Remember the school playground and jumping rope? Yeah, me neither. I hated jumping rope as a kid. But now I totally understand how great of cardio it is, and I highly recommend that everyone who's interested in improving endurance and cardio consider buying one and adding it into the workout. Even more than weights, jump ropes are INSANELY cheap and easy to store, and they are also pretty cool because you can get them in lots of variations and styles:
It might seem simple, but there's a lot of ways to add variations to jumping rope. Consider that many boxers and other endurance athletes consider jumping rope an integral part of their cardio training. If you've done anything like boxing you know how hard the cardio is to build up, so it's a good indication of its effectiveness as a workout (hint: it's great.) Here's a few variations I suggest:
1. The single jump. By far the easiest. One pass of the rope per jump. Easy, mostly everyone can get the coordination down in a day, and still pretty effective at getting your heart rate up. You'll probably even be able to smile and be happy doing it like this stock photo lady.
2. Double-unders: A bit harder, and requires a bit more coordination and endurance, but double-unders are a good way to "up the challenge" in any jump rope workout.
I've seen people consider double-unders as being 2x or 3x more than singles, but I generally go for 2x. YMMV.
3. Crossovers: While you do the jump, cross your arms in front of yourself and then open them again in order to get the rope to go over your head. Basically a variation on singles with a bit more arm movement.
A good way to make jump rope a part of your larger workout routine is to consider it a warm-up and warm-down (or a buy-in/buy-out in the CrossFit terms, if you prefer). So, set a number of any jumps you need to start the workout, and do that at the end as well to finish the workout. One example:
You can obviously do a bunch of variations on the workout, but here's one just to consider.
In case you're wondering, you can get a decent speed rope for under $20 (disclosure: this link is to my affiliate account on Amazon). But I've seen them at Target for similar prices as well. One nice advantage to a jump rope over, say, running is that you can do it in almost any weather, and I believe it's easier on the knees in the long run.