With bikini season so close, it’s once again time to agonize over finding the perfect workout routine for a beach-ready body. One of the latest trends to start popping up across the nation is hula hooping, also known as just “hooping” or “hoopdance” to distinguish it from the child’s toy we all know and love. Hooping is, according to Hooping.org, a full mind-body exercise for all ages that helps relieve stress, can burn 200 to 500 calories an hour and boosts cardiovascular endurance, just for starters. Hooping is also said to improve coordination and balance, build muscle, tone your body all over and build confidence.
Many Americans remember hula hoops as a beloved toy from their childhoods. The craze swept the nation in the 1950s when Wham-O released their popular version, but the art of hooping has been recorded as far back as 500 B.C. Rolling hoops made of willow, rattan, grapevines or stiff grasses with sticks became a popular form of play and exercise for Ancient Greek and Egyptian children. Hoops popped up again in 14th century Great Britain, and medical records from the era show doctors treating dislocated backs and heart attacks that were attributed to hooping, says Hulahooping.com.
Fast forward several hundred years, and keeping with the idea that history repeats itself, hula hooping is back again. The jam band “String Cheese Incident” has been credited with the resurging interest, tossing hoops into the crowds at music festivals. In a 2005 interview with NPR, band member Michael Kang said, “We had it worked out that during our set, our buddy Austin would throw these hoops out into the crowd. And the next thing you know when we’re playing, there’s like 70 people Hula-Hooping all over the place and it kind of just caught on and took off after that.”
Even celebrities are getting in on the trend. First lady Michelle Obama was seen hula hooping on the White House lawn when she hosted a Healthy Kids Fair in the fall of 2009 to promote childhood obesity prevention. One of the biggest advocates has been Marisa Tomei. She revealed in a 2010 interview with The New York Times that she used hooping to get in shape for her nude scenes in 2008’s “The Wrestler,” and she now has her own hooping kit and workout DVD available for purchase through Amazon.
Blast spoke with local hooping instructor Lindsey Hollett, also known as Siren of the Circle, to learn more about the trend. She’s been hooping since 2009, after seeing another hooper at a music festival, and has been hooked ever since. Lindsey loves hooping for “a jillion reasons. There’s always something new to learn. There’s no perfection–just progress.” For example, she says, when you think you know a trick, you can try it with the opposite hand, try it spinning in the opposite direction, or, in Hollett’s case, try adding fire. “I’m taking a fire safety course first, though,” she says. Teaching hooping is also a joy for her. Aside from just meeting new people, her favorite part is “the look people get when they finally land a new trick. Their eyes light up in this ‘a-ha’ moment and that’s very fulfilling for me.” Lindsey teaches courses for all skill levels, most recently at Salem State University, Lynn Arts and JMK Pole Fitness Studio in Providence, R.I. She also makes her own custom hoops that students can purchase.
One of those students is Katie Hallett, a 25-year-old from Lynn, Mass., who has been hooping for several months. She got into hooping much the same way as Hollett, after seeing hoopers at, of course, a music festival. Katie also emphasizes that there is always something new to learn, and recently got an LED hula hoop to use at night, creating dazzling after-images on the eye. “It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve definitely seen the health benefits; I’ve lost some weight and strengthened muscles I didn’t even know I had,” she said.
If you can’t find a class near you, there are plenty of free YouTube tutorials. For the cost of your hoop, you can entertain yourself (and friends!) for hours, and spend more time outdoors instead of on a treadmill inside. As the Siren of the Circle would say, “Happy Hooping!”