I’m Going Out To Play…

You’ve probably heard the saying, “You don’t stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing.”  I’ve also heard “playing” substituted with “laughing” and “dancing”, and even though it sounds a bit like it should be embroidered on a pillow or on a wall plaque at a Hallmark store, it’s true.  Think about it…how many of us have run across an old friend who used to be fun-loving and carefree, and found them to be much more serious and…well, grown up?  And how many of us have thought, “Geez, what happened to YOU?”  

To some degree, this is unavoidable in life…to quote another adage, “Getting older is mandatory, getting old is optional.”  Again, a phrase that’s a bit overused, but true nonetheless.  As we go through life, we take on responsibilities – careers, marriages and children; many of us go through difficult divorces, loss of loved ones, and health problems, just to name a few.  It’s certainly understandable why we get more serious as these things chip away at our happiness.

All the more reason we need to remember who we used to be.  We need to remember to LAUGH.  To find joy.  To go outside and play once in a while.  Throw a ball for the dog, play with our kids, ride our bikes, turn the music up a little too loud…think back to your childhood, to the things that brought you joy, and if it’s not too utterly ridiculous, physically impossible, or illegal, DO IT!  I recently discovered my “rediscovered joy”…a hula hoop.  Seriously.  It’s kinda crazy to think that a 41” plastic circle with pretty tape on it can bring me so much joy, but it does.

A few months ago, I saw a photo of an old acquaintance of mine, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  She looked AMAZING.  She was never what I would have considered “overweight”, by any means.  But she’s a mom, and she had curves…curves that she earned by having children, and by being a woman approaching 40.  But this picture showed not only a fitter, leaner and more youthful version of my friend, but a HAPPIER version.  I confess, we hadn’t had a real conversation in years, but I had to contact her and ask what her secret was.  

Hula hooping.  Really?  I asked…but yes.  She had taken up hula hooping, learned to hoop dance, lost almost 50 pounds, and found herself.  We talked about what motivated her.  She said that as a stay-home mom, like me, she found herself watching her children play all day, but she herself rarely played, other than the occasional game of Candyland or something else that facilitated THEIR play.  One day, she ran across a video on YouTube of someone who was “hoop-dancing”, a relatively new phenomenon for people of all ages who want to get fit, or just have a little youthful fun.  It spoke to her, so she got a hoop and tried it out, and found that with some practice, she had some real talent.  She is now a professional hoop instructor, and performs regularly at workshops, festivals and camps all over the country.

If you’ve never witnessed the hoop-dancing phenomenon, it’s like a combination of yoga and Cirque de Soleil.  There are plenty of videos on YouTube of people practicing, teaching and performing hoop dancing, at all skill levels.  But the one unifying theme is that they are all having FUN.  They have found a playful form of exercise that not only loosens up their bodies, but loosens up their souls.  I truly believe this is a major theme missing from adulthood – most of us need to loosen up.  I know I do, most days.  Many professional hoopers will state in interviews that they find themselves within the art of hoop-dancing.  And it’s no wonder…the dance creates a zen-like state, where the dancer is so focused on the flow of movement that it becomes meditative.

I found a couple of good YouTube videos featuring hoop-dance…please check them out, if you’re interested.  They both feature a woman who goes by the name SaFire, and she’s amazing.  The first video showcases the more “zen” aspect of hoop dancing, and the real beauty of it…


The second video shows SaFire at a performance…with three fire hoops in motion.  This one is more playful and energetic, and shows the edgier aspect of hoop-dancing.


I don’t know that I really aspire to perform, or to be anywhere near as skilled as this woman.  I’m pretty sure I never want to tackle flaming hoops.  I just wanted to do something that looks like a whole lot of fun.

So about three months ago, I took the plunge, and bought my first hoop.  I found a weighted hoop at a retail store, designed for weight loss. and started playing.  After a few frustrating failed attempts just to keep the thing up around my waist, it finally stayed up.  And I hooped for the first time in 30+ years…for about 30 seconds.  My next try, I kept it going a little longer, and before long, I was going for 15 minutes.  My heart rate was up, my core muscles were working and I was smiling.  I couldn’t remember the last time I’d truly enjoyed a cardio workout.

So I’m now officially addicted.  My first store-bought hoop is fine, but I’ve since discovered a whole world of handcrafted, custom-made hoops.  In addition to my first hoop, I also have a few handcrafted hoops, including a gorgeous fabric-wrapped hoop, a dance hoop (lightweight, smaller, and WAY beyond my skill set…but I can aspire to use it), and a pair of “minis” for arm hooping.  My goal is to use them for 15 minutes each day…not just because it’s a great workout (400-600 calories burned per hour), but because it reminds me of how to have fun, and to lighten up.  To revisit my inner child, and give her some play time.  I must face it…she REALLY needs to get out more, and this is a carefree way to let her shake out her hair and feel a little wild again.  The neighbors look at me strangely, but I don’t care.  Did I care when I was 10 years old?  Nah.  It isn’t about that.  Maybe they’re just jealous.  Maybe they should just come over and borrow one of my hoops.  And maybe they too should find their own youthful joy, and go out to play.