When I joined a boxing gym two years ago, the first thing they did was hand me a jump rope. I hadn’t picked one up since the first grade, and even then I’d considered the activity to be, well, a little girly. But — with black and white photos of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Mike Tyson glaring down at me from the gym wall — I decided that maybe I was wrong, and I hopped to it.
It didn’t take long before I was hooked. I bought my own weighted rope, which I’d use on the roof of my Brooklyn apartment on the weekends, working up a sweat with an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline in front of me. I took it to my parents’ house over the holidays and jumped in the garage while it snowed outside. Come summer, I brought it to the neighborhood playground, where guys built better than anyone I’d ever seen in a weight room did pull-ups on the monkey bars and dips on the concrete steps. Before long, I was joining them.
Eventually, I canceled my gym membership altogether. If you know what you’re doing — and trust me, the guys bringing their resistance bands to the local jungle gym do — you can get just as effective of a workout without all the expensive, complicated equipment. In the same way that health-conscious folks are turning away from eating things that aren’t found in nature, people are going back to basics with their fitness regimes. A pull-up bar has a lot in common with a tree branch, and those concrete steps used for dips are virtually identical a rock ledge. As for that elliptical machine? There’s certainly no analog in nature to one of those (nor are they all that conducive to personal dignity, if you ask me). And an elliptical definitely won’t fit in a carry-on.
But a jump rope does. And you can do a few sets of sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and other old-school exercises pretty much wherever there’s a flat surface. The best thing about it? A workout that travels with you (whether it’s to your folk’s place back home or just to the roof of your building) is impervious to excuses, as it requires minimal time and space — it’s bullshit proof.