"Live a good life, and in the end, it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years."

Unusual activity has mom gaining confidence and losing weight

Alicia Dart spins her fitness hoops in Cashmere’s Simpson Park.

By Jean Moraga

On a breezy, sunny Sunday, Alicia Dart hoops in Cashmere’s Simpson Park, smiling, enjoying herself, as multiple hoops twirl around her legs, hands and arms.

However, it wasn’t always this easy.

“If you’d told me four years ago that I’d be able to go out to a park and dance around with a hula hoop, I would have laughed at you and said that sounded crazy,” she said.

Her journey began with a wish to lose weight and get fit after her second child, Wolfgang, was born. While shopping one day, she spied a fitness hoop and thought, “That looks fun. All right, I’ll try it.” At home, she found “how-to” video tutorials on YouTube, and then videos of hoop dancers. She said she thought, “This is amazing and I want to learn all of it.”

The fitness hoop is not the same as the hula hoop of our childhood, Alicia said. The hula hoop is usually lightweight plastic while the fitness hoop weighs in between two to five pounds, made of stiffer polypropylene plastic.

There are also dance hoops, made of more flexible polyethylene. Alicia has found that the fitness hoops will cause bruising when used longer than 30 minutes. However, she says that it’s rather a rite of passage for hoopers to have bruises everywhere.

Alicia stopped hooping when she found out she was pregnant with her third child, Rex. After his birth in 2014, she picked it up again, more determined than ever to learn as much as she could. She found the tutorials made it easy to learn, and found the hooping community eager to encourage newcomers. She enjoyed the fact that no one seemed to set mileposts for what to know after a set time.

Hoop dancing helped Alicia lose weight, get fitter, gain a confidence boost and fight depression and anxiety.

A painful situation in her family had plummeted her into depression and anxiety, and had left her feeling brokenhearted and overwhelmed. She found hooping therapeutic as she took the time to focus on herself and her health.

Now when problems arise or she feels cranky, she just picks up her hoop, “my little dance partner” as she calls it, and works through the issue.

As the depression and anxiety dropped, so did the weight Alicia had wanted to lose, by doing an exercise she loved and could do for an hour without even thinking about it.

She said you can burn 400 calories or more per hour, depending on how hard you work. It’s not just swinging the hoop around the waist; the whole body has to get involved.

In general, Alicia said, the larger the hoop, the slower it goes and the easier it will be to swing around the belly or legs. If you’re going to be tossing the hoop around, choose a smaller hoop “that’s not going to hurt as much when it hits you because it will hit you at some point.” She laughed as she says this, because some misses and some bruises go along with the learning, no matter how advanced the hooper.

After a year of steady hooping, Alicia’s confidence grew to the point that she could hoop outdoors, in public and not care about the stares. She said she’s never heard any nasty comments. Mostly, people are just interested in what she’s doing. Some want to know whether she teaches, as well.

In the summer, she keeps hoops in the car in case she sees a spot she would really love to hoop in, and maybe take some photos. This is also convenient when her children are having a good time at a park and want to stay longer; no bored bench-sitting for this mama.

Her oldest, daughter Tezzi, seemed to think it was a bit weird when Mom started hooping, but not anymore. Once Alicia became comfortable enough to move her workouts from after the children were asleep to during the day, it became a normal part of life. Now, they feel free to grab a hoop in their favorite color and get moving right alongside Mom.

“My kids have no idea that not everybody picks up a hula hoop and dances and throws it around and jumps through it, and I love that!” she said.

With large online communities always available for encouragement, sharing and competitions, her children may not realize that for quite some time. One of the bigger websites, Hooping.org, holds an annual “Hooping Idol” competition.

Entrants from all over the globe post an audition video of their hooping skills. Although they do not travel anywhere to meet, they are still able to connect in their shared passion. Closer to home, groups meet to hoop in larger cities. Alicia said she would love to see that happen here, but has yet to find a group in the Valley.

Alicia’s advice for those interested in learning is to look up Deanne Love, founder of Hooplovers.tv, on YouTube; Love has tutorials covering and explaining a wide range of topics, from beginner to advanced.

Alicia is now well into her 39th week of her fourth pregnancy and feeling fantastic… perhaps a little too fantastic. The usual aches and pains associated with a nearing delivery are absent this time around. She has hooped all through this pregnancy, altering her routines as her center of gravity shifts and her belly grows. After hooping, Alicia notices that baby is more wiggly, as though ready for more.

Is Alicia ready for more? Yes — she loves every part of hooping and may share that with others through teaching in the future.

Jean Moraga is a life-long Cashmere resident, married with two kids and loves hiking, kayaking and reading.

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