Truth is, when I planned this review of fitness hoops and attended a 90-minute hooping class in Santa Monica last Sunday, I did not know that hooping had become a giant fitness trend and that Marisa Tomei used it to get in shape for her role as a stripper in the Oscar-nominated film "The Wrestler." But I can tell you that it is a smile-inducing, easy-yet-challenging, sweat-drenching, skill-building core workout for an uncoordinated male, and that when I woke up Monday morning I swear my gut had shrunk by an inch or two. And having seen "The Wrestler," I can also tell you that I recommend the products below to every woman in the universe.
-- Roy M. Wallack
Hoopalicious Storm Hooper: Mid-size (40-inch-diameter), mid-weight, one-piece hoop.
Likes: Great spin, balance and whip off the hip. At 1 1/2 pounds, it is within the ideal weight range for fast adult hooping. (Note: More than 2 pounds is said to slow speeds.) I like the way it digs into your skin as it circumnavigates your midsection -- part massage, part fat zapper.
Price: $40. (323) 369-1494; www.hooprevolution.com.
Hoopnotica Fitness TravelHoop: Large (44-inch-diameter) take-apart hoop that breaks down into six 4-ounce, 23 1/2 -inch-long sections for easy packing or storage.
Likes: Great spin characteristics. Simple, no-tools, male-female snap-in assembly. Feels solid -- indistinguishable from a one-piece hoop. The soft tape makes it comfortable for your body, and it's the quietest of the bunch when hitting the floor. Can be used as a five-section, 37-inch hoop for kids. Weighs 1 1/2 pounds.
Dislikes: Though convenient, the tiny, quarter-inch pushpins that disengage the sections tend to hurt your thumb as you push. Eventually, I used a coin to push them.
Price: $49.95. (877) GO-HOOPN; www.hoopnotica.com.
BodyHoops Infinity Travelhoop: Large (44-inch-diameter) hoop that coils down to 22 1/2 inches via two swivel connectors.
Likes: I felt like a magician as I twisted it into a figure-8 and folded it over into a double loop. At 2 pounds (a third heavier than the others), it seemed to deliver a tougher workout, without giving up speed. You get this one going, it practically gives you a deep-tissue massage.
Dislikes: None -- although it may not pack as easily as the Hoopnotica in some luggage.
Price: $44.99. (805) 640-6813; www.bodyhoops.com.
The Original Hula Hoop by Wham-O: Smaller-sized hoops (maximum 36-inch-diameter) for kids.
Likes: Similar core-shaking workout as that of the adult hoops. In fact, even more effort is required to maintain the momentum of the 36-incher's thin, featherweight (8-ounce) bulk. You can't beat the price -- or the history. Although hoops were used in ancient Greece, Wham-O trademarked the name Hula Hoop and sold 100 million of them at $1.98 each in 1958. A little ball inside makes a banging/swishing noise as you spin it.
Dislikes: Not as fun as the adult hoops. Too much work. And the noise gets irritating fast.
Price: $5. www.whamo.com.
Canyon Weighted Hula Hoop: Adjustable-weight, travel-friendly hoop that can be filled with water for a total weight of 4 pounds.
Likes: Best versatility of the bunch. The 42-inch-diameter, 2-pound hoop comes apart in one spot with a built-in male-female connector, coils down to 22 inches for travel, and can be filled with up to four cups of water -- 2 extra pounds. You can use a couple of layers of duct tape or tape supplied by Canyon to secure the closure. Although warned that heavy hoops are slow, I found that true only for the initial start; quickly it was whizzing around me like a helicopter blade; I thought I was going to levitate. Your abs and back definitely feel the extra weight; if the Infinity is a deep-tissue massage, this is Rolfing and chiropractic all rolled into one. That isn't sweat you feel; it's your fat cells crying. But at this price, your wallet won't.
Price: $25. (877) 914-6677; www.canyonhoops.com.
Wallack is the author of "Run for Life: The Anti-Aging, Anti-Injury, Super-Fitness Plan to Keep You Running to 100." firstname.lastname@example.org