Aspen Times Weekly: A Whole Lotta Hoopla | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: A Whole Lotta Hoopla

by Jeanne McGovern

Like many Aspenites, Betty Shurin is into yoga, snowboarding and footraces. But Shurin — better known as "Betty Hoops" — puts her own spin on these activities. Literally.

"What I do is fitness-based, combing the alignment of yoga with the power of mountain sports," says Shurin, an earthy 43-year-old who has crafted a career out of the craft of hula-hooping. "But it offers the playfulness of hula-hooping.

"Some people are skeptical; we dare them to come give it a try."

Toward that end, Shurin has developed a slate of classes (HoopCore Fitness, 4 Rhythm Hoop Dance), a line of hoop-centric equipment (The Betty Hoop, exercise DVDs, kids' party packs) and more in her 15-years of hooping it up.

“Align the spine, open the hips, free the mind.” Betty “Hoops” Shurin

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"I challenge people to take a chance on this; they are rarely disappointed," she says, adding that hooping is not just a business venture for her; it is a way of life.

"Hooping fuses the mind and body," Shurin says. "You really do get a hooper's high."

And the craze seems to be spreading. Hula-hooping has gained national attention of late, with First Lady Michelle Obama giving the sport a spin in her efforts to combat childhood obesity. Also fans of hoop-based workouts: celebrities Zooey Deschanel, Marisa Tomei, Liv Tyler, Beyonce and Olivia Wilde And on Oct. 5, the international hooping community celebrated World Hoop Day, with events held in far-flung places ranging from Iceland to Ireland and Michigan to Manilla.

These high-profile endorsements only reinforce what Shurin's known for years: "Hula-hooping is something anyone can do. It can be tailored to fit just about any need."

For Shurin, this means hooping in just about any situation — snowboarding down Buttermilk, sure; hanging at Mountain Fair, you bet; running the Bolder Boulder, of course.

In fact, Shurin set a Guinness Book world record by hula-hooping the 10-kilometer Bolder Boulder in 2005. She went on to beat her own time every year for the next three years.

"It's really pretty amazing because I have no rhythm and am totally uncoordinated — I was actually kicked out of a step aerobics class because I had no rhythm," says Shurin.

That was then; this is now. And just last year, Shurin upped the ante on what can be accomplished while spinning a hoop around her waist.

"Yes, we're going for it again — but this time we've raised the bar," Shurin said in March 2012, just weeks before she and her Team Hoop were slated to participate in the Hollywood Half-Marathon. "It's going to be a challenge, that's for sure.

"But there are just two rules: no stopping and no dropping the hoop."

Shurin succeeded on both counts, traveling 13.1 miles with her hula hoop making more than 3,500 rotations on her way to a world record for "hula-hooping while distance running."

Of course Shurin doesn't have tunnel vision when it comes to hula-hooping. She sees it as a means to an end — from the physical ("it has completely eliminated my back pain") to the mental ("it's Zen-like for me") and more.

"Hooping has given me a chance to give back," she says.

For example, her half-marathon was also a fundraiser. Shurin partnered with the Los Angeles Youth Network, with proceeds from various hula-hoop-related events going to the California-based nonprofit.

"They are all about empowering kids who have had a tough time," Shurin said. "It's a cause that's very close to my heart. … My sister died young of a drug overdose. As a result, I have always wanted to help and empower young people."

It is a mantra Shurin says she will take with her everywhere hula-hooping takes her.

"If people are open-minded, they will see the benefits hooping offers," she says. "The sport, the fun…everything about it is empowering."

Ready, Set, Spin

How to Hula Hoop the Right Way

Finding the Right Hoop

1.) Hoops more than 3 pounds and hoops with internal ridges have caused serious injury.

2.) The hoop should stand about 3 inches above your navel and weigh between 1-2 pounds.

3.) The Betty Hoop, called the Idiot Proof Hoop by everyone who uses it, is padded, collapsible and has a foam exterior. This padding adds a cushioned massage and grips the body when it spins. It's six segments that come apart with the push of a button, making the hoop slightly wobbly. This actually hugs the body, spinning on a level plane, which makes it easier to keep up. It is safely weighted at just under 2 pounds. It is proven to have a 99 percent success rate for adults of all ages, sizes and abilities.

The Start and Stance

1.) Stand with feet hip-distance apart, either at neutral or with one foot in front of the other.

2.) Press the hoop into your back, holding it level to the floor.

3.) Hold the hoop close to your body.

The Spin

1.) Make sure the hoop starts with a level spin. If it wobbles during spin, it is because you are starting the spin with your hands too far away from you.

2.) Hold the hoop close to your waist.

— excerpted from bettyhoops.com

Did You Know? 10 Fun Hoop Facts

  1. The term “hula hoop” came from British sailors who had seen hula dancing in the Hawaiian islands and thought the two looked rather similar.
  2. The original price of the hoop in 1958 was $1.98
  3. At the height of their popularity, Wham-O manufactured 20,000 hoops a day.
  4. Japan and Indonesia banned the public use of hoops because it was not culturally acceptable to shake one’s hips in public — it was indecent.
  5. Native American hoop dancer Tony White Cloud made a cameo appearance in “Valley of the Sun,” starring Lucille Ball, in 1942. He toured the U.S. and Europe with Gene Autry during WWII promoting war bonds and in 1952 danced in “Apache Country,” starring Gene Autry.
  6. Billy Joel referenced the sale of the 100-millionth hula hoop by Wham-O as one of the most significant events of 1959 in his song “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
  7. Russia denounced the hoop as an example of the “emptiness of American culture.”
  8. Wayout Toys created an Alvin the Chipmunk Doll that twirls a hula hoop and sings “Christmas Don’t Be Late.”
  9. Hula Hoops are a British potato-based snack — in the shape of short, hollow cylinders — first introduced in 1973.
  10. Michael Turvey, of the University of Connecticut, won the 2004 Ig Noble Prize in Physics, along with Ramesh Balasurbramaniam, of the University of Ottawa, for exploring and explaining the dynamics of hula-hooping.

— from hulahooping.com