When I first heard about fitness hula-hooping I thought it was a total joke. It sounded like something straight from an infomercial. I also thought it would be impossible to do! However, hula hooping is a surprisingly easy to learn and also highly effective method for staying physically fit (not to mention it’s way more fun than most other exercises!) I especially like it because it provides a fabulous no-impact “feel good” cardio workout.
Break Through a Fitness Plateau
Hooping is definitely a skill you have to learn, but the learning process actually burns a lot of calories. Anytime you switch to a new activity, especially one that causes an inefficiency of movement (such as learning to hula hoop!) you’ll burn a lot more calories than you will by doing your same old exercise routine. For example, if you currently power walk for fitness and you suddenly take up hula-hooping (or ballroom dancing, swimming, etc) you’ll be able to break through a fitness plateau and take your current state of fitness to a whole new level.
Learning to Hoop is Something EVERYONE Can Do
Like me, you probably still recall the hula hooping contests from your childhood. Not sure if you were any good or not? I for one was downright terrible at hooping. I vividly remember being ultra competitive and very athletic yet still barely able to keep the hoop up! My not-so-impressive childhood hooping talents made me very suspicious as to how my now 34-year old body would ever be able to pick up a skill I couldn’t even do 20 years ago. But, after having major hip surgery (for a genetic problem called femoral acetabular impingement and also an acetabular labral tear) my regular fitness program was put on hold a few years ago. I had to totally revamp my workout; even power walking stresses my hip if I do it for more than about 30 minutes. After hip surgery the main cardio exercise my orthopedic surgeon wanted me to do to rehab my hip was stationary biking. I can sum my experience with that activity up in one word: BORING. I am not particularly a fan of biking to nowhere on a tiny uncomfortable little seat that hurts my butt.
Hooping for exercise was suggested to me by a real estate agent friend after she heard me complaining about how much I loathed stationary biking. She said hooping was tons of fun and a fabulous workout. I’ll be honest, the only reason I decided to give it a whirl was because she looked like she was in fabulous shape and she insisted all she did was hoop for fitness. Fine, hand me over the hoop. (I’ve since learned super fit celebrities including Marisa Tomei and Liv Tyler also love hooping!)
Any Old Hoop Won’t Work: You Need a Special “Sports” Hoop
I was told I needed a special “sports” hoop that was much larger than the typical kiddy hoop I had tried in the past. The “sports” hoop also had to be slightly weighted (using this type of “sports” hoop actually makes hooping a lot easier from a mechanical standpoint.) I went online and bought my very first “sports” hoop from Hoopnotica .
The hoop arrived and sure enough I was a terrible hooper. My ultra fit real estate friend came dashing over to give me some lessons. My competitive side started to emerge as I stood there trying over and over and over again just to keep the hoop up. I was becoming increasingly frustrated as the real estate agent hooped circles around me. After multiple attempts I FINALLY learned the secret was to pump my hips forward and backward in a controlled fashion (you can watch this motion in the video) as opposed to flailing my hips around in a huge out of control circle. Once I “got it” I was hooked. My heart rate started to increase, I felt zero pain in my hip, I was having lots of fun, my abdominal muscles were engaged and I was clearly getting a fabulous workout…which blew rehab stationary biking out of the water.
For a few weeks all I wanted to do was hoop. My son learned along with me and we were hooping it up everywhere, at the beach, at the park, in our living room, etc. I then got the idea to use the hoop as a tool for a variety of other exercises.
Hula Hoop Fitness:
The Hoopnastics Workout Program
Shortly after learning to hoop, I created a workout program called “Hoopnastics” fusing legendary fitness techniques from ballet, rhythmic gymnastics, pilates and yoga into a fun and action-packed workout using nothing more than a “sports” hoop. I started teaching my classes in Palm Beach County and got news coverage from WPTV and WPBF and several local magazines. The Hoopnastics Workout program is an interval training workout that includes hula-hooping for short 3-minute intense cardio-bursts. The first part of the workout looks something like this:
- 3 minutes hooping “cardio burst”
- 3 minutes standing ballet inspired toning exercises (using the hoop as a “bar)
- 3 minutes hooping “cardio burst”
- 3 minutes standing yoga inspired toning exercises (using the hoop)
- 3 minutes hooping “cardio burst” plyometric sequence
- 3 minutes lying down pilates-inspired abdominal exercises (using hoop as a prop)
The Basics of How To Get Fit with a Hula-Hoop Workout
In the weeks to come I will share some more exercises from my Hoopnastics Workout Method. In the meantime, I’ve included a video that will show you the basics of how to keep the hoop up. Once you can keep the hoop up you can do a variety of movement patterns as part of the “cardio burst” intervals. In the video I demonstrate just a few of the patterns you can do, but there are tons more! Stay tuned for more hooping exercises coming soon…Happy Hooping!! =)
PHOTO CREDIT: DEBBY GANS PHOTOGRAPHY
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