Minus the space suit, inhospitable climate and view of the cosmos, I feel as if I now know what it's like to exercise on the moon.
All it takes is a pair of Kangoo Jumps, which I can only compare to a ski or rollerblade boot affixed to an elliptical double-sided bow (the weapon, not the hair accessory).
Wearing this novelty fitness gear is not unlike bouncing on a trampoline, except each foot has its own springboard (a.k.a. "impact protection system"). In the boots, you appear taller (roughly 20 centimetres) and leaner. You stand straighter and appear somewhat bionic, at least at ground level.
In short, these things are super-cool. But they're also hard work. Especially when taking a class or working one on one with Alison Lubin and Jason Geall, co-owners of Harmony Fitness in Toronto. At their 7,000-square-foot boutique gym, ho-hum cardio machines have been swapped for a customized approach to fitness and Kangoo Jumps are just one way people are encouraged to switch their routines.
Needless to say, drivers peer out their windows. Some yell comments, but I am concentrating too hard on not tripping over myself to listen.
In the first of three sessions, Mr. Geall and Ms. Lubin take me for an outdoor run. I have the boots on for less than 10 minutes and already I'm leaping and bounding across big intersections. Although stopping in the boots can be tricky, the rounded rubber base is lined in a thick (replaceable) tread, making it suitable for almost all terrains (yes to grass, no to ice).
Needless to say, drivers peer out their windows. Some yell comments, but I am concentrating too hard on not tripping over myself to listen. We stay out for 15 minutes - measly by the standards of my normal runs - and yet I am winded and dripping with sweat.
Next comes the aerobics class, which is how Ms. Lubin introduced Kangoo Jumps to members just over a year ago. The movements are familiar: kicks, jumping jacks, rabbit hops. But noticeably absent is the pounding sensation that makes aerobics so unpleasant. Exactly 21 minutes later, it is as if energy drinks have been injected into my veins; I am ready to bounce off the ceiling. My only quibble: The boots are exceedingly noisy indoors.
The final session gives new meaning to boot camp. We begin with a few laps around the parking lot followed by sprints. In between, I pathetically attempt some squats, pushups and tricep dips. Then we head inside, put on boxing gloves and punch at bags while bouncing to Lady Gaga. This adds an upper-body and core component.
Ms. Lubin takes me through more upper-body exercises using the TRX, an increasingly popular suspension training system, before we hit the floor for abs. The boots weigh about seven pounds each, which means crunches - particularly when the legs are raised - become torturous.
How to jump-start
What is it?
A space-age rebounding boot that offers a cardiovascular workout - whether by way of aerobics or running - with minimal impact on joints.
How hard is it?
The initial challenge is establishing a comfort level. After that, the level of difficulty depends on the types of movements, speed and duration.
What does it work?
Mostly the lower body, but the core gets engaged to maintain stability. Also, weights, kettlebells, boxing and resistance conditioning can be incorporated for a full-body workout.
Sign me up!
Thankfully, Ms. Lubin keeps this part short. "You can spend less time doing less reps," she says. She also suggests that Kangoo Jumps do not result in muscle soreness as much as fatigue. Personally, my legs were in agony for two days post-run. But the morning after the boot camp, which was much harder, I felt no pain. So it may have just been a matter of getting acclimatized to the boots.
Kangoo Jumps aside, the benefits of rebounding are myriad, from stimulating the lymphatic and digestive systems to promoting tissue repair.
Manufactured by a company headquartered in Switzerland, Kangoo Jumps are now popular throughout Europe. The product website sells the boots in Canadian dollars (from $289 to $359 for adult sizes).
Ms. Rubin guesses that the gear has been slower to catch on in Canada because it requires a significant investment - in both the product and maintenance - that some gyms may not be ready to make.
Of course, anyone can buy a pair of boots and give them a go. But good form is imperative (feet should always be level, not pointed down) and ideally, Ms. Lubin says, people should attend a beginner class or pay special attention to videos in order to catch any imbalances.
Unlike rollerblades, no helmet or protective gear is necessary. Which is a good thing, as the boots look crazy enough. Time will tell whether they are merely a fad or become commonplace, as a fitness aid or for fun. One thing is for certain: They're out of this world.
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