As the pandemic locked people out of gyms and kept many in their homes, Lauren Flymen picked up a jump rope for the first time as an adult.
Flymen, who lives in Saint Albans, England, was furloughed from her sales manager position in April 2020. In her newfound free time, she discovered the jump rope community on Instagram and was inspired to give it a try.
"I stumbled across this whole world of people doing stuff I've never seen before, like all of the freestyle tricks," said 29-year-old Flymen. There are nearly 1 million #jumprope posts on Instagram, and more than 896 million views on TikTok videos with the caption #jumprope.
"I started sharing videos of me learning and then that gained momentum. It picked up quite quickly and people started following me, wanting tips from me. So, I started sharing tutorials," Flymen said.
She went from performing basic crossovers to gravity-defying freestyle moves with fast, fancy footwork, attracting more than 286,000 followers over the course of one year.
Flymen is part of a growing pandemic trend, with people who have been shut out of gyms and exercise classes looking for low-tech ways to stay fit. Unlike the jump rope fun in the schoolyard or the competitive double Dutch teams, pandemic jump rope fans had to jump alone or in their social bubbles.
Businesses are taking note: Crossrope and Elevate Rope, two companies that sell jump ropes, reported record-breaking sales last year. An Elevate Rope spokesperson reported that revenue increased by 240% during 2020, while Crossrope told CNN it had $26 million in sales in 2020 -- four times the sales of the previous year.
Subscribe to CNN's Fitness, But Better newsletter: Get back in the groove. Sign up for our newsletter series to ease into a healthy routine, backed by experts
The benefits of jumping rope
Jumping rope is a good exercise routine, experts say.
"If you're looking for a cardio workout that's really efficient, I would say jump roping absolutely is that," said CNN fitness contributor Dana Santas, who is a wellness expert and a strength and conditioning coach.
Jump roping is a vigorous, calorie-burning workout that works your whole body, Santas said. As a coach in professional sports, she incorporates jump roping into high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, and warm-ups.
Just 10 minutes of jumping rope is as efficient of a cardio workout as 30 minutes of running, according to a 2013 study led by John A. Baker at Arizona State University. Jumping can also increase bone density, according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Flymen said jump roping is the hardest cardio workout she has done. But the biggest benefit has been for her mental health. It's an exciting and satisfying way to escape the stresses of everyday life, she said.
"If you're going on a run, you think about other stuff in your life and problems," Flymen said. "Whereas when I go out and jump rope, you just focus on that. You are properly in the zone. You can't think about anything else because it involves so much of your mind to actually do these tricks."
Jump roping is like meditation for Elevate Rope founder and CEO Geraldo Alken.
"When you're jumping rope, you need to be present, in the moment. If you're not present, you're going to trip up," he said. "When I pick up this rope, I just enter some kind of new realm, another world. It's just me and this rope and my music, and you can just let go of everything around you. And that's just the best feeling."
Crawl before you jump
Before jumping into this high-intensity meditation, Santas warns that people who aren't in good shape could get injured if they don't ease into it and warm up properly.
"There's no way to do jump roping that isn't vigorous-intensity because if you slow the rope down too much it's not going to work right. So, it's vigorous right out of the gate," she said.
Both Santas and Flymen recommend beginners start with a short session, like five to 10 minutes. "People think jump roping looks easy but it's not at all," Flymen said.
After a year of jumping, Flymen decided not to return to her sales job and is making money sharing her jump rope journey on social media. Her lockdown hobby became her job.
"I'm disappointed I didn't discover this sooner, and I just want everyone to know what they can achieve with jump rope," Flymen said.