When Grace was about four weeks old, I decided I wanted to run a half-marathon before my maternity leave ended. I hadn't even been cleared to exercise yet, but I knew it would motivate me to get back in shape! After a few days of searching, I ended up finding a relatively local half marathon the second week of December -- I would be 11 weeks postpartum -- and then, the real work began!
Home, alone, and with a newborn in tow, November was not a great month to be training for a half-marathon essentially from scratch. I live in a very hilly neighborhood, making it almost necessary to commute to the local greenway for stroller runs. I was nursing, so we'd feed, load up the car, drive to the greenway, unload, run, re-load, and get home...it felt like an ordeal every time. Not to mention, the temperature was really starting to drop, and I didn't want to keep Grace outside for too long.
Enter: jumping rope. Through my 5 weeks of half-marathon training (that quite literally kicked off with my first postpartum mile), I simply didn't have it in me to get my booty out of the house and run more than 3 times a week. So, I focused on getting a long run on the weekend, and about two 3- to 4-milers during the week. The days I couldn't run, I'd jump rope. I could do it in my garage, basically wearing my PJ's and sneakers while Grace napped in the house. It wasn't pretty, but it worked! And, spoiler alert: I finished the half in 1:50.32!
Half marathon success, 11 weeks postpartum with limited running!
Jumping rope is a quick, efficient workout you can do almost anywhere. You only need a few feet in front of and behind you, and, if you're indoors, a slightly elevated ceiling. The cost of a good jump rope -- roughly $10 to $30 -- is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of a treadmill, elliptical, or even a jogging stroller. For people who wince at the idea of doing high knees or mountain climbers for cardio (me!), the jump rope is a godsend!
There are dozens of benefits to jumping rope. It's a great cardiovascular workout that's customizable to your goals. Jump at a moderate, controlled rate for steady-state cardio. Jump at a faster tempo for high-intensity intervals. It is truly a full-body workout. Your lower body is worked through jumping, your back and abdomen through keeping your body tight and rigid, and your upper body by spinning and stabilizing the rope.
Jumping rope: Cardio plus toning all in one!
Jumping rope can be especially beneficial for runners as a form of cross-training. Science Daily even equates 10 minutes of jumping rope at a moderate rate to running an 8-minute mile!
Any activity that places a load on your bones will help increase their density, and jumping rope is no exception. It's actually better than running, because each impact is absorbed by both legs at the same time. Because we naturally jump rope on our toes -- as opposed to our heels, which is how the majority of us naturally run -- it works different muscles than running, and, in the long run, can help counter imbalances in your legs and lower back.
Here's a few workouts you can do to replace a run, enhance your training, or just squeeze in a cardio session while you're chained to the baby monitor. If you're just jumping rope, make sure to warm up with 3-5 sets of jumping rope for 1 minute at an easy cadence. Then, dive in to one of these workouts!
I regularly use jumping rope to replace runs. Check out four jump rope workouts that you can use, too!
Set a Tabata timer: 8 rounds of 20 seconds "on," 10 seconds "off." Jump as fast as you can for those 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat until the Tabata is done. Too easy? Double it, or do double-unders instead of regular jump rope.
Good sub for: Yasso 800's (or any 800 repeat workout), since you'll be jumping for about 2:40. Trust me, you'll need the 1:20 of "break!"
Start by doing a set of 50 jumps, then take a 30 second break. Then, do 100 jumps. After a 30 second break, do 150 jumps. Repeat to 500 jumps. Once you hit 500, start backing down: 450, 400, 350, 300...all the way down to 50.
Good sub for: A short, easy paced run. If you jump to 500, that's 5,000 jumps (about 2.5 miles). If you jump to 600, you're looking at 3.5 miles. Jump to 750, and you're at 5 miles worth of steps!
If you equate jumps to steps, you can "run" 2-5 miles without leaving your driveway!
If you've got a strength-training day on the schedule, bring your jump rope along. After each set, incorporate 100 jumps. When you move to a new piece of equipment or finish a set completely, do 500 jumps.
Good sub for: A cross-training day. Instead hitting the bike or elliptical trainer after you lift, you're getting your cardio in as you go!
A few sets of front squats with a few rounds of jumping rope in between.
Take it to the Track
Jumping rope requires you to focus on short, quick, and efficient steps, making it a great compliment to speed work. To elevate a track or speed workout, jump rope for 30 seconds. Drop the jumprope in place, then begin a 100- or 200-meter sprint. Do your normal recovery jog back to the starting point, and pick up the jumprope again. Continue the 30 seconds jump rope - sprint combination for 10 repetitions, or the duration of your workout. This combination helps you practice running fast with an elevated heart rate.
Good sub for: Any workout that's intended to make you run fast while tired.