Getting Roped In
Skipping superstar Sarah Louise, otherwise known as @skippingwithsarah, talks about her passion for jump rope, why she maintains it can help anyone who is not your typical workout fan and her exciting new collaboration with Maaree
Sarah Louise is 32 and lives in London with her partner John, who she’s been with for eight years. They share a flat – along with two cats called Binky and Rufus – in Greenwich. It’s not just Sarah who has amassed followers through her sporting activities – the other three also have their own fan base through appearing on her Instagram stories. Sarah’s discovery of skipping, which she describes as ‘addictive’ has lead her to create her own website and social media channels, devise programmes to help and inspire others, and she’s recently collaborated with with our friends at MAAREE to produce a range of leggings and shorts designed with skippers in mind.
Glorious: You began skipping during the pandemic, how did this come about, was it a brand-new activity for you?
Sarah: I have not been very active as an adult and any attempt at keeping fit was always short lived. I had a very all or nothing approach to fitness and unless I was trying to lose weight, I wasn’t interested. I used to dance when I was younger – ballet, tap and jazz – and remember skipping in my garden during primary school as a fun way to pass the time. Other than that, I hadn’t touched a skipping rope in decades. During the pandemic, around April in 2019, John decided to buy a skipping rope and was fixated on watching YouTube tutorials, which I started to watch with him. I wanted to get involved so I decided to go on a health kick and bought a cheap rope online so we could skip together. I honestly thought I would be rubbish at it and give up after a few days. It is fair to say that I was rubbish and super unfit so could only manage a few jumps at a time and my sessions lasted a few minutes. For some reason, although I was terrible, I didn’t want to give up. It was so addictive and even if I was constantly tripping, I was so focused on getting in as many reps in as I could. I had so much fun with it that I didn’t care that I was in pain and out of breath, I was compelled to keep going – that is when the obsession began.
Glorious: Are you interested in playing or watching other sports? If you could choose a live sporting event to attend, what would it be?
Sarah: I really enjoy cycling and have recently returned to lifting weights but both of these things have been fairly sporadic over the years. I wish I could go back in time and watch the 2012 Olympics in London and witness all the amazing athletes. In terms of current sporting events, I have always wanted to watch the Tour de France – those guys are absolute beasts on the bike!
Glorious: When did you decide to take skipping to another level, working on skill-based challenges and offering tips to other skippers?
Sarah: I created an Instagram page a few weeks into my skipping journey as a way to track my progress and interact with the jump rope community so I could find tutorials, ask for tips and support others on their own jump rope journey. To be honest, a lot of my learning was trial and error as I struggled to find tutorials which were aimed at someone like me who was unfit and a total beginner. A few months into my journey I had grown a small following and started receiving questions about how to start. I found myself repeating the same information so I decided to start making content which focused on the absolute basics and was designed for people who had never jumped before or had very low levels of fitness. I wanted to demonstrate that you don’t have to look a certain way to start jumping rope. I doubted myself at the beginning because of my weight and didn’t want others to do the same. Representation in fitness is super important and at the time, there wasn’t much body diversity in the online jump-rope space. I wanted to hold space online for non-athletic people who were feeling inspired to try something different.
Glorious: How long does it take to perfect a new challenge? There must be so much more to skipping than meets the eye, the type of rope, etc?
Sarah: The 10-second clips you see on social media are usually a result of a 30-minute session where I only get one decent run out of 100 attempts. It sounds like a lot of effort for not much, but these sessions are the ones which help you level up and start to engrain new skills into your muscle memory.
Glorious: Do you have days when you have no coordination and concentration and it’s easy to trip up?
Sarah: Totally! Usually when I’m tired or haven’t eaten enough I will constantly trip on the most basic skills. Jump rope is very humbling because it doesn’t matter how skilled you are, everyone trips. In order for the rope to pass under your feet, a lot of things have to line up at exactly the right time. So if one thing is slightly out of time or your feet or hands aren’t catching up with your brain, you’ll trip
Glorious: You’ve amassed such a huge social following in a short space of time, do you get recognised? Do you feel pressure to post? What is the reaction to you posting these videos on social media?
Sarah: Weirdly I have been recognised a few times and each time I get all squeaky and awkward and don’t know how to react because I’m just a very normal person who decided to learn a new skill during lockdown and post about it online. I was actually in New York and someone spotted me crossing the street which was the most surreal thing as I posed for a photo with them on the sidewalk! My approach to social media is that I will keep posting as long as I am enjoying myself – which I still am. Social media is my creative outlet and allows me to connect with so many amazing people. It also pushes me to explore jump rope in ways that I wouldn’t if I wasn’t sharing my journey on a platform. It keeps me accountable and adds variety to my workouts – and although social media can be incredibly toxic and detrimental to our mental health, if used in the right way it can be life changing.
Most of the time people are appreciative of the tips I share or feel inspired by my journey enough to pick up a rope themselves which is amazing. There is obviously the odd negative comment about my weight which used to bother me but now I try to ignore those comments or use them as a tool to educate people to further hammer home that you can be bigger and be active without a weight-loss goal, regardless of what people think.
Glorious: Who do you look to for skipping advice/inspiration?
Sarah: My two main inspirations who are now also very good friends are @lauren.jumps and @kathyjumps. Kathy helped me get started when I was struggling with injuries at the beginning of my journey and Lauren introduced me to the world of footwork and has been an awesome source of support throughout my journey. More generally, the whole online jump rope community is so inspirational. I love seeing people’s progress, new unlocks or unique combinations they’ve come up with. It never fails to put a smile on my face and if I’m struggling for motivation or inspiration myself I will just scroll through my feed and try something I saw that day.
Glorious: You’re having a dinner and can invite four inspirational women, who do you invite and why?
Sarah: Lizzo – she is incredible, hilarious and she is a huge inspiration in the body positivity space (she also jumps rope!)
Kate Winslet – I am a huge fan of her work and love that she recently refused to have her tummy airbrushed
Laura Kenny – an amazing athlete who is a huge inspiration for young girls to get on their bikes! The Rt Hon the Baroness Hale of Richmond – she was the first female President of the Supreme Court in the UK and is known as the Beyoncé of the law. It’s quite random but if you know of her or read about her you would probably invite her to your dinner party too…
Glorious: You are a real advocate of skipping as an activity that is accessible to all, regardless of size and shape and have recently collaborated with sports bra and apparel brand Maaree. Tell us about this.
Sarah: Since I started skipping during lockdown, I had great difficulty in finding a pair of leggings that I didn’t have to yank up every five seconds during my jump rope session. I know first-hand that having the right pair of leggings makes or breaks a jump rope session and after speaking to my followers, I discovered that it wasn’t just me. Thereafter, I spent months searching to find the perfect leggings and tested countless styles and brands, but I still wasn’t happy. I saw a gap in the market for leggings which actually stay up, regardless of body shape, so being the problem solver that I am, I decided to find a way to design some and immediately thought of Maaree. I was thrilled when the website’s founder Mari agreed to collaborate with me on this project. She totally understood my frustration with what was available on the market having been in a similar position herself, but with sports bras. We currently have a collection of cycling shorts and leggings that are ultra-high waisted, anti-slip (with a hidden elasticated drawstring) and super comfortable. Although these have been designed with skipping in mind, we think they are suitable for any form of activity because they are so comfortable and versatile. It has been so much fun being able to create something from scratch with a brand who totally supports my vision. I truly believe we have created a product which is going to empower women to go out and smash their workouts… hands-free!
Glorious: Music plays an important part in skipping and your online posts, what is your favourite genre of music? What comes first, the skip challenge or the track?
Sarah: Growing up as a dancer in a very musical family, music is vital to put me in the right mood and I use it as a creative tool to explore different speeds or styles of jumping. I have a pretty eclectic taste so any genre of music is great as long as there is a strong beat or baseline. Genres like dance, EDM, pop, rap, RNB, drum and bass usually work best as long as they’re around 80-110bpm. For footwork, fast music is better because you can make the footwork look quite slick but if you want to add arm work into the routine I usually go for something slightly slower. Almost all the time I will choose the music first and put a routine to it. On the very odd occasion I don’t have any music then I will try to find something that fits but I’m quite particular about making sure I’m jumping to the beat so avoid this if I can.
Glorious: How has becoming a skipping phenomenon changed your life? Has it become a full-time job, posting tips, corresponding with your audience, etc?
Sarah: I’ve never thought of myself as a skipping phenomenon so that’s very flattering to hear! Social media still remains a hobby for me, and the actual content creation side of things – for the most part – takes up the least amount of time. Most of my content is captured from my sessions, which I would be doing anyway, and then it takes 5-10 minutes to edit and write a caption for each post. There is obviously a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in terms of finding trends, keeping up to date with the community, speaking with my followers and liaising with brands but as mentioned earlier, this is something that is within my control, and I can spend as much or as little time on this without it becoming too time consuming.
Glorious: You must have inspired so many women to start skipping. Can you share some of their stories?
Sarah: The stories which touch me the most are the ones where they’ve struggled their entire life with an eating disorder, hated how they look and have never felt motivated to exercise. I’m often told that people pick up a rope after seeing my journey and it comes back to the point about representation. We often have limiting beliefs which we tell ourselves based on what we’ve learned. If you’ve never seen anyone who looks like you doing something, how can you find the confidence to try it yourself? These women often find, like I did, that skipping doesn’t feel like exercise and they actually want to do it, even though they hate working out. By exercising and learning a new skill, they are also able to find a way to appreciate their body for what it can do and start to improve their body image. These women are often terrified to wear a sports bra at the gym or a pair of shorts on holiday, no matter how hot it is, and they are now wearing whatever they want to wear to feel comfortable and feel liberated. And it all started by picking up a jump rope… it’s insane to think how a piece of rope can change someone’s life, but it genuinely has a domino effect and can lead to some unbelievable paths.
Glorious: What are your top tips for first-time skippers?
Sarah: Practically speaking, it helps massively if you use a beaded rope as these move slower in the air and maintain their shape, which all helps with rhythm (in other words, learning when to jump over the rope) so that you don’t jump higher than you need to in order to reduce impact on the joints. Try to avoid wired ropes as these will tangle easily and generally move too fast for beginners to keep up as they’re difficult to control. I also highly recommend minimising jumping time as a beginner to just a few minutes every other day while your body is conditioning and building up resilience. My final practical tip is to focus on form and get the basics down before trying anything more complex because these skills require you to have good form on the foundational skills. Speaking from experience it’s easy to become disheartened and give up quickly if you find it difficult or don’t think you look like people you see online. Everyone looks and feels clunky when they first start but with patience, persistence and perseverance it will start to feel more natural.
Glorious: What’s next for Skipping with Sarah?
Sarah: It’s a good question. I’ve had a fairly busy year so far with the launch of two online jump-rope programmes and the collaboration with Maaree. There has already been demand to add more colours and styles to the collection so who knows where we might go with that. For now, I don’t have any other separate projects in the pipeline but I’m very much looking forward to seeing where my platform takes me from here.