Hoop back in the loop

By Andrea Warmington

Fed-up with boring hours on the treadmill? Michelle Keenan offers a fun alternative. Andrea Warmington gives it a try.
It's all about hip-hop movement, and my hips don't want to move. Michelle Keenan grabs my waist and tells me to, "circle, circle, circle". I manage a few stiff side-to-sides.
When it comes to hula-hooping this fitness guru is in another league. Forget the waist-jiggling of your childhood, this is hooping with attitude.
And she is now taking classes for all ages in halls, homes and workplaces throughout  Auckland.
Ms Keenan is a pilates instructor by trade and her  clients kept asking about a fun weight-loss and cardio alternative to treadmill work.
She was in the supermarket when inspiration circled, well, like a hula-hoop.
"I saw a little girl playing with a hula-hoop and went home and investigated."
What Ms Keenan discovered was a worldwide hula-hooping community on the net. YouTube offered tips and tricks, and even instructions on how to make an adult hoop out of irrigation tube.
Making the hoops "was a bit of trial and error", much like the art of hula-hooping.
"I taught myself at home," says Ms Keenan. "I just started playing around. I kind of remembered it from when I was a kid so not all of it was brand new." Once she got the hang of it, Ms Keenan went to Sydney for three days of intensive training with Bunny Hoop Star, the founding member of an Australian  hula-hooping troupe.
"When I first started I had bruises everywhere," says Ms Keenan. "Now, when I've got two or three hoops on my waist, I can keep going and have a conversation." She says this while one hoop is flying in the air above her head and the other twirling around her waist.
She says her classes  have been a resounding success because of the fun factor.
"If people can find something they enjoy, without thinking of it as a workout, they're more likely to keep going."
"The first time I tried this I gave myself a black eye," Ms Keenan says, lying back on the ground, a hoop spinning precariously around her raised leg.

I, on the other hand, didn't so much bruise an eye from my futile efforts but almost injured a friend nearby when my hoop turned frisbee and flew across the room ... Better luck next round.
Ms Keenan will soon start offering classes for dancers looking to work hula-hooping into their routines. More info at  www.hoopla.co.nz

- The Aucklander

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