Hate running but want a quick total body workout?
Relive your childhood and try skipping rope.
If you’re as old as me, you’d remember the days when we used to string rubber bands together to make a long rope, and sang songs to go with the jumping games.
These days, rubber band ropes have been replaced by inexpensive commercial ropes that are widely available. Some even come with an LCD monitor to calculate calories and distance jumped.
Skipping or jumping rope is a great calorie burner. Not only does skipping build endurance, it also develops coordination, agility, balance and footwork.
The sport is believed to have originated in the Netherlands and made its way across the Atlantic in the 1600s. Dutch settlers were America’s first jump-ropers.
According to the International Rope Skipping Federation, the English, who governed the Dutch colony in the Hudson River Valley, found a sport that involved jumping over one or two ropes to be absolutely ridiculous.
The Dutch settler children jumped their ropes in front of their houses. As they jumped, the children accompanied their jumping games with songs in Dutch, which couldn’t be understood by the French or the English.
Oddly, it was the English who christened the two-roped variety of the sport “Double Dutch”.
Double Dutch is played with two skipping ropes swung in opposite directions so that they cross rhythmically. Before long, more skills, combinations and possibilities were created.
I assumed everyone could jump rope so it came as a surprise when I discovered many of my undergraduate students were fumbling over the ropes because they never learnt it during their schooldays. But they picked up the skills swiftly.
The basics do not require much skill – just coordination, and a ceiling high enough to allow the rope to pass overhead and not get stuck onto some object.
Whether you jump with two feet together or alternating feet, you only need to get one or two inches off the floor. This comes with practice as beginners tend to lift their legs too high and tire themselves out fast.
Stay light on your toes, landing on the balls of the feet with your knees slightly bent.
Don’t go too slowly as that would mean more energy expanded. Shorter, faster jumps are easier than higher, slower jumps, and develop better rhythm.
Let the rope hit the floor gently so you have an audible rhythm to follow.
Begin slowly and up it progressively to build your speed and endurance level. Otherwise, it can prove to be taxing on your heart and harm your joints.
Also, wear proper shoes, and preferably, skip on shock-absorbing surfaces to protect your joints. You might get shin-splints if you skip on a hard surface such as concrete.
Skipping is also a favourite warm up for professional boxers who will jump for about 10 minutes before commencing their workout. They do three continuous rounds without rest.
This type of conditioning is believed to help in the late stages of a round in a fight.
There are many skipping tricks out there to challenge you such as Criss-Crosses, Side Swings, Double and Multiple Unders.
I’m no expert, so I just stick to the basics. It’s good enough to get the heart rate up, build up a sweat and work various muscle groups.
Firstly, it works the arms as they are constantly moving to bring the rope over.
If you use a heavier rope, your upper body will be forced to work harder as it’s akin to adding weight training to your skipping.
Secondly, the core and leg muscles, especially the calves, are also being engaged every time you jump.
Obtaining the right length for an individual jump rope will depend on your height. Stand on the middle of the rope and pull both ends towards the sky. The tips of the rope should reach your armpits.
If the rope is shorter, it won’t hit the ground as it passes under your feet when you jump.
If it is longer, you risk the tendency of tripping as the rope may become tangled when you jump.
A 2013 study on the effects of different modes of exercise on appetite and appetite-regulating hormones published in the peer-reviewed Appetite journal revealed that rope skipping suppresses hunger better than exercise on a stationary bike.
If you’re always hungry, now you know what to do!