The Shame Line is Open

Three months ago I picked up a jump rope for the first time since I was eight years old. Watching me try to manage a few hops was probably like watching a drunk steer stagger around a corral, except with cursing. I couldn’t believe something so simple, so universal, so obvious could be so impossible. Elementary age girls all over the world do this!

But that’s how it was, and there was no getting around the fact that if you are a boxer, you also will jump rope. There’s a good reason for this correlation. Jumping rope incinerates calories (up to 1000 an hour); improves your posture, timing, and coordination; powers up your heart even better than running does with less impact on your knees; and costs nearly nothing fifty dollars.

I should say more about that I guess.

After three or four humiliating sessions of attempting to jump rope, I did what any middle-class American woman would do. I tried to purchase my way out. I watched my trainer and several other team mates effortlessly skip their way — without misses — through round after round of jump rope drills. Their ropes had shiny silver handles and whistling clear tubes for the “rope”. I could tell something was helping the rope swivel without twisting. I decided that if I had one of those jump ropes, I would be graceful and skilled, too. Har.

So like many others before me, I got sent to the Buddy Lee Jump Rope website, and I paid my (cough) fifty dollars, and my path to success arrived in the mail about a week later. During the intervening time I did my best to convince my husband that fifty dollars was a reasonable price to pay for a glorified string with handles. It didn’t go well.

And I learned what everyone learns. Jumping rope skills take time and practice to build, no matter how awesome and ridiculously expensive your jump rope is.

Eventually my drunken, cursing steer act evolved into a mildly irritated and slightly graceless steer act. Then, in the space of a week or so, I left behind the bovine analogy all together. I am now a pretty good jump roper.

In fact, I can jump rope for half an hour straight with a few misses, throwing in the occasional twist-the-rope-in-front trick, a running sprint, and the standard pogo. I’m not yet as graceful on the “boxer shuffle” but I’m gaining ground daily.

So. When I’m not at the boxing gym I go to a regular fitness center, and for two months or so I’ve been taking my diamond-and-ruby-encrusted jump rope with me and doing my thing.

Until I started jumping rope at that gym, I NEVER ONCE saw anyone jumping rope. After a couple of weeks I noticed I had set off a trend of guys (and guys only) who suddenly decided to do so. And now there’s an interesting pattern that I bear witness to nearly every single time I go.

It goes like this.

I get to the gym and post, in ink that only guys can read, a sign that only guys can see, on the front of the huge glass-walled aerobics room where I typically jump. The sign says: “The Shame Line is Open.” This draws them in, one at a time, for a whuppin. During the 30 minutes or so that I’m calmly jumping rope and making it look easy, they come in, pick out one of the barely-used jump ropes hanging on the rack, flex their muscles a bit (neck rolls are a favorite, I’ve noticed), then proceed to whip it for about eight jumps.

Whereupon they invariably miss, glance over to where I’m serenely running my routine, and start again. They NEVER try to Just Jump Rope. They have to throw a trick, or sprint, or double jump, and they fail. This is frustrating to them because they remember in high school how they could do this, at least a little bit. And they were cool, yes they were. And darn it, they still are.

They never last an entire minute. And honestly, I never lasted at the beginning either. But jumping rope is absolutely nothing like riding a bike; it’s a skill you have to develop and maintain.

I feel some sympathy, in an amused 43-year-old woman kind of way. But I’m not closing down shop or anything. Somebody’s gotta run the Shame Line. Might as well be me.

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7 Responses to The Shame Line is Open

  1. Jeanne January 29, 2009 at 9:00 pm #

    ha ha ha! For several years I did Pilates and we had a similar phenomenon. Guys would occasionally join us and get their tails kicked by the stretch and strength requirements. The invariable comment would follow: “This must be easier for women than men!” As if we just wandered in there, paid our estrogen price, and could do an hour of strength work. Love this story…thinking I need a $50 jump rope….

  2. Sine Botchen January 29, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

    Wow! Okay I prematurely scoffed at your “Buddy Lee” thing because I thought it was a reference to “Battle Bots”
    and now I stand (or rather slouch in my chair) corrected. I’m verry interested in hearing more about how you deal with the flurry of activity IN YOUR FACE that boxing eventually entails. I honestly thought I was the only one who totally FREAKED OUT when the action got too close. That’s why I usually ended up wrestling my sparring partner to the mat instead of ducking and jabbing (and all that).

  3. Lisa Creech Bledsoe January 29, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    Jeanne, I have to admit that I cringe whenever one of our trainers says to the whole boxing team (mostly guys, plus me and maybe one other woman): “Hey, look, the women are doing x, you guys need to pick it up.” As if it should be EASY if the women are pulling it off.

    Sine, I have trouble when another boxer comes at me in a flurry. I freeze up totally, and I’m working as hard as I can to overcome it. Part of my problem is that I’m too slow in the ring; gotta get faster. As my husband says (and many have said before him) “Stick and move!”

  4. Emmy December 5, 2012 at 2:29 am #

    I have been reading your posts for a while, since I just started boxing. Love your blog!

    Soooo glad I stumbled upon this post, too. I took my first boxing class last night and…boy was I surprised that I can’t jump rope. At least not very well. Elementary school was only 10 or so years ago but, nope.

    I brought my rope home and practiced at home and just continued to be really frustrated. It’s so good to know I’m not alone and that improvement will come in time! 🙂

    I’m also going on a trip soon and asked my trainer what to do to keep working on my cardio. Now that I’ve read your post, I think I’m gonna bring a jumprope, find a gym on my trip, and start a little shame line of my own. 😉

    Thanks again for your encouragement! 🙂


    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe December 5, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      So glad to have help in running the shame line, Emily! There are STILL far too few of us.

      Btw, I hope you didn’t pay this much for a rope. I’ve long since replaced my $50 rope for a $4 version that works pretty well. I tend to lose them easily, and they don’t last forever when you regularly jump on pavement. The critical thing is to get one that’s a) heavy enough (cotton sucks), and b) rotates below the handles (you need a swivel arrangement of some sort). Gotta post on that someday.

      Meanwhile, SOOO glad you took the time to comment. Welcome to the boxing universe…Including the running of the shame line!!

      • Emmy December 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

        Yes, I’m excited to do it today!

        Found out at boxing class yesterday that my rope was too short, yup having a longer rope definitely helps, haha! I saw my ability to not hit myself clean up real fast. Yeah I got a really cheap rope; as long as it doesn’t break, I’m happy!

        Had my second boxing class yesterday and wow! Really it’s the best workout ever. Just 45 short minutes but I burn way more calories there than the previous ~1.5 hours I’d spend in the gym. Also: after jumproping, I feel like I never want to run again to get in cardio shape. Jumproping is so effective! Big thumbs up there.

        Thanks Lisa! 🙂 Look forward to reading more of your posts.


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