Let’s Get Physical

Get Out and Get Fit

You can usually find Noelle Powers on Sundays in Meridian Hill Park, hooping in her own world at the drum circle. Photo: Noelle Powers

The sun is back, and it’s finally time to take your workout into the world. Here are some Let’s Get Physical features that take you beyond your gym’s walls.


Slacklining @ a Park near You

You may have seen these folks in Dupont Circle, Meridian Hill Park, or Logan Circle. They seem like your average young, after-work crowd – except for the circus-like activity that has them walking along a strap stretched between two trees. It’s called slacklining, and it’s a fun and challenging thing to do on climbing excursions, camping trips, hikes, or just an idle afternoon.

With a durable nylon belt suspended a few feet off the ground and stretched between two points, a slacker attempts to walk, run, bounce, and even flip his or her way from one end to the next. It is similar to walking a tightrope, except the line is more a ribbon than a cable, and it is stretched but not tight, making it more bouncy and dynamic than static. 

Getting up on a slackline requires heaps of muscle control, balance, and coordination. It takes a core that’s both tight and flexible. It also requires a strong mind-body connection. Losing focus for just one second can throw off balance and end your attempt to make it to the other side, one calculated step at a time. It’s the kind of physical activity that can be as difficult and daring or as easygoing as desired.

The people you may have seen in the park aren’t part of an organization or class. They’re just friendly people from around the DMV who get together to unwind on the line. A few are serious slackers and/or rock climbers who enter competitions and challenge themselves at great heights and with risky tricks. Most just enjoy the time spent doing something fun with friends. They’re all very welcoming and don’t mind when strangers come up and ask for a crash course.

Catch up with friendly slackers through Meetup (www.meetup.com/DCSlackers), Facebook (www.facebook.com/groups/dmvslackline), or running into them at a midcity park just after the workday or on the weekend.


Hula-hooping @ Joe’s Movement Emporium or a Park near You

Who knew how much a big plastic ring could do for one’s wellbeing? Quite a few people, apparently. There’s a whole subculture around “flow arts,” which include hobbies such as juggling, fire dance, and yes, hula-hooping.

But today’s hula-hoops are not the same ones your grandma whirled; they bring much more to the table than playtime. These are weighted, collapsible, handmade, personalized hoops that can trim waistlines, strengthen hearts and lungs, and even help with mental and emotional health symptoms from anxiety to Alzheimer’s.

One place to learn more and try it out is the weekly hoop jam at Joe’s Movement Emporium, led by Noelle Powers. Against the backdrop of a sunny playlist and club lights, budding hoopers can practice keeping the hoop in motion, hooping in both directions, hooping on different body parts, hooping while walking, and a host of other tricks. It’s all much more challenging than I remember. What is it about growing up that steals the ability to just do things without much thought or effort?

Anyway, the hoop jam is relatively out of the way, so instead you can probably run into Powers at the Sunday drum circle in Meridian Hill Park. She’s the one with the playful bob haircut, serene smile, extra hoops to share, and supremely impressive skills. 

The Hoop Jam at Joe’s Movement Emporium (3309 Bunker Hill Rd., Mt. Rainier, Md. 20712) is on Tuesdays at 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and is $12 to drop in – but this is the last month of class before a summer hiatus. Otherwise try to catch instructor Powers at community festivals and events around the DMV (www.hoopingpowers.com). You can also link with the Hoop Dance DC Meetup and learn the ropes (www.meetup.com/hoopdancedc).


Toned-Up Tuesdays with VIDA Fitness @ The Park at CityCenter

It’s the return of VIDA’s weekly free yoga class, Toned-Up Tuesdays. Each week strong and earnest VIDA Fitness instructors show up to lead this free, open-air, open-to-the-public yoga class.

May 12 brings a vinyasa session, which is a moderately paced flow that supports cardio and respiratory health as well as toning muscles and improving flexibility. The May 19 class is power yoga, a challenging flow that will test stamina, build muscle, and increase flexibility. There will be sweat.

The final, May 26 session is hatha yoga, ideal for releasing the day’s tension. It’s also great for yoga beginners or those who need a mellow stretch or easygoing break after their usual workout.

On top of the virtue of being a free outdoor yoga class led by experienced professionals, Toned-Up Tuesdays is a great way to meet new people or catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a bit. Plus, there are giveaways and free swag. Grab your mat and show up early for a good spot.

Toned-Up Tuesdays at The Park at City Center (corner of 10th St. and New York Ave. NW) starts at 6:30 p.m. each Tuesday in May. No membership or pre-registration required. 

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