Don't skip this chance

By Jo Finzi

How many of you have skipped with a rope as children. Easy wasn’t it? Have you tried it recently though? Most people would imagine it’s for play, not for exercise, but skipping fits right in with other forms of aerobic exercise such as running, swimming and cycling. In fact, it may be one of the best forms of cardio exercise there is.  It’s also very tough to skip for just one minute if you haven’t done it since childhood! pictureFor years, top athletes have been using the rope to condition themselves for their sports. Boxers probably come to mind. But other well-known jumpers are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (basketball), Arnold Schwarzenegger (bodybuilding), Jerry Rice (football), or Michael Chang (tennis)

So is it for you? Here are several reasons why you might want to give it a try:

It’s inexpensive. You probably have a rope somewhere in your house already. Otherwise, even top quality skipping ropes cost less than Dhs100.

You can do it practically anywhere. A jumping surface like hardwood, rubberised flooring, or very thin carpet is preferred, but any hard surface works fine. Outside, inside, at the gym - anywhere will do.

It burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time. It is estimated that 10 minutes of skipping (at 120 turns per minute) has the same benefit as jogging for 30 minute - so it’s great for busy people.

It’s compact. A rope makes a great addition (or start) to your home gym. You don’t have to spend thousands on a piece of equipment that takes up a lot of space. A rope can fit nicely in a drawer - just don’t forget it’s there!

You’ll notice improvements. Skipping helps build agility, speed, balance, and coordination, while improving your overall fitness level.

You can do it with your family. It’s a fun activity that almost anyone can do. It’s also an easy way to get your whole family exercising with you. Try making a game out of it. How many jumps can you do in a minute? How many jumps can you do without stopping or messing up? What tricks can you do while keeping the rope turning?

Before you get started, first make sure you have the right sized rope for you. When you step in the centre of the rope, the handles should just reach your armpits. This guider will help you find the correct length rope for your height.

Height under 5ft -7ft rope
5ft to 5ft 5in - 8ft rope
5ft 6in to 6ft- 9ft rope
Over 6ft - 10ft rope

Now that you’ve got the perfect rope it’s a good idea to spend a couple of weeks perfecting your jumping technique - the basic bounce step. Remember it’s a skilled movement that takes both coordination and timing. Keep these pointers in mind:

* Hold handles with a firm grip, elbows close to sides.
* Make small circles with wrists while turning the rope.
* Keep torso relaxed, head lifted, and gaze ahead for balance
* Jump only high enough to clear the rope, with light ankle-knee motion.
* During jumping, the rope should skim the surface lightly and your feet should not kick back behind you.
* Always land softly on the balls of your feet.
* Never sacrifice good jumping form for speed!

Skipping programme

Now that you’ve mastered technique, this three-week programme will help you build endurance. Always warm up before you start jumping, either by marching or jogging in place, for about five minutes. Finish each workout with a 5-minute cool down, and be sure to stretch the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and shoulders.

Week 1: Practice the basic bounce step, using an interval (work-rest) training method. Try to jump and rest at a 1:2 ratio (rest twice as long as you jump, such as 15 seconds jumping and 30 seconds resting). Depending on how quickly you pick it up and how conditioned you are, start with around five to 25 consecutive jumps each work period. Then stop, rest, and start jumping again for a total of about three to five minutes. Aim for three practice sessions each week.

Week 2: As you gain confidence and ability, try to increase the number of consecutive jumps you can do before resting. Use the same interval training method, but this time at a 1:1 ratio (your rest time to be equal to your jump time, such as one minute jumping and one minute resting). Repeat your intervals for a total of five to six minutes. Aim for four sessions each week. By the end of week two, you should be able to jump for two to three minutes non-stop.

Week 3 and beyond: By now, you’ve got the hang of it! You should be able to jump for a few minutes straight without needing a break, keeping a pace around 120 turns per minute (two jumps per second). The goal over the next few weeks is to gradually increase your jumping time (while decreasing your resting time) until you can go for 10 minutes non-stop. Keep jumping rope a part of your workout routine about every other day.

Mastering technique

Now that you’re fit to jump for several minutes, try some of the following speed and jumping techniques to keep challenging your body:
* Increase your speed. Aim for 180 turns per minute (3 jumps per second).
* Switch directions. Instead of turning the rope from back to front, switch its direction (forward to back) for more challenge.
* Crossovers. Cross the rope and your arms in front of your body as you jump through the rope.
* Scissor jumps. Turn the rope as you normally would, but scissor your legs forward and back (like skiing back and forth) to clear the rope.
* High stepping. Turn the rope as you normally would, but clear the rope with a high knee run (bringing one knee up high at a time).
* Jump straddles. Turn the rope as you normally would, but clear the rope with a jumping jack motion with your legs (straddle legs apart then together).
* Freestyle it! Get creative - invent your own jump!

Remember, skipping is an intense, high-impact activity, so it’s not something you’d want to do every day - even though it can be addictive.

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