Here’s a way to ‘skip’ your workout

Revathi Murugappan

THE STAR – Do you recall skipping or jumping rope as a child?

If you’re middle-aged like me, then you may remember weaving long skipping ropes by stringing together hundreds of rubber bands.

To make the rope sturdier, we would use double bands, and to make it pretty, we would mix and match colours.

These days, if you’ve been out and about in parks and open areas, you may have noticed more people skipping rope for fun and exercise.

There are also numerous postings on social media about new tricks skipping enthusiasts and celebrities are attempting.

It must be something to do with the COVID-19 pandemic that we are reliving our childhood and indulging in an activity that was once thought of as child’s play.

But a skipping rope is indeed a great tool to help keep you moving, assuming your knee and ankle joints are healthy and pain-free.

It offers a full-body cardiorespiratory workout, which can be both high or low impact, and burns calories in a short amount of time.

As an added bonus, it improves hand-eye-feet coordination and assists in weight loss.
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a person weighing 70 kilogrammes can burn up to 420 calories from skipping for 30 minutes.

You would need to run 13.7 kilometres in the same amount of time to burn the same amount of calories!

The only problem, as some students have told me, is that it takes time to coordinate so many body parts to swing the rope properly.

Sporting equipment has advanced rapidly from the time I was a kid and so many types of skipping ropes are now available.

The rope material can range from plastic, vinyl, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), leather, cotton or adjustable beads, while the handle can be designed using wood, plastic and so on.

The sophisticated ones even come with fitness trackers, time-setters and weights for added intensity.

Handles are important, but using the correct type of rope or cable makes all the difference while skipping.

While there is a plethora of online sites available to buy these ropes, it’s best to get the right “fit” from a physical sports store.

A knowledgeable salesperson should be able to walk you through the best ways to use a jump rope and if you’ll need special shoes.

If you’re a beginner, speed should not be your objective, so a longer rope is ideal to allow for less-than-perfect timing.

To size your rope, stand on the centre of the rope with your feet together while holding the handles with your arms close to your body.

Move your elbows outwards and sideways until the rope is taut.

The rope length (not including handles) should be just under your armpit.
To get the perfect length, test the rope out (check if you are allowed to do this at the store as there are different COVID-19 standard operating procedures in place).

If the rope keeps hitting your feet, it is too short; and if the rope drags along the ground and slows your momentum, it’s probably too long.

If you’re still wary of going out due to the pandemic, you can purchase your rope online.
Just add three feet to your height and this length should suffice.

Here’s a quick refresher if you’re planning to try jumping rope after a long lay-off (do some warm-ups first!):

Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart and the rope behind your feet. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Grip the handles loosely with your fingers. Do not use the death grip involving your palms, which turns your knuckles white.

A loose grip will enable a natural, more efficient turn of the rope. Your wrists and elbows should always remain close to the body.

Use your hands to swing the rope over your head in one movement.

As you’re swinging the rope forward, you’re also moving your wrists slightly upward so that the rope will land between your ankles and your knee.

You might want to practise this movement a few times and see where the rope falls before trying to jump over it.

Once you get this movement, lift both feet slightly off the floor with the knees bent and jump over the rope. Land on the balls of your feet with your body fairly erect.

Again, practise this a few times and once you get the hang of it, do it continuously.
A lot of beginners make the mistake of lifting their knees too high when they jump over the rope and this tires them out.

It really takes only a little lift-off from the floor to jump over the rope.

If you’d rather try the motions first, then you can start by “shadow jumping” or “pretend jump” without the rope – boxers tend to use this method as a warm-up.

Yes, you will look ridiculous, but this is a great way to practise your jump and
proper form.

Once you’re comfortable with your “pretend” jumps, add the rope in and begin with a 30-second set.

Rest for a minute before repeating. You can try doing five sets at one go at first.

As you improve, you can add on more sets, pick up the pace and get creative.

Keep in mind that it’s best to skip on a surface that will give you a gentle landing and cushion the impact on the joints, for example a rubber mat or grass.

That means hard surfaces such as concrete, or even carpets, are not ideal, as they put a lot of strain on the knee and ankle joints.

A safety tip: make sure there is nothing around you that can make you accidentally trip or fall.

Here are some common mistakes that occur while jumping rope:

– Using the arm and not the wrist. It’s all about wrist flicks. Your hands should be held near the front of your pelvic bones. The elbows assist by performing small pumping motions in combination with the work of the wrists. The only exception to this is when you swing the rope over for the very first time – this will require some arm movement. Thereafter, the arms just stabilise the wrists.

– Hunching the back while jumping. Proper form is crucial to avoid injuries. Unfortunately, too many people realise this too late. Many jumpers tend to bend forward, roll the shoulders in and hunch the back to get the rope over. You should be jumping straight up and down, like you would on a trampoline.

– Jumping too high or kicking your heels back. This is not a how-high-can-you-jump competition – you only need to get a few inches off the ground. The ropes are not that thick, so it’s not necessary to take big leaps and get out of breath. Keep the jumps small and neat.

You’ll look good and feel good.