21 Day Hooping Challenge, 21 Lessons Learned

It’s been about a month since I finished my 21 day #spinjoyhoopfitness challenge. It provided so many learning lessons that I thought it would be awesome to do a post about everything I learned.

1. You NEVER choose the song; the song ALWAYS chooses you.  My usual approach with a new goal is to have a carefully planned strategy. But that doesn’t work when it comes to hooping. You can’t force the hoop; you have to flow with it. This became soclear the day I felt like doing a Michael Jackson song. I tried so hard to flow to Billie Jean, but in the end the only song that clicked was Heal the World.

2. Something may look “ugly” or “weird” on first glance, but if you dig deeper there’s bound to be some beauty. There were times when I thought the flickering lights in my flat, or early morning darkness were going to ruin the whole video. It was only when I looked closer did I realise that the video was more beautiful because of that very imperfection.

3. Publicly posting videos forced me to accept myself exactly as I was. As a complete beginner, I had limited moves and no professional video camera. It was just me, my hoop and my iPhone in selfie mode. The resulting videos ended up rather unpolished, even with a filter. But I knew I was doing my best with what I had and that was enough.

4. Daily and consistent action was THE only way to improve myself. I’ve often thought that improving myself came down to dramatic life changes. But in reality, any real improvement comes down to what you do every day. 21 days may have seemed like nothing, but looking back, I can see how much work I put in and just how much of a difference it made.

5. Trying to control the uncontrollable is the worst thing to do in any situation. I couldn’t control the weather or what people would think of my song choice. Trying to do that was futile; it just blocked the creative process and flow. I could only control my own actions and reactions. Interestingly, when I stopped trying to force a certain outcome and just flowed to what felt good – that’s when I unlocked new moves.

6. Completing the 21 day challenge built my self-esteem immensely. It was more valuable that any set of affirmations or external validation I could have been given. I’m not sure why but my best hypothesis is this: showing up as you are, doing your best and keeping the commitment you have made to yourself, reinforces to yourself that you are a worthy person who deserves time, attention and care.

7. Making time for what you love is one of the best ways to take care of yourself. So often, self-care gets sold as something grandiose or expensive but it shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be. It’s often seen as massages or whole pamper days. But many of us don’t have that kind of time or money so we just end up abandoning self-care completely. Sometimes self-care can be as simple as taking out time for yourself, no matter what you use that time for.

8. Your body always knows the right answer. The hard part is trusting and listening to it. A few days into the 21 day challenge, I stopped planning choreography. I would just ask my body what it felt like doing and would do that. Some days it was waist hooping, other times it was throwing the hoop around in the air. It didn’t always make logical sense, but trusting my body never failed me.

9. Dance makes me feel alive like nothing else. I didn’t realise til part way through this challenge that most people won’t spend hours doing the same move again and again so they can nail their choreography. I’m also fairly sure that most people wouldn’t love dancing so much that they are willing to forgo sleep and eating to get things right. But I would do that without thinking twice. Unfortunately, I had thought that dance was just a childhood hobby, something to be left behind once I reached adulthood. It turns out I was wrong and dance will always be a part of me.

10. Worrying about what other people might think or say was the quickest way to frustration and hours wasted. Every time I tried to pick a song or create choreography I thought everyone would like, it always led nowhere. It surprised me that my most popular video was the one I thought no one would like. I was just having fun, throwing the hoop and messing around. I was doing it for myself, and the fact that it was captured on camera was just a bonus.

11. When you start being who you really are, all the possibilities open up. Once I embraced hooping and dancing everyday, I started to think about everything that I wanted to do in life. It wasn’t just wanting these things, but realising that they were probably more attainable than I previously thought.

12. Sometimes the best that we can do is show up and that’s okay. I didn’t always have time to come up with brilliant choreography. Sometimes practicing the basics is all I had in me – and that was okay. I used to think that I needed to prove my worth to the world by doing something amazing all the time. But in the end, the only person that I really needed to prove anything to was myself.

13. Being open to trying new things is crucial to finding yourself. I could have stuck to late 90’s or early 2000’s pop music for the full 21 days. Instead I used each day as a chance to explore and experiment. It helped me learn what I liked and what worked for my body. I tried so many genres of music, everything from country to Bollywood and even rap. No one was more surprised than me at how well I hoop to rap songs.

14. How you dress affects how you feel and show up in the world. Often, we are told to just concentrate on how we feel on the inside. We’re told that we should tell ourselves that we are beautiful, regardless of what we see in the mirror. There’s definitely some truth to feeling beautiful on the inside. However, nothing can take away from the fact that every time I wore my leather shorts, I felt so badass and so empowered. I was able to channel that badass energy and take my hooping sessions to the next level.

15. Hooping isn’t for everyone – and that’s okay. I started out wanting everyone to love hooping the way that I did. But just as I’m not into certain things (think kale, hot yoga and cross fit), there are always going to be some people that won’t be into hooping.

16. I learned to love myself exactly the way I am.  Cliched as it sounds, learning this was a gamechanger. No longer do I look in the mirror and just see all the things I hate or want to change. Instead, I see my whole body as a whole and love it.

17. Hooping is my form of meditation. It may not be sitting down, closing my eyes and concentrating on my breath – but it has given me every purported benefit of meditation. For many years I tried but meditation just didn’t seem to sit right with me. I hoped that one day I might find something that worked for me, and fortunately I found hooping.

18. Children and men were super supportive when they chanced upon my sessions. This really surprised me. Men were always the ones that gave the thumbs up, asked about hooping and smiled back. Children would watch mesmerised as if I was performing magic. They would come up to me and ask loads of questions and told me I was “really, really good”. I’m honestly disappointed that, as a whole, it was women that made me feel uncomfortable.

19. I can love to lift weights AND dance. For the longest time, I tried to be someone that loved to exclusively lift weights even though I only felt like that half the time (the other half of the time I wanted to dance). Since the hooping challenge I have learnt to embrace both feelings – to lift weights and dance. Dance may not sit at the top of the physical fitness hierarchy, but considering what it does for my emotional health it now sits at the top of my personal hierarchy.

20. There’s a difference between emotional and physical hunger. Prior to hooping I never realised the difference: emotional hunger feels like a bottomless pit in my stomach, whereas physical hunger has a shut off point. Learning that difference has been another game changer. Now, I eat to fuel my body rather than fuel my emotions.

21. If you’re looking to start something new, just start. There’s no sugar coating the fact that you will suck. You will make mistakes. You will feel silly. You will wonder if it’s worth it. But that’s the way of the world when you’re a beginner. So just start.