Hula Hoop Dreams

A DVD helped this 40-year-old learn how to wiggle her hips.

Michele Bender

An ex-boyfriend once told me: “You have child-bearing hips.” That was two decades ago and though I barely remember the boyfriend, his comment is crystal clear. I didn’t take it as a compliment; however, there were two times in my life when I thought childbearing hips could be a good thing. The first was when I got pregnant because I thought it would make delivery easier (it didn’t).  The second was when my seven-year-old daughter Lily became obsessed with hula hooping and I thought my hips would help me wiggle away alongside with her (they didn’t).  So while my little girl effortlessly hooped away, I just wished I could.

And then I saw my chance. I heard that adult hula hoop classes and DVDs were all the rage. I wanted to swivel my hips and burn calories, too, so I got one of the top hula hoop DVD’s – HoopGirl Hoopdance for Beginners ( – and was ready to shake my thing. All I needed was a weighted hula hoop. According to the DVD’s promotional materials, this weight would help the hoop stick to my hips – even if I’d never been able to hoop before. That was exactly what I needed!

So there I was standing in front of the TV with Lily – by now a hula-hoop expert – and my weighted hoop. I thought for sure it would feel heavy and have some special mechanism to help it hang onto my hips, but it actually looked like a regular hoop. The HoopGirl DVD started with Christabel Zamor, the founder of Hoopgirl, giving a long talk about what to expect, the benefits of hooping and some more esoteric comments about this form of exercise. “Can you just start already?” my daughter asked the TV. (My thoughts exactly!) But finally after the long intro, Christabel went on to demonstrate 35 hula hoop moves and dance combinations you can do using those moves. Unfortunately, I never got past the Pump- the basic move where you keep the hoop up around your waist. Christabel and her very toned abs made it look like a cinch, but I couldn’t keep the hoop up anywhere and winced every time it bumped painfully against my legs. I was certain my lower body would be dotted with bruises by morning. Who knew hula hooping could be so dangerous?
After a few minutes, Christabel was ready to move on to the Float, but I wasn’t. As she continued going through new moves, I continued practicing the Pump. If this DVD was for beginners, I couldn’t imagine the intermediate version. Still, though I wasn’t following her moves or her suggestion to try some with your eyes closed, Christabel made hooping look so fun and effortless that I was motivated to keep trying. And once I figured out how to keep the hoop wiggling around my middle, I was hooked. It was challenging to see how long I could keep it swirling and if I could get it to go back up when it was starting to fall.

I was also sweating and felt my heart was racing. I was definitely getting a workout – so what if I couldn’t follow Christabel (who at this point was effortlessly twirling the hoop around her neck and arms even while doing sit-ups on the floor)? Plus, between each move the DVD showed several bikini-clad girls with amazing bodies hula hooping in beautiful, tropical settings. Just looking at their lean legs and taut tummies kept me going. At one point, when I’d finally gotten the hoop to stay up longer than a few seconds, I guess I got cocky. “Do you think we look like them?” I asked my daughter, referring to the bikini gals. “Not you,” she replied.

Okay, so maybe I couldn’t do the Snake, Revolving Door or Scissor Kick, but by the end of the DVD I could keep that hoop on my hips for several minutes.  Hooping won’t take the place of my usual workouts, but it has become a little extra I do a few times a week with my daughter. I laugh, sweat and, in my opinion, get closer to looking like the bikini girls each time I wiggle my childbearing hips.

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