Amy Mathieson tests her strength – and head for heights – as she attempts the art of aerial hoop with as much grace as she can muster
Let’s start with a quick word association game: hoops. Shooting them. Hula-ing them. Jumping through them (for your partner/boss, probably not literally unless you’re training your dog for Crufts). Best of all: eating them (the crispy, crunchy, salty, snack variety).
It’s unlikely that hoisting yourself into one and dangling from the ceiling has made the list.
But who hasn’t been to a Cirque du Soleil show, or similar, and wished they could be as elegant as the performers who twirl athletically, and glide effortlessly through the air as if they’re flying (and who most certainly always avoid those aforementioned potato-based snacks).
Admittedly, maybe not everyone harbours my long-held ambition to spin majestically in a suspended, oversized onion ring. Pro performers make it look so easy, but the reality is clearly years of training. Casting the necessary months of dedication to the back of my mind, I jump at an invitation from Dubai Marina’s Pole Fit studio to try a session of aerial hoop for myself. I’m only attempting to master one of the many airborne acrobatic skills I’m in awe of. How hard can it be?
After one too many “don’t-fall-off-the-hoop-and-land-on-your-head” messages, I clearly need to have a word with my friends about their lack of trust in my balance and athleticism.
The studio’s aerial hoop experience is designed as a fitness class rather than a circus skills workshop, so it’s much more accessible to all. It’s also designed to work on your core strength – and as I’m generally better acquainted with potato circles than fitness ones, I’m under no illusions.
This is going to be tough.
The hour-long class consists of a 15-minute warm-up session ahead of taking to the skies/ceiling. As I puff my way through a series of sit ups with Vlada, my instructor, I inwardly chastise myself for skipping the gym this week (and possibly last week, and some other ones before that) and eye the looming hoop with rapidly depleting ambition.
A couple of lunges later and there’s no escaping it; my time has come. It turns out that just getting into the hoop is a challenge. Given my press-up record hovers somewhere between ten and, well, ten, I’m not optimistic about my chances of hauling myself up and in. But with just my upper body strength standing between me and my long-harboured girlhood dream, I muscle up and prepare to hoist myself in.
We start with the simple stuff, merely hanging from the hoop, like I’m back in the school playground. So far, so good. I’m happy just chilling here, thanks. Next it’s time to master getting into the hoop. I garner all the strength I can manage (c’mon, biceps) and I’m in. Sitting cross-legged in a hoop. It’s actually surprisingly comfortable, and despite my natural lack of balance, I feel relatively secure.
The rest of the class rushes by as I gather confidence and fling my limbs around, imagining I’m soaring through the air like an eagle (although sadly the only wings around here are of the bingo variety). As I dismount for the final time, I’m delighted, slightly stunned and relieved, not only that I actually enjoyed the experience, but that the crash mat didn’t have to fulfil it’s main purpose in life.
I know I’ll barely be able to open a door tomorrow without wincing (true, as it transpires) but whether it’s the endorphins from the exercise, adrenaline from the challenge or both, I’m buzzing.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be fulfilling any dreams of joining the circus after one session, but after a few, you’ll certainly be fitter and more toned.
The centre hosts group classes twice a week, and the studio is light and airy and overlooks the Marina. Not that you’ll notice the view once you’re up in the hoop, taking every ounce of concentration to stay airborne.
So why not gather your friends for support (literally) and hit the hoops while it’s too hot to exercise outside?
And maybe reward yourself with a bag of the potato version afterwards. Dhs100 (group classes), Dhs900 (for a package of ten. Pole Fit is also offering summer discounts of 15 percent off monthly packages. Marina Sail Tower, Dubai Marina (04 551 6911).