Compiled by our Senior Physiotherapist & Running Coach Paul White. To book an appointment with Paul, or read his Meet the Team profile CLICK HERE.
My first memory of skipping is 'jump rope for heart' that used to be completed at school. I have no idea if this is still a thing? However if you are about my age then I suspect you also will have that memory. The second time I really thought about it, was when I first started reading about running whilst at physiotherapy school (20 years ago..). I was fascinated by Arthur Lydiard's success with NZ runners. In his book 'Run to the Top' It described the best form of cross training for running was skipping. I wanted to run better, hence I started skipping. Now this is a long time ago, hence my memory is not perfect. But I remember it being a little hard. Quickly though you get into a groove and again you are skipping again. I also remember it definitely helping me to run. Since then I have been thinking about the how and why it gives the effect of helping your running.
1. Foot and ankle stability. I use the word stability, however I could exchange that with strength and / or coordination. In the context of skipping. Jumping over the rope continuously helps to first develop the coordination around the ankle. Your body has to get better at this coordination, otherwise it fails at jumping over the rope. Your brain is challenged by the idea that it needs to continuously jump over the rope. Hence you get better at that. The other option is to give up. Now this is a real thing. You can fail at this. However if you take a little chill pill. If you understand it is going to take a couple of weeks to get this skipping thing again. I can guarantee you that your coordination gets better. If you maintain this for 4-6-8 weeks I believe your strength gets considerably better as well. You complete this for a year, and I believe you will become very robust as a runner. Hence, this is one of the reasons why I am challenging myself to complete 2 x a week for the whole year.
2. It develops your idea of Ground Contact Time (GCT). Now this is actually part of the coordination of your foot and ankle. However I am giving this a dedicated bullet point because I think it is really important. What is Ground Contact Time (GCT)? The amount of time you spend in contact with the ground. How long your foot is on the ground for. There is an optimum time that your foot should spend on the ground. This optimal time is learned really quite easily with skipping. That's why I really like skipping. You jump over the rope and your brain / body does the rest. You don't have to actively think about GCT. You just have to jump on the rope. Easy.... My point above is that this is part of coordination of your ankle. How to coordinate the ankle /leg to have this quick movement.
3. Abdominal workout. So many people run because they want to have a small tummy. Or, so many people run to have good abdominals. This idea I am totally on board with. You will often hear me quoting martial arts expert Bruce Lee (have you seen his abdominals...) "the best exercise for your abdominals is running". I take this a step further, skipping is better than running. I will feel my abdominals far more after skipping for 20 mins, than an hour + run. The amount of times that you land during a skipping work out is often greater than with running. That amount of landing, means your body (whole body, not just a segment of it) has to control that force. What controls the force, mainly muscles. Those muscles are having to deal with that loading, hence the workout for them. Although I could actually list a number of other mechanisms. This is going to be my final one I write about. My wife screens my blogs, and she says that I go into way too much detail. I say the details are important. She responders by saying that I will lose to many readers...
4. Hamstring function. I say hamstring, but I should say lower limb and pelvis coordination. With the hamstring being the most important of that chain. Often as soon as you spend a little time skipping you learn to place your feet under your body. That means your hamstring is in a pretty place to function easily. It is in its strong zone. It is well placed to work optimally. Again, you don't have to tell people about this, it just happens naturally as your body tries to find ways to skipping efficiently. If you skip, let's say 10 mins for 4-5 times. I can almost guarantee that when you go to run straight after skipping you will feel this amazing light sensation. Once you place your hamstring in a good position, it can work really easily. Once you feel this, your body will love you for it.
Running should be easy. (Running fast is the challenging thing…). Running can be taught. Running can be improved just by jumping over a rope. Will you come on this challenge with me?