published Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Hoop it up!

Community of hula hoopers are getting fit and melting away pounds


by Brittany Cofer

Doris Pollari never learned how to hula hoop as a child.

At 68, the Rising Fawn, Ga., resident has recently taken up the activity for exercise and camaraderie.

"I just love it," she said. "It's a great exercise -- anybody can do it, any age group can do it. It's so fun, and it's not competitive."

Hula hooping for fitness, also called hoop dancing, has been popular on the West Coast for years, but it is just beginning to gain steam in the Chattanooga area.

Lia Harrell, a certified hoop dance instructor and founder of Hoop Tonic, a local hoop selling and hoop dance business, said the activity works all parts of the body. In an average hoop dancing session, a person can burn 450 to 600 calories in an hour, she said.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Lia Harrell leads a hooping class Thursday at Genesis Gym in Trenton.

"Every single part of your body gets a workout," said the 36-year-old Wildwood, Ga., resident. "It's a low impact aerobic exercise, that's what's important. You don't have the knee injuries or anything like that, because it's low impact."

Ms. Harrell was introduced to hoop dancing a couple of years ago in California and fell in love with the activity, she said. After putting on a little weight during the wintertime, she began hoop dancing and lost 26 pounds.

"That's not doing hooping for 20 minutes a day," she said, adding she usually tells people to aim for an hour. "For that type of thing, you have to make some form of commitment. People can see results probably doing it four times a week."

Ms. Pollari, who has taken several classes with Ms. Harrell, said she hasn't lost weight in the two months she's been hooping, but her body is changing and she feels better. Hooping's greatest appeal, Ms. Pollari said, is the non-competitive, community-oriented atmosphere that is created when a group of hoopers get together.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student Aubrey Henrickson said she meets with a group of about six friends on a regular basis to hoop dance. Though she lost about 10 pounds in the first month of hooping last year, she said she doesn't view it as exercise.

TRY IT FREE

* What: Intro to Hoop Dance class.

* When: June 16 from 6 to 7 p.m.

* Where: Nutrition World on Lee Highway

* Info: Call Nutrition World at 423-892-4085 to register.

HOOP GLOSSARY

* Forward stance: The basic hooping move, one foot is positioned in front of the other, pushing forward with the abs and back muscles to keep the hoop around the body.

* Side stance: With loose knees and a tucked bottom, this trick requires side-to-side core movements that work the leg and oblique muscles.

* Earth Angel: Standing on your toes, with the hoop angled toward the sky and back arched, a thrusting movement keeps the hoop rotating around your body.

* Vortex: From the waist, the hoop reaches up and down the body in a move that appears to be an illusion.

Source: Lia Harrell

"If I started thinking about hooping as exercise, it would dull the sparkle," she said. "But you're getting fit without really realizing it."

Those interested in hoop dancing shouldn't rush to the local supermarket and grab a plastic hoop though, Ms. Harrell said.

"Dime store hoops are great hoops in that they are made for children's bodies," she said. "They are not made for adult bodies ... (adult hoops) are larger around, they're heavier and they have special tape on them that helps the hoop stay up."

Adult-sized hoops can be ordered online through various websites, or at the Chattanooga Market most Sundays, where Ms. Harrell sets up a Hoop Tonic booth.

Hoopers in the Chattanooga area are beginning to come together, through the efforts of Ms. Harrell and Ms. Henrickson. Each woman has separately started hooping groups that gather in local parks, and now are beginning to overlap and combine.

What previously was an activity mostly seen at music festivals or among children in backyards, is becoming a growing community of locals interested in laughing, having fun and getting healthy as a side benefit.

"The hooping that we do in Coolidge Park, we're getting families coming up and wanting to try," Ms. Pollari said. "Even if you don't stick with it, everyone wants to try it ... it seems like we're all connecting, and that's exciting."

JOIN THE GROUP

Local hoopers Lia Harrell and Aubrey Henrickson each have groups that meet regularly to hula hoop. For information on when they will meet next and how to purchase a hoop, visit Ms. Harrell's website at www.hooptonic.com and Ms. Henrickson's Facebook group "Chattahoop there it is!"

about Brittany Cofer...

Brittany Cofer is a business reporter who has been with the Chattanooga Times Free Press since January 2010. She previously worked as a general assignment Metro reporter. In the Business department, she covers banking, retail, tourism, consumer issues and green issues. Brittany is from Conyers, Ga., and spent two years at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., before transferring to the University of Georgia. She graduated from the university’s Grady College of Journalism in December ...

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