“Cinderella, dressed in yellow. Went upstairs to kiss her fellow…” Does this rhyme take you back in time? Your idea of rope skipping might involve pigtails on the playground, but mine is that of hard core competition, hours of practice, thousands of travel miles and performances in the spotlight. Now, it’s what I do to stay fit—and you can, too.
Drawing from over a decade of growing up on the competitive jump rope circuit and certified personal trainer friends who favor this method of exercise, I’ve learned that jump rope is considered one of the top five best cardiovascular exercises of all time.
Not only is it good for the heart, but it’s near and dear to my heart. My experience began as a founding member of the Skip Stars, which, when in existence was the official American Heart Association Jump Rope Demonstration Team for Northeast Ohio during the nineties and one of the trailblazing teams that helped define the modern sport in Ohio and beyond. Led by a Parma Elementary School physical education teacher, the late Joanne Kuebler, we performed at schools and major events, won hundreds of medals, ribbons and other accolades with my shining moment being a first place double dutch finish at the 1997 AAU Junior Olympic Games.
Jump rope events include single rope and double dutch speed (where you alternate feet as if running in place counting the number of times your right foot hits the ground in thirty seconds or a minute) and freestyle (choreographed routines performed alone, in pairs or as a group of three or four jumpers as a team). As with other major sports, events are held in age divisions, and competition starts at the state or regional level, with top finishers advancing to the national level. The last year I competed at nationals, the competition was televised on ESPN.
Whether you want to jump-start your fitness or simply break the monotony of your current routine, here are four reasons to consider jumping rope:
- It’s accessible and inexpensive. The only equipment required is a rope, so it can be done anywhere anytime on the cheap. No membership or trainer required. You don’t even need much space, just leave a foot of ceiling clearance and avoid carpet if you do it indoors.
- It’s an efficient total body workout. Jump rope’s exceptional cardiovascular benefits make it a more efficient exercise than running. A study found ten minutes of jumping rope is comparable to 30 minutes of jogging, so it’s capable of producing the same results in 1/3 of the time. Fitness experts agree jumping rope can burn 10 to 20 calories per minute, depending on your intensity. Assuming you’re using correct form, muscles are engaged throughout your body, from your shoulders and arms down to your core and legs. It can even help improve coordination, balance and stamina for other sports and may be less strenuous on the knees than running, since the impact is absorbed by both legs.
- It’s fun. Turn on the music and turn up the creativity. Learn tricks and make up your own routine or simply jump to the beat or with a friend. Visit the USA Jump Rope YouTube channel to see the possibilities. The options are limitless. You’ll never get bored.
- It’s for everyone. Almost everyone did it in grade school, so it’s a lifetime sport that’s great for beginners, advanced rope skippers and everyone in between. It’s as challenging as you want it to be. Start with ten seconds or ten minutes (whatever you can handle) and work up from there. Do it to get in shape, lose weight, train for a marathon or have fun with the kids.
Tips to start off on the right foot:
- Find the right rope. The thinner and shorter the rope, the faster you can turn it. Plastic or “licorice” ropes are generally used for speed, while weighted ropes can help with weight training, and plastic beaded ropes allow for more controlled turning for certain tricks. The thick woven fabric or rigid plastic single rope “toys” often marketed to children are not ideal, as they don’t allow for proper control or forgiveness.
- Measure the length. As a general rule of thumb, when you hold both handles and stand on the rope with both feet together, the ends of the handles should come up to your armpits. An assortment of ropes and more detailed sizing guide are available at buyjumpromps.net.
- Use correct form. The two most common mistakes I see are holding arms outstretched and jumping too high. Try to keep your elbows in at your sides and rotate your wrists to turn the rope. (For certain tricks, the motion will vary.) Jump on the balls of your feet just high enough to clear the rope as it turns under you, but not so high that you tire quickly or cause misses.
- Watch tutorials online. You may be familiar with double unders – when the rope makes two quick passes per jump instead of one (recently popularized by CrossFit) – but there are dozens of tricks to try. The American Heart Association Jump Rope for Heart fundraising fitness program offers a list of jump rope skills and printable cards here.
- Track progress. After you master jumping with two feet, try alternating feet and counting your steps or doing consecutive double unders. If you’re not into learning tricks, work to improve your speed and endurance.
Want to get more involved?
If jumping rope pulls on your heart strings, too, there are ways to get yourself or your kids more involved in the sport.
- Find out if your child’s school participates in Jump Rope for Heart. If not, encourage a physical education teacher or administrator to start a fundraising team.
- Research local teams in your area. If you’re in Northeast Ohio, check out the National, AAU and World Jump Rope Champion Heartbeats Jump Rope Team of Medina. Attend one of the team’s educational workshops, events or membership tryouts.
- If you can’t find a team near you, start your own! The United States Amateur Jump Rope Federation (USA Jump Rope or USAJR) offers a new team starter guide, workshops and judging clinics and other resources.
Ready to hop to it? Go ahead. Might as well jump!
Have you jumped rope lately? Would you want to attend an adult class to learn the basics and some fancy footwork, too? Let me know, and you just might become a skip star!
Disclaimer: Always consult a physician before starting any new exercise program.