Jumping rope reminds me of being a kid. I never thought of it as a workout or chore. It was something I did for fun—and that's the philosophy behind Punk Rope, best described as P.E. class for adults set to rock and roll music.
The hour-long class at the 14th Street YMCA in New York City began with a brief warm-up, which involved moves like air guitar, where we jumped up while strumming imaginary strings. Then we grabbed our jump ropes and started hopping to the music. My skills were a little rusty at first, but after a few minutes, I got into the groove and quickly broke a sweat as my heart rate shot up.
The class alternates between rope jumping and conditioning drills involving lunges, squats and sprints. But these are no ordinary drills; they have names like Wizard of Oz and Charlie Brown, and related movements, such as skipping around the gym on the yellow-brick road and fielding softballs in place like Lucy.
"It's like recess crossed with boot camp," says Tim Haft, Punk Rope's founder. "It's intense, but you're laughing and having fun so you don't realize that you're working out."
The classes have different themes, related to an event or holiday, and my session's was Universal Children's Day. From "The Kids are Alright" to "Over the Rainbow" (performed by the punk rock group Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, not Judy Garland), all the music was somehow related to the theme.
Punk Rope is truly a group fitness experience with lots of interaction. We split into teams and performed a relay race where we ran across the gym dropping cones one way and picking them up on the way back. Classmates offered support in the form of cheers and high fives.
Between each drill we returned to jumping rope, integrating different techniques, such as skiing, where you hop from side to side. Don't worry if you're not very good at it (I hadn't done it since elementary school!); the instructor is happy to help with technique.
The variety of exercises in the class not only keeps things interesting, it also provides interval training. Jumping rope at a moderate pace burns the same number of calories as running a 10-minute mile. For a 145-pound woman, that's about 12 calories per minute. In addition, the class improves your aerobic capacity, bone density, agility and coordination.
The final drill was a freestyle jump circle, where we took turns leading our group through moves of our choice. People were laughing, smiling and enjoying themselves. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun exercising—it may have been when I was a kid.
Where you can try it: Classes are currently offered in 15 states. For more information, go to punkrope.com.