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Hooping is harder than it looks

A few weeks ago my husband and I were invited to his 80-year-old cousin’s spacious, well-appointed condominium overlooking Puget Sound. It was supposed to be “just lunch.”

She is his healthy and fit oldest cousin who invested her second husband’s death benefit in “a little-known stock at the time,” Microsoft. As a result she was able to pre-pay college expenses for all of her 17 grandchildren. She had just purchased a second home in Arizona and was taking her granddaughter to Ireland for two weeks in the fall. It would be her fourth trip there.

“I do so like my Guinness,” she commented.

This is a true story. I do not make this stuff up.

Lunch was lovely, of course. But without pretension. Mango-ginger iced tea, chicken salad on small croissants with accompanying watermelon spears. We ate it sitting on bar stools at her kitchen counter rather than on one of her several terraces or at the large oval table in the dining room, which was dwarfed by the ornate, low-hanging glass chandelier — shipped to the States after her last trip to Italy.

But this is where it gets really interesting. Amid all the framed art and free-standing antiques, a weighted hula hoop leaned against the back of a velvety couch.

“It’s my passion,” she said. “I do a total of 1,000 revolutions a day — four separate sessions, and each takes about 12 minutes.”

She gave us a demonstration. Watching her was glorious. “Hooping,” as she casually referred to it, was her “thing.”

Smitten by the whole experience, I, of course, ordered a 2-pound weighted exercise hoop from Amazon as soon as we were in the car on the way home. It came two days later in a 7-by-18-inch box of eight pink and blue plastic segments that easily snapped in place.

I tried it immediately. Repeatedly. It keeps dropping to the floor after one or two revolutions. I’ve had visitors to our home in the last week try it. Same quiet thud after a few attempts.

Apparently that is not unique. My coordinated 16-year-old granddaughter, who is quite familiar with hooping, said she could not keep an exercise hoop revolving either. She advised I consider a pogo stick. Even my Hawaiian son-in-law who grew up doing actual hula dancing could not keep it in motion for long.

I am exploring technique. There are YouTube videos, of course. I have been glued to them lately. Slight improvement in my hooping experience. Very slight.

Apparently, the idea that using a hula hoop involves moving your hips in a circular motion is a common misconception. You actually have to move your hips in a straight line, front to back.

“Warm up before you start hooping by marching in place,” says one exercise expert.

Online information indicates, “weighted hula hoops have existed for more than a decade and offer “affordable and convenient ways to work out at home with the promise of childlike fun.” Could a promotion be better phrased than that when it comes to elders and exercise?

Now, if you will excuse me I am going to march in place for a few minutes and give it another go.

Sharon Johnson can be reached at sharjohn99@gmail.com.