What I Learned When My Students Began Jumping Rope

By Janet Beihoffer (04/11/2019)

By now the outcry has been heard and confirmed: Children need recess or other forms of physical activity to thrive in school.

But I could have told you that. As a veteran teacher, I stumbled on this fact in my own classroom quite by accident.

Years ago my students took the required, but now defunct, President’s Challenge physical fitness test. Most teachers left the requirement to the P.E. staff. One year, however, I was informed that most of my fifth grade students had failed the test.

I took that personally. I was an athlete at age 10. MY students would not flunk the physical education test. But what could I do?

Eventually I found an article about a school system which had its students jumping rope every day. “Why not try this?” I asked myself. So off to the hardware store I went to purchase about 120 feet of clothesline. Returning home, I cut 25 “jumping ropes,” one for each of my students.

From that point on, my students and I jumped rope one minute each day before returning to the classroom after the noon recess. We added another minute every week following until we reached five minutes.

Did it work?

The answer was a resounding yes when it came to the President’s Challenge. Every student passed it the following spring.

But something else happened that was even more impressive.

Through the jump roping regimen, one boy had an incredibly difficult time getting the rope over his head and jumping over it. His eyes were misaligned and I’m sure that influenced his lack of coordination. Nevertheless, he tried every day with the others.

This same boy was very bright, but had horrible penmanship. However, this began to improve over time.

One afternoon I called him to my desk to congratulate him on his handwriting. He responded by saying, “Well, the only reason I think this happened is because of jumping rope. I believe my brain has re-patterned itself.”

Could this kind of program be done today? Even though recess is rising in popularity, we have eliminated many other avenues for fitness, including less outside time, no Red Rover, and no Dodge Ball. Have we gone so far in protecting kids that we are cheating them of self-confidence, physical improvement, better motor skills, and maybe even better academic results?

Perhaps it’s time to get out the jump ropes.

By | 2019-04-18T13:29:08-04:00 April 18th, 2019|0 Comments

This man chose life and lost 130 pounds

I’ve been friends with Scott Cancel (above) for nearly a decade. He’s one of the warmest, funniest, most talented humans you’re ever going to meet. But, like many of us, it wasn’t always easy for Scott to make healthy choices and consequently he gained weight and became ill. I was very worried about him so it brings me such joy to see Scott on a healthier and happier path. Below is just a small part of the story of how Scott turned things around. Sure, losing 130 pounds is awesome. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Scott has his life and his health back and he’s looking pretty unstoppable. Roll tide.

You’ve lost more than 100 pounds in the past 2 years and made a number of significant lifestyle changes. What inspired you to make so many changes and what keeps you motivated?

At the beginning of 2017 I had been laid off from a job I had sunk 6 years of my life into and my girlfriend of two years had just broken up with me. I was depressed and had truly given up on life. In this time I ballooned to 430 pounds and health problems began to mount. In the summer of 2017 I went home to attend my brother’s college graduation. Three nights after his graduation he was leaving a party and fell asleep at the wheel. His car was totaled but thank God we was still alive. When he regained consciousness he called the first number in his phone for help and thankfully it was mine. My father and I rushed to him, but I was just a burden. I was so big I couldn’t even help my father get my brother out of the vehicle. I couldn’t do anything.

It was in that moment that everything became clear. If I can’t help myself how will I ever be able to help other people. I was disgusted with myself and my inability to help my own brother. After that I started seeing doctors to figure out how to fix what I had broken. First I had to fix my mind before I could fix my body. After that, everything else has been easy in comparison.

Long story short, what keeps me motivated is the memory of how bad I was and how much better I strive to become. I will never allow weakness to control me again.

These days you hear so much conflicting information about nutrition, weight loss, and exercise. Can you share a bit about your own approach and why it’s worked for you?

First and foremost you must clear your mind of all the ways you viewed health and fitness in the past. The way you did things before has led you down this path you are dissatisfied with. Let go and be open to trying new approaches.

Learn to count calories. When I first started seriously dieting I kept a journal for two weeks of everything I was eating and the calories that were in each item. I was astounded by how many calories I was taking in and not even realizing it.

Find exercises that you feel comfortable with and will actually do. At my size. cardio was a big struggle so I focused on the recumbent bike and strength training. Slowly but surely, the weight started to come off and I began to get stronger. Every month I challenge myself to incorporate an exercise I couldn’t do the month prior.

Your diet and exercise routine has no end date! I have battled with my weight my whole life and constantly yo-yoed from one weight to another. The reason for this is because I’d be heavily devoted to a diet and exercise routine and once I got the results I wanted I’d stop and inevitably the weight would come back plus some. Now I understand that I must make a lifelong commitment to my body. Mouth pleasure is not worth sacrificing my health and happiness.

I am a true believer in intermittent fasting. This has helped me maintain my weight-loss goals for 8-10 pounds a month and allowed me to avoid the plateau that most people say is inevitable. Start with fasting for 12 hours then slowly work your way up to 16 hours by adding one hour every 3 days. It takes a little while for your body to adjust, but once it does you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of eating.

You made your Punk Rope Games debut this year and your team, Flavor
Town, had a strong showing. How did it feel to compete in the Games?
Do you have your eye on other fitness events? Do you think you’ll keep
jumping rope?

I’ve wanted to compete in the Games for a while, but this was the first year I’ve ever felt even close to in-shape enough to not look completely awful. I was strongly encouraged by Mary Paliouras and Kevin Sullivan and with the rumor that these might be the last Games I knew I had to join up.

My team and I did not get to practice nearly as much as I would have liked but I was proud of our participation if nothing else. The fact that I did not come in dead last for my singles event was a complete surprise! It was a real self-affirming moment for me to feel like I could actually be competitive in something physical for the first time in 10+ years.

I still want to get my weight down another 30 or so pounds before I’d consider doing any of the “Spartan Race” type fitness events. Though I’ve lost a lot of weight I’m still rather heavy and I feel like the risk of injury at this time is just too high.

As my weight comes further down I do want to incorporate more rope jumping into my overall fitness routine. The cardio you get from it is amazing and it can be done without having to get to the gym for 45 minutes to an hour. Plus, when you get good at it, it looks really cool!

When you’re working out which 3 or 4 songs really get you moving?

Airbourne • Back In The Game
Disturbed • The Curse
Alter Bridge • Ties That Bind
Metallica • The End of The Line
(Literally the first 4 songs on my workout mix)

In terms of health and fitness where would you like to be a year from now?

I’d like to be 220 pounds or lower and I’d like to be completely off the few remaining medications I take. I’d also love to buy a pair of pant that are below a 40.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I just want anyone who is feeling uneasy about where they are health and fitnesswise to know that no matter how bad off you think you are you can get better. If you work hard enough and want it bad enough it can and will happen!

By | 2018-10-05T10:07:59-04:00 October 5th, 2018|0 Comments

Overcoming adversity to jump rope a 5K

Almost exactly one year ago I had to withdraw from the 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K in Philadelphia because of a torn calf muscle. I was extremely disappointed because I had trained hard for the race, was looking forward to it, and the injury seemed to come out of nowhere. I immediately registered for the 2018 race hoping I’d be able to redeem myself. But then the wheels came off the wagon. On November 1, about six weeks after I withdrew from the race, my dad passed away unexpectedly on the heels of my mom passing away unexpectedly. Then a few months after that I started experiencing more lower back pain than usual. An MRI revealed four herniated discs in my lumbar spine. That happy news was followed by an injury to my right knee.

To say I was at a low point would be an understatement of biblical proportions, but I didn’t quit. Through physical therapy, the love and support of my sister and my friends, the powerful effects of Aynsley Kirshenbaum’s #sugarpurge, and the sheer force of will, I was able to jump rope the entire Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K this Saturday with my girlfriend, Heather, and my dear friend and Punk Rope co-conspirator, Shana. The runners and spectators were so gracious and encouraging. We’ve never been cheered on like that before even though we’ve been jumping 5Ks since 2009. I wanted to share this story because I believe we all have the ability to be resilient and bounce back from any misfortune. In the words of the late, great Jim Valvano, “Never ever give up!”

By | 2018-09-17T07:29:51-04:00 September 17th, 2018|0 Comments

Great coaches are hard to find. We found one in DC.

If you’ve been lucky enough to have a great coach in your life, particularly at the middle or high school level, you know full well what a profound impact they can have on your success, happiness, and well-being. Who out there has had a great coach and what was your experience? We met Keino in 2012 at a Punk Rope Instructor Workshop in Washington DC and I instantly liked him. Plus my intuition and our conversation told me he was doing great work helping kids become good athletes and even better people. Let’s hear from Keino.

TIM: I remember meeting you back in 2012 and thinking this guy has the coolest name in the world. How did you get the name Keino?

KEINO: My name was derived from an Olympic runner (Kip Keino) from Kenya. My dad watched him win four gold medals while running barefoot. Kip Keino was a special runner and my dad fell in love with his name.

TIM: What inspired you to get involved with sports and fitness?

KEINO: While growing up I was introduced to a variety of sports by JD Brown, a no-nonsense guy who believed that athletics and education could change your life. He was the the recreational director at Fort Davis Community Center in southeast DC. I loved each and every one. I loved them so much that I went on to get my undergrad and masters degrees in biology and physical education.

TIM: How long have you been working with kids?
What do you like most about it?

KEINO: I’ve been working with kids for 28 years. What I love most about working with kids is seeing the children share the lessons they’ve been taught with their peers, as well as with their family and the community at large.

TIM: When did you begin jumping rope? What do you like most about it?

KEINO: I began jumping rope as a child, but it was a chance meeting with the Punk Rope team that made me fall in love with it
TIM: How has Punk Rope impacted the way you teach jump rope to kids?

KEINO: We are Punk Rope fanatics. We either use Punk Rope as a warm-up to the lesson at hand or we use it as our 30 minute “Do Now Activity.”

TIM: What’s your favorite song to jump to?

KEINO: In the Air Tonight by Nonpoint.

TIM: What else would you like our readers to know about you?

KEINO: Punk Rope has been in my class room for the last six years and I would be lost without it. It builds denser bones, quicker feet, and better cardio, but the fun my scholars receive is priceless.

By | 2018-05-21T11:45:22-04:00 May 21st, 2018|0 Comments

Life’s Like a Jump Rope

Jayne Richards has taught Punk Rope for 10 years.

We met Jayne Richards on March 1, 2008 at a Punk Rope Instructor Workshop in Franklin, Massachusetts. She was the 865th instructor to complete her Punk Rope certification. Little did we know at the time that ten years later she would still be carrying the Punk Rope torch at the Florence Sawyer School in Bolton, Mass where Jayne is a health and PE teacher. We also had no idea that Jayne would tattoo the Punk Rope logo on her ankle or that she would compete in the 2010 Punk Rope Games and then serve as a referee in a number of subsequent competitions. Jayne is a Punk Rope national treasure. We thought you’d like to know more about her so here she is:

TIM: You’ve been doing Punk Rope for 10 years with the kids at the Florence Sawyer School. What motivated you to introduce the program at the school?

JAYNE: It was my 2nd year teaching health & physical education (PE) – after spending 20 years in high-tech – and I was looking for new skills and activities to use in PE class. I had so much fun taking the training (as exhausted as I was) and I knew that this would be so much better for kids who don’t necessarily like PE. I got permission to pilot a morning Punk Rope activity that April (2008) and have been doing it ever since.

TIM: Reflecting back on those 10 years what were some of the highlights?

JAYNE: The highlight for me is always when I have a student say ‘I can’t jump rope’ and they come and try it anyway. With a little bit of encouragement and practice, I get to watch them go from struggling to make one jump, to being able to count the number of jumps in a row. Watching those faces when they realize what they’ve accomplished is priceless.

TIM: What were the biggest challenges of the past 10 years?

JAYNE: I had a couple of years where I only had a few kids and I wondered if I would be able to keep the program going. So instead of word-of-mouth, I put out ‘word’ through announcements and in newsletters home to parents, and that solved that problem. I had way too many kids but we managed.

TIM: Do you think we’re heading in the right direction as a society in terms of getting kids to be active and healthy? If not, what should we do differently?

JAYNE: I think that whenever kids are having fun, they engage. It’s hard when kids know they can’t do something or do it well, but aren’t always willing to keep trying or don’t get the correct direction. Combine that with the heavy emphasis on competitiveness and it turns a lot of the kids off from being physically active by middle school.That’s what makes Punk Rope so special – they have fun and the only one they are competing with is themselves. Even the relay races – there’s no winner/loser – they just keep going until the music stops!!

TIM: You’re a big time rock ‘n’ roll fan. What attracted you in the first place? Which bands would you like our readers to check out?

JAYNE: Ooooh – bands.I do love music – always have. Some to see in NYC would be Joseph King and the Mad Crush, Wild Adriatic, and Hurricane Bells. Other groups: Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness (lead singer of the former Jack’s Mannequin), All Time Low, Barely Blind, Relient K, Saosin, Snow Patrol, Arctic Monkeys, Walk the Moon, and my favorite band – Neon Trees. Honestly, there are too many to count and my goal this summer is to get back into the city to see shows of bands I’ve never heard of – some of the best music is being played in small venues!!

TIM: What else would you like our readers to know about you or your work?

JAYNE: Not much to tell about me!!! I love my job – I teach health in grades 3-8, run 2 sessions of Punk Rope every year, and new this year, I am the advisor for the school’s Random Acts of Kindness Club. Personally, I have two tuxedo cats (aka ‘my babies’), love to spend time in my garden, and I seriously enjoy my summers in the sun!!!

By | 2018-05-13T11:23:47-04:00 May 13th, 2018|0 Comments

Prison, jump rope, and a new beginning

I’ve never been incarcerated, but I did work at the House of Detention for Men at Rikers Island as a Prison Legal Assistant from 1982 to 1983, immediately after graduating from college. It was the most challenging and eye-opening job I’ve ever held and it significantly altered my views about people behind bars. But this story is not about me or my beliefs. It’s about Missie (above left with Nero, a service dog who Missie helped to train). Missie has been incarcerated since 2010. She found us by way of her friend Lisa (above right with Missie) and is now a certified Punk Rope Instructor by virtue of completing our home study course and acing the multiple choice exam. I’m going to shut up now and let Missie do the talking. The following essay was written by Missie less than two weeks ago. We’ve reprinted it in its entirety. We wish her the best of luck.

I used to be a runner. I have no hard feelings toward running—the sport taught me about discipline and perseverance, friendship and community, joy and grief. It also introduced me to a feeling of freedom in a world where freedom is a word only whispered about.

I am currently incarcerated.

In 2010, I lost my worldly freedoms to incarceration. My life prior to prison looked good on the outside, but it wasn’t. I ended up making a terrible choice that placed me behind bars. At 30 years old, 255 pounds with poor physical health, I needed to make some changes. However, internally, I also needed repair and healing of the woman inside of me.

Running became a passion of mine, giving me a sense of internal freedom. As my physical body and physical health improved, I also gained the freedom to walk with self-confidence, self-reliance, and an unrelenting self-awareness. I gained the internal freedom to look at myself with unfaltering clarity, for better and for worse. And I began to heal.

As time passed behind bars, my passion for fitness expanded beyond running. I started taking yoga classes and I became interested in strength training. Ultimately in December of 2017 I became a certified fitness trainer through the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).

During my six months of testing my quest to expand my fitness pursuits and my journey towards internal freedom continued. And it continued with something I wasn’t very good at initially. I started to jump rope. The physical benefits (and challenges) of jump rope were apparent to me from the very beginning. The internal benefits have been shown to me along the way.

To push through the early (awkward) stages of jump rope, I practiced. And practiced. And practiced. And I still practice! It took some time to be comfortable, but eventually I began instructing a jump rope class at the institution.

I envisioned a jump rope class to be something different than the other classes offered at the institution. I wanted something challenging (!) and fun (!) and I wanted lots of sweating (!) and cheering (!) and laughing (!) and I wanted lots of joy (!) and dance music (!) and black lights (!). At 8am on Sundays I can say my jump rope class has it all but the black lights 🙂

Through instruction of this very-early-highly-energized-jump-rope class, I found the internal freedom to be whom I ultimately was created to be—a person who is humbly motivating, encouraging, and uplifting for others. A woman who quietly makes a difference, sometimes very small, but those small differences ripple outwards.

My journey with fitness over the past seven years has taught me that improving the quality of my life has subsequently improved the quality of others’ lives. And that the impact we make on others matters above anything else. Sure, the calorie burn of a workout and rope jumping interval times matter, but never above the joy and empowerment and degree of personal choice they bring. I have learned that fitness is a lifestyle and that freedom is a mindset and that both of these things are conscious choices, liberating choices, that move us forward from the things that hold us back.

By | 2018-04-30T22:28:43-04:00 April 30th, 2018|0 Comments

How to Get Out of An Exercise Funk

It happens to all of us. We don’t want to get out of bed let alone go to the gym and work out or go for a run. Even a walk to the fridge might seem like a tall order. Recently one of my buddies had a bad case of the exercise blues and turned to her support network for a little encouragement. Here’s what some folks had to say:

“Find a pretty area and go for a walk. Listen to music while you do it. I got into photography when I was depressed, and walking around and taking pictures helped me get mobile and focus on something else.”

“A concrete goal will help, but you need accountability, too. Is there someone who will do a race with you?”

“Running with a friend helps. Sometimes it just means doing it even if you don’t want to. Some days I am getting my workout clothes on and saying I don’t wanna in my head. Just keep moving. Also I find first thing in the morning works for me best. Just get up and do it and then I get on with my day.”

“Redefine exercise! It can be 5 minutes, 3 minutes, or 1 minute. I get out of my exercise funk by doing something quick and easy…sprinting 100 meters, doing 20 push-ups, wrestling with a friend. I just try to start moving and get the blood flowing. That almost instantly elevates my mood. But if I tried to go out and run a mile I’d never do it.”

“When I’m down and just don’t give a fuck about anything much less working out, I’ll buy myself a new sports bra or running pants or some new running shoes if I’ve got the money. It kinda perks me up a little bit and makes me want to wear them. It at least gets the ball rolling for me.”

By | 2018-02-13T17:47:05-05:00 September 21st, 2016|0 Comments