“Imagine an exercise that would simultaneously complement our musculoskeletal needs, improve posture, stimulate reactions and speed, serve as an ongoing teaching tool never letting poor form or technique in sight that was also practical and efficient. Skipping, aka jump rope, does just that”. – Gray Cook.
And so last month I choose to challenge myself amidst these challenging times during iso. I like to move everyday, throughout the day, to balance my body. They’re non-negotiable for me. Skipping ticked all these boxes.
Running felt counter intuitive in a time when social distancing was requested. But skipping is pretty much the same if not better for form and intensity. Poor movement patterns cannot be reinforced. Whereas any type of running can always be performed so long as stopwatch times are adequate and poor form to do so can be reinforced without even realizing it, skipping is barely possible with poor technique: constant mistakes will interfere the rope as it catches your foot (or an elbow). It reinforces good movement patterns, namely, the squat, lunge and single leg hurdle movement patterns: while running means only both sides must work equally to propel you forward. And there’s no heel strike because skipping forces toe landing alongside untapped forces of our calves with the combo of quad hamstrings glute and core for a lower body Big Bang.
I started my challenge – to do 1000 skips each day for 30days – by skipping 100 times and moving on. I kept a tally. I lasted two days. It was tedious. And forgetting was easy. Instead I kept a rope in the car and when we headed to the beach near our house each afternoon I started different sets: 5 200s with three workout sets between, 4 250s finishing after the third workout set, and two 333s sets with a workout set to start and finish (999 did not feel like cheating btw!). I always tried half forwards and back. I mixed up the type of skipping with forwards both feet, running, crosses, hops, double unders (not great towards the end!) and some of each in one set.
I really loved how posture specific the afternoon efforts were: maintaining a long spine and far less impact (taken by leg muscles instead of your spine). With an erect posture and long spine too, your abs are forced to hold your midsection tight and work in coordination with your back, something I’ve struggled with as a child gymnast: I’m always ‘presenting’ my low back hyper mobility folding under each jump.
The flip side outcome was I started on a skipping challenge and it was the rests between skipping sets that became my mobility focus time and as the skipping became easier I tried to make these more taxing still ensuring I’d be able to perform the skips.
I also ‘discovered’ for myself that when you feel you’re using a lot of arms vs torso, it helps to focus on trying to get more movement from your spine. Use your spine to move/throw you then add arms to pick up the speed. Staying relaxed in your extremities was one of my biggest challenges, especially in making it to the magic 1000.
Skipping as a challenge of endurance, coordination, balance, timing and rhythm was certainly something I enjoyed. I did miss two days. I tried to make it up for one the next day but 2000 meant my mobility sets between we’re taxed and getting the total had become less important than the times between I’d now carved for myself. Letting go of the ‘challenge’ and discovering the side effects was maybe the biggest of gainz.
(And while I don’t jump as much in a normal day, stretching my Achilles was /is bliss. Considering how much time we spend on our feet, I think it’s safe to say I’m gonna keep looking after mine some more now.)