Want to have fun while you get a toned tum? Hotfoot it to one of the capital’s latest fitness crazes: a hula hoop class, says Eva Caiden
Thought hula hooping was just for the playground? Think again. This retro ring is enjoying a resurgence among adults keen to benefit from its tummy transforming results that come minus the pain of gym-based alternatives. “Not only does hooping give your core and abs a serious workout,” says Shara Tochia, Founder of Fitness Freak, “But it can also burn up to 400 calories an hour.”
Having been horrifically bad at hula hooping as a child (skip-its were more my thing), I was keen to see whether I’d have any more success as an adult, so I signed up with Fitness Freak. The class was held in the nineteenth century, grade 2 listed confines of Shoreditch Town Hall, in a rather grand, imposing high-ceilinged room. I was pleased to see everyone in our class of eight was kitted out casually – leggings and a tee were standard. As our instructors led as through a basic warm-up, they scattered an assortment of different sized and coloured hoops around the room.
Warm up done, it was time to give it a whirl. We picked up the largest of the hoops, which were surprisingly heavy (weighted hoops give a more effective workout) and got whizzing. It was amazingly easy after our teachers gave us a couple of tips: to stand as straight as possible and to move our hips back and forth rather than in a circular motion. I found it simple to relax into a gentle rhythm that is crazily addictive; I couldn’t have removed the grin from my face if I tried. If I started off too fast, giving the hoop an aggressive first spin, it span out of control and to the floor in an instant. But if I kept it slow and steady, I could keep going indefinitely. After we hula-ed away for one whole song, I could feel a gentle ache in my abs and my face felt flushed. But I didn’t care – this was a hula lot of fun. (Sorry)
It was a different story when we had to change direction (to make sure we worked both sides of our stomach equally). It’s like trying to write with your other hand: I felt uncoordinated and couldn’t get into the right rhythm, which was frustrating, although apparently it’s completely normal to have a side that feels easier. I improved as the hour-long class went on though. To a soundtrack of Beyoncé and Shaggy, we worked our way through a series of exercises, one per song. Despite being a surprisingly sweaty workout, the sound of hoops clattering to the floor was punctuated by laughter: I defy anyone to be sad while hooping.
As the class moved on, we hula-ed our hearts out: walking round in a circle, rotating on the spot, moving up and down on the spot, and even jumping (this one was really tricky). Then we gave our arms a workout (who says hooping is just for your waist? You can actually use up to 30 muscles at a time) by twirling the hoop in the air around our wrists on one arm, then two. We finished by trying to multi-hula, which wasn’t as difficult as it sounds; I managed to successfully hula with three hoops around my waist, but others in the class managed many more. One girl had five around her waist and one on each arm.
By the end of the hour, we were all out of breath but buzzing and with good reason: not only had we burned around 400 calories, but we had improved our spine flexibility and strength, which can help prevent back injuries, as well as challenging our motor skills – hooping requires hand-eye co-ordination skills. Plus this low-impact exercise is suitable for everyone, from kiddies to grannies. So, what are you waiting for? Get your hoop on!