Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness Challenge: Hoops of fun for all

Each week Rachel Grunwell tries a new sport to bring you the lowdown

A fitness craze new to New Zealand, powerhooping, provides a good workout. Photo / Doug Sherring
A fitness craze new to New Zealand, powerhooping, provides a good workout. Photo / Doug Sherring

Powerhoop class

What is it? A workout with a hoop-like device. Kids can join in, too, using smaller hoops.

What's needed? Your own powerhoop (or hire one), gym gear, water.

The experience: The powerhoop circles my ankles more than my hips at first: I'm hopeless! Or should I say "hoop less". But after 20 minutes, I can twirl the hoop continuously around my torso. Yay!

But then instructor Amy McAuley says "change direction" and it's soooo much harder. Aargh!

I'm "powerhooping" among a dozen women and one girl (who picks it up mighty quick) at a Salvation Army Church hall in Howick.

Standing on the stage before me is Amy McAuley, who says she's the only certified powerhoop instructor in New Zealand. This Scottish lass recently moved here with her Kiwi hubby and kids and brought this new fitness craze with her.

She used to teach it at a gym back home.

Amy is a convert to this "fun fitness" and hopes to train instructors nationwide. It's "massive" in the UK where there are 400 powerhoop trainers.

I had thought I might not conquer this challenge; I've got boyish, rather than Beyonce, hips, and I've always sucked at hula hooping. But this new device is weighted and has a wavy inner-surface that helps grip my clothes. So it doesn't take long to get it going.

The biggest hurdle initially is getting over feeling like Barbie, with the latest rainbow fashion accessory, but I'm soon laughing and feeling like a sign that's hung on the wall of this Godly place. It reads: "JOY!" There are also banners that preach things like "Peace" and "Patience". So I'm getting a lesson on being a better person, while I kick calories. Talk about a "good" workout.

The trick is to place the hoop in the small of my back before starting to spin it. I then put a foot forward, move my hips forwards and backwards (not side-to-side), while my legs are hip-width apart and slightly bent.

Sucking in my core helps control the hoop, too.

While the music blares, Amy gets the class doing a string of exercises as we spin the hoops. It's multi-tasking madness: I'm spinning a hoop around my hips while throwing and catching a ball with a partner (albeit badly). I also do arm and leg exercises while trying to maintain the Saturn-like hover about my middle. Then there are strength and cardio drills, including lifting the 1.7kg hoop above my head.

Amy says working with a powerhoop shrinks your waist and strengthens your lower back. She already has regulars raving about great results. One powerhooper (aged 68) has lost 2.5kg, including two inches off her waist, in three weeks. She's been doing it 10 minutes daily at home and attending classes.

I ask a woman next to me what she enjoys about it. She says "it's fun" and confides she gets her powerhoop out "as a party trick after a few wines".

And, of course, the kids love it and Amy says they're often "ridiculously good at it".

One of the last songs during the workout is Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want To have Fun. I've gotta admit this gal had more fun than she thought she might.

How much? Class $15 including powerhoop hire or $10 if you bring your own hoop (they cost $139). Kids pay $7.50, including powerhoop hire, or $5 if they bring their own powerhoop (child-sized hoops cost $75).

Worth it? The following day my core screamed louder than my baby boy at 3am. I reckon you could make money putting on kids' powerhooping parties to.

Try it: Classes have started in Howick, check out there Facebook page or powerhoop.co.nz

Rating: 9/10

- Herald on Sunday

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