Walking in the entrance of the Shoreditch Town Hall, I felt like I was about to be seated for a high-brow play. But on entering the parquay-floored hall full of giggling hula hoopers, the event suddenly felt far more kids party. But in a good way! That's the magic of the hoop, it takes you right back to your school days, when exercise was about playing and flailing your body around until you fell over, rather than counting reps and sets and PBs.
Thankfully though, our teacher was far from the shouting-orders-from-a-comfy-chair, tea-in-hand biscuit-munchers from my school. In sequinned hotpants and a cropped top that showed off a set of incredible hula-ing abs, Marawa couldn't possibly be a better walking advert for her classes. The hoop master herself, declares it gives you "abs as hard as diamonds". This is one workout that, evidently, leaves your core weeping!
Contrary to popular belief, the perfect hula hoop motion is simply forward and backwards. There's no need to circle your hips – physics (and a big spin of the hoop as you start) will send it circling around until you stop. Easy!
As the music started, we wound up our hoops, spun them round and began moving. This was immediately followed by a clatter as half the hoops hit the floor – not quite as easy as it sounds, then. But for most of us it'd been quite a while since we'd even seen a hoop, so a rusty technique and an underestimate of the clearance needed to spin the thing (as my class neighbour's glare pointed out) was to be expected. Luckily, the Majorettes (a glittering group of hoop-ers) were on hand with tips to get anyone circling.
Apparently, there's more to hula than wriggling – there's a bit of science involved. Of course, it's momentum that keeps you going – if you stop, the hoop stops. But you can actually send the hoop up and down your body to where you want it to sit. If the hoop is on your arm and, as I found, is dangerously close to flinging off and crashing into a table loaded with cups of water, you make bigger circles with your shoulder to send it up your arm. If you make bigger circles with your hand, the hoop will travel back down towards your fingers.
After a while, the wriggling got a bit easier and the hoop was staying in place. I even managed to avoid causing a hoop to water table flood! But the real test was when Marawa suggested we use two hoops – one for our waist and one for our arm.
I'm not quite sure she was prepared for the chaos caused by 75 learners and 150 hoops but she seemed to embrace it! After a few minutes of persevering yet failing with what is basically an advanced version of patting your head and rubbing your stomach, the last few minutes were given as 'playtime'. A chance to brush up on some moves, try a super-sized hoop or attempt hula-ing as many as you can.
Marawa and the Majorettes hold the Guiness World record for the most hoops spun simultaneously, at 264. Let's just say there was no danger of us stealing that record. But we would have a lot of fun trying!
Fear not if you missed the fun, Fitness Freak are holding a Christmas hooping event with Marawa. You can book here.