Looking for a socially distant safe hobby for this summer? Try hula hooping, says CP's Jordan Snowden | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Looking for a socially distant safe hobby for this summer? Try hula hooping, says CP's Jordan Snowden

click to enlarge Jordan Snowden doing a 'chest roll' at The Point - PHOTO: AKHIL AGNIHOTRI
Photo: Akhil Agnihotri
Jordan Snowden doing a 'chest roll' at The Point
With extra time on their hands during the stay-at-home order, many turned to new hobbies, crafts, and home improvement to occupy themselves. The number of TikTok users spiked, there was an influx of DIY music parody videos, and personally, I became a hardcore plant mom. But something else happened to me as well, my phone started receiving a lot more messages and the messages I got weren't "How are you doing?" texts, but ones asking for advice.

"I want to start hula hooping," they said. "Where do I begin?"

Over the years, hula hooping has become more than just a children's activity. Hoops can be used as a full-body workout or a dance partner. They are used in circus training, in gyms, dance studios, and are found around the bodies of festival-goers all over the world.

Seeing hula hoopers at music festivals is what inspired me to start. I picked up my first one in the spring of 2014 and immediately fell in love. I taught myself by watching devouring YouTube tutorials and soon was teaching my close circle of friends. By the fall of 2014, I started an official hula hoop club at Indiana University of Pennsylvania called the IUP Hoop Troupe, named after the Electric Forest Hoop Troupe. Since then, my devotion has been off and on, but I always find myself drawn back. It's a form of moving meditation. It loosens my muscles when I'm stiff. It allows me to shake off the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

As an activity that can be done inside and outdoors, alone or with others, a slew of my friends began hooping over the past few months to both get exercise and start something fun and new. So in hopes of continuing to spread the hoop love (and maybe not having to send the same text messages over and over again), below, I harnessed my years of hula hooping semi-expertise and created a Hooping 101 Guide.

What are the benefits?
Hula hooping is a full-body workout and falls in the aerobic exercise category. A hula hoop can be used on any part of your body (I can move it from my feet to my head without my hands) and the movement improves the flow of oxygen. According to the Mayo Clinic, when using a weighted hoop (more on that later), women can burn about 165 calories, and men 200 calories, during a 30-minute hooping session.

But wait, there's more! Hula hooping burns body fat, bo
osts cardiovascular fitness, strengthens core and lower body muscles, improves your balance, and gives you better control of your body.

Weighted vs. not weighted
A weighted hoop is, as the name indicates, a hula hoop that has sand or water inside it to make it heavier. This type of hoop is recommended for workouts and beginners, so you can feel where the hoop is on your body.

Trick vs. dance hooping
Dance hoopers use a hoop more as a partner, where trick hoopers are more focused on, you guessed it, performing tricks. Many hoopers like to mix both. 

Polypro vs. HDPE
These are both tubing types used mostly in trick hooping. Polypro hoops are lighter and faster, more responsive, and bouncy. HDPE hoops are a bit stiffer and have a slower reaction time.

On-body vs. off-body
There are two main trick types, on-body and off-body. On-body is done around your body like waist-hooping and leg hooping. Off-body is anything where the hoop is not around your body. From there, tricks are broken down even further. Check out hoop-trix.com for examples. The site looks like it's from early internet days, but it's very thorough.

Sanded vs. bare vs. grip tape
Hula hoops are essentially round pieces of plastic, so they can be slippery. Using a sanded hoop or a hoop with grip tape allows for a hoop to better stick to your body. A bare hula hoop is an option, but it can be pretty hard to use, especially for a beginner.

LED Hoop
These are hoops that have LED lights in them, great for nighttime hooping and festivals. I would not recommend buying one to start off as they are pricey and you will eventually need to size down your hoop as you advance.

Buying a hoop
The first step in choosing the right hoop for you is picking a size. A larger hoop is recommended for beginners. Smaller hoops are used as you become more experienced and build muscle memory.

Grab a measuring tape and start at your feet, stopping anywhere between your belly button and pubic bone. Whatever that number reads should be the circumstance of the diameter of the hoop you buy.

Personally, I started with an HDPE hoop, but you can start with a polypro so you don't have to buy another once you get comfortable. Just make sure to have some kind of grip, whether that be getting it sanded or adding grip tape. Often those will be options when purchasing a hoop.

Etsy has a great selection of hoops, and in buying one, you will be supporting a small artisan.

Beginner Tutorials
One of my favorite hoop sites, hoop-trix breaks tricks down into categories and provides a beginner section.

Deanne Love
Deanne Love is one of the masterminds behind hooplovers.tv, which is an online destination for hoop dance learning. She has her own YouTube channel, which is one I often found myself watching when I first began. Her instructions are easy to follow and her voice is oh-so-soothing. She has posted videos regularly since 2007, so there are many, many to choose from. 

General Notes
YouTube in general is a great place to search for tutorials, as well as Instagram!

Keep in mind that there are many sites offering paid hoop camps, online classes, etc. But if you are able to utilize free videos, you should never have to pay for this activity (minus buying a hula hoop). I have never paid for a hoop class myself.

If one tutorial doesn't work for you, try another! Sometimes one person is better at explaining it than another.

Mirrors help! If you are able to practice in front of a mirror, you can see what you look like, and if it looks like the trick you are trying to perform.

There is no order to what tricks you should learn first. I have seen people master a chest roll before even being able to keep the hoop around their waist. Everyone is different!

Have any other questions or concerns? Email jsnowden@pghcitypaper.com.

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