It’s Never too Late to Learn to Hoop

It's Never Too Late to Learn to Hoop by Marlys Hersey

Starting to hula hoop at age 45 may seem silly, frivolous, some vainglorious attempt to recapture youth. Regardless, I’m doing it. Often. And sometimes for hours at a time. Alone and in public. Inner and outer critics be damned.

I’ll posit that middle age seems like a perfect time to get into hooping, to go hardcore with it. Just as the submarine of my body is sending frequent signals to the surface that I am indeed mortal and will absolutely be facing the same squinting, drooping, aching, and existential agonizing that everyone else who makes it to this stage in life does, hooping seems like the perfect antidote. There’s something about being middle-aged that makes jumping into a very physical and joyous endeavor make even more sense: commit to moving every day, fluidly, alone and with others. As a massage therapist, this inherently makes sense; anything we do that is not sitting for hours, and is helping us stay or become limber is a thumbs-up.

It’s probably more than coincidence that at the same time that I am becoming officially more dependent on reading glasses, dealing with the rollercoaster of perimenopause, and getting my first crown on a tooth is also when I am delving wholeheartedly into hooping. Move often, move in new ways, learn to go with a flow, get looser than I was in even my 20s and 30s. What’s not to like?

Then there’s being a total beginner at something again as an adult. As kids, when we start something new, we don’t expect to be good or comfortable with it from the start; we just do it and see what happens. If we like it (and sometimes even when we don’t), we keep doing it until we get better. Why do so many of us expect any different as adults? To start hooping, it’s a given it will be a challenge. And you’re going to drop the hoop. A lot. It might go flying off in different directions as you learn new moves. You might bonk yourself in the head with it. So? I had dabbled in hooping a little bit over the last few years, inspired by seeing Crystal Allbright hoop at Desert Sports once, but there was something about seeing a bunch of people hiking with hoops in Big Bend National Park, to hoop on the South Rim of the Chisos that really did it for me.

One of the rock stars in it, as I think of her, is my friend Rose Bassham Bane, who also taught me to knit. Earlier this year, when I showed up at Rose’s house to knit with her, she was out front hooping. “Don’t stop,” I said. Watching her hoop is mesmerizing. Watching anyone hoop that well is enchanting, actually. I asked her if she would consider teaching hooping classes. In her typically understated way she declined, suggesting instead that we just get together and hoop and invite anyone else who might be interested. Our first hooping group began three months ago.

Hooping makes me giddy, you can do it year-round too. All you need to hoop is a hoop. You can do it just about anywhere: indoors (just push that furniture out of the way), outdoors. The possibilities are endless. Warning: once you start hooping, you will look at the world through your new hoop glasses, and places you never really noticed before might take on a new lustre of hoopworthiness: Oh, look at that lawn. Wouldn’t that be a nice spot to hoop?! The same goes for music: you start listening to old standbys and new tunes with a hooping ear: Wouldn’t this be fun to hoop to?! Thanks to hooping I’ve started listening to whole new crops of music; Middle Eastern is my current favorite hoop soundtrack.

Kokernot ParkIn my current setup in Alpine, I have the time and space and weather to hoop year round, which has only made me appreciate living here even more. Hooping in Kokernot Park has made many of us appreciate this little gem of public space: those BIG, OLD beautiful shade trees, that soft grass, vermillion flycatchers flitting about. Every couple of weeks or so, I’ve been inviting friends and acquaintances to join me to hoop in the park. And every time, about eight to a dozen others show up, some to try hooping for the first time. We have a wide age range represented, too. I didn’t even realize some of us had been hooping for three hours straight that Sunday evening.

Admittedly, this hooping thing is now a bona fide obsession. And like any obsessive person, I spend a lot of time thinking about my object d’amour — more time than I do actually engaging in the activity itself. When I should be working (writing or editing or bookkeeping or researching or designing) I find I am instead taking frequent breaks from said work to hoop. Or sillier still, I am watching videos on the Internet of others hooping. At times it’s more like work is my break from reading articles by hoopers. I can tell it’s good for my core/abdominals, and legs, and arms, and that it’s probably helping me become more flexible too, but that is not really its first and foremost appeal. I’m hooping, I think, because it’s really fun. It just feels good. That I can’t really explain the attraction makes it even more intriguing.

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Marlys Hersey is a massage therapist and the Editor of The Big Bend Gazette, or at least she is when she’s taking a break from her hooping life. She lives in Alpine, Texas, USA.

3 thoughts on “It’s Never too Late to Learn to Hoop

  1. Marlys, I know how you feel!!! I started at 51 and am 54 now so you have 9 more wonderful years to spin before you even get to my age! Think how wonderful you will be after 9 years!
    I can testify that hooping is not just for the young’uns, and in fact does older people more good than it does young people as it save our muscle mass, which decrease with age, as you know.
    Hooping is my obsession, too! Keeping on hooping and spreading the hoop love!

  2. I started hooping 10 months ago, at 42! People I meet for the first time, who see me hoop, do not believe I am in my forties. Isn’t that just awesome! 😀
    I am loving how in the hooping universe, we are not defined by our age. We are not defined by anything but the positive energy… that big genuine smile we have when we’ve finally nailed a trick… that intense feeling when we’re in the flow.
    Here in the Philippines, our hooping community is so small but we are always getting newbies everytime we hoop in public. It’s just such a great feeling to share this positivity, this awesome passion for such a simple plastic circle in a world that’s oftentimes harsh and materialistic.
    Personally, hooping has given me an escape from the realities that plague us in our daily lives… lots of challenges specially at our age. When I’m hooping, everything melts away and all that’s left is joy. <3
    Thanks for sharing your story! 🙂

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