I can't do double unders

“I can’t do double unders.”

Well not with that attitude.

We hear this in the gym a lot and every time someone says it a puppy dies. EVERY TIME! It is not quite, but almost as bad when someone says “I am not good at math. “ WHAT?! You aren’t good at that universal language that is bound by a set of rules that logically build on each other starting at 1+1 and ending in moon rovers and the internet? That’s the thing you want to just give up on. And while sucking at double unders isn’t quite that ridiculous it is pretty close. So stop it.

Double unders are a skill. And developing a skill takes practice. Lots of it. And if you have double unders than just replace the word double with triple, and if you have triples, than replace it with quads. Not matter if you are trying to link singles or get 100 consecutive doubles it is a matter of practice. That’s it. But here is the thing about double under practice. It hurts. It can hurt physically, and emotionally. And I am not sure which is worse. As adults we don’t get a lot of opportunities to be bad at things, but it turns out there are some huge psychological benefits to sucking at something and persisting. Psychology professor Carol Dweck calls this the growth mindset. A mindset that leads people to lean into the hard things instead of staying in their comfort zone. People with a growth mindset are comfortable being uncomfortable and it turns out they are rewarded for it. They are more confident, more resilient, lower stress, less anxiety, and enhanced ability to deal with risk among many other positive returns. So basically getting good at double unders is key to getting good at life. That might be an oversimplification but you get the idea. Not pushing towards mastery of double unders robs us of not only success in our workouts but also incredible psychological adaptations. Yes we will leave the gyms with some lash marks on the backs of our thighs. And yes you will probably want to throw your rope but keep going. Keep pushing forward. I am pretty good at double unders and I have been for quite some time. I don’t even remember what was like to not be good at them and it can be challenging sometimes empathize with folks who are new to jumping rope. There is actually a name for that state, the curse of knowledge. I decided to move to triple unders and I was rapidly reminded of the feelings of being an early student of what can feel like an impossible endeavor. I spent 15 minutes being terrible and I hated it. I really really hated it. I kept going, but I was frustrated. In fact I spent just as much energy mentally persisting as I spent actually jumping rope. It was a fifteen minute internal dialogue that even including a brief bit about how exercise probably wasn’t good for you anyway and jumping rope is probably bad for your heart or some such nonsense. The more mistakes I made the more I wanted to stop. Sucking sucks. It really does. But on the other side of sucking is something incredible and it turns out that by being ok with sucking there is actually good stuff that comes just from the process of trying to get better. So even if you never get a double under, and even if I never get consecutive triple unders we are growing just by being willing to engage in the process. So you really can’t lose here. Just trying to get good is good for you and if you happen to get good than you are winning again. It is what we in the fitness industry call a winwinwinwin situation.. You are welcome.

Jordan Holland