When I first launched my exercise-ship several years ago (well, it might have started out as more of a dinghy), it wasn’t long before I fell in love with running. Running outdoors was alright, but at the time I was living in a rather busy urban area, so my enthusiasm for putting one foot in front of the other really took off when I got a cheap $50 treadmill through Craigslist – Rocky poster on the wall, crank up the Boss, “Born to Run”.
You’re fuckin-a right.
Now let’s flash forward by a couple of years. I’m living in Spain, and exercise and I aren’t just having a fling anymore – it’s gotten serious and we’ve moved in together. In fact, I’m thinking that me and my new healthy lifestyle might go all the way.
But there was a problem. First of all, my neighborhood in Granada was a crazy maze of streets that were overrun by even crazier drivers and unpredictable motorbikes. It seemed like every time I ran around a corner I had to leap back lest I find myself creamed into the cobblestones.
Speaking of cobblestones, they provided their own challenges in the form of an endless supply of rolled ankles.
And then there was the heat. My family are a people of northern temperaments, and once spring really started to warm, the Spanish sun hit the gorgeous marble architecture causing the whole city to turn into a microwave, and my Scandinavian blood protested against outdoor exertion.
For a moment I was despairing, but then the solution hit me – a jump rope.
Grab and Go
I went into a little sport shop between a tobacco store and a bar (which I assume was positioned where it was to shame you while you enjoyed other more sinful pleasures) and purchased my first jump rope for eight euros. It was as basic as could be. The name said it all – it was a rope, and you jumped it.
My life was transformed. Suddenly I could get my cardio from the comfort of my air conditioned apartment. Since then I have gone through a number of different jump ropes – from basic to weighted to the most current iteration with bearings – and one jump rope or another has been my companion through many locations and climates. The sweltering humidity of New Orleans. The constant drizzle of Seattle. The unpredictable heat then downpour then heat again of Oaxaca.
A jump rope offers a variety of benefits:
- It’s More Effective than Running
That’s right, not only does jumping rope work out more muscles than running – it actually burns more calories.
Jumping rope packs more burn into less time. For example, a 180-pound person jumping rope at a steady pace for an hour will burn roughly 980 calories. That same person running at six miles per hour for sixty minutes will burn 815.
That increased efficiency can be especially key for busy people who need to get the most burn possible out of a shorter workout.
- It’s Go-Anywhere
Indoor, outdoor, in the gym – it doesn’t matter. I was even surprised to find that you don’t need a hard surface for it to work. You can jump rope on carpet just fine. Although it does tend to kick up dirt on more rustic surfaces.
And a jump rope is highly portable. I never travel without one.
- It improves your balance and coordination.
There are a lot of different jump variations that not only workout different muscles, but that are highly effective at improving your footwork. Learn three different variations, and teach yourself to switch mid-stride. It might sound easy, but I promise that you will spend a lot of time cursing and starting over.
- It’s safe.
Forget about cars, uneven surfaces, and creepy cat-callers. Get great cardio in the safety of your own home.
- It’s better for your joints.
Running is a heel striking activity, and this is terrible for your joints and tendons. As any experienced runner knows, running is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great for you, and it also destroys your body.
Jumping rope is a forefoot strike activity that transfers impact through your body more efficiency. In the long run it will save your ankles and knees.
- It’s like bouncy mediation.
Some of my best thinking is done while jumping rope. It clears my head, gets my blood pumping, and because there are so few considerations to pay attention to while I do it, I find that I can just let my mind wander over a story I’m working on, a problem I’m tackling with my endless planning, or over nothing at all.
Sometimes it’s nice to just go blank and jump.
- It’s more comfortable.
Forget about dealing with weather and headphones. Crank up your music or put on something to watch, and go for it.
- It’s affordable.
Like anything, jump ropes are available in a wide price range.
You can spend upwards of $50 or even $100 if you’re so inclined. High price jump ropes are usually made of impractically fancy materials like leather or offer completely extraneous smart technology. But you don’t need that.
A quality jump rope can be obtained for a low as around $10, and a basic rope can be less than $5. The basic rope will get the job done, but having used one I recommend shelling out the extra five to ten bucks to get one that has a wire cable and bearings. Weighted handles can be nice for sculpting your arms a bit, but I’m in it for the cardio so I’d rather have a lightweight speed wire.
The jump rope I use currently cost $10 and came with an adjustable wire cable, bearings, an extra set of attachments (I have used mine for hundreds of hours and have never used the replacements), and I think a little storage bag and clip that I’m sure I lost immediately.
The bottom line – this cheap little piece of equipment has been all over the place with me and it has provided countless hours of effective cardio.
I literally can’t think of any other single material possession I’ve ever owned that has had such a positive impact on my life. Maybe Tropic of Cancer? Or my first car?
What I’m saying is that for a busy, fitness-minded person who has to deal with environmental or weather constraints, a jump rope is nothing short of a game changer.
And I think it’s worth mentioning that I wasn’t paid or compensated in any way for writing this piece. I just really think jump ropes are the fucking greatest.