Lindsey: We can hula the world

I’ve never been a sporty or athletic person. At school, I was always the chubby kid hanging around at the back in PE class, hoping not to have to do a lot. Nowadays, I go to the gym, but I don’t enjoy it. I do it because I want to keep in shape and I enjoy the health benefits I get from regular exercise, but sometimes it feels like punishment. People say the key to keeping fit is to find a type of exercise that you enjoy, but I’ve found this quite hard. I’ve tried running, aerobics, kickboxing, pilates, swimming, Zumba, circuit training, salsacize – you name it and I’ve tried it. I pretty much hated all of them, and it was a real effort to get myself off the settee to do them. I quite enjoy yoga, but it doesn’t burn enough calories to be my sole physical activity. In the end, I’ve just settled for pounding away at the gym three times a week, hating every minute of it.

But, after all these years, I might just have found an exercise that I enjoy doing.

A friend of mine has recently taken up hula hooping and started going to a circus skills class. And another mutual friend suggested that we try it out. So, as complete hooping noobs, we headed to Toys ‘R’ Us and bought children’s hoops. This was a bit of a mistake really – as an adult, you need an adult hoop. And as adults, we probably should have been able to figure that one out. When you stand your hoop in front of you, it should come up to somewhere between your belly button and your nipples. Ours were barely skimming the tops of our legs.

Despite having totally the wrong equipment, we had a fun hour in the park twirling our hoops, and I was hooked. I practised pretty much every day, then gave in and bought an adult size hoop. I cannot express how much easier it is to work with a bigger, heavier hoop. Don’t be alarmed by the size of an adult hoop, they look enormous, but they need to be the correct ratio to your height. Mine is over a metre wide, but it’s so much easier to work with than the skinny little child’s hoop. It’s not quite so easy to get into a Fiat 500, but that’s another issue. I went from being able to do 8 rotations with the child’s hoop to being able to do about 81 with the adult hoop, and this was immediately, as soon I had it out of the really rather enormous box it came in. The rule with hooping seems to be that the bigger and heavier the hoop, the easier it is, but just be warned that a heavy hoop can actually cause bruising if you practise a lot.

Most people think that to spin a hoop you need to wiggle your hips in a circular motion, but this is incorrect. You either move forwards and backwards or side to side. I find side to side far easier, but you need to master both techniques in order to start to do tricks, such as walking with your hoop, or doing a 360 degree turn while hooping. You also need to be able to spin both ways to do tricks, and at the moment I can only really go anti-clockwise. I’m goofy, just as I am on a skateboard or scooter. Despite being right-handed, I prefer to spin clockwise, which is how most lefties do it. For the record, I also eat with my knife and fork in the ‘wrong’ hands, like a leftie, so there’s obviously some wiring in my brain that’s gone a bit screwy! One direction of hoop-twirling will just feel right to you, so try it both ways and see which feels the best.

The hoop has barely been put down all week, in fact everyone who has been around has had a go, even my 66-year-old mum. My brother has a rather unorthodox but effective technique and, after he managed to walk whilst hooping almost straight away, has declared himself to be King of the Hoop. A key quote from him was, “I’ve found my niche, and my niche is circular.” He is an idiot.

Hooping is great fun, but it’s also great exercise. It’s no match for a full-on hour at the gym in terms of cardio exercise, but an hour of hooping can burn 300-600 calories and it works over 30 core muscles. It’s great for toning your arms, waist, bum and legs and it can improve your balance, posture and flexibility. It can also relieve back pain, especially for those of us who are hunched over a desk all day.

Burlesque performers often incorporate hooping into their routines, and modern hoop dancing has become increasingly more fashionable. Plus, with the craze for all things retro and vintage, hooping has seen somewhat of a resurgence in popularity as a fitness tool, meaning that an adult hoop is relatively easy to find for an affordable price. I got mine online from The Hoop Dance Co for about £17 via Amazon with an instructional DVD included. There are also hundreds of tutorials on YouTube to help you get the hang of it.

It’s also a great workout for those of us who aren’t too keen on leaving the house. You can do it inside (providing you have enough space), and it’s something you can do while you watch TV or listen to the radio. You don’t need any special clothes to hoop in (pyjamas appear to be adequate hooping attire for me!), but just be aware that if it drops on your bare feet it can smart a little.

Those of you with a spiritual side might be interested to know that hooping is said to increase your flow of chi as it touches key pressure points as it spins around your waist. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I do know that me and my family have all had a lot of laughs trying it out. It’s exercise disguised as fun, and that’s fine by me.


Who is Lindsey?

Hi! I’m Lindsey. Although I haven’t had WLS, I have struggled with my weight since childhood. I’ll be blogging here from time to time with updates on how I’m trying to keep myself trim, my ups and downs at the gym and lots of other weight-related issues.