Mona Sevilla just dropped her hula hoop. Again.
On the final night of a six-week fitness class, Sevilla, 44, has learned to twirl the hoop around her waist and chest and dance with it, twirling the hoop with her hands while spinning it around her body — a tough one, her instructor says.
But the hoop still falls regularly.
“Hula hoops can be humbling,” says the teacher, Katie Gromlovits, a bubbly, fit 31-year-old who can chat away while spinning a hoop around her neck.
Gromlovits started teaching a hula hoop-based fitness class this fall at Fleur de Leaf studio on Sherwood Forest Boulevard after years of practicing at home and performing with flaming hoops with the Baton Rouge-based Inferneaux Fire Performance Troupe.
Along with hooping, Gromlovits teaches belly dancing and aerial yoga — all less traditional paths to physical fitness.
The average adult can burn 165 to 200 calories in 30 minutes of hula hooping, according to the Mayo Clinic, a result similar to many dance classes, and in an hour of Gromlovits’ class, every muscle in the body gets attention.
“I think it’s like accidental fitness,” Gromlovits says. “We have fun and listen to music and jump around, and we accidentally get fit.”
The 8 p.m. class starts as the four students, all women, filter in and try different sizes of hoops that Gromlovits makes.
Hula hoops found at toy stores won’t do. They’re too light, so they won’t spin long. Plus, those lightweight plastic tubes won’t hold up long in this class.
Student Adrienne Thomas, a 42-year-old who brought her 18-year-old daughter to try hooping, remembers how difficult her first class was.
“I was like, ‘Did I hula hoop as a child?’ I probably failed about 20 times,” she says.
Sevilla agrees: “My first class, I couldn’t hoop at all,” she says. “Then I finally got it.”
“Isn’t that the best feeling?” Gromlovits says.
Standing in front of a floor-to-ceiling mirror, they start by holding their hoops in front, like a steering wheel. They step in and out, then swivel and twist their hips.
Then, they begin twirling the hoops around their waists, and Gromlovits encourages the class to walk back and forth. She poses while the hoop spins, raising her hands to her chin and batting her eyelashes like a silent movie starlet. Gromlovits directs them to speed up their spin to raise the hoop to their chests. It rises up to her neck, then falls back down to her waist.
The women all took the class for different reasons. Sevilla tried hula hooping earlier in the year and signed up with her son’s girlfriend, Andye Dodd, 22, as a fun addition to their workouts. Thomas, who brought her daughter after a few classes, was looking for a way to raise her heart rate.
“I walk every day,” she says, “but it’s not enough.”
When a jazzy tune starts playing, the class is instructed to dance around their hoops. They prance around them, then step through to spin them counter-clockwise and stop and switch to spin clockwise.
Class ends with a yoga session to cool down. The continuous hooping throughout the class keeps heart rates elevated, Gromlovits says, and the yoga session helps to relax. The women stretch with the hula hoop, using it like a yoga strap — to make difficult poses easier.
Before the class leaves, Gromlovits will show them her flaming hoop outside in the parking lot. They had begged to see it.
But while they return their hoops to their storage compartment, Sevilla has one question: “Can we go ahead and sign up for the next class?”