Is there anything better than spending a sunny afternoon or quiet evening at home with just you and your hoop? One of the things I’ve always loved about hooping is that practice doesn’t feel like work. It’s energizing, enjoyable, and rewarding. But are you getting the most out of your hoop practice? Whether you’re a new hooper wanting to nail down some new tricks, or a seasoned performer practicing your routines, these six easy tips may be just what you need to take it to the next level.
1. Warm Up. There’s a lot more to it than you might think. A good warm up increases your heart rate slightly, gets you breathing more heavily, and increases your body temperature – hence the name. And get this – if your body is warm, then your muscles are warm. Warmer muscles have a lot more elasticity in them. They’re not only less subject to strains and pulls, warm muscles have more range of motion for reaching, pulling, and stretching your hooping body. You might just take that hooping move farther than you ever have before, literally. I also highly recommend stretching if you’re going to attempt some kind of acrobatic hoop moves. Stretching comes after a warm up, when you’re muscles have more flexibility. Some good warm ups can be non-hooping activities like walking or aerobic stepping, or they could be simple hooping movements like waist hooping to warm up the core, and passing the hoop in your hands around your body to warm up your chest and shoulders. Need more warm up ideas? Check out 9 Great Warm Up Exercises For Hoopers.
2. Wear Something That Exposes Your Skin. As you may already know, those skimpy little outfits you often see hoop performers wearing are not just to get attention. Many tricks are much easier to do on bare skin. The hoop sticks to bare skin in some cases, where it might slide or slip right off of regular clothing. So when you’re practicing, choose an outfit that exposes as much skin as possible. When I first started my hoop journey, I would always practice in a sports bra and gym shorts because I often found the secret to unlocking a new trick was trying it on bare skin. Even now, after five years of hooping, I still plan my performance outfits to expose the following areas: arms, shoulders, and legs. So whether you’re in public or practicing in the privacy of your own home, consider donning that tiny bathing suit and start practicing!
3. Listen To Music You Like. For me personally, listening to good music while I practice makes all the difference in the world. Practicing with music that inspires you to dance and move also helps you find your flow with the hoop. Good music encourages you to move rhythmically, and if you’ve got your hoop then your discovering ways to incoporate the hoop into that movement which is key to unlocking a fluid dance sequence. And if you’re listening to music you already know and love, you already know all the spots that the tempo changes, things speed up, the right spot for a dramatic hooping moment and more.
4. Record Yourself. Having the ability to watch yourself hoop is invaluable. Many times I’d be following along with a tutorial and I would think “I’m doing everything like they say, but it still doesn’t feel right. Am I doing it right?” At that point, out would come my camera. I’d use the back of my couch as an impromptu tripod, punch up the video function and record myself doing the trick. Often times, when I watched the video back, I would see that I was, in fact, doing the trick correctly and that gave me the confidence to keep going. Alternatively, I’d sometimes see that I wasn’t doing the trick correctly, and I could see what I needed to fix. I’d say to myself, “Oh, Ok, I need to get that hand out of the way to land this trick.” Recording yourself also has the added benefit of documenting your progress. Weeks or months or years down the road you will have a video diary of all your progress and accomplishments.
5. Get Inspired. Nothing motivates you to practice and try something new like that wonderfully yummy feeling of being inspired! For artists and hoopers alike, inspiration can be an idea that compels you to create, that motivates you to get up and do something, and makes you say “I MUST create something beautiful right this very MOMENT!” There are things you can do as a hooper to encourage this feeling too. Something I like to do before a hoop practice session is what I formally call “research.” Research roughly translates into binge-watching all the videos on hooping.org. It’s actually a great way to get inspired. You might see a trick, or transition, or combination of moves you really like and think “Oh, I really like that! I bet I could get that with just a little practice.” Watching videos may also inspire new ideas for videos of your own – and there you go! Congratulations, you are now inspired!
6. Practice With Friends. This tip goes hand-in-hand with number five. There’s nothing more inspiring than being around other hoopers. Just as a painter or sculptor can get inspired by watching or being around another artist, we do too. When you see someone do something you like, you can say “Wow! that was cool, can you teach me that?” Nine times out of ten they will! Conversely, you can do the same if someone says to you, “Wow, that was really cool, can you teach me that?” It’s not only a great confidence booster, but teaching others new moves gives you a better understanding of them. Where you live may make this a challenge, but set a goal to hoop with others once a week, once a month, or as often as you can.
Columnist Katie Wilson, better known in the hooping world as Katie Sunshine, is a teacher, a painter, a performer, and above all a proponent for the powerfully positive change hooping brings to one’s life. She picked up hooping in 2009 at a music festival and she hasn’t put it down since. A Hoopie Award winner with many YouTube viral videos, Katie lives in Conway, Arkansas, USA, with her wonderful husband and her two lovable dogs.