Getting Fit With Hooping

Two years ago, feeling nostalgic for the pink and white, peppermint-striped hula hoop I used to play with as a kid, I decided to sign up for a “hoop dancing” class at a studio near Greenwich Village. I’m not much for conventional exercise, but add “dance” to the end of any noun — table dance, lap dance, high school dance … well, OK, maybe not every noun — and I’m sold on the calorie-busting activity. So when I heard about hoop dance classes — or, hooping, as some people call it — and that you could burn an entire lunch and dinner off in an hour, I jumped at the opportunity to check it out. What I learned in those classes was enough to put my 8-year-old hoop-twirling self to shame.The first thing I learned is there is no crying in hoop dancing. Not only that, but there isn’t any standing still either. My teacher encouraged us to constantly move around — if he caught us planting our feet and just shimmying our hips, he’d run over and chase us around the room. To get us into the groove, he blasted up-tempo dance music. Even if students had trouble keeping a hoop in rotation — and plenty people did! — they’d still get lots of exercise just keeping their feet constantly moving.

Fortunately, keeping the hoop balanced on my hips came pretty naturally. It’s in my genes I soon learned, when I brought my travel hoop home one summer weekend and my then 62-year-old dad picked it up and hula hooped liked he’d been doing it his whole life. (He hadn’t. In fact, the last time he’d touched a hoop was nearly 50 years earlier.) Since I’d inherited his talent for keeping a hoop in good rotation, I moved straight to the part of class where you learn fun tricks. By my third session, I was able to seamlessly move a hoop from my waist to above my head and back around my waist again without ever breaking the rotation rhythm. And if you think that sounds easy, try it yourself. No really, try it yourself.

If you happen to live in a city that offers hoop classes, I highly recommend giving them a, uh, whirl. If your class doesn’t offer adult, or “sports” hoops, you can find them at various online stores for a reasonable price. You’ll find that hoop dancing is a wonderful way to work out your core, burn calories and make friends. If you don’t believe me, just head to your local park with a hoop and see how many people strike up a conversation with you. That reminds me — lesson #4: if anyone asks if you want to run off and join the circus with him, just say no (unless he’s really cute).

The “Love Your Body” section and all articles within it are sponsored by Crystal Light; however, the articles are all independently produced by The Frisky and the opinions and views expressed by the writers and experts are their own.

Photo: iStockphoto

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