Hula hoops aren’t just for kids anymore

5 May

I was a really good athlete when I was a kid, my enthusiasm for sports reaching far beyond just backyard kickball.  I was the best shortstop in the neighborhood, I could swing a mean tennis racket, and I even owned my own football helmet and shoulder pads (bless you, mom).  But put a hula hoop around my waist and I was a klutz.

And that really bothered me. People who knew how to hoop made it look so easy. Just hold it against one hip, give it a spin, do that little — hip wiggle thing — and voila!  It keeps going. But try as I might, it just wasn’t happening for me. So by the time I had turned 10 I had sworn off the hoop for good rather than admit there was a sport I could not master.

So it was with some trepidation that I considered an invitation from hula hoop expert Amy Weetman to visit one of her new hooping classes and give it a whirl again.  Amy emailed me after she saw a photo I had taken of her daughter Sydney at Community Arts Day, who was demonstrating some impressive hooping skills.

Amy Weetman with students Sarah Kenney, Marybeth Recore and Erica Saliceti (L-R)

As I read the email, my first thought was, “I’m going to look like a klutz.” I don’t mind making a fool of myself on purpose, but doing so when I’m really TRYING is just embarrassing.  On the other hand, it would be impolite not to accept such a nice invitation, and I suspected everyone would enjoy seeing a video of me being a klutz.

So earlier this week I ventured up to the United Church of Christ on Klem Road, walked into the community room, picked up a hula hoop for the first time in more than 40 years, and joined Amy Weetman’s hooping class.

The first thing I noticed was that everyone was wearing sweats. That seemed a little odd to me. This wasn’t an aerobics class, after all.

The next thing I noticed was that, aside from its circularity, this hula hoop was nothing like the ones I remember from my youth. For starters, it was much bigger and sturdier.  The hoops I remember from decades ago were made of such flimsy plastic that you could put dent them just by breathing on them. And they were pink (I suspect not many boys were hula hoop fans back in the 1960s).

Hooping neophyte Alex Boudrez shows off her brand new skill.

This hoop was a healthy 42″ in diameter, made of indestructible tubing, and decorated with brightly colored (gender-neutral) tape.  And there was some real heft to it; nothing flimsy about this hoop. This was a serious piece of equipment, a realization which both encouraged and scared me.

We started with some stretches while holding the hoop. No problem so far, I thought. But then, well before I had prepared myself emotionally for the next step, Amy said it was time to start hooping.

Place the hoop against one hip, Amy instructed. Back straight, head up. One foot in front of the other. Little bend in the knees. Now, give it a big push, get those hips moving forward and back, and start hooping.

It took me a good 20 seconds after everyone else got started to find enough confidence to give my hoop that first spin. Or perhaps I was digging inwardly for that courage to look like a klutz in front of the class.  When I found it, I finally gave that hoop a big push and started wiggling my hips.

And it stayed up.

I wiggled my hips some more, and it stayed up some more.

There might have been a “Woo-hoo!” or two and perhaps a smattering of applause from the other students in the class, but I was staring at the floor and concentrating so hard on my hips that I can’t be sure. I kept that hoop going for about 30 seconds before it started its death-wobble around my hips, finally collapsing with a clatter to the floor.

I was flabbergasted, and totally pumped. This was going to be easier than I thought. Bring it, coach; I’m ready for the next lesson.

Click on the photo for a short but humorous film of Amy teaching me to hoop.

But of course the rest of the class was not so easy. Once we had finished waist hooping, Amy walked us through hip-hooping, and stepping, lunging and pliés WHILE the hoop was spinning, all of which I failed at miserably.

But by the end of the hour (which went really fast), I felt as though I had crossed something off my bucket list. I could hula hoop. And I had learned a lot more than that, to boot.

I learned, for example, that the larger the hoop is, the slower it turns, which makes it easier to control.  I not only spun the 42″ one I started with, but also had great success with one that was probably about 56″ in diameter.  Which leads me to believe that Wham-O doomed us to failure as children, with their small, lightweight hoops.  So it wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t master it when I was 10, right?

I also learned that next time I do this, I need to wear sweats like everyone else. This was a great workout, and I was sweating up a storm in my jeans.

As I was leaving, I asked Alex Boudrez, another student brand new to the class that night, what her impression was. She said, “I thought I was not going to catch on that fast ’cause I don’t know how to hula hoop. But I guess I DO know how to hula hoop.”

Yup, that pretty much summed it up for both of us.

Amy Weetman teaches the Hoopnotica curriculum in two Webster Hoopers classes for adults on Mondays from noon – 1 pm at Northern Hemisphere Gymnastics, 80 Barrett Drive, and Tuesdays from 6-7 pm at the Webster United Church of Christ, 570 Klem Road. She’s also now taking registrations for a new children’s class beginning in July.

Email Amy for more information at, check out her website by clicking here, and her Facebook page by clicking here.

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