Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cardio for Great Gams

One of my best kept fitness secrets for strong, toned legs is jumping rope.  Not an easy task for many but remember, risk equals reward.  I started out like you, tripping over the rope after 5 or 10 rotations or getting my foot caught.  But the will to succeed is what kept me on my toes... literally.  I'm going to save you some of the stress of working through perfecting the rotation and avoiding injury.  First let me explain the truth about jumping rope. It's not just for "great gams" but is an ALL OVER TOTAL BODY WORKOUT when executed properly.  Jumping rope has significantly improved my cardiovascular system.  It has upped my tennis game, making quick lateral movement a breeze, conditioned me to have more speed as a runner and more underwater endurance as a swimmer, to name just a few. Jumping rope is considered aerobic conditioning that strengthens both your heart and lungs.  On both feet, I have gone from 3 sets of 25 to 3 sets of 100 and single foot jumping, 20-35 on each side (in addition to my 3 sets of 100).  Jumping rope is not only my favorite cardio workout but also the quickest, most energizing way I burn calories in the shortest amount of time.

Below is a list of tips to get you off to a good safe start. RELEASE YOUR BLADDER FIRST BY URINATING. JUMPING ROPE WITH A FULL BLADDER MAY RESULT IN UNWANTED, EMBARRASSING LEAKAGE.

INJURY PREVENTION

1. First and most important are proper shoes.  From my own experience as a Runner's World "official" sneaker tester and a lot of jumping in my fitness routine, shock absorption for high impact plyometrics is essential.  Protecting  your feet from plantar fasciitis (plantar fascia, that ligament that runs from your feel to your toe), which is a condition where the ligament is often aggravated by high impact foot contact.  My tip: a sneaker with a thick sole and good traction.  A cross trainer or long distance running shoe is best.  Hard soled, non flexible sneakers such as tennis shoes or racing flats are a no no and simply a disaster waiting to happen.  If you can jump on a padded or thin carpet, even better for shock absorption.  This could slow your rhythm down though.  Old sneakers are too broken in; you need all the cushioning and traction a new sneaker can and will provide.
Above: this bubble sole makes me feel like I'm bouncing on a cloud.
2. Warm up the muscles (get the blood flowing) first by jogging in place, around a room or doing gentle jumping jax.

3. Static stretching is extremely important.  Be sure to do some light stretching after your warm up.

4. You body must maintain a neutral position (cervical spine, thoracic spine and pelvic region all in alignment). GOOD POSTURE.
Above: Maintaining a neutral position.
5. Don't wear pants with a wide bottom. This tip will help you prevent the rope from catching, throwing off your rhythm, focus or causing injury.

6. Warning: don't try this if you are experiencing ANY bodily injuries.  This is a high impact workout and could cause further injury.

MAKE IT FUN & REWARDING

1. Dress comfortably.  The more form fitting my clothes are, the less they are likely to move around and distract me.  I also like wearing shorts and sleeveless tank tops.  In front of a mirror, you can really see all the muscles activating, its a motivational technique.

2. Rhythmic music (with a fun beat) will keep you on track.  With each jump, I land on a beat.  The faster the beat, the faster I jump. Result; the faster the calories burn.

3. Mix it up!  Make all your steps different (with practice of course).  Do ten rotations on your toes with the legs straight, then ten kicking the foot back to the buttocks, ten side to sides, ten knee drives to the chest and then 10 single left and 10 single right.
Above: butt kicks


ESTABLISHING RESULTS

1. Don't just throw the rope forward with your arms, but activate the core (pulling belly button towards the spine).  This will strengthen the core, allow you to generate more force (because you are activating all the muscles), not just using the arms, which limits your range of motion. (it's like an inexperienced tennis player that just swings the arm, rather than using the entire body to execute the shot).  All the power is generated first from the core.  The body needs to move as an entire unit.

2. Jumping rope is used to increase speed and power in sports training.

3. A plastic bead jump rope will provide more momentum, where an actual rope will require more exertion and more coordination to keep up with its inconsistent rotations.

I hope you found my tips helpful and will make jumping rope as fun and rewarding as it is for me.  The combination of music, proper positioning and positive attitude dictates my results.  Now go buy your rope or hit the gym and get a jump start!

Good Luck!
Jamie

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