Jamesport resident Diane Gunder had never even touched a hula hoop until a year and a half ago.
Then, one day, Gunder saw a post from her friend, Hampton Bays resident Jamie Doria, on Facebook about "hooping," and decided to give it a whirl.
"I saw it and said, 'Wow, I want to do that,'" she said. "I haven't been able to put the hoop down since. I'm addicted."
Today's hoops are weighted -- and are used more for a complete workout than the plastic type that became a craze during the 1960s, Gunder noted.
The results, Gunder said, were life-altering. "I found one of my passions in life," she said.
Today, Gunder, who lives with her husband Greg and two children, Abbey Rain, 7, and Greyson, 4, in Jamesport, teaches hula hooping classes in Greenport at Five Branches Wellness, Fitness Advantage in Southold -- and will soon take over Doria's Hampton Bays class, given at the Church of St. Mary, when her friend relocates to Huntington.
"It is so much fun and an amazing workout. I never laughed and sweated so much at the same time," said Greenport resident Eileen Kapell.
Gunder also makes handmade, custom, weighted hula hoops designed for a serious workout.
Learning much of her technique from Doria and from a hoop retreat she attended in Pennsylvania, "Return to Roots," a gathering of hoop dancers and others, Gunder not only gives classes but teams up with Doria to do kids' parties.
But hooping, she said, is not just child's play. "It's a great workout," Gunder said, that strengthens the entire core and tones the whole body. "When you're moving with the hoops, it's an intense cardio workout," Gunder said. "You can burn up to 600 calories per hour in a low-impact workout."
Hula hooping, Gunder added, is also mentally relaxing and therapeutic, reducing stress, improving self-confidence, and increasing flexibility.
Different techniques involve hooping with the arms and waist to strengthen various areas of the body.
"I've never felt better in my life," Gunder said.
Never enjoying the gym or traditional exercise alternatives such as the treadmill, Gunder said hooping is an altogether difference experience. "You have fun working out -- when you start moving your hips and dancing, you feel pretty, and sexy. You just feel great."
Not only have those who have taken her classes told Gunder that they've lost weight and toned their stomachs and muscles -- but even her own mother is a convert. "My mom hoops for 40 minutes a day. She was having back problems, but now she's able to bend and garden again," she said.
Even her daughter joins Gunder in the hooping action. "You can do it anywhere," Gunder said. "In the backyard -- or, you can go to the vineyards or music festivals and bring your hoop. You're not just sitting there -- you're having fun."
For more information on class schedules or purchasing one of Gunder's handmade, custom hula hoops, go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 631-833-0607.