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Fitness for the Easily Bored: Hoop it Up

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I’ve always been a worker-outer. But lately, as I’ve spent more and more time on the cardio machines at 24 Hour Fitness, I can’t shake feeling that I’m just a hamster on a wheel in a vicious human experiment. To combat my paranoia and possibly find a mentally healthier hobby, I’ve decided to scope out what else LA has to offer in a weekly series, “Fitness for the Easily Bored.”

Today, I begin with: Hoopnotica in Marina Del Rey

Since elementary school gym class, I've considered myself to be an above average hula hooper. I was the kid who could keep the hoop up for a stupid amount of time, and I’ll be honest with you—it’s the kind of skill that, while absolutely useless, is still a source of great personal pride.

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So when I was first introduced to hoopdance at the seemingly unending string of hippie jam band concerts that my boyfriend dragged me to for a while, it was a bit of a shock to find that my skills were, to say the least, subpar. Suddenly, 53 minutes into each song, there would be girls on stage spinning flashy hoops around their dreadlocked heads and whipping them around their toned stomachs. I’m not gonna lie—I was a little threatened. I had to learn how to do it.

Fortunately, I live in LA, so of course there's someone here who is hippie enough, savvy enough, and dreamer enough to have developed a hoopdance class. Hoopnotica was founded in 2006 by Rayna McInturf, a dancer who has performed with Cirque du Soleil and whose classes caught on fast once word got around.

The small, second-floor dance studio that is home to Hoopnotica is located in Marina del Ray. I arrived on Tuesday night to find the teacher, Pamela, and one other student there. Two other students would arrive later, but for a second the lack of participants made me realize that the next hour and a half could easily feel like exactly what it was-- three adults randomly hula hooping in an office building at 7 p.m.

Pamela started off the class with a little warm-up action and some stretching, and at first I felt secure in the fact that I would be much, much better than the other student. I secretly delighted in each time that her hoop fell to the ground as mine stayed solidly up around my waist. For a minute I was even worried that the class was going to be boring.

But then, we learned the first actual trick--how to bring the hoop above our heads, down to our waists, and back up to above our heads again. And it was about that time that grace, sensuality and natural ability (real or imagined) completely abandoned me.

Suddenly, this shit was hard. I went from a quiet confidence in my own superiority to repeatedly hitting myself in the head, the shins, the ass, and the back with my hoop. I accidentally threw the hoop across the room more times than I can count. I had to yell "heads up!" at least twice. And interestingly, I was the only one in the class who seemed to become a danger to the other students once we started really doing anything that resembled a "dance."

I also, however, began to sweat profusely, get out of breath, and tire out my muscles. If I was worried about the level of physical difficulty inherent in hoopdancing, I needed not be.

The final five minutes of the class were spent trying to do some freestyle dancing, using the moves we had just learned. It turned out that I was pretty good at the "pass," where you swing the hoop around your body, but my fear of decapitating myself made it tricky to do anything that would have looked at all cool.

The class was an hour and a half long, but getting preoccupied with mastering the moves makes it go by fast. And listen--in a city where everyone is obsessed with youth anyway, you may as well party like a kid every once and a while in order to maintain a certain level of sanity. Hooping seems like a good place to start.

Overall Workout: Very good, sweated a lot and was out of breath
Potential for Good Times: High, especially because you can buy a hoop for around $45 and then get really good on your own time. I'm all for workouts that you can take home with you and turn into hobbies.
Next-Day Pain: Moderate. I could walk, talk, and sneeze with no outright pain, but my stomach muscles did feel achy.
Cost: $29.00 per class, $2.00 to rent a hoop

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Hoopnotica
114 Washington Blvd. 2nd Floor
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
310-306-0300
www.hoopnotica.com

Photo of Rayna McInturf courtesy of Hoopnotica