Double Unders – The Devil’s Double Dutch

There’s an assortment of CrossFit-related movements that never would have occurred to me to try when bumbling around a traditional gym or in the confines of my “home gym” (i.e. living room with coffee table pushed to the side). One such callisthenic marvel is the Double Under, which consists of a jump-rope making two passes per jump instead of just one.

Prior to CrossFit, I had no memorable firsthand experience with a jump rope. I could only recall seeing a jump rope in action in two scenarios:

1) Standing around an elementary school playground and watching the performance art that is a boisterous game of Double Dutch while waiting for my turn at tetherball.

2) Watching boxing movies with training montages. (I seem to recall Mr. Balboa nailing some Double Unders in Rocky IV before he ended the Cold War.)

You can’t simply walk into your local Toys-R-Us, purchase a jump rope, and Double Under yourself into shape. Like most things associated with CrossFit, you need to invest some time AND money into this endeavor. While both can be painful, in my experience the monetary toll of CrossFit is easier to endure than the physical toll. This is certainly true with Double Unders.

Only Read This Part if You Aren’t Sly Stallone

Unless you are Sylvester Stallone, I presume you would need a speed rope to successfully master Double Unders. Full disclosure, I have never attempted a Double Under with a Toys-R-Us jump rope; it is wholly possible that I am a mindless sheep that spends my money unnecessarily for CrossFit accoutrement. Regardless, I got a speed rope; I dance with the devil that brought me.

What I didn’t know before trying my hand at Double Unders is that a speed rope provides a helpful cue when your form is not quite right. The cue comes in the form of an immediate, blinding pain in whatever part of your body you happened to lash with this unholy instrument of torture.

The first time it happened, I looked down mesmerized at the seemingly innocuous implement, half expecting to see shards of glass or jellyfish tentacles attached to the rope.

My next thought was how unlikely such an outcome would be to occur again, especially considering that none of my surrounding CrossFitters seemed to have similar expressions of bewilderment and pain while jumping their ropes. I gingerly attempted several more times and, while I failed each attempt, I was at least comforted by the fact that those failed attempts were not accompanied by a puritanical flogging.

My Plyometric Albatross

As the growing frustration with my inability to properly time my jump with my whirling wrists began to dilute the apprehension of inadvertently whipping myself again, I received another jolting hit across my forearm on one of my successive attempts.

Any sane person (including some CrossFitters) would simply stop abusing themselves and be content jumping over the rope after a single pass like nature intended. As I am apparently unburdened by common sense, I chose Double Unders as my plyometric albatross.

There are plenty of CrossFit benchmarks I cannot perform: muscle up, butterfly pullup, handstand walk, etc.; however, carrying a little extra weight and/or insufficient strength did not seem as ready-made an excuse for forgoing Double Unders. Also, none of those other movements make regular appearances in the WODs where I CrossFit, but Double Unders seem to be inescapable.

Besides, if pain and discomfort alone were valid reason not to participate in the programmed workouts, my CrossFit experience would consist of warming up, complaining about the WOD, and then going home.

My Scarlet Letters

Early on I could count the number of my failed Double Under attempts by glancing down at my arms and legs at the bright red lines, my own personal scarlet letters of shame. I was somehow encouraged by the realization that I was not alone in this perilous journey, and that some bizarre physiological anomaly did not make me uniquely susceptible to thrashing myself.

I suppose almost anything can be normalized if you are surrounded by enough like-minded and similarly situated people doing and experiencing the same thing. If Double Under training was my initiation to CrossFit, I may have fled the premises and escaped the cult prior to indoctrination. Alas, here I remain.

I was determined to either experience the “glory” of several consecutive Double Unders or at least endure the punishment in a dignified manner with a Denzel-like single, defiant tear. Frankly, my mastering either CrossFit or Oscar-worthy acting are equally unrealistic, but Coach tells me that it is good to have goals. Eventually, my Double Under game improved.

It’s not good, mind you, but it feels on par with my ability when performing other CrossFit movements. When they are included in the WOD, I do them. This is a victory. Now, my goal is to complete a WOD with Double Unders without whipping my own ass at least once. Again, it is good to have goals. In the meantime, I will continue to dance with this particular devil and suffer the consequences.

About the Author
The Reluctant Convert is a husband, dad to two young kids, and full-time professional-type who was dragged along to Crossfit with his wife and soon found himself addicted to the process, despite dreading most of what precedes the workouts and the workouts themselves.