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Hoop dreams.

Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

"What goes around comes around" doesn't apply just to karma or a song by Justin Timberlake but also to - yes, really - the practice of hula hooping.

Hula hooping apparently was a popular exercise in ancient Greece and Egypt. It made a comeback as a children's game in 14th century England and showed up yet again in the late 1950s as a playground fad, mostly among teenage girls as the plastic Hula-Hoop became a trendy toy.

Now it's back afresh, and this time around, grownups are just as enamored as kids with the hoops- for their exercise potential.

Standard hula hooping - simply whirling the device around and around the midsection - strengthens and slims not only the waist and hips but also the thighs and lower back, aficionados say. Doing a 30-minute workout in that fashion does as much cardiovascular good as jogging for the same length of time, they claim.

The more expert among them apparently even use it to tone other parts of the body, by twirling it around ankles, wrists, elbows, even the neck. Of course, beyond conditioning, weight loss is a major goal of the latest iteration as baby boomers rediscover the game - and hopefully the shape - of their youth.

Susan Stack, who wasn't even a gleam in her parents' eyes the last time hula hoops really were a craze, nonetheless has been caught up in the concept and actually teaches classes in the use of the hoop.

A local Pilates instructor with certification through the American College of Sports Medicine, Stack added "hooping" to both her exercise and teaching repertoire nearly two years ago.

"I thought it looked fun, like a new and exciting way to exercise," she said. "I saw it first in Fitness Magazine, ordered a hoop and fell in love.

"There are so many benefits - it's great for stress release, and it's the type of exercise that you forget you're doing it for that reason because you're having such a good time."

A hoop workout not only is great for the cardiovascular system, Stack said, it also "works all the muscle groups in all planes; it's a full-body workout in three dimensions."

Add to that its benefits for joint mobility, flexibility, eye-hand coordination, core strength and balance - "I could go on and on," she said - and she wonders who wouldn't want to take it up.

Even people who tried it as kids and couldn't manage it should consider giving it another whirl, Stack said.

"I've had lots of people who said they never could do it and and can't now, but I feel everyone can do it once they learn the basic technique."

Round and round

In her classes, whether group or private, Stack starts by showing people a couple of basic hooping stances, without even touching a hoop.

First, they stand with both feet pointing forward, then step one out about a foot in front of the other. The next step is to bend the knees slightly and then shift the weight forward and back from one foot to the other.

The only other element is tucking the pelvis forward, in line with the legs. That helps create two "pivot points" around the hip line that will help keep the spinning hoop in motion.

"Once I teach them that movement with the hoop, we reverse and put the other foot forward and try that," Stack said. "One side is usually stronger than the other, so we start with that, but I encourage people always to learn to hoop in both directions."

The other basic stance starts with the feet apart at about hip width, toes pointing forward, knees slightly bent, pelvis tucked in. In that position, the hoop is manipulated by shifting weight side to side, which some people find awkward at first because it's not a usual plane of movement, Stack said.

But once people learn to control the hoop using those two basic positions, the sky's the limit, she said.

Personally, Stack has become an expert, equally comfortable with waist-hooping and thigh-hooping. She corkscrews the hoop from her hand above her head down to the waist and then back up again, walking effortlessly forward, backward or sideways - or doing the grapevine - while keeping the hoop atwirl.

What is hip?

While her emphasis is enjoyment and exercise, others have made hooping a form of entertainment.

"There's a woman called Hoop alicious who competed with hoop dancing on 'America's Got Talent,' " Stack said.

An Internet search brings up a YouTube video of Anah Reichenbach, a 35-year-old from Los Angeles, who combined a hooping routine with Middle Eastern bellydance-style music on the popular television show four years ago and continues performing and teaching the art.

Some men, too, have made their mark in the art of hoop dancing.

One, North Carolinian Jonathan Baxter, is so expert that he usually hoops blindfolded, he confides in an online video, so he "can just feel the rhythm of the hoop and hear its sound."

So far, all Stack's students are women, but she's hopeful that local men, too, will want to get into the act.

"There are some really good men hoopers - my husband does it, and he's getting good," she said.

But when she starts her next round of classes, a beginning class later this month and a level 2 class early in November, "I'd love to see more men getting involved," she said.

As far as exercise equipment goes, all it takes is a hoop - but probably not the kind sold in toy stores. They tend to be too small and too light for use by adults interested in exercise.

A hoop that weighs a pound or more will work better for most adults, Stack said, although some of the heavier exercise hoops - they can weigh 3 pounds or more - might be too hard to use, at least at first.

Hoops don't have to be expensive and actually can be homemade for a few dollars, using flexible irrigation pipe and connectors available at hardware or home improvement stores.

Not surprisingly, the Internet abounds in how-to directions and videos.

Reach Randi Bjornstad at 541-338-2321 or e-mail randi .bjornstad@registerguard.com.

SUSAN STACK'S HOOP CLASSES

Stack offers private or group classes, for beginners as well as more experienced hoopers; advance registration is requested

Sign up online: www.fmpilates.com

Or by e-mail: susan@fmpilates.com

Call for information: 541-914-0764
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Title Annotation:Health and Fitness
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 11, 2010
Words:1067
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