Wed, Jul-11-01, 07:46
Jumping Rope for Fitness
Jumping Rope for Fitness
by Liz Neporent and Mike Motta
When you think of jump rope, perhaps it brings to mind breezy summer nights, girls in pigtails and a borrowed clothesline. But in fact, jumping rope has some very adult-sized benefits -- it's an effective way to burn fat, increase stamina, improve coordination and firm muscles, especially your shoulders, arms and legs. It's a speedy calorie burner too: Jumping at a moderate speed of 70 to120 turns per minute for 15 minutes burns 150 to 200 calories -- as much as running a ten minute mile, but with half the impact on your knees and ankles.
Jump ropes are completely affordable and transportable. Prices range from $5 to $25, and since a rope can easily be tucked into a purse or suitcase, it's easy to take yours on the road. All you need is enough ceiling height and room to turn the rope without knocking over a lamp or whipping your cat's paws.
Choose a jump rope that's made of plastic or plastic beads. Cloth ropes are too flimsy and leather ropes take a long time to break in. Soft foam handles and a swivel-like turning action will make the rope more comfortable to use. Also keep in mind that jump ropes are not one-size-fits-all. To make sure yours is the proper length, stand on the center of the rope with one foot and pull the rope straight up along the side of your body. It's a perfect fit if the handles reach to your armpit.
Jumping can take some practice. Although you are using your entire body, you'll especially feel it working your lower arms and lower legs. At first these muscles may tire or even cramp. But they should gain more endurance after a few weeks of jumping at least twice a week.
Start with short, 15 to 20 second bouts of jumping interspersed with 30 to 40 seconds of complete rest or light marching in place. Repeat this pattern 5 to 10 times. As your stamina increases, lengthen your jump bouts and shorten your rests.
Once you can jump for at least five minutes straight, mix up your footwork. Try hopping on one foot then the other at each turn, or alternate landing on the heel of one foot and then on the ball of the other.
To master a new move, practice without the rope at first. That way, you can work on your jump timing and new footwork without cracking yourself in the thighs every time you miss. Once you master your timing, do the move while holding both handles of the rope in one hand off to one side so you're spinning the rope next to your body instead of overhead. Then try your new style with a full jump, handles in both hands and rope spinning overhead and underfoot.
Be patient -- jumping rope takes skill and coordination. With diligent practice, you can improve your skills surprisingly fast. As with any exercise program, make sure that you stretch afterwards. If your forearms or lower legs get tight while jumping, stretch them out during your rest breaks.