Friday, July 2, 2010

The Magic of Hula Hooping -- Guest Post by Maddy Thom

When we kicked off our Biggest Mover campaign, I decided to look for someone who could do a hooping demonstration for us. (I got the idea a year ago when Matt Hirn from TrueAP posted a link on Twitter to a video of Fatboy Slim's That Old Pair of Jeans. I watched and thought, I wish I could do that.) Ten minutes on Google and I'd found Maddy Thom and connected with her on LinkedIn. This is Maddy and she's amazing.

Maddy did a hooping class for us at ASHA on June 8th and it was great fun. We looked nothing like Maddy, but we learned a few tricks and laughed. Incidently, we've had a few hula hoops in the HR area for a month or so now and I have yet to see someone pick one up and not smile.

We wanted to schedule some more lessons, but Maddy just accepted a job as a Production Coordinator. I am happy for Maddy, but disappointed that she doesn't have her days free to teach here. Maddy does still teach evenings and weekends and I plan to have her do some lessons for me and my friends. She also makes and sells hula hoops. I am fascinated by Maddy's talent and story, so I asked her to write a guest blog post. I hope she inspires you to pick up a hula hoop.

After ten years devoted to basketball, I first picked up a hula hoop two years ago, when I *sigh* finally accepted that at 5’5” tall, playing in the WNBA was just not in my future.

I was first exposed to hoop dance in March of 2008 during my spring break. I attended Langerado—an annual music festival that was held in South Florida. I was, as always, enchanted by the scene, though particularly with my hula hooper extraordinaire friend, Allie. Throughout the weekend I found myself often staring her direction instead of toward the music that I paid well over $200 to see, mesmerized both by her hoop skills and the joy hooping seemed to generate in her and among onlookers. I’m telling you, it was MAGICAL. [Insert shower of fairy dust here.] I promised myself standing there, bubbles in hand that I too would learn to hoop.

While technically my hoop journey started that day, it wasn’t for a few more months that I actually gave it a whirl. It was May 2008 and I was suffering through a miserable mess of exams. Lacking the time for a full-fledged trip to the gym, I was questing some physical activity when a colorful, glittery, fabulous idea floated through my overworked brain.

I had spent the time since Langerado debating how teaching myself hoop dance would go, wondering if I had mentally committed to undertake this challenge when I was in a particularly euphoric mood…the sunshine, music, and beer all providing a burst of confidence. I’ve never been a dancer, unless you consider the year of tap/ballet/tumbling in Kindergarten. What I mean to say is that my forte has always been in team sports—basketball, field hockey, and lacrosse. I worried that while I was certainly coordinated, I had also spent the past ten years developing skills that involved throwing elbows using my body as an instrument to knock people around, skills that I feared might shadow any graceful movements that I might have hidden somewhere inside of me.

So there I was, standing in my cleared out living room, holding my 40” diameter, 1” 160 psi tubing, water-filled hoop, ready to go. (These specs probably mean nothing to you right now, but should you choose to pursue hooping you will realize what a monster of a hoop I was using.) During my first practice, I think I figured out waist hooping (a big step for me, who as a child stuck to the Skip-It), but I only got better from there. Being unfamiliar with “hoop communities”, particularly my Charlottesville hoop community, I relied on YouTube for instruction, seeking out random tutorials on beginning moves that looked impressive.

I quickly became addicted—there is a feeling associated with being inside a hoop that is really difficult to explain; it’s something you have to experience. It made me truly and wonderfully happy. In fact, I’d venture to say it’s nearly impossible to be unhappy when you have a hoop swinging around your waist while your dancing to your favorite band with one of your friends. I was able to laugh at myself trying to learn new tricks and combinations while also developing an awesome new sense of self-confidence. The more that I hooped, the more I decided I liked—dare I say LOVED?—my body.

Part of why hooping is so fabulous is because it’s so versatile—it’s a great workout, a form of dance, a high-energy performance art, and a Saturday afternoon activity you can share with your kids. (Not to mention, it’s inexpensive and accessible—no costly gym memberships required!)

While everyone’s hooping takes on a different form, some graceful and dramatic, others resembling break-dancing or hip-hop, rest assured that you will quickly discover what works for you as you “find your flow” (as we hoopers call it) inside the hoop. So give it a try next time you see some hoopers at the park or at your town’s summer fair. Hula hooping will leave you inspired, revitalized, and with a smile on your face—take it from a self-proclaimed hoopaholic.

If you're interested in hula hooping as a form of exercise, check out these articles.


Julie said...

I just recently started hooping. I am having a blast!

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