I don’t know about you guys, but I found growing up and going through puberty REALLY tough. I had no idea what was going on, felt super uncomfortable with the changes and really wished I had someone or something to turn to so I could make sure I was “normal”. Basically I needed someone like hula hooping superstar Marawa Ibrahim and her first book, The Girl Guide – which publishes today. Even though my teenage years are a LONG way back now, I still absolutely loved The Girl Guide and only wished super stylish and sassy agony aunt Marawa had been around when I needed some frank but also funny advice about periods, boobs and bras and the hormonal changes my body was going through. But who is the Hula Hooping Girl behind The Girl Guide? And how excited was I when she offered to write an exclusive guest post just for you guys?!
Hula hooping sensation and nine times Guiness World Record holder Marawa wrote her first book, THE GIRL GUIDE, as a frank, funny, informative guide for girls approaching or going through puberty. By sharing her own experiences and anecdotes in this refreshingly honest book, Marawa hopes to turn the challenges and awkwardness of growing up into an opportunity for girls to understand, appreciate and get to know their amazing bodies.
Dubbed by Stylist as a ‘shining light for the next generation’, Marawa works daily with hundreds of young women around the world through her award-winning hula hoop troupe, The Majorettes, so she knows a thing or two about the power of the female body.
The daughter of a Somali dad and Australian mum, Marawa grew up in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Middle East. After school, where she was told she was too chubby to be a performer, she ran away to the circus in China and toured the country’s circus schools, which inspired her to enrol on a Bachelor of Circus Arts course at the National Institute of Circus Arts Australia. She is now one of the world’s most in-demand circus performers, regularly collaborating with fashion power-houses Kenzo and Diesel and was part of the line-up at the Opening Ceremony of the London Summer Olympics 2012. Marawa broke her first hula-hooping world-record in 2014, which she has since smashed six more times. Today she holds world records for the most hoops spun by an individual and the fastest 100 metres in high-heeled skates.
Here she shares her journey to fitness:
CORE CORE CORE
I managed to spend the first 26 years of my life without any core muscles. Which seemed impossible as by this point I had been hula hooping professionally for 4 years full time. I was seeing a physiotherapist in New York every week as my hips were always out and I was doing 8 shows a week spinning 100 hoops around my (believe it or not weak) waist. Every week on my day off the Physiotherapist would re align me and then the next night I would do my first show of the week and undo everything. Repeat repeat repeat. Eventually I said ‘soooo… when will this actually get better’ and he said ‘well you are a professional hula hooper – this is your life now’.
This seemed CRAZY! This was not a solution – I was meant to be in my physical peak! How could I be permanently injured?!?! I told him I wanted an actual solution and so we worked backwards – looking at how I pushed the hoop, the technique and what was going on. The conclusion was that I needed to learn how to push the hoop in a different way. Previously I had been pushing the hoop side to side with my hips (which is why I was always out of alignment). But if I wanted to create strength in my core and use my core muscles I would have to find a way to push the hoop with my abs instead of my hips.
EASSSSY I thought – I got this no worries! I have the strongest abs ever – I can spin 100 hoops ! So he tested my core – just some simple leg raises lying down – I would lift my leg and he would say ‘no don’t use your glutes, not your quads, not your neck’ – and I thought what are you talking about?! I am not using my … oh –I could feel how strained my neck was! Turns out I had ZERO core strength. Through all the years of trapeze at circus school, sit ups, plank holds, and hula hooping – I had never actually used my core muscles!
And the more I looked around I realized NO ONE was using their core! We find all these ways to cheat – using our legs, arms or shoulders, all these other muscles that take over as if to protect the core area and keep it disengaged. I realized that all the conditioning I did in gymnastics was too advanced for a muscle that had never been used. ‘Finding’ my core muscles took a few months and involved a series of really REALLY simple exercises, which you can follow in this video:
Doing these exercises gave me the base level of strength to begin hooping again and when I did it was with a whole new technique that used ONLY my core to push the hoop. This was a REVELATION! Once those muscles woke up EVERYTHING changed – my posture, my general strength, my lower back pain was a thing of the past (and to this day has never returned). I felt balanced and lighter on my feet. All the other muscles that had been over compensating could relax and ease off as my core became the lead in my movement – my breath and strength came from my core and my whole body felt reset.
Now I teach this technique to first time hoopers so that from the start they learn to hoop using their core and it becomes and important tool for building their core strength. I also work with a lot of hoopers, who have been suffering with injuries for years, helping them to correct their technique so that they can use the hoop as a strengthening and conditioning tool not something that is working against their body.
I LOVE hula hooping – I always did – but now it has become my number one strengthening and body balancing tool. It makes me feel great from head to toe, and it is so much fun!
Awkward teenager or not, how much do you want to BE Marawa right now?! Don’t know about you guys but I’m off to purchase a sparkly hula hoop and get working on my core – thank you SO much Marawa for the amazing guest post. And if you have any little ladies in your life then do them a huge favour, and get a copy of The Girl Guide – it’s honestly what every girl needs.