[Shannon Herrington joins the Hooping.org team this week, starting with sharing what she learned from attending her first hoop retreat.]
I’ll let you in on a little secret. It wasn’t until I turned 21 that I had ever been to real concert that wasn’t the Backstreet Boys. Which means that I’ve never been to any sort of music festival either. The only thing I knew about camping was 4-H camp, but my excitement for hooping ultimately challenged me to attend a multi-prop flow arts retreat in my area called Flow Camp. One of the amazing things about hooping is all the awesome possibilities for learning in a variety of places, including these opportunities called “hooping retreats”. Hoopcamp and Return to Roots are just around the corner and the Florida Flow Fest and SWhoop UK will be here before you know it. But I was terrified to go to Flow Camp. I didn’t know what to expect. In my perfect world, everything would have been listed in an itemized schedule to calm my fears. I’d begged all my friends to go with me to no avail. I had wished that someone I knew would be there to hold my hand, but they weren’t. What did I do? I went anyway. And now that I know what to expect having been the hooping retreat virgin, I’d like to share with all of the other festival/retreat virgins out there a few helpful tips to make your first hooping retreat experience a winner.
1. Sleep: I don’t think I fully realized that there would be people up till 5 AM hooping. I didn’t sleep well the first night because I didn’t pack the right blanket for a very cold Kentucky night. I didn’t pack melatonin (sleep aid) because I figured I’d hoop myself into exhaustion and wouldn’t need it. I was exhausted all weekend. I just couldn’t sleep between the car doors slamming and hoopers yelling. In fact I didn’t sleep for 24 hours the first night I was at Flow Camp. There was music playing all night long, not that I minded, but be prepared. Next year, I will make sure to pack a warmer blanket, ear plugs, and melatonin.
2. Rest: This goes hand in hand with sleeping. You don’t want to hoop yourself to illness. The first day of workshops, I started to feel sick after three classes. At one point, I looked at my packed full schedule and made a choice to rest during one class that I wasn’t super thrilled to take. You don’t have to take all the classes that are offered. You know your body. If after hooping for three straight hours you’re exhausted, please take a break. There are no penalties for taking rest breaks.
3. Bug Spray, Baby Wipes, Portable Toilet Paper and Sunscreen: If your retreat area is prone to mosquitoes, bathe in the bug spray. It sucks to be scratching while you are trying to hoop. And chances are you will be outdoors – a lot. I ran out of sunscreen and soon found myself with stinging shoulders, which is also not recommended for hooping. While it is my understanding that many retreats do have bathrooms, you never want to find yourself stuck in a porta-potty with no toilet paper. Usually you can find portable toilet paper in the camping section. Baby wipes can make cleaning up a little a breeze.
4. Transport: How will you transport your hoops to the event? If you are going to a multi-prop retreat, like I did, how will you carry everything? I wasn’t just carrying a big hoop, I was carrying fire fans, a flow wand, a bellydance belt, minis, poi, a contact juggling ball and all the other random stuff I needed throughout the weekend. Trying to fit large fire fans in your bag is not fun. I’d suggest testing your transport system a week beforehand to make sure it will work. If you are flying simply put all your hoops together and saran wrap them together with some tape to hold everything in place. That way you can check them easily as a single baggage item.
5. Arnica: Everyone suggests having arnica lotion when you become a hooper. I never bought any though because I don’t get hooping bruises. That weekend at Flow Camp, however, I had my first real hooping bruises from doing reversals with a heavy hoop. I had meant to get arnica before I left, just in case, but I never had the time. Hopefully you can make the time.
6: Don’t Forget Your LED Hoop Charger: While this wasn’t my problem, a girl near my original campsite didn’t bring her LED hoop charger and her LED drained within a few hours. Even if you don’t have a car to wall converter, someone else might and they will probably let you use it. If your hoop uses batteries, bring extra batteries. You’re going to want to be able to light up the night a lot longer than you usually would.
7. Be Ready to Work: Isn’t that the reason you registered for the retreat? You will be going full force all day with your hooping self! In one class I participated in, I was told to shimmy up the hoop with stomach muscles. No arms. No cheating, but it showed me I can do that. I didn’t think I was able to do something like that. My muscles are still sore from this move alone and I’m smiling about it.
Overall, your first retreat/festival is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The people you will meet are the absolute best people ever. If you’ve not been around a lot of hoopers, you may be shell shocked. It’s amazing how most of the people that are interested in flow arts are compassionate and caring. They also love hooping and get why you love it, too. On the second day, I lost a little pouch filled with all my money. The next day, my pouch was turned in with the money inside. How many times does that happen in life? Hooping retreats can enable you to make new friends and participate in classes that you wouldn’t normally have the chance to take. Flow Camp was in my price range and in my area so it was perfect for me and it opened me to other flow arts. Find the event that is right for you and your needs and go. While I wish I could hold your hand through your first hooping retreat, maybe these suggestions will help you have an unforgettable experience.