Hoop It Up!

I am a terribly uncoordinated person. I tried to get away with the least amount of exercise and P.E. when I was young. I didn't start exercising faithfully until my mid 30s. This even carried over to basic stuff like not learning to ride a bike or swim until I was about 8, never being able to really rollerskate or rollerblade well at all, and stumbling around during dance segments of school musicals I was in. It is no surprise that I could never get a hula hoop to go very well either.

But the idea of hooping as an exercise held an appeal for me. I could see how it was a whole body workout with emphasis on your core. Certainly it's one of the more fun ways to exercise too.

Here in Sacramento you can learn and exercise with hoops through Allison Miller of BloomHoops. Allison offers classes for all skill levels at a couple of locations. My first class I attended was at La Sierra Community Center in Carmichael. In a large, empty classroom I learned the basics of hooping. The first half hour is devoted to body hooping and the second half is for arm hoop exercises and other tricks. She has a beginners and intermediate class here. On Wednesday nights you can find her teaching outdoors at McKinley park.

Allison brings quite a number of hoops to class for students to use or to purchase. They come in all sizes and weights. It turns out that when you first start you want larger, heavier hoops. The weight helps to keep the momentum as the hoop goes around your body, requiring less effort on your part. As you move to smaller and lighter hoops, you have to exert more effort to keep them going. I learned that this week when I tried a lighter hoop during the beginning of class. I made it through the warm up exercises but quickly realized that I was loosing stamina. For the rest of class I returned to the heavier hoop I had purchased.

Allison makes the hoops herself. The plastic tubes come in long coils which she fashions into the different sized hoops. They are then covered in tapes that are decorative, certainly, but are really meant to help the hoop grip to your body instead of being slippery. Her hoops range from $15 to $50 depending on size, weight, tapes, and other factors.

My first class I was convinced that hooping was exercise in the first half hour. Even though we were in an air conditioned room, I had worked up quite a sweat just keeping that hoop going simply around my waist. I also felt it immediately in my shoulders and arms because you have to keep your arms up and out of the hoop's way. The second half hour was a workout as well. I suffer tendonitis in my forearms and I quickly realized that the movements we were doing with hoops were exercising my arms in ways that weight lifting in the gym had not.

My third class was down at McKinley and I lucked out. Noone else showed that day and so I had private instruction. Allison does offer private lessons from $30/hour and up depending on distance, etc. Here I was getting a private lesson for a class rate - a steal. (See her class rates.) I wanted to learn a couple more things and so we worked on how to get the hoop up to chest level and to use an arm to raise it. I need practice! As uncoordinated as I am, it will take me a while to get it down.  Allison is very encouraging and she has a watchful eye. She can see if your timing is a bit off and what you need to change. Her cheerful disposition makes her a patient teacher.

Allison started hooping in 2007 when she went to UC Santa Cruz. "I liked that it was a nostalgic form of exercise, reminding me of my childhood and making you feel like a kid again." She developed her skills and with the encouragement of other hoopers, she went to get her certification in hoop exercise so that she could start teaching it herself. Apparently there are levels to hooping and she has been certified in all three levels of hoop dancing and two levels of hoop exercise. "The great thing about hooping is that it sort of tricks you into working out when you are just having fun." Allison also likes that it's a community activity when hoopers gather together.

I might be uncoordinated, but I'm determined to learn more tricks and hoop some more. Tomorrow is my office picnic and I think I'll take the hoop to the park to practice and share it with the office.