Starting to feel inspired by all the incredible skipping videos on Instagram and TikTok? Well, it’s time to brush off that old rope. Writer Sarah Shaffi set herself a month-long challenge to skip three times a week, and here’s why she’s sticking with it.
As a kid, I was an expert skipper. On the playground, I’d spend hours skipping on my own or with friends using those gigantic ropes that two people had to hold. I could do scissor jumps, cross jumps, running in to join skipping games while the rope was moving… you name it, I could skip it. And, more importantly, I loved it.
When I recently came across an old skipping rope, I thought that this could be my opportunity to tap back into that playground joy while adding a different kind of activity to my weekly fitness regime. After a year of running the same old 5km routes, it was in dire need of some variation.
Everyone seems to be skipping right now, with social media feeds full of skipping challenges and workouts. Armed with inspiration from my Instagram discovery page, I decided to try skipping a few times a week for a month to see how far I could progress in four weeks.
I had expected to be able to get back into it quite easily. After all, if I used to do this when I was a child, how hard could it be? It turns out, skipping is a lot harder than you might think.
Week one: re-learning how to skip
I begin by searching for YouTube videos on skipping. It may sound silly, but I need some guidance on how to do this properly. Initially, I decide to try a workout that involves skipping for 30-second intervals, with 10 seconds of rest in between, for around 15 minutes. At the last minute, I change my mind and settle on a video for beginners that’s a two-and-a-half-minute routine, plus a warm-up and cool-down.
It proves to be the right decision: I manage the first couple of sets of 30 seconds, stumbling only occasionally, but after that, my legs feel really heavy and I can barely get through the rest of the session. I’m also making things harder for myself by doing an extra jump in between rotations of the rope, but I can’t move the rope or my legs fast enough yet to stop myself automatically doing this. There is no way that I would have made it through the 15-minute skipping video!
As a pretty fit person, I’m slightly embarrassed that I can’t manage under three minutes of cardio without wanting to cry – that doesn’t sound like much, does it? I try again twice more that week and it’s pretty much the same experience except that I’m actually getting even more tangled in rope than I did the first time. I’m convinced it’s partly due to skipping on a slightly uneven grass surface…
Week two: how to skip indoors
In the second week of this challenge, I decide that it’s time to move from grass to concrete. Surprise, surprise, skipping is much easier on a hard, flat surface. I’m able to skip for almost 30 seconds at a time and I’ve finally worked out how to skip without adding in the extra jump, but it’s still tough.
I’m sweating a lot more than I do during a 40-minute run and feel like the cardio workout is much tougher; there’s no doubt that skipping is a full-body challenge! During this week, I read that skipping for 10 minutes is about the same as a 30-minute run in terms of effort and benefits, and that makes me feel better about not being able to skip for really long periods.
Rain means that I’m forced to go indoors halfway through the week, much to the pleasure of my neighbours who now have to listen to me thudding on the floorboards. I’ve abandoned the tutorials, which are becoming repetitive, and am using a new skipping rope that counts the time I’ve been jumping for as well as the number of jumps I’ve done.
I’m using music to distract myself and that, alongside slightly improved cardio endurance, means that I can skip for longer, rest for shorter periods and go for two and a half minutes with no problem. I am, however, still getting tangled in rope more often than I’d like.
Week three: correcting posture
Still confined to skipping inside, I double the amount of time I’m skipping for – up to five minutes in total (still for 30-second intervals). The first session leaves me feeling very tired by the end, but the next couple are better.
Three weeks in and suddenly, my posture seems better. I realised that I’d been slightly hunched over before, particularly as fatigue set in, and now I’m finally using my core to stay up straight. I’ve worked out that I need to relax my arms a little more and hold them slightly lower than I have been – closer to my hips than my stomach. This seems to help with the rhythm and speed and I’m lighter on my feet (although I’m still probably too loud for the neighbours!).
I even manage to do two days of skipping in a row, without feeling any muscle soreness. Dare I say that I’m getting the hang of this?
Week four: skipping for gold
I decide to go for broke in my last week and aim to double my total skipping time to 10 minutes.
I hover around the eight-minute mark for a couple of sessions, feeling pretty hot and tired by the time I get there. At some point, I realise that I’m going to have to just push through the exhaustion to get to that 10-minute mark, and it’s worth it when I eventually do. Sure, I want to lie down on the floor, but I also feel a sense of achievement.
Will I carry on skipping?
After a month of skipping regularly, it’s definitely an activity that I want to carry on with, especially since I’ve only managed to nail a basic skip. There are some fancy routines on TikTok and Instagram that look fun, but I need to build up to them if I don’t want to trip over the rope and hurt myself!
Overall, I feel fitter and like I’m giving my whole body a proper workout, instead of just my legs. In addition, skipping has provided me with a decent alternative to running, and I plan on alternating runs with skipping sessions from now on.
As the week-long downpour proved, I’ve realised that skipping can be practised anywhere. You don’t need a tonne of room or a private garden to give it a go.
While I might not be as adept as I was at primary school, skipping is still really, really fun (even if it’s more sweaty than I remember). See you on the playground.
For more fitness challenges, first person experiences and workout ideas, visit the Strong Women Training Club.
Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.
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