Nothing beats skipping to a tune in your local park
TV presenter Miquita Oliver says her lockdown passion beats running and improves physical and mental health
During lockdown, I read that the best thing we can do to stay young, alive and healthy is to jump. I discovered skipping a few years ago, and is now something I rely on for my mental health and for my physical well-being.
I started training really hard a couple of years ago and it was my personal trainer, Georgie, who added skipping to our sessions. It is the best cardio in the world. She was away for a bit, so I stepped up the skipping and started listening to music at the same time. It became a completely different thing. When you skip to a beat, it is a much more pleasurable way to stay active. It becomes a mixture of dance and skip. You are basically going to the park, and having a dance.
I lost a lot of weight through training really hard about two years ago, and it changed my relationship with exercise – it led to me rediscovering sport.
I thought I just wanted to lose some weight, but that is not what it is about. It was about shedding other things, the emotional stuff. I suddenly remembered that I loved sport as a child right up until I started presenting on TV when I was 15 years old. There was not much time left to concentrate on anything else. Before that, I loved everything, football, tennis, badminton – I even played netball for a bit.
It is so important to be active when you are young, and I think it would have helped me tenfold if, alongside
Popworld, school, T4,
Radio One and all those other things I was doing, that I had played a bit of sport at the weekends with my friends. It would have really helped me have a bit more balance and something else in my life.
I like running, but with skipping you do not have to set out to run any distances. When I turned 30, six years ago, I decided to run the London Marathon and I did not even really train. I thought that it was not even that difficult. I completed it in 5hr 15 min, I could have got closer to four hours and 30 if I had trained properly.
My approach to sport is, just get on with it. My mum said that my nannie was a long-distance runner when she was younger, which I never knew. My nan loves how athletic I am now and says this is how she was when she was young.
I am also proud to say that I got my dad skipping. He is a 6ft Rastafarian, so not the most obvious person you are likely to see having a skip. But he was so sweet. He started skipping, messed it up, but then did it again and was panting, and that is the thing, when people start skipping, they become childlike and think back to a time in their lives when they could and did skip.
Yes, you do have to get over the self-conscious part of other people looking at you when you are skipping. But because everyone is more used to being out there and showing their daily routine, it became a regular thing that “yeah, I’m skipping” and others were too, so that was great to see.
During lockdown I started posting some videos of my cousin and I skipping. We called it “skip school”, as in “the school of skipping”, not the “skipping of school”! People really got into it. I would post a video skipping to music and people would send me theirs. It was lovely and really inspiring. I was getting loads of messages every day.
It is a great isolation sport. In deep lockdown, all you needed was a rope, a small space at the park and after 20 minutes to half an hour of skipping, you were exhausted.
For women, it is great for pelvic floor muscles, and you can hold your rope and do some brilliant stretching – it is a multifunctional thing. There is one problem, though. I have to say there are not many great skipping ropes out there. I may have to invent one. I keep running out of them, the good ones are plastic because they whip better, but it is not eco-friendly, so one needs to be designed that whips like that, but is not plastic. The expensive ropes tend to be too jazzy. It is good to keep it basic with a skipping rope.
I am not one to do all the tricks that you see people in the gym doing. For me it is about endurance, skipping for one minute, then one minute off. You are pretty tired by the end of a 20-minute session.
If you bring the music element to skipping, then it becomes like meeting up for a dance. Boys, girls, adults, kids all skipping to the music. It is a different kind of skipping, it is neither masculine, nor feminine, it is somewhere in the middle.
Skipping is all about finding that rhythm between your heart, the music and the rope. It nurtures your mind and body and works you out. When I was teaching people how to skip in the parks throughout the summer, I would put the music on and it would help them find their beat. It is such a grounding experience, all parts of you get connected.
I like listening to reggae, hip hop, ragga and R&B when I am skipping.
You’d be surprised, the other day I had a little skip to Maroon 5, and that worked really well – whatever tune gets you in the zone, just like when you are on a run. It does really help.
What I would like to do and see is more people congregating in their parks, skipping in unison and in groups. It is definitely something that I want to look into because it is the sort of thing which could be so fun to do with lots of people at the same time. I think you could get a real atmosphere – if you had 20 or 30 people, although that may not really work in the current climate.
It is like Zumba. If anything sounds a bit more like you are going for a dance, you are into it. Or if you think of the spinning set-up, I think that could work for skipschool classes, with the lights and tunes in a room and everyone goes for it. There is definitely a place in the market for it!
It is a great isolation sport – all you need is a rope and some space outside
New pursuit: Miquita Oliver completed the 2014 London Marathon, but says skipping takes less time than running to reach your limit