To Jump Into Exercise, Just Learn the RopesSkipping rope may seem like kid stuff, and not as serious as a treadmill or a weight set, but it can be as effective as any other aerobic exercise. What's more, the equipment is cheaper and easier to store.
That said, you still may think jumping rope is boring. But many creative improvements on the theme have been added lately, including group lessons, online information and a few new tricks.
On a recent weekday afternoon in Guam park in the Gangseo district of western Seoul, some youngsters were busy skipping rope alternately alone and in pairs. The students were not just exercising, but taking jump rope lessons from an instructor, Kim Su Yeol. Mr. Kim heads a company called Jump Rope Academy. "Jumping rope used to be just a trivial part of physical education classes, but more people are doing it these days," he said.
Can skipping really be so interesting and varied? "There are more than 100 ways to jump rope," Mr. Kim said, "and if variations on those are added, the number would double."
Mr. Kim recommends a few simple games to his students such as "Pulling Rope" and "Crossing Isles." The former is a two-man tug-of-war in which the loser is the first person whose stance slips. In the latter, many ropes are laid out as circles to form big and small "islands" and players must traverse all of them without stepping on the boundaries. For groups, there's a variation on the Western game musical chairs. Again, ropes are set out in circles, numbering one fewer than the number of players, but this time to form one big circle. Players go around singing until they get an order to stop, then they take a circle. The person outside a circle is out. One circle is removed and the next round begins. The company offers lessons mainly during summer and winter vacations because about four-fifths of its instructors are physical education teachers at public schools. Accordingly, it begins taking online applications through its homepage about a month before vacations begin. A 30-hour course at the school costs 50,000 won ($39) and a 15-hour course 30,000 won.
Another private company, Korean Jump Rope, also gives skipping lessons, but offers them year-round. The company is based in Suwon but has 17 branches nationwide. It issues certificates for students who complete a certain number of lessons.
A cheaper option, or if you find it inconvenient to go to lessons, is to buy instructional videotapes and learn the ropes yourself. There are some interesting tapes on jump roping skills designed for either individuals or groups that cost about 20,000 won.
Whether you join a class or do it on your own, you're going to need two things: a jump rope of about 150 to 210 centimeters in length and athletic shoes with soles that are sturdy in the front and good at absorbing shock. Most jump ropes cost between 3,500 won and 6,000 won. The longer and thicker varieties designed for groups cost between 12,000 won and 18,000 won. Fancy ropes for kids, with psychedelic or sparkling designs, sell for about 16,000 won. For overweight tech-maniacs, there is a computerized rope made for people who want to lose weight. Developed by a Korean start-up company, the rope calculates the optimal amount of exercise the users should get after they enter basic data such as their age, weight and sex. Once the users have gone up and down enough times to get a good workout, the rope starts playing a "game over" tune.
Besides using the proper equipment, the most important safety tip to keep in mind is to avoid jumping on hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, because the pounding can take a toll on your knees and ankles.
For more information on joining a class or starting an individual rope-skipping regimen visit the Jump Rope Academy's Web site at www.jumprope.or.kr or call 031-220-2359; or go to Korea Jump Rope's site at www.jumprope.co.kr or call the company at 02-3663-9995.
by Lee Han-won