Hooping It Up

A retro toy spins its way into the newest fitness craze.

They grew up getting physical with soccer, dance, cheer, and gymnastics. During college, the demands of studying and jobs shoved regular exercise to the back burner — until these 20something friends discovered a "toy" that baby boomers fondly remember.

Today the Hooper Troopers — Adriene Holland, Megan Simpson, Lindsey Murphy, and Abbey Pommer (left to right, above) — make and sell hula hoops. But these good buds aren't in it for the big bucks. "It's mainly a fun way to hang out together. We have a lot of guy friends and they come around too," says Holland, a University of Memphis graduate who works at The Med. "We all have other jobs, so this is just supplemental income. What we really want to do is get people off the couch and hooping. It's so healthy."

Holland and Simpson both felt a void as college students. Holland was gaining weight from lack of activity, and Simpson, a lifelong dancer, no longer had time or money for dance classes. Each of them saw a hula hoop at different musical festivals in other cities. "I watched someone hooping and was just mesmerized," says Simpson. Holland spotted one and asked its owner how to make it. A couple of years later she bought PVC tubing at Lowe's, ordered the grip tape and decorative metallic tape online, and she and her three pals set to work.

Pommer, now a student at Christian Brothers University, was a cheer coach at a local gym where kids and their moms were so taken by the hoops they placed 10 orders in one day. Since then, over the past year and a half, the Hooper Troopers have sold about 150 of the spinning orbs, mainly through word of mouth to friends and family and at such events as the Cooper-Young Festival on September 19th. Holland also credits the downtown Memphis Farmers Market for their support. "We love the atmosphere there, with all the families," says Holland. "It gives the kids something to do, to try out the hoops, and parents are gracious and interested."

The smaller hoops sell for $20, the larger ones for $35, and a collapsible one that can be packed for travel costs $40. They come in different weights, and the women recommend heavier tubing for beginners because it revolves more slowly. "When you catch on," says Holland, "you can use the lighter ones that spin faster."

Lindsey Murphy, who once had the lead role in a Bolton High School play, relates hooping to her love of theater: "It allows us to express our own personality and style, and that's fun and satisfying to me."

The same is true for Simpson the dancer, but she also hails its physical benefits: "The circular movement is so natural, and you really feel in tune with the hoop. It's great exercise for the hips, arms, shoulders, a total body experience. It's also a stress reliever. People will see we're having fun, getting in shape, and they'll say, 'Sign me up.'"

While most businesses aim to build their bottom line, Holland says Hooper Troopers' goal is to "build awareness, to collaborate with other people, teach classes, perform at events — markets, festivals, concerts, birthday parties — and generally share the joy of hooping with everybody we can. It has so much potential."

Meanwhile they share the joy with each other, including the guys who hang out with them. Holland says her boyfriend can do a couple of hooping tricks she's taught him. And what about Simpson's fellow? She laughs and says, "I've seen him try it when he thinks no one's watching."

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