In between humdrum paperwork, e-mail addictions and one too many café Americanos, many in the corporate office find little to no time to kick off their stiletto heels and simply have f-u-n.
While a large percentage of these new-age “worker bees” head to their local gym after work to stay fit, there seems to be a unanimous unawareness of what it actually means to exercise and enjoy oneself in the process. But a new wave of classic schoolyard games and activities is making its way back into the mainstream, giving adult physical fitness the throwback of a lifetime.
Double Dutch, the easily recognized jump-roping game with more twists and turns than a romance novel, is one childhood pastime that’s getting grownups to break a sweat and crack a smile.
Melissa Quayle, an acclaimed Double Dutch junkie and founder of Double Dutch Empire, says unlike traditional workouts at the gym, jumping rope can get your entire body and brain in gear.
“When I teach Double Dutch to adults, they really come alive—every part of their body feels it when they jump in, from their abs to their butt,” Quayle, 31, says. “The best part is that they’re doing something that’s out of their comfort zone and feeling a certain level of childhood joy that they don’t usually get.”
Double Dutch Empire specializes in creating new jump-ropers in two minutes or less.
What began as a popular street game among children in inner cities quickly turned into a nationally practiced sport when NYPD detective David Walker and his partner, Ulysses Williams, established the National Double Dutch League in the 1970s.
Now, the hobby is on the rise again. And this time, everybody is jumping in – from internationally acclaimed athletes and elementary school-goers, to office workers and soccer moms.
Quayle uses her Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company to give private Double Dutch instruction to adults at block parties, weddings, music festivals and corporate functions. She recently showed off her skills on the CBS morning show and has taught several celebs the cool jump-roping technique.
Quayle, who has been roping since she was eight years old, hopes to give working adults a sense of play again. She says the no-commitment feel of schoolyard workouts lets grownups release the stress and anxiety that builds up throughout the day.
“The older you get, the less activities you do,” she adds. “Adults are so often focused on their work and on not looking foolish in front of others that they lose the spontaneity and energy they had as kids. I want to teach others that it’s ok to bring that back.”
Quayle also explained how the old-school sport brings about a sort of friendly—and liberating—competiveness among adults.
A crowd gathers to watch two girls double-dutch.
“People always have an excuse as to why they can’t do something,” she continues. “But when they try something new and succeed, they gain a little more faith in themselves. Even if they jump in and fail at first, everyone is cheering them on.”
While things like jumping rope, hula hooping and dodge ball are paving the way for the new age “adult recess,” more and more people are finding an excuse to get of the gym and follow the examples of their children. “Adult playgrounds” are springing up in places across L.A. and New York, replacing requisite gym equipment with monkey bars, soccer fields and rowing machines. The point is to lure adults out of the office and bring back the joy of being a kid again while tightening up muscles and losing that dreaded beer belly.
As schoolyard play continues to gain notoriety with the modern working class, Quayle hopes to remind all adults that there’s much to gain and lose by remembering to play a little more every day.
“What I teach to others is not about exercise,” she concludes. “The physical benefits losing weight, getting toned – are just additional surprises people don’t expect. It’s really about letting go and getting that fun back… something everyone should learn to do.”