When you were young the Hula Hoop your mom bought you provided many an afternoon’s worth of fun. Nowadays, you see them being used on the beach by Afrika Burn-types who forgot their poi at home (no shade to Afrika Burn-types – I’m just jealous of your moves and carefree attitude towards life). Recently, however, Hula Hooping classes have been popping up as a form of exercise.
When my friend signed me up for a class, I’ll admit that I felt sceptical – just how much of a workout can playing with a hoop really give you? I was soon eating my words (and the hoop too – turns out ‘foot hooping’ involves a lot of the hoop smashing into your mouth).
What does a class entail?
My friend told me the class we were going to was for beginners. I felt pretty relaxed and confident that the Hula Hooping skills I acquired back in the day would carry me through like they did when I was 10. You wear tight vests and leggings with bare feet to make ‘hooping’ easier. Our teacher wore a very circus-chic turquoise unitard, either to make her extra aerodynamic or to show off her banging body. Either way, it worked.
I soon realised that this was not a beginners’ class and was, in fact, a specialised foot-and-hand hooping lesson. Have you ever tried to Hula Hoop with your foot? I thought not. It’s hard, guys. The first move we learned was how to get the hoop started on our foot. This involved a lot of hoops being flung across the class and a lot of hitting yourself in the face. Sorry to the girl to the right of me, who acted like my hoop was made of fire and spears every time it accidentally flew into her head – but honestly, you were being a bit of a drama queen.
Then we covered hand hooping through a move called ‘the lasso’, followed by passing the hoop from your hands to your feet. The instructor gave us the option to try doing this all while doing a shoulder stand, which I politely declined.
For the first part of the lesson I struggled and felt like a loser who would never make it in the circus – a dream I never knew I had until a few minutes into class. By the end of the hour, however, I was killing it. I don’t know why, but spinning a hoop on your hand and/or foot feels really satisfying and magical and you need to try it. The hour went by way too quickly. Afterwards I was really chuffed that I had learned these sick tricks, even though I’ll probably never get to utilise them in the real world.
How is Hula Hooping a form of exercise, though?
I couldn’t see how this was going to give me a workout but, wow, it does. We spent most of the hour lying on our backs for the foot hooping and I’m no physiotherapist, but I feel it was basically like doing a sit up for an hour. The next day my legs, arms, abs and hips were all really stiff. Classes like this, where you learn tricks and moves, aren’t cardio-heavy but are really good for developing rhythm and coordination. If you’re wanting more of a sweat you need to look for a more general Hula Hooping class.
Hooping is also good for your core because you learn how to move your spine in segments (by keeping one part of your body still while moving another part). It strengthens your obliques (those muscles on the sides of your stomach), so much so that Hula Hooping will overdevelop the one side of your abs if you only hoop in one direction. So, if you’re going to get into hooping, make sure you go clockwise and anticlockwise.
Should I give it a go?
Yes! I went in thinking it would be a once-off experience and a bit of a laugh. When I left class I was Googling where to buy hoops and looking at tricks on YouTube that I could one day learn. If you want to try hooping for yourself, check out Hoop Flow Love in Cape Town or Sooper Hoops in Johannesburg.
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