Hula hoops: Not just for kids anymoreIn a well-lit room in the Altru Y Family Center basement, Gina Cox leads a dozen women and girls, arms extended, gyrating feverishly to keep hula hoops spinning at their waists. Clearly, the hula hoop isn’t just for kids anymore.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
In a well-lit room in the Altru Y Family Center basement, Gina Cox leads a dozen women and girls, arms extended, gyrating feverishly to keep hula hoops spinning at their waists.
Clearly, the hula hoop isn’t just for kids anymore.
It’s found new life in a weekly exercise class, “Hula Hooping Fitness,” that’s attracting a growing contingent of followers, intent on combining a seriously sweaty workout with child’s play.
“I’ve done it eight or nine times,” says Jennifer Wittmayer, of Grand Forks, taking a gulp from her water bottle. “At first, I got more exercise just picking up the hoop.”
She’s pleased to see more people attending the class.
“It’s good. I’m excited. It’s one of my favorite classes.”
Wittmayer, who also takes step and cardio fitness classes at the Y, is getting ready for an upcoming cruise.
For her, the biggest benefit is “probably the core workout,” she says. “You can really feel it here.” She gestures to core muscles in her stomach and sides.
“I definitely felt it the first time. But not since then,” she says.
“I like it that kids can come too.”
Ranging in age from about 5 to 55, class members face a mirrored wall, trying to imitate what Cox makes look so easy, almost effortless. Jazzy music inspires movement with a steady, irresistible beat.
Cox is in constant but subtle motion — like a human-centric top — in perfect synchronicity with the disco-infused “Stayin’ Alive,” she glides side to side as her spinning hoop slides up and down.
“Keep it going,” she encourages. “This is free-style. Work on moving it up to your chest.”
She demonstrates, with the grace of a dancer. Her hoop obeys, rising smoothly.
Heather Werner, East Grand Forks, said she took the class with her daughter Ella, 6, when it was first offered in June.
“She got into it,” she says. “Now, she says, ‘we have to go to our hooping class.’ She loves it.”
Werner watches as her daughters Kaitlyn, 10, and Ella follow Cox’s lead.
“Gina’s a great instructor.”
Werner remembers having a hula hoop as a child.
“I’m glad they’re bringing it back. It’s fun to see kids get involved and enjoying it. It promotes kids being active.”
It’s good that kids start exercising early, she says, “so they see that fitness is important.”
Mastering the hula hoop may be a little easier for children.
“It’s harder as an adult. We just don’t swing like we used to.”
Pulsating music is punctuated now and then by the clatter of an errant hoop hitting the floor. It’s quickly retrieved and restarted.
“Nice and slow,” Cox says, “back and forth. That’s good.
“Try to spin around in a circle.”
Taking advantage of a brief pause in the music, a woman wipes her face with a towel while another takes a drink.
Back in the action, Cox says, “Big steps.
“Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth.”
She takes two steps right, then left, as her charges emulate her steps while maintaining rhythm.
“OK, we’re gonna do squats. Keep it goin’.”
After 45 minutes, when the class concludes, Gail Sullivan, Grand Forks, looks flushed but invigorated.
“I’m trying to keep fit,” she says. The class “sounded like fun. You definitely get a good workout.
“And I like the dance music.”
The day after her first session in early October, she remembers, “there was a three-inch ring of muscle that was tender,” but that subsided.
“I’m not very good at it yet, but I enjoy it. It’s fun. It keeps you interested and moving.”
Likewise, Sadie Olson of Grand Forks, says, “The first time I tried it, I dropped (the hoop) more than I could do it. But tonight I even got it up on my neck.”
She takes a lot of classes at the Y, but “I had never done this.”
Cox “is so good,” Olson says. “She shows you how to do it. My goal is to get (the hoop) over my head.”
She’s pleased with the amount of progress she’s made.
“Oh my gosh. So much. I can keep it up the whole time.”
‘Astonished by progress’
At first, mastering the hula hoop might seem difficult, Cox says, but as her class members continue to work at it, “they’re astonished by the progress they make.”
And it’s great exercise, she says.
“It’s all about core and cardio. It really tests lung capacity and endurance.”
What makes it such an effective workout is “the contracting all of your trunk muscles at the same time,” she said. “That isometric hold is the best type of contraction to have. And there’s really no break.”
Kathy Shoemaker, East Grand Forks, who underwent a partial knee replacement six months ago, is enthusiastic.
“It obviously adds a spring to your step.”
Call Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1107; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2012, Grand Forks Herald.