[Hooping.org columnist Abby Schwartz breaks down ways for the rest of us to nurture a hooping practice too.]
When Hooping.org announced our Fall Integration Challenge back in October I thought, “Cool, a new 30/30 Challenge!” After all, I had come close to completing the earlier ones, but for one reason or another I did not make it to the finish line. This time I was going to be on board. I had a clean slate and would kick butt. Cut to three days into the challenge and I found myself at the end of the day having failed to hoop for 30 minutes, and instead of just picking up and continuing on the next day in the spirit of getting right back on that horse, I gave up. There is something about obligation that can transform a loved activity into a chore, at least in my experience, and it hasn’t just been about hooping either.
I love to read. I devour books. Yet several times I have tried to join book discussion groups and almost immediately found myself rebelling against having to read an assigned book, even one I would have chosen for myself. With hooping, I’ve noticed that once I got past the honeymoon phase, which lasted a surprisingly long time, “real life” started to tug on me again. While my enthusiasm is still there, my level of commitment to daily hooping has begun to ebb and flow. While I used to hoop every day without even giving it a thought, now my hooping session varies depending on my workload, my family’s needs and how I am budgeting my time.
And yet, hooping is one of the few activities that consistently keeps me grounded. I know from experience that 30 minutes a day, even broken up, of physical activity keeps me from getting too overwhelmed with stress. And that’s on a good day, when stress is coming from positive sources. Hooping adds another dimension to exercise as well. There’s that calming, meditative effect that happens almost immediately when I pick up a hoop. It is rhythmic and soothing and primal, and when I skip it, I notice. It shows up as knotted muscles and cranky moods. My family apparently notices it, too. There are days my husband will ask, “Did you hoop today? You should go hoop for a while.” I know that I want to get back in the hoop habit, but how can I accomplish this without falling into that mental trap of obligation? I decided to explore a little more about habits and how to nurture one.
Ironically, the first piece of advice that came up in my research about forming a habit is that it takes about 21 days to instill one. Which brought me back to the 30/30 given that Rayna shared that with us. When I look at what tripped me up each time I attempted the 30/30 I come back to simple time management. Putting off my hoop practice until the end of the day when I lacked the time and energy to follow through was setting myself up for failure. In my research, I discovered four tips for starting a positive habit (as opposed to breaking a bad one) that I am going to incorporate into my quest for a daily hoop practice.
1) Scale back: Instead of setting a goal of hooping for 30 days straight, the rest of us can break off a smaller piece and set our intention on hooping most days of the week, or taking it one week at a time. The key here is smaller, more achievable goals. We can always build from there. My friend Lauren has a saying that I always trot out when my workload gets overwhelming. She’d ask, “What’s the best way to eat an elephant?” The answer: one bite at a time. (She is from Texas. They always do things bigger there.)
2) Schedule your habit: I work from home and my hoops sit just 15 feet from my desk, ready to be picked up, so easy access is not an issue for me. When I fall out of the habit of hooping, the reason is usually a perceived lack of time. It’s a perception. It’s my drive to keep working and be productive and my tendency to move having fun and things that are truly for myself to the end of the list. It may make for a good work ethic, but it also sets me up for some serious burnout. So how can I make it easier to pick up a hoop? By working in more focused blocks of time, getting things done so I can take a break and feel good about it. More importantly, by blocking out a period of time for hoop practice during the day, not at the end of the day when I am depleted, it becomes something to look forward to. For me, 3 pm is the time of day when my mind starts to wander and I get antsy at my desk. It’s my ideal time to get up, hoop it out a bit and pick up a much-need burst of energy. When is yours?
3) Write it down: Years ago, I picked up a terrific book called Write it Down, Make it Happen. It was really powerful and talked about how effective it is to write down your intentions, which sets into motion all kinds of synchronicities to attract what you need to achieve your goals. Even if you are not a big believer in the Law of Attraction, there is something to be gained by writing things down. It puts a target in front of you so you have something specific on which to focus your efforts. And if you share your goals with friends, family or your community, you become publicly accountable for your actions, which can also be a strong motivator. Hooping.org has a Daily Practice Group that describes itself as follows: “A supportive place to gather and discuss what you are practicing. Join us for a daily ‘virtual hoop jam’ and share triumphs, struggles, insights, revelations, questions, and more.” Sounds like a great place to start.
4) Get motivated: When I first starting hooping and was in the early, passionate throes of hoop love, I would watch hooping videos all the time. I watched with envy and thought: one day. It fueled my practice sessions and gave me hooping aspirations. I realize that it has been awhile since I attempted to tackle a new hoop move and weeks since I watched a tutorial to break down a trick. I came out of Hoopcamp last month fired up by the workshops and performances and instead of riding that current, I let it die down when my other obligations started fighting for my attention.
Which brings me to this conclusion. We all have countless responsibilities pulling at us from all directions, vying for our time and energy, especially during the holidays. To be our best, there needs to be a balance of work and play, the things we do because we have to vs. the things we do because we want to. For me, I never want to look at hooping as a chore or an obligation. I want to nurture my hoop habit so I can once again experience the joy and hypnotic pleasure of hooping. I realize that there will always be other things pulling at me, but ultimately, I am the one chooses how I structure my days. I’ll let you know how I do and if you have tips for nurturing your own hooping habit, please share them and let’s keep it spinning!