Alternative Fitness

Back to the Basics

By Yitka Winn

Double-Dutch jump roping with friends along the Seattle waterfront provides fun, fitness and great views! Photo by Andrew G. Davis

Making the decision to be active isn’t the hard part. It’s deciding how to be active that serves up a real challenge.

With cities, mountains, volcanoes, rivers, lakes, the ocean, rainforests, rolling rural hills, national parks, and ski resorts all within hours of each other, the Northwest offers a seemingly endless buffet of options for outdoor recreation.

The bummer comes when we don’t always have the time or money to support trying out a new activity. Mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, triathlons — to name a few — all generally require a formidable amount of specialized clothing, equipment, and gear.

So why not keep it simple this year? If you’re looking to shake up your fitness routine and try something new without breaking the bank, read on for ideas, inspiration, and the resources to get you started.

Jump Roping

Remember this one from third grade? Jump roping has seen a powerful resurgence in recent years as a tool for cardiovascular training. Many gyms and personal trainers incorporate jump roping into circuit sessions, but you can reap the same benefits on your own as well.

Jump roping challenges your body’s coordination between muscle groups while getting your heart rate and calorie expenditure above where it falls with most other cardiovascular activities. It’s an excellent cross training tool, and one that can provide significant benefits in very little time.

The Bare Essentials

You can find a jump rope at stores like Target or Big 5 Sporting Goods, or with online retailers like Portland-based

Neighborhood Connection

Northwest Double Dutch:;
Seattle’s Rene Bibaud’s Ropeworks:;
Portland’s Jumpin’ Jackie O’s Team:

Inspiration Box

Book: “Jump Rope Training, Second Edition,” by Buddy Lee, published by Human Kinetics,
Videos and podcasts available at Seattle-area native Rene Bibaud’s,

Natural Movement Workouts

Most of you have probably heard of barefoot running by now, or perhaps have seen someone wearing those funny-looking “toe shoes,” the Fivefingers by Vibram. The principles of barefoot running — simplicity, injury prevention, and connection with the natural environment — have been extended to all forms of fitness, as our increasingly sedentary and indoors-oriented society has shown great recent interest in moving outdoors again.

Frenchman Erwan Le Corre brought the “Methode Naturelle” to the Pacific Northwest in the form of “MovNat,” an approach to fitness for modern day people that leaves the gym and treadmill behind. Natural Movement workouts take place in parks, forests, and other natural environments and can include everything from climbing trees, carrying logs, and crawling on all fours, to leaping over creek beds, swimming in lakes, and balancing on fallen branches.

The Bare Essentials

None. Even shoes are optional.

Neighborhood Connection

Tacoma-based “MovNat, Primal Blueprint, and Barefoot (Optional) Fitness” Group,;
Seattle’s Barefoot Ted Clinics and Workshops:;
Washington State Exuberant Animal Seminars:

Inspiration Box

Videos, articles, and calendar of workshops at Erwan Le Corre’s
Books: “Exuberant Animal: The Power of Health, Play and Joyful Movement,” by Frank Forencich; “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen,” by Chris McDougall.

Nordic Walking

Cross country skiers love their sport for its rhythm and invigorating qualities — but what to do once the snow has melted? Nordic walking is a sport that can be done year round, and without the hassle of any other fancy equipment beyond a set of poles and your own two legs — though beautiful trails are a crucial aspect as well!

More than merely hiking with poles, Nordic walking requires a particular rhythm that echoes that of Nordic skiing, but is gentle enough and easy to get started with that most anyone can give it a try. It is wildly popular in Europe, where many national forests have dedicated Nordic walking trails, but just recently is has begun to catch on in America as well — and for good reason!

The Bare Essentials

Nordic walking poles (yes, they do differ from regular trekking poles) can be found at REI, or through online retailers like Portland’s

Neighborhood Connection

Classes at Puget Sound’s Nordic Walking Journeys:
Portland hosts Annual Nordic Walking World Championships, Oct. 9, 2011:

Inspiration Box

Books: “Nordic Walking” by Malin Svensson; “Nordic Walking for Total Fitness” by Susan Nottingham; both published by Human Kinetics,;
Nordic Walking USA Blog:

Did you know?

(From: “Jump Rope Training, Second Edition.” by Buddy Lee, Human Kinetics.)

Improved cardiovascular health and rapid fitness gains have been proven with rope jumping. Research has shown 10 minutes of jumping rope can provide cardiovascular benefits equal to 30 minutes of jogging because the multi-joint movements of jumping rope can easily draw on aerobic and anaerobic energy systems in a 10-minute set. As little as five minutes of daily rope jumping can also be enough to quickly raise fitness levels for people who rarely exercise.