My journey to skipping started on my 36th birthday when
my husband gave me a skipping rope. I know. Who does that, right? Well, against
all odds, it turned out to be one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
A diary of shame
never been able to skip. I have vivid memories of sitting on the sidelines at
school – and we’re talking all the way back to pre-school – while other girls
did criss-cross. For all my hours of practising, the best I could manage was an
As an adult, I learnt that skipping has all kinds of
amazing fitness benefits. I desperately wanted to reap
them. But I couldn’t go 10 skips without tripping over the rope. (Not ideal
when you work for a health and fitness magazine and regularly have to try group
workout classes where skipping ropes are standard.)
took me about four months to learn to skip. These are the tips that helped me.
Get the right rope
out, skipping ropes are not all the same. When you’re a skipping queen like Mapule Ndhlovu,
you’ll probably be able to pick up any rope and do great things. But, I
discovered, when you’re just getting started, finding the type of rope that’s
easiest for you to skip with can make all the difference.
The rope my husband gave me was a speed rope –
one of those very thin skipping ropes that people who are much better at
skipping than I am use to do fancy things like double-unders. I always thought
a heavier rope would be easier to control, but actually the lighter rope worked
much better for me.
Adjustable handles let me figure out what length worked
best for me. Even though I’m fairly short, I found a longer length easier to
skip with because of the hand position (more on that later).
is how it started. Not pretty.
Practise at home
so many years of sucking royally, I associated skipping with failure and
humiliation. So there was no way that I was going to be seen flailing around
the gym floor for the entertainment of everyone on the treadmills. Instead, my
husband had me practise in the garden (yes, the rope came with free lessons)
and he turned out to be a surprisingly good coach.
After just one session, I was up to 20 unbroken skips
and ready to be seen in public. I was also exhausted, gasping for breath and my
calves threatened to cramp.
skipping was death.
Uncoordinated? Go slo-mo
of my biggest issues was coordination. I was constantly tripping over the rope
and getting tangled because I couldn’t match the timing of my hands with my
feet. My hands were much slower than my feet so, for a long time, I would do
two jumps for every arm swing.
Fixing this was surprisingly easy. I simply slowed the
whole movement down. Swing the rope, wait for it to land, jump over it. Repeat
over and over again. Amazingly, after just a few minutes, I was managing 10
skips without any double-hopping.
Read more: This strength workout totally counts
as cardio too
Adjust your hand position
you want your hands fairly close to your body for a tight, controlled movement.
But I found this position had me tripping over the rope again. As I got tired,
my hands would stray even closer together and the rope would hit my feet. Or
I’d swing it skew with the same result. By using a slightly longer rope, I
could keep my hands further apart and these were no longer issues.
couple of months in…
If you have no rhythm, use music
key factor in skipping success is getting a good rhythm going. That repetitive
action is what allows you to sync your hands and feet. In the beginning I just
couldn’t get this part right, so I was jumping high over the rope to avoid
falling on my face. It not only looked ridiculous, it’s also inefficient – you
end up using much more energy than you would doing small, rhythmic hops.
Someone on Instagram suggested I try skipping to music.
It made all the difference – even when I was just skipping along to a song in
my head, my hops became much quicker, smaller and more rhythmical. It also
stopped me from panic speed increase – where I would skip faster and faster and
not know how to slow down.
Read more: This 15-minute
skipping rope workout will transform your arms and abs
Do a little bit every day
incorporated skipping into my existing workout, throwing it in between strength
moves as active rest. That meant I was doing a little bit at least five days a
week. And I do mean a little. In the beginning, I would just skip to failure –
that meant 20, maybe 30 skips at a time. So not much at all. But it made a
Within a month, I was routinely managing 60
unbroken skips, which became a comfortable plateau for a while until I decided
it was time to go big and upped it to 100 skips. These days some of my workouts
include three minutes of unbroken skipping. And that’s the warm-up! I can’t
believe how far I’ve come!
able to skip!
best part of learning to skip is that I finally got to reap all those health
and fitness benefits that I used to covet. But, ironically, I was so busy
focusing on the act of learning to skip that I didn’t even notice them until
later. My legs are much more toned – I actually have definition in my calves
for the first time in my life.
And my cardio fitness has improved tremendously – I can
do a cardio workout without ending up in a gasping heap on the floor. But best
of all is that I no longer fear skipping. In fact (and this is going to sound
crazy) after more than 30 years, I’ve finally learnt to enjoy it!
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
Image credit: iStock