twirling to boredom
Picture this: Six women, five sparkly glitter-laden hula hoops, 12 barefoot feet and one highly impatient participant — me.
Always one for a varied workout, I quickly agreed when my friend asked me to accompany her to a hula hoop class at a local gym. I wanted to get in a workout that night, and since it was at a gym, what could be better than a sure combination of sweat and silliness?
Except it was all too silly for me. Apparently, I am not one for Zen-like activities. And apparently, hula hooping is supposed to be Zen-like. Personally, all I got for my attempt at nirvana was a rash around my stomach from swinging a damn hoop back and forth for 30 minutes, but I digress.
You may not be aware, but hula hooping is “a thing." People arrived at class with their own hoops in hand, lamenting to their compadres about how they can’t ever find enough peace and quiet within their apartment courtyards to practice. All a sister wants to do is ‘hoop, you know?
You may not be aware, but hula hooping is “a thing." People arrived at class with their own hoops in hand. All a sister wants to do is ‘hoop, you know?
And ‘hoop we did. Beginners, like yours truly, were instructed to select very large, very embarrassing hoops that could fit around an entire three-ring circus. The warm-up began with an encouraging talk from the instructor, who told us not to become frustrated should the hoop fall.
After a good five minutes spent gyrating, we moved from your traditional "waist-hooping" to standing on one leg, turning circles and dancing around aimlessly, all while spinning Ye Olde Hula Hoop back and forth.
The problem was, I was already getting bored. I really wanted to be sweating, out of breath, pushing my physical self to the limit. I’d planned on a workout. I kept glancing at the clock, willing the minutes away — my belly becoming a bit more raw each time the hoop swung.
When instruction came to walk in a circle, hoop and dance (again, to your own beat) all at once, I’d simply had my fill. I absolutely could not stand to be there any longer, my frustration and urge to at least do some push-ups having risen to the hilt. (To be fair, this is where I ought to mention I had just completed my first triathlon season, to shed a bit of light on my current frame of mind.) I pulled the teacher aside and politely said I had to bow out for undisclosed reasons and promptly hightailed my ass to the nearest treadmill.
To some, this may have been rude. But I just could not bear to subject myself to 30 more minutes of an activity that I was neither appreciating nor enjoying.
My energy was bringing that class down, throwing a roadblock in their road to Zen. This is not to say hula hooping isn’t a great practice for some. The instructor was undeniably encouraging, my classmates were studied and the atmosphere was inviting. But I warn you, you must approach this kind of class with the right perspective — something I botched completely.
For its advocates, hula hooping is a calming, centering activity — a time to be aware of the fluidity of your body, exhibit tact and control and channel peace when that hoop falls. Our teacher spoke much like a yoga instructor might, and the class followed at varying levels, quietly appreciating every minute of it. From my brief experience, you’re not going to gasp for air or see your muscles tremble, but you will challenge your coordination and the laws of gravity to keep that thing spinning around various parts of your body for an hour straight.
So if you’re looking for a great workout, you may be disappointed. But if you’ve already logged your run for the day and want to turn a hobby from your childhood into a serious practice, hula hooping may very well be the time of your life.
I clearly do not belong in this class, so I'd be curious if other Type A personalities (read: “time-conscious,” “competitive” and “controlling”) have the same adverse reaction that I did.
For now, I'll stick to open water swimming — just the type of terrifying, solitary practice that I love to hate.
If hula hooping does strike your fancy, or you just want to prove me wrong, there are plenty of welcoming outlets around town. Check out Houston's Hoop Sisters. I’d love to hear about it.