I've been obsessed with staying fit for the past 15 years. The gym was my place of zen and tranquillity - where every day, I saw myself become a better version of me ever so slowly. And like every gym buff, I tried introducing variety in my workouts, taking up yoga, dancing and cardio circuit to challenge my body bit by bit.
Hoops happened to me by chance. During a dance session, I was asked to find a prop to add variation to my routine. Everyone else beat me to the gym balls, ropes and bands. I was left with a rusty old hula-hoop sitting ignored in a corner. It felt odd in my hands, a demure device that seemed almost weightless in a largely weight centred gym. Amidst chuckles from the girls expecting me to fail miserably, I stepped inside the hoop. Something clicked - the right flick of the wrist, the size of the hoop, I can't pinpoint exactly what it was. But the hoop and I worked together like we were made for each other.
That was 10 years ago where a chance encounter introduced me to my perfect fitness tool that has helped me experience inch loss when nothing else would work. Hooping is a full body, high-intensity low-impact workout that requires exceptional co-ordination between complex muscle groups. It challenges your brain's motor skills as well as your muscles.
You'll be surprised how far that is from the truth. Granted children find it easiest to hoop, given their small frames and the proportionate weight of the hoop. But the right hoop and an effective technique can simultaneously tone your core, thighs, glutes, lower back and hamstrings while maintaining perfect harmony of movement.
That's because you're using the wrong hoop. A correctly weighted hoop is one that doesn't drop the moment you swing it around your core. Instead, like a race car hugging the turns of a track, the hoop works against your core, finding it's own grip and uplift. The heavier the hoop, the easier it will be to keep it up. And they're easy to find from budget sports retailers to big brand fitness merchandisers.
As did Yoga, until men discovered the life-changing benefits of the ancient and original Indian fitness method. Hoops are designed to be a pleasant alternative to otherwise mundane cardio exercises like elliptical and cycles. Combine hoops with other gym equipment like the bosu ball, the swiss ball, pull ups bar, stairs and balance balls and watch how a seemingly odd practice becomes a core blaster!
On the contrary, the hardest part is getting the right hoop. Pick a hoop that is roughly half of your height to start with OR having a diameter 8-10 inches more than your waist size. Bigger or heavier hoops move slower, smaller or lighter hoops need you to expend more energy.
Once you've picked the right hoop, find a small empty space in your gym or home (or terrace or garden). Warm up, step into the hoop, raise it to around your waist with both hands, holding it parallel to the ground and touching only your back. A firm flick with your dominant hand towards its opposite side and you're on. Rock back and forth, feeling the hoop push against your waist as it moves around you. A few more tries and you'll be spinning for short durations on the first day itself. Soon you get a hang of keeping the hoop up, spinning while watching TV or talking on the phone. Try going faster and slower, changing the speed with which the hoop spins around you. If you are a gym regular, in a few weeks, you will be ready to try doing common exercises like overhead exercises (like dumbbell presses) or leg exercises (like half squats) while hooping to push your workout to the max.
Also read: Exercises to Get Rid of Double Chin
When you get over the image and impact questions surrounding hoops and actually try them, you will discover that hooping is the best core strength and tone maintenance workout ever. Fun, challenging and energising at once, with hooping, you will gain the side benefit of the admiration and envy of surprised onlookers and non-hooping gym mates.
Author: Niraj Ruparel, Alternate Fitness Professional
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