I went to a hula-hoop class today, dressed in jeans and a sweater because I had no idea what would happen in this two-hour class I was subbing in for my girlfriend. I assumed the class would involve learning how to make a ring stay on your waist while you sway back and forth. I did not know that a hula-hoop is actually exercise equipment.

I arrived a few minutes late and was chagrinned to find that people were holding the hoop over their heads and leaning side to side, with lively music playing in the background. I grabbed a hoop and joined in as we bent over and put it on the floor, then picked it back up and raised up. Oh boy! I felt duped. This was an exercise class using a hoop like dumbbells – which is what I felt like.

I wondered if I could just sneak right back out the door, but thought it would be rude, so I decided to give it a few minutes. Soon we were holding the hoop by our sides and using it to balance us as we did ballet moves. Yawn. I checked my watch. 3 minutes had passed. I would give it fifteen, tops.

Then our teacher, a tall, thin wisp of a thing with a waist my hands could have wrapped around with room to spare, turned the music off and said, “Now that we’re all warmed up, are you ready to hula?”

She put the hula around her waist and it started going in circles. She didn’t seem to be moving at all and yet it was maintaining a nice steady orbit as she walked around talking to us about the best technique.

“First thing you all need to know is that we’re going to be hearing a whole lot of this.” She let the hoop drop to the gym floor with a loud enough bang to cause me to jump. “When I hear that sound I can’t help but let our a little cheer, like this.” Then she gave us a sample, a high-pitched, “Who-oop!” that was cheerful but a little unnerving. I checked my watch again.

“Now all of you try it.” All twenty of us did, and so many hoops crashed to the floor it sounded like someone banging pots and pans and yelling, “Who-oop!” while they were doing it. My hoop wouldn’t go around more than 1 and a half times before it crashed to the floor.

There were mirrors on the waist, and I avoided looking at them. But when I did, I saw my hips looking like they were having spasms. Even though the instructions were to just shift our weight and do the motion in our legs, not in our hips, my hips wouldn’t obey. They insisted on swiveling in all directions like giant magnets were pulling them from different corners of the room. But after a bit, by golly, I had that hoop going for seconds at a time!

Hula hooping is good exercise, but I hadn’t anticipated that when I wore the sweater. It lived up to its name – I was definitely sweating. My whole head was getting wet, and pushing up my bulky sleeves didn’t help.

Once we got the hang of keeping the hula around our waists, she had us add movements like swinging the hoop around with our hands and stepping through it. People kept letting them go, and they’d roll across the floor, bumping into other people before crashing with a bang. “Who-oop!” Hula-hoops can roll forever. I wished I’d brought earplugs.

All of a sudden the teacher turned the music back on and ordered us to stretch the hoop over our heads. I glanced again at my watch and discovered that the two-hour class was over. What fun I’d had!

In my blog yesterday I was tongue-in-cheek criticizing people who become skilled in such things as yo-yos and hula-hoops, but after today I’m eating those words. Our teacher was in great shape, she was very graceful and entertaining to watch, and she could do just about anything with a hula-hoop. Trying to imitate her and looking like a wooden puppet made me realize that anything a person can master is a sight to behold and worthy of our admiration and respect. Which does not mean that I’m going to start practicing all the time. I had fun but I’m not so sure I’m that into it. But I’m going to try not to make fun of people anymore, and that’s going to take a whole lot of practice.