The familiar whir of rope flying through the air and the rhythmic tick as it slaps the ground recalls memories of childhood playgrounds. Outside of gym class, jumping rope is a plyometric exercise suitable for all ages and experience levels. It improves agility, coordination and requires very little to get started. Protecting your knees and ankles is especially important for adults. Whether you're working out in a gym or at home, roll out an exercise mat for a little extra cushion; your knees will thank you.
Importance of a Good Surface
Your jumping surface makes the world of difference, not only to your joints, but in the ease of your jump and the longevity of your rope as well. Hard surfaces like concrete and cement are harsh on your knees and ankles and cause your rope to wear out prematurely. Quality exercise mats provide the cushion necessary to make your jumping workout safe and comfortable. Mats are fairly economical compared to other fitness equipment. Visit a sporting goods store to try out several different mats to find one that feels good to you.
Types of Mats
The shock-absorbing capabilities of exercise mats vary depending on the thickness and material of the mat. Pilates and yoga mats are among the thinnest mats available. These mats aren't used for high impact exercise, therefore their shock absorbing capabilities are minimal and not an ideal choice for jumping rope. Fitness mats with at least 1/2-inch of cushion provide shock absorption and increase in thickness to 2 inches in professional models. These mats are good for jumping rope but they are large and bulky, not ideal for home use due to storage concerns. Interlocking foam mats provide good cushion for the joints and are easier to store since they're smaller in size and lock together for ease of use.
The Right Shoes
To properly protect your knees and ankles, it's not enough to have a good exercise mat. Always wear supportive shoes while jumping. Ace Fitness recommends cross-trainers or aerobics shoes. Choose a pair with plenty of padding on the ball of your foot and a reinforced toe to prevent them from wearing out prematurely. Since you'll land on the balls of your feet to prevent injury, these areas of the shoes get the most wear. Any type of shoes that you'd wear for high impact activities like basketball or running are good for jumping rope.
Warm up with five minutes of calisthenics before you start to jump rope. Jumping jacks, brisk walking or jogging followed by a few minutes of stretching will help warm and loosen the muscles to prevent injury while jumping rope. Stretch again after your workout, focusing on your calves, quadriceps, shoulders, hamstrings, biceps and triceps. Warming up and cooling down properly, combined with supportive shoes and a shock-absorbing exercise mat will help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable rope jumping workout.