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Rope Jumping -- the exhilaration of bouncing off the earth (Tis a pity about the landing...)

Jumping rope -- skipping -- may seem infantile.  School girls do it. It's a boxer's warmup. But given what else you could do to exert yourself, why jump over twine, time and time again?

Why indeed...

It turns out that jumping rope is extraordinarily good exercise. There are many physiological reasons why you should jump rope but that aside, it's a very practical pastime -- as Dr Jump points out:
It's inexpensive...You don't need a fancy or special facility....It can develop nearly every area of fitness including: aerobic conditioning, muscular endurance, agility, quickness, timing, and rhythm to name a few....There's tremendous variety  in jump rope, especially in regards to the number of skills. ...It goes well with music....If you master a few skills in jump rope, people will think that you are one of the kings of fitness.  I know, this is an appeal to vanity - but what the heck.
The one drawback is that it is a skilled activity demanding rhythm and coordination as well as a certain threshold of already existing fitness before you can sustain the skipping required.

I was regularly jumping rope 5 years ago and loved it primarily because it was a skill challenge.Unfortunately I suspected I caused myself an injury from jumping and did not persevere.

The problem is, of course, that you have to raise your whole body weight off the ground by springing upward, then drop that weight hard upon the ground as you descend -- and do that so many times per minute.  It's all about gravity and gravity is a brutal  master.

But the exhilaration of   bouncing off the earth always excited me. The challenge -- skill + exertion --seemed worth it. 'Tis a pity about the landing...

Since I'm overweight, skipping also meant that I had to propel a heavy carcass skyward. When you consider how much effort it takes to lift a 10, 15, 20, or 30... kgm weight, the sort of exertion required to lift your whole self off the ground is something of a conceptual challenge. 

Nonetheless, I came back to this consideration as I contemplated the ideas explored in Sitting Kills - Moving Heals by NASA scientist, Joan Vernikos.

In the book, Vernikos argues that gravity rules our lives and a sedentary existence is essentially  an habituation to ceding to gravity and not asserting ourselves against it.

So being the kind of guy I am I've spent my empirical hobby time exploring ways I can push back against gravity on an everyday basis.

This is where skipping popped back into my consciousness. So I started to jump rope again.
Warning:I'm 64 years old and people my age do not jump rope. Rope jumping is, even in the gym junkie milieu, an exercise for the young....or for kids. A person jumping rope seems the epitome of 'fitness'  and not some one my age nor handicapped by my physical ailments.
But hey:I can't help myself.

I'm a terrible rope jumper. My skill level is low and I'm still at the stop-and-start stage that may last forever.

But I know my onions and I've quickly learned a few key lessons.

1. Surface matters. I skip on grass grown on sand in bare feet. You got that? Best landing I've ever had. I'm rooted to the earth but can spring off with a great sense of the power push from the soles of my feet all the way up my legs. I live near the sea, in cooee of  Australia's great sand islands,  so I'm lucky:
Sand is soft and conforms to your landing, reducing impact force. Second, it requires a considerable amount of force to push off from, but compacts upon landing, allowing you to jump at a fast pace. Third, its unstable nature incorporates muscles in the shins and feet. Lastly, it is soft and will not inflict injury upon landing or falling, making it an ideal surface for jumping rope.  (ref)
2. Rope matters. Go to any gym or sports shop and you'll usually be offered variations on a  speed rope. These are narrow gauged and tend to be stiff plastic or leather. Handles will vary but the key function of  such ropes is the speed they cut though the air. This is all very fine except when you miss a jump and the rope hits your legs. Ouch! it really hurts.
I prefer a thick gauge rope that travels through the air slower than the thin types and is made from a softer material.I'm not jumping to become an athlete. I just want to jump x number if times per minute and do it with rhythm. Thicker ropes are also heavier so that once you have the rope airborne you have more weight above your head and more drag as you bring it down. So unlike speed ropes you have a mental marker as to where the rope is relative to your next jump.
3. Music matters. I use music for all my High Intensity Interval Training sessions so I  jump to the same schedule - 90 seconds intervals followed by 10 second rests marked off by music. For HIIT I usually use gamelan music but I'm thinking that I may need to up the tempo. Listening to music is much better than watching  a clock.

4. Rope Jumping is satisfying even thrilling. I won't lie to you. Skipping is physically demanding especially as you learn technique. With greater skill, your body will work less. This is the Catch 22 of skipping. It may be hard yakker at first but it will get easier. And when it gets easier completing a session  will give you a great sense of achievement. And with each session I (usually) improve on the one before. There's sure to be a lot of feedback en route.  With each session I'm fostering more spring in my step.

5. Skipping beats stair climbing. For me it's always exhausting to jump rope and the exertion required is akin to climbing stairs. Since I live in flat country I don't have hills or a local built environment  that I can climb. The satisfaction you get from reaching the top of a staircase is similar to the sensation on offer the end of a skip. While you may run out of stair case steps,  there are always more skips to be had if you are up to the challenge,..















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