At first glance, jumping rope as a daily workout seemed like an absolute no-brainer — who wouldn't want to get fit by simply revisiting an easy and inexpensive childhood pastime? Besides, as middle age has started to creep up on me, so have the pounds and my aversion to any exercise routine that extends past 30 minutes. So, when I won a set of weighted jump ropes on Instagram earlier this year, I seized the moment to get in shape without having to go to the gym or hire a trainer.
The literature that came with the ropes stated that unlike normal jump ropes, weighted ropes not only work the cardiovascular system, but also the arms, shoulders, back, and core. This had me intrigued. A full-body workout with one little piece of equipment? It sounded too good to be true, but I wanted to believe. So, I downloaded the product's workout app and committed to jumping rope for at least 10 minutes a day for a month. Spoiler alert: I often jumped three times as much and lost five pounds in the process, but those things are far less important than the lessons I learned along the way.
1. Jumping rope is harder than it looks
The first week was frustrating and sweaty because there's nothing like jumping up and down in rapid succession to remind you that you're out of shape. Plus, I didn't really know how to use the equipment in the sense that I had picked a cramped space for practice, which forced me to wrap part of the rope around my hand to avoid hitting the wall. You shouldn't need to do this with a weighted rope because they're often ordered to align with your height. You also want the handles to rotate freely so that you have a smooth turn with the slightest flick of the wrist.
To make matters worse, my decision to jump barefoot on grass made it impossible to build a decent rhythm. I quickly realized that if I wanted to get the most from the exercise, I needed to take the situation as seriously as any other HIIT workout. Therefore, my first order of business was to invest in a decent pair of cross trainers with solid ankle support and adequate cushioning at the balls of the feet. I also purchased a yoga mat, so that I could jump on the open sidewalk without the concrete damaging my equipment. Lastly, as a woman with curves, I found it best for my self-esteem to invest in workout capris that didn't slip midjump and a quality sports bra strong enough to withstand the rigors of such an intense workout.
2. There's more than one way to jump rope
Believe it or not, more than a dozen moves exist — double unders, criss-cross, high knees — and I was able to learn many of them quite easily. My app encouraged the use and practice of one or two new steps each workout, and that added challenge made every session feel new and exciting. In fact, scissor jumps and the boxer step rapidly became my favorites because, in both instances, switching feet midjump temporarily alleviated pressure on the balls of my feet and calves, allowing me to jump longer and faster without fatigue.
3. Brief, intense workouts pay off
I immediately found that doing two or three shorter workouts per day proved more productive than one super long soul crusher that left me cursing the idea of exercising ever again. In addition, committing to several mini workouts forced me to leave my desk periodically throughout the day, which had the happy side effect of improving my mood as well. The best part is that science appears to back up the benefits of this tactic. As The New York Times has reported, research indicates that several brief but intense workouts can produce substantial improvements in strength and fitness. Mentally, it also just felt easier to chunk this daunting task into smaller parts.
4. Convenience makes working out so much simpler
Having an inexpensive workout tool I could carry everywhere made exercise convenient, fun, and increased the likelihood that I'd follow through. I'd often leave the ropes peeking out of my computer bag, so that I'd have a visual reminder of the exercise commitment I'd made for the day. After all, consistency is the key to winning any fitness battle, and what better way to set myself up for a win than to have a portable workout? Of course, the bigger question is this: will I keep jumping now that I've completed my 30-day challenge? Absolutely. Staying fit is essential as we age, and if I can keep that promise to myself by doing something I've loved since I was a child, then that's a habit I can't afford to lose.