[Guest blogger Ingrid White is 52-years-old and she's in the best shape of her life.]
by Ingrid White
YouTube can be both a blessing and a curse. I see wonderful young hoopers spinning so gracefully. Tall and thin, part of me yearns to be like them. While there are times the striving does help me to practice, practice, practice – and that’s a good thing, part of me (mostly the part that looks in the mirror first thing in the morning) knows I’m trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I will never be that young again, nor will I likely ever be that thin or that graceful. Time and tide are working against me and I have to accept it. While a hooper in his or her twenties can look forward to decades of blissful spinning ahead of them, at 52, how long can I keep going? 10 years, 20, more? And what can I do to keep myself strong and fit enough to hoop?
I went to some great hooping flow classes in Sydney and watched a few newbies (young, of course!) spin two hoops at the same time around their chest and waist effortlessly, while I, a woman who practices for an hour everyday, just couldn’t seem to figure it out. So I sat down and really thought about the problem. My head told me that a 52-year-old can’t have the same natural muscle strength as someone who is 20, so that was one factor. I’ve also had two children and I’ve always had a soft “tummy” too, so the factors were stacked against me. So what can we do to strengthen our weak area?
For those of us who are “softer” hoopers, particularly my fellow hoopers out there in our forties and beyond, I’m here to remind you that it’s never too late for us to enjoy exercise, especially when the exercise is as enjoyable as hooping. While I’ve always worked out in one way or another – swimming, bicycling, dancing – the day I discovered the hoop was a totally different feeling. Suddenly exercise at the end of a long day was something to look forward to, not a chore to get over because I wanted to stay fit. While quite a number of us weren’t born with the body of an athlete and have to work damn hard at keeping our fitness levels up, that doesn’t mean we can’t still do it. And hooping, especially around the waist, around our “core”, is especially important.
As part of my regular hoop practice I now incorporate some targeted hoop exercises to strengthen my body. I focus on one area of my body for a full song, then move on to another. My waist is the weakest area of my body for me personally, so I focus on that the most, but I also want to make sure I’m getting my whole body exercised so that I can keep hooping into old age. Someday I guess the hoop will stop and the wrinkles will keep on for a few turns more, but until then – what the hell! Let’s hoop!
Staying physically fit is the best way to help us avoid illness and to be full of energy well into old age too. As we get older our fitness needs change. There’s no need to be jumping up and down for hours at an aerobics class or spending hours at the gym or trying necessarily to keep up with the young ones. Keeping yourself physically fit as we get older is about maintenance and regularity rather than breaking records. I will spend a whole song just waist hooping in one direction, and another song just waist hooping in the reverse. I chest hoop, hoop on my feet, hands, legs. I do rollovers onto my stomach, and back over to my back, then up to a shoulder stand (where your body and legs are straight up in the air and you are supporting yourself on your shoulders and your arms are forming a triangle support at your back). Getting older may mean we can’t do everything, but you might be able to do a lot more than you think and the only way to know is to try. Shoulder stands, for example, are great for the legs and abs.
I am not trying to tell another hooper how to hoop necessarily, but encourage all of us to simply go for it – regardless of our age. Try new things like hooping with regularity for thirty minutes or more each day. Try it for a few weeks and see if you improve not only in your hooping, but in your overall wellness while strengthening your weaker areas. Just take it slow and if you feel any pain at all – stop. I usually get a stitch if I am getting too carried away – and that’s my signal to take a break. With some attention, maintenance and regularity we will help ensure that we are abile to hoop into infinity and beyond. Take time out each day for hooping and most importantly, have FUN!