Fitness Fridays: Emily Rack recalls childhood hula hooping

Photo Credit: Knitting Iris, via Flickr

Emily Rack is a 21-year old journalism student, split cross-continentally between Canada (school) and England (family). She loves adventuring around the world, planning unconventional dates, going to music festivals, baking caramel sea salt brownies, and dancing the night away. She is joining forces with LTOttawa to bring you the very best weird and wonderful fitness classes throughout the city.

Here’s the thing, Ottawa. I have an aversion to conventional exercise. 
I’m not exactly sure why I don’t like it, especially seeing as I’m a relatively healthy person. I choose the grainiest whole wheat bread at the grocery store, I take the stairs at work, I even drink a spinach smoothie every morning. Nevertheless, in an effort to stay trim in traditional ways, like running, going to the gym, and swimming laps, I found myself a little bored.
“No,” I thought to myself. “This can’t be it! There must be more exciting exercise options!” So naturally (like any curious journalism student), I went on a mission to find them. 

Emily Rack

Over the past three years, and to my great delight, I have discovered a wonderland of unusual fitness classes! If you’re anything like me, and your exercise regime has got you down, or even if it’s lacking a little spice, fear not! There are some fabulously unconventional ways to keep fit in Ottawa, whether you’re looking for cardio, weights, increased flexibility, or just getting moving and meeting new people.

I’ve been a convert to “alternative” fitness classes for a few years now, and I’m making it a mission to explore the city on the hunt for even more. Who knows, maybe one of them will catch your eye.

Our first exploration? Hooping!
Hula hooping is something you probably remember from your childhood. Flimsy, colourful plastic hoops you awkwardly whirled around your waist, competing with your friends to keep it spinning. Well, hula hooping today has certainly progressed from those playground days. Over the past four or five years, gyms and fitness centres around Ottawa have been offering “hooping” classes as a fun and effective way to get in shape.

Photo Credit: Marcia Furman, via Flickr

A mix between a dance and muscle toning class, hooping appeals to a large crowd. Hoops are weighted, up to four pounds each, and give your back and abdominals an intense workout as well as including some cardio. 

For the past two summers, I’ve done hooping classes with Brigitte Ethier (aka Hooparella) at the Dovercourt Recreation Centre in Westboro. The classes are once a week for an hour, and although you start off with the basics (moving the hoop in circles, walking while spinning the hoop), you quickly progress to more advanced steps. By the end of my first summer, I was spiraling the hula hoop up and down my body, bringing it above my head and throwing it back into orbit around my waist, and keeping up a steady jog while doing tricks. Not only did I lose five pounds, I was toned, my core felt strong, my posture was better and I had a pretty awesome party trick.

Photo Credit: SmileDarling, via Flickr

The best part about hooping is that it’s a lot of fun. An hour — allegedly burning up to 800 calories with a weighted hoop — feels like no time at all. And the glittering hoops, jazzy music and funky costumes don’t hurt. A word to the wise: if you decide to try hooping, you may find some slight bruising on your hipbones at the beginning, but your body builds up a tolerance to the spinning hoop pretty fast. So stick with it!

You can even buy hoops from Brigitte (or make your own) so you can practice at home. It’s a perfect alternative class to start off the summer with.
Check with your local recreation centre to see if hooping is offered! You can definitely find classes at  DovercourtFlorida Fitness (on St. Laurent and Merivale), and the Glebe Community Centre.
Find out more about Ottawa’s hooping community here!

Thanks for the twisting tips, Emily! She’ll be back regularly for Fitness Friday
s. Have any ideas for her? Leave them in a comment below!