3 Reasons Why Jumping Rope Can Make You A Better Runner.

Warmer weather means that more people are strapping on the running shoes and heading outdoors.  No matter what activity you choose, we celebrate anytime people become more active.  We believe that running and walking are the two most functional movements humans can undertake to improve their fitness (after all, we’ve been doing it since the beginning of time).  However, if you are new to running we want to stress that there are a couple barriers to entry before you can just start logging the miles.

The Downside To Running

The downside to running is that, while running is a very natural human movement that we evolved for, a lifetime of  sitting at desks and wearing over-engineered, clunky shoes has decreased our ability to effectively be able to run.  Atrophied leg muscles, poor mechanics, overstriding gaits, and lack of elasticity in the lower leg has stripped us of our ability to run efficiently.

One simple way to begin to regain this ability and efficiency is break out the jumprope.  Here are three reasons why.

1) Improved Reflexes

Running is a very reflexive activity.  You’re essentially bounding from one leg to another.  What is meant to be a smooth and efficient action of  foot contacting the ground and quickly recovering and preparing for the next contact, has become a far more labored action.  If you observe a lot of runners you will see that many of their feet strike the ground in front of their body and then they “push” themselves past that foot contact.  Instead, we should be focusing on a relatively rapid contact with the ground wherein our foot naturally rebounds into the recovery phase of the running stride.

2) Decreased Foot Contact With The Ground

Imagine two wheel barrows, one with a deflated tire, and one with a tire thats completely full of air.  Which one of these wheel barrows will be easier to push?  Of course, the barrow with the inflated tire will be easier to push, but why?  The deflated tire has more contact with the ground.  More contact with the ground creates more friction to overcome in order to push the wheel barrow.  Not only will the inflated tire roll faster and easier, it will be much more maneuverable and agile.

Many runners tend to overstride as they’re running.  Their foot tends to strike slightly in front of their body, which acts to slow them down and then to overcome the slowing effect, they have to apply force to accelerate themselves into the next stride.  This motion is the result of the foot spending far too much time on the ground.  Just like the deflated tire on the wheel barrow, the more time the foot spends on the ground with each stride, the more friction you are having to overcome.

Jumping rope improves both of these issues for largely the same reason, it improves lower leg strength and reflexes.   Picture a 5 year old learning how to jumprope for the first time and then imagine Rocky Balboa jumping rope in the first Rocky movie.  Chances are, the 5 year old you are imagining is uncoordinated and kind of clunky.  The child’s foot is very slow to contact the ground and jump again, the rope is probably moving pretty slow, and instead of being able to jump solely using their ankles and calf muscles, they are likely having to recruit all leg muscles, their hips, and knees.  Now, picture Rocky. His feet are moving rapidly, the rope is moving smoothly and rhythmically, and his feet are spending very little time on the ground.  This is the reflexiveness I’m talking about.

Jumping rope allows you to develop the plyometric rebound needed to be an efficient runner.  By strengthening and improving function of the lower leg and ankle you will begin to make your running stride far more efficient.

3) Improved Foot Strength

When people think of strength training, they typically don’t think about their feet.  After all, why should we train our feet when we can buy over-engineered shoes that promise stability?  (Nevermind the fact that these ridiculous shoes cause runners to overstride, impact the ground too hard, and cause foot muscles to atrophy, but that’s a topic for a different blog).  Strength training is incredibly important for your feet.  Just like every other part of your body, your feet are comprised of muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons.  And just like every other muscle in your body, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  Period.

The difference between strength training for feet compared to the rest of the body is that we’re not looking for sets and reps to give ourselves ripped feet muscles.  Instead, we’re looking to improve the strength and function of our feet.  Instead of trying to build big feet muscles, were just trying to restore foot muscle function.  Jumping rope (and other lower leg plyometric exercises) can be fantastic for this purpose.

Getting Started

So how do we get started with this?  Well, buy a jumprope and get going!  You don’t need a long build up to do this nor do you need a specific training plan.  We recommend just getting started!