Hooping has been one of the most interesting exercises I have done. The name came to me because it feels like shooting baskets. When performing this exercise, we are using the large workout structure in the middle of the gym floor. The apparatus has all kinds of gadgets attached to it on all sides. There are monkey bars going down the middle, pull-up bars extended on the outside. Places to set up platforms and place small trampolines for ball rebounds. The structure probably stands about eight to nine feet tall. Taking up much of the turf area, to one side of the main gym floor. We have used the structure for many exercises over the years of our sessions. For the exercise I have deemed hooping, we made use of the pull-up bars. There are two of them extended out from the top. One sits higher than the other by about half of a foot. My objective during the exercise has been to get a ten-pound exercise ball over the pull-up bar. The movement to achieve the goal feels like a squat-press. It also feels much like a jump-shot from playing basketball as a kid. The difference being that the ball we use for this exercise outweighs a basketball. The variety of an exercise like this one has been part of the reason I enjoy our training sessions. 

The introduction of this new exercise left me feeling excited. It felt like the intrigue involved with the movement, led to added engagement. The reason for my enthusiasm around hooping was my joy for basketball. While growing up, basketball was my favorite sport to play. I would spend hours shooting hoops in the driveway. Some of my favorite moments were being out in the driveway after darkness had arrived. The hoop sat above the garage and a spotlight shined on the backboard from a nearby tree. I would spend many winter nights on the driveway. Moving around and shooting baskets to fight off the cold winter temperatures. My heavy breathing sending clouds of breath, into the chill of the night. They remain some of my fondest memories from childhood. Fast-forwarding into the present and the new movement introduced by Bernard. The good memories came back as he explained how he wanted me to get the exercise ball over the bar. The movement would be a step forward from an exercise we were doing, previously. Where we used a land mine, basically a bar anchored to the bottom corner of the exercise structure. The movement had me holding the unattached end, squatting with the end of the bar in my hands, and pushing out of the squat position. As I came up and out of the squat position, I would continue to press the bar up and forward with my arms. Creating the squat-press movement with the anchored bar. Moving on to the hooping movement, there would be no anchored bar to help support the movement.

Progressing the squad-press movement into the hooping exercise would bring a balance requirement. The amount of weight being lifted would be greatly reduced. Moving down to propelling a 10-pound exercise ball toward the sky. But, the squat and explosion would have to be balanced by my own body. There would be no anchored bar for me to grasp onto. The exercise ball wouldn’t be small in diameter, either. The same ball I had been using to slam down to the floor. Now, I would be pushing up into the air. The exercise ball would be held differently from that of a basketball. The weight needed to be supported by holding it more on the outside. Making my attempt to clear the bar, standing out from the top of the exercise structure, looked more like a push than a shot. The 10-pound ball was too heavy for me to flip my wrist like would be done with a basketball. My first few attempts at the movement were met with some discouragement. More than half of them hit the bar and came back to my feet. I was having trouble squatting down low enough, using my legs to help drive the ball up and over the bar. During my first few attempts, I was unsure about maintaining my balance while squatting. With the exercise ball in my hands and no anchor point. My concern turned to my ability of getting the ball into the air. So, I was making an abbreviated squatting motion, making sure to stay balanced, and got the exercise ball into the air. The lack of a good squat before the press, was leaving the ball short of passing over top of the bar. 

Being reminded to work on using my legs during the shooting motion wasn’t new. Using my legs to accelerate a ball had always been a struggle. While playing basketball as a kid, I struggled to shot with any distance. Even getting the basketball to the hoop from the free-throw line was really challenging. A shot most had the ability to execute without jumping. It was something bringing sadness to me as a kid. The inability for me to generate the power inside my shooting motion. When looking at my typically developed peers, who had the skill to shot a free-throw with seemingly little trouble. From the disappointment of watching them, with the capability to flick the ball easily from the free-throw line, the emotion of sadness continued onward. When watching those same peers move back to the three-point line and take those shots with a similar, seemingly relative ease. I couldn’t even get the basketball close to the hop from behind the three-point arc. My lack of skill, undeniably stripped by cerebral palsy, left me feeling dejected on a consistent basis. Even with the disappointment, I couldn’t make disappear, I kept playing the game of basketball. Trying to become stronger and develop better coordination in my body. One of the reasons Bernard brought in the hooping exercise, was to help improve my coordinated movements. The exercise has brought things full circle. Having me practice a movement I probably should have focused on at a younger age. Taking the time to learn this coordination probably would have helped me develop a stronger basketball shot, as a kid. 

Well, there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about the past. It does feel interesting to be working on the skill at this point. Because of the strength that has been developed before arriving at this stage. There has been a lot of time spent working on the process of the squat. Something I needed to get the hang of before being able to launch the exercise ball over the bar. As I continued working to get the motion down and the ball over the bar. Bernard continued giving the verbal cue to have me get into a better squat position, before exploding up with my shot. Once my focus went into the squat and explosion portion of the movement, the ball starting going over the bar with better consistency. The click inside my brain had started to occur and I was clearing the bar. My motion beginning to feel similar to the jump shot I had repeated so many times in my driveway as a kid. I was learning the balance needed to squat a little lower, allowing the ball to explode even higher. Increasing the distance of clearance being achieved, from the bar. The 10-pound exercise ball was rarely getting caught on the bar and rejected back to my feet. I was feeling good about my developed ability in the exercise. Having the skill to keep the ball balanced during my squat and tossing it up toward the bar, as I exploded out of my squat position. There was another progression to the movement, right around the corner. 

There are two of the pull-up bars attached to the top of the exercise structure. One is lower than the other by probably half of a foot. We had been using the lower of the two pull-up bars to begin working the hooping exercise. When I had reached the place of shooting the exercise ball over the first of the bars, with good regularity, we moved forward. Bernard wanted me to work on getting the ball over the higher of the two bars. My first thought wasn’t the fear that clearing the taller bar wasn’t achievable. I looked to Bernard and just commented, it was going to take more legs. He gave me the affirmation of being along the correct thought process. So, for me, more leg drive meant getting into a deeper squat position. Meaning, I would need added focus on maintaining balance, and concentrate on getting lower, to then explode upward, getting the 10-pound ball moving. As it turned out, clearing the higher of the two bars didn’t carry the challenge of the first bar. After gaining the feeling of the motion required to propel the ball, getting into a more powerful position was okay. I could bend by knees more, while keeping the balance needed to explode up into the jump. The exercise ball was carrying up toward the gym ceiling with good velocity. I was excited about the progression to the higher bar. The accomplishment of maintaining balance through a more challenging squat and explosion process was really cool. Leading me to believe we were preparing well for my ski season to start. 

Working on the hooping exercise has been fun. Bernard has been good at bringing in movements that take the boredom out of training. It relieves the feeling that I’m going to the gym, and doing the same things over and over. Which, can keep me wanting to improve. Not only to improve the impact of my disability. Or, get better at my hobbies of golfing and skiing. But, it also has me wanting to uncover the new exercise ideas he has in store. There are times I think about our training sessions like a video game. Where the more I can improve, the more exciting exercises there might be to uncover. The thought doesn’t always keep me as motivated as I could be, but it does help. With time, we have gotten into movements I couldn’t perform when I was younger. Even performing exercises, I had seen before, but never imagined I would be able to execute. The path of exercise can be frustrating as time goes on. Leaving me wanting to give up, do whatever I want, and eat whatever looks good. Someone once told me, there will always be peaks and valleys. But, as long as you keep working at it, you’ll always be moving forward. 

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