Whipped into Shape
Erika Heynatz plays fitness queen Brooke Wyndham in Legally Blonde: The Musical, currently touring Australia.PT0M0S 620 349
Fitness freaks can be fickle, flitting easily from pumping to boxing, and between Zumba and Pilates.
But now there's a push to rejuvenate one of the most low-maintenance sports on the block: skipping. It's slipped off the radar for many - but jumping rope is back as a fitness regime that packs a punch.
Many of us will remember skipping as a kid and probably took part in the Jump Rope for Heart at school, a campaign that celebrates its 30th anniversary next week.
Skipping to the beat ... Erika Heynatz in Legally Blonde.
Since Jump Rope for Heart started in 1983, more than 8 million Australians have taken part, raising $60 million to help the Heart Foundation.
''I love it when people say they remember doing Jump Rope for Heart at school,'' Lyn Roberts, the national chief executive of the Heart Foundation, said. "Whether it was in the '80s or last month; whether you could double-dutch or stuck to the single hop, we're incredibly grateful to all of our amazing skippers and everyone who sponsored them."
Skipping is still relevant now, Dr Roberts said. ''One in four Australian children are overweight and 80 per cent are not active enough. Jump rope is something that's fun and kids can do it on their own or as a class,'' she said.
Adults could also learn a thing or two from the schoolyard game. Shannon Bell, a personal trainer at Balmain Fitness, said skipping was great for increasing children's
co-ordination and ideal for increasing the fitness of adults.
''It really gets your heart rate up,'' he said. ''Increasing your cardiovascular fitness is great for your heart. It's also good for toning your calves, legs and shoulders.
''And because you're jumping up and down on the spot, you're putting load through your bones, which is good for bone density and that is especially important for women.''
It's also convenient, he said. ''You can do it anywhere, it's really cheap, it's quiet, it's weather-proof and you can do it on the spot.
''New mums who want to exercise while their baby sleeps can't leave the house for a walk but they can skip. People who travel for work can have a skipping rope in their suitcase which doesn't take up much room.''
It can help to shift unwanted kilos, he said. ''Skipping is really efficient for calorie burning,'' Bell said.
''If you're a good smooth skipper, it's burning the same amount of calories as running 10 kilometres an hour.''
But there is a downside. ''The main negative is the pounding on your joints. But that's only relevant for people with knee, hip and ankle problems in the first place. This can be lessened with a good technique.''
And good technique means:
- Using just the balls of your feet (so your heels never touch the ground);
- Keeping your arms glued to your sides;
- Moving from the wrists and elbows rather than the shoulders;
- Looking straight ahead with your chest up;
- Taking one jump every revolution - no double jumps.
And wear a good pair of running shoes. ''It helps with cushioning the impact but also if you hit yourself on the toes with the skipping rope it can really hurt,'' Bell said.
Singer and actor Erika Heynatz is starring in Legally Blonde: The Musical, as fitness queen Brooke Wyndham. She performs a number called Whipped into Shape, a high-intensity skipping routine. She estimates she is skipping 30 minutes every day.
''I've seen a real transformation in my body,'' she said.
''Forget slogging it at the gym, short bursts of high-intensity training is where it's at.
''Skipping for a minute at high intensity elevates your heart rate very quickly and strips the fat off you. It's the best fat blaster on the planet. And it's dirt cheap.
''It does hark back to childhood days. I did Jump Rope for Heart when I was in primary school.
''So I got the props girl at work to make a long rope so we can do double dutch and it's heaps of fun. It's never a chore.''