Boxers do it, formula 1 drivers do it, swimmers, runners, gymnasts, marshal artists and footballers do it too. Have you started doing it yet?
Before your mind wonders to an oddly wonderful place let me just clear up what I'm talking about... It's skipping (or jump rope for our American friends)!
Where Did it All Start?
Originating in the 1600's around Egypt it quickly made its way through Europe and then America's by the 1800's as a form of entertainment. It wasn't until the early 1950's that people started recognising the health benefits. Fast forward to today's Crossfit generation and skipping ropes are an integral part of our workout.
What makes skipping so great is it's versatility; in our increasingly busy lifestyles you can get real results in minutes. As a warm-up it will accelerate muscle activity and get you buzzing for your workout. You'll see the difference by adding just 4 sets of 30sec, not to mention the benefits of fat burning that a slow steady 5 min skipping can get... You can burn a whopping 500 calories in that time.
Even better is the convenience of the size and cost of a skipping rope. I'm always able to fit it into my luggage on trips abroad and my athletes have no problem squeezing the coke-can sized piece of equipment into their bags. No need for rooms full of treadmills and bikes that go nowhere.
There is also a mental aspect to skipping. When I started skipping it was one of the most mentally challenging skills that I had ever worked on as a runner. Trying to get my legs to synchronise with my arms and relax my breathing at the same time was so challenging that I would lose track of time. 40 minutes later I'd realise that I was exhausted! Now (after a little bit of practice) I use it as a way to meditate, just allowing the rope to swing and let my mind wander. It took a while to get right but the results are worth it.
By altering the speed and duration of the skipping rope workout you can affect a range of different skills that will build you into a fitter, faster, stronger athlete, whatever your sport.
When working into your training, if you haven't used a jump rope since third grade, be prepared for a humbling experience!
How to Get Started
For novices, a beaded rope is recommended because it holds its shape and is easier to control than a lightweight cloth or vinyl rope.
To build up co-ordination I recommend a few practice jumps with an imaginary rope in your hands. You should practice foot and arm movements separately. For the first few goes use a wood floor, or an impact mat made for exercise.
The next step is to add the rope. Stay high and light on the ball of your foot and use your body's natural shock absorbers by keeping your knees soft (slightly bent) and mid-section firm by squeezing you abs.
Start small (1min -2min) to build your ability to withstand the impact and high aerobic intensity of rope-jumping. Shoes and jumping surface are important. As with all exercise, warming up, stretching and cooling down are important. How you jump will determine the impact on your body too.
With practice, you shouldn't come more than one inch off the floor. Combined with soft knees this will keep the impact to a minimum. Keep practicing and coordination will come.
If there is any doubt or you have any questions please feel free to contact Coach G on Twitter - @runningcoachg