Volume 75, Number 17 | September 14 - 20, 2005

Sports/ Health


Punk Rope instructor Tim Haft, right, got the kids jumping at the recent HOWL! Festival.

Give ’em enough rope: Punk rock jump rope at the Y

By Judith Stiles

There was a time in the schoolyards of New York City when little girls totally owned the art of jumping rope, and even when the Hula Hoop was hot in the 1960s, school girls were still the queens of “double Dutch” and boys were simply not allowed to partake.

But those days are long gone, replaced by the jump ropes of fitness conscious men and women who can crack that rope 150 to 180 revolutions per minute, sometimes three times per second. Instructor Tim Haft, at the Sol Goldman 14th St. Y, at 344 E. 14th St., leads a lively “Punk Rope” class, which he describes as a “caloric-incinerating” total cardiac workout that blends jump rope, relay races, calisthenics and core training, nonstop for 45 minutes, where the students sweat up a veritable storm.

To the background of thematically organized punk rock music, such as “American Idiot” by Green Day, a full class, boasting one-third men, can be seen jumping rope on one foot, crisscrossing the feet, jogging in place, doing a scissor-kick step and more, all in an effort not to trip on the rope in between their fancy footwork. “You forget you are working out!” says Faith Stone excitedly after class.

Rachel Siegel takes the class and transfers the experience to her own teaching at Montefiore Childrens Hospital in her “B’n’ Fit” class for overweight children.

After at least 20 minutes of vigorous jumping rope, the class splits into five groups and lines up at one end of the gym for relay races, sprints, crabwalks (squatting while walking) and wheelbarrows (one person being held by the legs like a wheelbarrow), giving everyone flashbacks to seventh-grade gym class. “We’re ready to pass out. . .No! We’re good!” blurts out a student. Crunches, sprints, speed jumping, tag, tug o’ war, and with 10 minutes left in the class, many students seem to be flagging. However, the enthusiasm meter is still high, because Tim Haft designed this class to be fun, first and foremost.

“This is anaerobic exercise, which uses a different energy system,” explains Haft, a licensed fitness trainer. “This is the kind of energy you need to sprint to the bus when you are late.” Two very grateful students who attribute their superb level of fitness to Taft’s instruction feel it saved their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, when they sprinted down 40 flights of stairs before the towers collapsed.

“I wouldn’t recommend this type of workout every day,” warns Haft. “But once or twice a week is great, especially to the punk rock music, which makes it fun, even for people who have no experience jumping rope,” he adds.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Haft plays Irish punk rock music, and on Marin Luther King Day he plays all political songs. Every week you can get a preview of the music on his Web site at www.punkrope.com, where a rocking QuikTime video runs through the highlights of a typical class.

In the front of the class are the showoffs, a line of hardcore women who flick their wrists and fling the rope without flinching, as if to say that jumping rope is old hat for them. Kristine Rakowsky has her brown hair in two thick braids that swing along in perfect time to The Clash’s “I Fought the Law and the Law Won.” She has a straight-ahead stargazing look in her eyes, while following the instructions flawlessly, as if jumping rope is in her DNA. The men in the class approach jumping rope differently, like a race to be won, a goal to be met or a fierce demonstration of strength and endurance. The women (as old as 59 years and as young as 12) are light on their feet as they blithely breeze through the routines. Who knows why boys did not skip rope with the girls in the schoolyard way back when? Haft is pleased that jumping rope is finally a fun workout enjoyed by men also, and in his Punk Rope class these boys never have to be worried about being called a sissy. Classes are Monday nights at 7 p.m. and you can attend on a drop-in basis, showing up when you have a hankering for a caloric-incinerating experience.

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