Whether you want to train like an athlete or just get in shape, there’s a very efficient and inexpensive way to do it: the jump-rope.
Using the adult’s version of this kid’s toy is conditioning perfection, says Andy Walshe, who advises athletes sponsored by Red Bull energy drink. “Jumping rope is a complete and total workout. It’s a quick and easy way to increase your cardiovascular fitness. It works your arms, shoulders, upper and lower body, plus gives strong training in your timing and coordination.” Before joining Red Bull, Walshe worked with U.S. ski and snowboard team champs like Shaun White, Bode Miller and Ted Ligety for a decade as part of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. The athletes he works with are often on the road competing, and the jump-rope is something he highly recommends.
“It can be done anywhere. It’s great for travelers. The jump-rope provides a really dynamic workout that can be tailored for the most beginning beginner to the most advanced athlete,” Walshe says. He advises starting with the basics: Begin by taking off and landing with both feet, one jump for each revolution of the rope, and don’t try to jump for an extended period of time. “Break it up with stretching and walking, so you allow the body to adapt to what it’s trying to do,” Walshe says.
Once you master the basics, your first goal should be to increase the number of jumps you do in a time period. Athletes using the jump-rope for training should strive to be able to jump for about 20 minutes at an easy, relaxed pace. The progression in jump-rope workouts is simple, according to Walshe: “Start slow and work up to a higher level. When it gets easy, start increasing the physical difficulty of the jumps. For more advanced workouts, do one-legged jumps, hopping left leg, right leg, left leg, right leg. Then go to periods of single-leg jumping for one to two minutes, first on one leg, then the other. Then incorporate lateral jumps, when you jump left and right so that you’re landing at an angle, three feet apart from side to side (two feet for those who are smaller).”
With the rope, there is always another workout level. Run or jog while jumping. Lift your knees so you are doing high-knee, quick-feet jogging. Walshe also suggests spinning the rope backward, which is great conditioning for timing, and crossing your hands as the rope spins.
It’s also a great device for losing weight. Jumping rope slowly burns between 500 and 900 calories an hour. Jumping at a fast pace burns up to 1,000 calories an hour. You can split that hour up into small increments and burn even more calories; your body will continue to use up calories for a period of time after every jumping session that lasts long enough to get your heart rate going.
Be careful that you don’t overtrain. Muscles will be sore at first. In the beginning, give your body several days to recover. You can do jump-rope workouts more frequently once your body adapts; but hard sessions longer than 10 minutes should never be done more than twice a week except under the direction of an experienced coach or trainer. Good, professional jump-ropes start at about $6; even top models can be found for $9.95. Look for them in sporting goods stores or on the Internet.