Learned something extremely obvious about jumping rope

When I first taught myself how to jump rope, back in 8th grade or so, I initially assumed that you’d just swing the rope around at whatever rate you chose, and then hop over it each time it would otherwise hit you in the feet.

That’s not wrong exactly, but I found it really hard to get the timing right. In particular, I found myself going faster and faster until I couldn’t really keep up. Then I discovered a trick that made it much easier: between each jump over the rope I’d add a little token hop. All of a sudden the timing was much easier. That was how I jumped rope for years (although I mostly didn’t jump rope during those years).

A couple of times in the past few decades I’ve briefly jumped rope again, but at some point I was reading about jumping rope, and learned that this “double-hop” technique is considered poor form. (Because it makes it hard to add any of the fancy stuff you can do with a jump rope, like crisscross or double-under.)

So, I’ve been trying to break myself of this habit. It hasn’t been so hard, since I’m decades away from having formed it with little reinforcement in between.

What I’ve learned though is that I had it backwards right from the start.

The reason the double-hops seemed to help has to do with the natural resonant frequency of the foot/ankle/leg system. Basically, there’s a natural rate of hopping, where the natural “springiness” of your feet and lower leg syncs up, minimizing the amount of energy it takes to hop up into the air again. Hopping at any other frequency is harder. The double-hop method lets you stick with the natural resonate frequency, while allowing you to swing the rope only half as fast.

Understanding that, it turns out to be very easy to fix: Just hop in place a few times, and you’ll quickly find that natural frequency. Then, just swing the jump rope at that rate.

Easy to fix, of course, doesn’t mean easy. Swinging the rope at twice the rate doesn’t double the intensity of the workout, but it does increase it significantly. I’ve had to back off on the length and number of my jump-roping intervals, although I’m already building back up.

My hope is that finding this resonate frequency, and getting myself synced back up with it, will help my running. (That is, I’m pretty sure that matching my foot turnover rate to the same resonate frequency will give me the most efficient running gait.)

We’ll see.

Missing the fitness room

Losing access to the fitness room is particularly annoying to me because I’ve just recently—starting about seven weeks ago—gotten my act together about lifting.

Like everyplace else, Winfield Village has closed down all the “non-essential” places people might congregate, including our fitness room.

“Notice: Closed until further notice”

Losing access to the fitness room is particularly annoying to me because I’ve just recently—starting about seven weeks ago—gotten my act together about lifting, and been getting to the fitness room at least three times a week.

Determined not to lose this momentum, I’m trying to cobble together an adequate workout routine that I can do with just equipment I own.

Great collection of dumbbells, no longer accessible because they’re in the fitness room

I had already been including quite a bit of bodyweight exercise, but since the dumbbells were right there, I’d often use them (for dumbbell rows and for goblet squats, in particular). I also used the 45 lb kettlebell in the fitness room all the time for my HIIT workouts.

The other thing that I’m really missing is the pull-up bar. To replace that, I’ve ordered a pair of gymnastic rings that should arrive Tuesday.

About all I’ve got that I own to replace the dumbbells and the kettlebell is a 15 lb kettlebell that I purchased so Jackie could join me in my workouts if she wanted.

My 15 lb kettlebell with its big brother

With the kettlebell (even in advance of the arrival of the rings) after about a week of social distancing, I’ve started to put together a routine that feels like I’m getting in a good workout.

For the core of the routine I’m doing hindu squats, hindu pushups, and goblet squats with the kettlebell. I’ve heard claims that just hindu squats and hindup pushups combine to form a pretty good, almost full-body workout. I’m adding in the goblet squats because the hindu squats seemed very focused on the anterior part of the legs, and I don’t want to lose the gains I’ve been making on the posterior parts.

My opportunities for “pulling” exercises are kind of limited until I get my gymnastic rings. I’m making do with the kettlebell to replace the dumbbells for rows. At 15 lbs, the kettlebell is kind of light for that, but on a temporary basis I can just do more of them. (The same logic applies to the hindu squats and the goblet squats: What I’m not getting in intensity I can largely replace with quantity.)

Once the rings get here I should be able to do hangs and inverted rows, and attempt to do pullups. That’ll cover my “pulling” exercises very well. I’ll also be able to attempt to do dips, which is another exercise that I haven’t found a good equipment-free bodyweight solution for.

One other piece of exercise equipment I have is a jump rope. I got it five years ago, after reading about how jumping rope is great training for running because it develops the springiness in your ankles and calves.

I haven’t made much use of my jump rope though. One year back in junior high or high school the phys ed class did one of its very few units that wasn’t focused around some team sport, and jumping rope was one included activity. I very much enjoyed the non-team aspect of it, put in the practice, and got quite good at jumping rope. Sadly, it turns out that you can’t let something like that go for 45 years and expect to just pick it back up again.

However, I figure this is a perfect circumstance for regaining my ability to jump rope. The weather is kinda crappy for running, but not so terrible that I can’t go outside at all. Yesterday I spent six minutes jumping rope, which was about as long as I wanted to spend outdoors in the cold, but also a good amount of practice for recovering the skill. I figure if I do the same every other day, by the time we start getting some nice weather I’ll be as good at jumping rope as I ever was.

I’ll use the jump rope for a HIIT workout. My HIIT workouts with the 45 lb kettlebell are off the table, and with just the 15 lb kettlebell I won’t be able to achieve the level of intensity I’m used to for my two-handed kettlebell swings. Besides the jump rope, I’m thinking I’ll do one-handed kettlebell swings with the 15 lb kettlebell. Less intensity, but the asymmetrical nature of the exercise will add a nice core workout aspect to the whole thing.

It’s come together pretty well, except that I’m not quite there with the hindu pushups yet. I need to develop both my strength and my flexibility, if I’m going to make those a key part of my workout routine. I’m close though. We’ll see.