I don’t know about you, but when I think of a cardio-intensive workout some standard images come to mind.

There’s the overzealous businessman cruising on the treadmill, the first-time gymgoer aimlessly climbing the Stairmaster and the soccer mom pumping away aboard the elliptical.

I see an indoor track stained with sweat from the guy who lost his sleeveless T-shirt back on lap No. 0. I see an elderly woman power walking like it’s nobody’s business.

What I don’t see? A toy made popular by Wham-O in the 1950s.

Then again, I’m not Carly Bennyhoff.

Bennyhoff, a certified Hoopnotica, will host the beginner-friendly yet cardio intensive Hula Hoops in the Park from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in Wicker Park (on the corner of Damen and Schiller). Admission is free. No experience is required. Adult-sized hula hoops will even be available to borrow.

“Hula hooping is a lot of fun,” Bennyhoff said. “It takes everyone back to a playful place.”

But this “playful place” can help you burn 400 to 600 calories per hour.

But never fear, as Bennyhoff likes to say, “This is hoop camp not boot camp.”

Attendees will be given step-by-step instructions on how to hoop, shown basic hooping moves and stances, and will progress to use the hoop off the hips to stretch and strengthen the upper body.

“I hope people walk away with a big smile,” Bennyhoff said. “It’s a lot of fun. I also hope there’s a little sweat and maybe even some soreness the next day as a reminder that it’s not only a great time, but it’s a really great workout. But really, I hope they have a great time trying something new.”

After all, even Bennyhoff is relatively new to hooping.

She remembers seeing several “hoopers” twirling around at music festivals. She was mesmerized by both the beauty and difficulty.

Not long after, Bennyhoff found herself in hula-hooping classes while briefly living in Washington, D.C. It quickly grew into one of her favorite pastimes.

After spending countless hours outside with an armful of hoops, Bennyhoff noticed the eruptions of spontaneous smiles and conversations revolving around the plastic rings.

When she moved to Chicago, she had a difficult time finding hooping classes. But she did manage to uncover a Hoopnotica certification course--simply, a class approved and monitored by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.

Bennyhoff became certified in April 2012.

Since January, Bennyhoff has been instructing classes every Monday night at Dance Spa. She even builds handmade hula hoops to sell during her lessons.

“It’s just a great way to get active or get outside and meet people and learn something new,” she said.

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