Jump Rope: A Total Mind + Body Workout

Photo: Sarah Kunst

I was never good at jump rope as a kid. It was one of many All-American pastimes I never mastered or understood why they were fun. It fell in the same category as roller skating, roller blading, tubing, even riding a bike. Non-competitive activities that I couldn’t win weren’t really my thing.

But here I am with a late-onset jump rope obsession. The rhythm, the efficiency and precision of movement, the sound of the rope whipping through the air, the footwork, the criss-cross sequences mesmerize me. It’s grown-up next level jump rope.

Even though I want to reach a point where I show off mad skills, the surprise to me is how fun I’m finding it. Despite being laughably bad, I love learning something so basic one hop at a time. The satisfaction lies in an old-fashioned truth: Put in the effort and reap the rewards. Most goals we aspire to as an adult tend to be more ambitious. We want a dream job, a soulmate, a family, a home, recognition, respect. Big things not totally in our control. They take time, rely on other people, other influences, luck. We forget that sometimes an uncomplicated goal within reach can give us the confidence boost we need to open up other areas of our lives.

THE JUMP ROPE MASTER

Michael Olajide of Aerospace NYC is the trainer behind some of the fittest bodies in the world, from Wolverine’s Hugh Jackman to Victoria’s Secret Angels like Adriana Lima to moms, entrepreneurs, artists and the varieties of people who pack his classes. A man of contrasts, he’s intimidating with bleached cornrows and a crystal-encrusted eye-patch due to an injury from his pro-boxing days; but also incredibly gentle and patient with a twinkle in his other eye. To jump rope with him is not only a intense physical workout but a study in the art of Zen. It’s a meditation on humility, starting as a beginner. It’s a practice in pushing past your hang-ups, letting go of feeling stupid when you get tangled up in your rope. It’s the thrill of mastering a new skill.

“Jump rope makes you feel alive,” Michael says. “Your heart is pumping. The blood coursing through your veins, regenerating. It keeps your body young and nimble. You sweat so much; it’s good for your skin. Learning something new, it’s brain food.”

7 TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

  1. Size your rope. Step on center of the rope with your arches. The top of the handles should hit right under your arm pits. I use a weighted one which is best for beginners, the Blizzard.
  2. Keep your eye on the rope. Watch it as it comes overhead, jump just as it’s about to hit the ground.
  3. Turn your wrists. Jumping rope is all in your wrists. Don’t try to turn the rope with your arms. So exhausting! Keep elbows close to the body and focus on the motion of the wrists. Sometimes Michael wraps a band around my arms to keep my form tight. Maddening but effective.
  4. Jump like you mean it. Keep up speed. The key is momentum and letting your wrists act as the engine, go too slow and you’ll trip up.
  5. Stay light on your feet. Bounce on the balls of your feet and aim to clear the rope by an inch. Keep your legs straight but not bent. If you’re doing it right, you’ll feel it in your calves. If you’re over jumping, you’ll feel it in your hamstrings. Don’t make it harder on yourself!
  6. Count. To find your rhythm, counting can help, out loud or mentally. It’s also easy to keep track of your improvement. Music can help you find a beat too.
  7. Practice! It’s pretty basic: the more you do, the better you get.

MY MIND + BODY GAME

I’m proud of myself, a feeling that we experience too infrequently in our ordinary lives. I’ve had three sessions with Michael, an hour each, and practice a few times a week on my own, 10 minutes a session. Nothing crazy. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the jump rope ninja I aspire to be, but there’s something about finishing better than you started that feels like victory.

Childhood pastimes are the simplest of pleasures. I get now what I missed then. There’s something so pure about it. For some of you, it will be, as they say, like riding a bike. For others like me, who don’t like to be bad at new things, don’t let that ruin the fun. The conditioning is crazy, the abs real, but the joy–that’s the best result of all.

 

Check out Michael’s classes, stream workouts at home, or book a private session at AerospaceNYC.com.