The Speed Rope: Seeing Improvement

When we left off talking about working with the speed rope, it continued to be a struggle. I was having trouble building up any kind of consistency. Working on getting five or six consecutive jumps had become problematic again. Similar to the beginning stages of working with the standard rope. Where I was having to double-jump, in order to get a few jumps in a row. The starting over with the speed rope took me back to my childhood. Bringing back the emotions of struggling with the jump rope. Similar to that feeling of being the only kid on the playground struggling. When Bernard introduced the standard jump rope, those feelings of isolation came flooding back. Working with the speed rope was comparable to the standard rope, in that realm. It took me back to the frustration of feeling left behind. The emotion I have felt so often in life. Because of cerebral palsy, at times, I am unable to keep up. But, it turned out, the standard rope just took more time to get the process. More patience with myself to learn the balance and timing. Soon, I was moving from getting between 2 and 5 jumps in a row, to achieving north of 30 jumps in a row. The ability to use the standard jump rope was being achieved. Overcoming feelings of isolation being carried with me for years. But, could it be achieved again with the speed rope? Following the same frustrations of starting over. 

I honestly didn’t know if I could make the speed rope work. It felt like an entirely different level of jumping rope. Achieving the ability to work with the standard rope was an exciting accomplishment. Leaving me with the amazing sensation of overcoming something causing years of discouragement. To find myself right back inside the similar emotion wasn’t ideal. I tried to remind myself, the speed rope felt like a more athletic tool. If the use of the speed rope was beyond my athletic ability, it would be okay. There had been things in the gym, beyond my ability. But, it felt like Bernard was pretty convinced, the speed rope was possible. So, we continued working with the faster rope during each training session. As we continued practicing, my consistency improved slowly. Going from five and six in a row, with the speed rope, to being able to get closer to ten in a row. Bernard continued to mix up the goals with the rope. Going from getting x-number of jumps in a row. To achieving x-number of jumps, no matter how many mistakes I made. The combination of the two games helped train my ability and mindset with the speed rope. With a target number to achieve, no matter how many mistakes were made along the way, my number of consecutive jumps began to elevate. My competitive juices would start flowing and I wanted to decrease my number of mistakes. The process was allowing my thought of really being able to use the speed rope effectively. Whereas, when we began, I wondered if the speed rope was too much for my ability. 

We seemed to settle in on one particular game with the speed rope. The number of consecutive jumps to achieve would become 20 in a row. The first section of the game was attempting to achieve twenty within a time frame. Bernard began us at forty-five seconds. The leniency was there for me to make any number of faults. The key would be gathering myself quickly to continue my quest. During the timed challenge, I would usually make two or three mistakes, when we began. Even with the slips, I would gather myself, and could reach the twenty number within the time limit. Reaching the 20 jumps, though not in a row, was slowly starting to build my confidence. As we worked on the timed exercise, my number of consecutive jumps began increasing. With the challenge, I was beginning to hit between eight and twelve before a mistake. When the number of consecutive jumps started creeping up further, hitting fifteen before I had to start again. Bernard started shrinking the time I was being allotted. My time went down to thirty second to achieve 20 jumps, then down again to twenty-five seconds. Somewhere in all the diminishing of my allowed time, I hit 20 jumps in a row, no mistake. It was the first instance having me believe I could truly work the speed rope. The struggle of wondering if we would have to give it up, vanished. I was able to work with the same jump rope I had seen athletes working with. Gone were the days of looking at any kind of jump rope and thinking that I could never perform the exercise. Then, I started achieve more marks that didn’t seem possible before. 

The cool marks with the speed rope have happened within the last few weeks. My skill had elevated to the place of being allowed only one mistake with the rope. I was to achieve 20 jumps, but they didn’t have to be in a row. There would be no time by which the 20 jumps needed to be hit. The challenge was to get to 20 jumps with only one mistake. Working with the speed rope had become one exercise in a rotation of three. We usually start by playing catch with the small ball, then run through the agilities, and finish the circuit by working with the speed rope. We go through this rotation to begin every training session. We make three rotations before moving into strengthening exercises. So, 20 jumps were the goal with one mistake. If I incurred more than one slip-up, that rotation of the speed rope was over. I got three opportunities, each day, to reach 20 jumps. I would say a rough estimate was achieving the 20 with one slip about 70% of the times. Then, something cool happened. I hit 20 jumps in a row during my first set of the day, with the speed rope. On my following set of speed rope for the training session, I hit 20 in a row, again. During my final rotation with the speed rope, I again, hit 20 consecutive. I had completed the entire 60 jumps of our workout session without one slip. But, the achievement didn’t stop there. When we came back a couple days later and worked the circuit. I achieved another round of 20 consecutive jumps with the speed rope. Giving me four sets of work without a single slip. The achievement felt amazing. To have developed the skill of accomplishing those four sets in a row. It moved me from wondering if I could do the speed rope jumping. Into knowing I could accomplish working with the speed rope. 

With the excitement of getting four sets of 20 jumps in a row. Bernard elevated the challenge with the speed rope. He moved the requirement from 20, up to 22 jumps. The same criteria would apply. I would be able to make one mistake on my way to the 22-jump goal. Another exciting accomplishment would happen with the new goal. I would go on to reach the 22 mark in three consecutive sets of our rotation. This time, accomplishing it in one session. I was unable to move my streak into the following workout session. Achieving 22 jumps in a row was a little trickier. The extra time it took to get to the number left added room for mistakes. During the final rotation, I could tell the rope was spinning weirdly. It was getting pushed closer together, as it came over my head, and down to the floor. The concern of slipping into a mistaking was in my mind, but I kept pressing forward. When I achieved the goal, Bernard told me I had lost balance and/or timing during that particular set. He thought it had occurred three different times. However, the positive was in my ability to recover from the bobbles. Allowing me to continue on without the rope coming to a stop. The situation provided positive feedback about my increased ability to manage my own body. It also meant my number of consecutive jumps was continuing to climb. Gaining the ability to self-correct in the middle of the set was imperative to continue elevating my consecutive jump streak. 

The earning of the skill to use the speed rope has been encouraging. Time continues on without too many true pivot points. Accomplishments that set apart the way life was, from the way it has become. The entire process of jumping rope gives me that drastic example. From the kid inside me, afraid of picking up the standard rope during recess. Knowing my attempts would only end in embarrassment around my peers. Leaving me to watch others play with the freedom of being typically developed. It took a toll on my ability to feel good about myself. Giving me some of the first feelings of being isolated from the group. The blessing of being able to go back has been a true gift. Spending months, developing the skills that have led to these achievements. It has me thinking about the need for more time to learn. How many things can be learned if given more time and someone with the patience to teach the skill? With a disability like cerebral palsy, some skills might just need more practice. A skilled hand, to break down the movement, and start from scratch. To achieve the ability of jumping rope, I began by jumping over a tapped line on the carpet. However, there are some skills that will never be reached. Skills that appear easily achieved by someone typically developed. It feels harsh to think about those physical tasks that remain impossible, no matter the effort or practice. But, there remains immense joy in the tasks that can be achieved, with hard work and patience. 

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