Having always fantasised about doing a vertical split, I was looking forward to the class at Factory Gym, and when I entered the room I was only mildly intimidated by the army of svelte bodies.

The class starts up with a foxy warm-up that includes stretching and some painful but effective crunches. When I saw my instructor (clad in itsy-bitsy, baby pink shorts) hook a leg on the pole then scissor it, I expected the biggest challenge would be my lacklustre arm muscles, which aren’t totally prepared to support my body weight. I was wrong.

The real challenge was in bearing the sharp sting caused by the friction between the metal pole and my bare skin. My first attempts were, if anything, better than my later ones – by which point the promise of a fresh Chinese burn on my inner thighs couldn’t help but present an added mental obstacle.

The other girls didn’t seem to mind the sting and somehow they managed to look sexy. Though I realised I’ll never fulfill my pole fantasies, I did leave with a new respect for pole dancers. Beginners Mon, 8.10pm; Wed, 7.30pm; Thur, 8pm; Sat, 10am. £43 for a monthly pass.  

Factory Gym and Dance Centre,
407 Hornsey Road, N19 4DX  
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Photo: Getty