “fun, feisty fitness,” and the confidence it brings, to Santa Barbara. Class sizes are relatively small and Pasch is able to offer plenty of personal attention. Classes are one hour long.
One aspect of the training is that Pasch avoids the repetition of doing one trick for too long.
“Repetition will only make you more tired tomorrow,” she said. “There’s no reason to do 20 reps of anything; it’s much more like pilates, where you do a few reps and move on. It is a total body workout.”
All skill levels are welcome. Pasch says there is a ramp-up, and students gradually start “learning tricks; how to walk around the pole, spin around the pole, and how to ‘take flight,'” wherein nothing is touching the ground.
Pasch says that she aims to establish a new perspective on fitness.
“We’re creating artists as well as athletes ,” she said, “as opposed to just doing bicep curls.”