FORT LEE, Va. (Nov. 21, 2018) -- Jump rope is old-school for most adults, evoking images of childhood and playful summer vacation days free of worry and full of fun.
Some may associate it with boxing -- akin to scenes in "Rocky" where Sylvester Stallone whizzes the rope around his body with a rhythmic "woosh, woosh, woosh."
The tendrils of jump roping -- or jump skipping as it's called in some parts of the world -- also extend into the fitness arena where participants are discovering its significant flexibility, circulatory and aerobic health benefits.
Capt. Jude G.B. Coe, a CASCOM Headquarters and Headquarters Company Soldier, is among the promoters and teachers of that aspect of the activity. His perception of jump roping changed about a year ago when he became part owner of a Richmond-area boxing fitness franchise that features a circuit training format. Jump rope is the first exercise in each round of workouts led by Coe and other instructors.
"I said to myself, 'If I'm going to teach this every day, I need to get pretty good at it,'" he recalled. "So, I started looking online, watching YouTube videos and just got into learning it. I quickly developed a passion for it to the point that I was doing it every day."
Coe absorbed information on technique, fitness benefits and a myriad of other things about jump rope as a physical activity, and in teaching it, he certified the rewards to indeed be plentiful.
"Being able to get better at something, share your knowledge with someone and then inspire them in the process is very fulfilling, especially as it relates to doing something I've become very passionate about," said the 32-year-old.
Jump roping only has about a decade under its belt as a mainstream fitness alternative, according to Coe.
"The widespread availability of information has caused it to become more popular," he said. "People are posting (on social media) about it, writing news articles about it, and they're starting to understand all the benefits. I mean, it's a total body workout."
Generally, a 10-15 minute jump-rope session has the same aerobic benefit as jogging 30 minutes or walking 18 holes of golf, Coe elaborated.
"It doesn't really take much to move the needle," he said. "If you're working out 10 minutes a day and doing the basic bounce -- jumping up and down -- you will start to see huge benefits."
Coe demonstrated how fitness jumping techniques go far above the vision of children skipping rope on the playground during recess. He performed crossovers, crisscrosses, double-unders and a myriad of additional maneuvers. He explained how one could target muscle groups with a particular skip or by adjusting the arms and hips. He even showed off boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s favorite moves to ready himself for matches.
Collectively considered, the presentation of fleet-footed prowess made it clear that jump rope has a body of science backing up its fitness claims.
"There are aerobic and anaerobic benefits," Coe continued. "Football players are strong anaerobically because they execute quick bursts of power for a short period of time. Then they go to the huddle. They repeat it on the next play. Every time you jump (while jumping rope), you're exploding (physically) and your body is losing balance. When you return to the floor, your brain is helping your body regain that balance. The faster you jump, the more explosive you get."
Soldiers who consistently incorporate jump rope into their workout routines will notice a difference on the physical training test, Coe insisted.
"A good example is the (2-mile) run. A regular jump rope routine will help you take off much more quickly because it works all the muscles responsible for explosive movements," he said, noting he personally has knocked off roughly a minute on his run time since he began training with rope.
Pointing out that he routinely engages in other physical activities that contribute to a well-rounded workout, Coe said his enthusiasm for the added benefit of jump roping was partly spurred by health concerns, as well. A close relative suffered a heart attack earlier this year and warned the captain about the family's history with heart disease. After further self-assessment at that time, he realized how poor nutrition and inadequate exercise was holding him back from peak performance, and he became committed to make improvements.
"I was on the cusp of having a cardiac arrest myself," he said, noting the results of medical testing. "I knew I needed to make a change. I started watching what I ate. I also was doing intermittent fasting, and about two months into this journey I found the jump rope. It's just enhanced my well-being. I've lost about 40 pounds. I still run, and I still lift weights from time to time, but I mostly attribute this to eating the right foods and jumping rope."
Another big selling point, Coe noted, is jump rope being more accommodating than pricey fitness center memberships popular with today's exercise enthusiasts. A good jump rope costs $30 at the most, and it can be performed in places where $2,000 treadmills and weight sets might not fit.
"I've been on business trips where I just put it (the jump rope) in my bag," he said. "I don't have to go looking for a gym when I'm in the hotel."
Those considering jump rope as an exercise should consult with a physician first, said Coe. Floor surface is another important factor. He recommends a cushioned mat for wood or concrete floor areas, adding that jumping rope on hard surfaces is less impactful than jogging.
"It's a lot less damaging than running on concrete," Coe confirmed.
A bit of stick-to-it-ness also is required. The captain said most people won't fall in love with jump rope at first. "Most think it's tough in the beginning, but it's just like anything else; you just have to push through it."
Coe said he regularly reminds jump rope newcomers that it's the health benefit that really counts. Adult participants aren't going to experience the giddy fun-and-game playfulness they knew as children, but those determined to meet a goal of better fitness will surely find it to be a worthy pursuit.