I confess, I was a little skeptical when my editor set me up with a class at Jounce Fitness in Johnston. For starters, portmanteau words (jump + bounce = jounce) are often harbingers of a certain kind of insufferable novelty – like glamping, Sharknado, or jazzercise. The whole idea of adults exercising on trampolines just seemed a little gimmicky for my taste.
Fortunately, I’m usually game for whatever new attempt to kill, injure, and/or shame me the editors of this fine periodical throw my way, so I grabbed my gym bag and prepared for takeoff. I say fortunately, because Jounce Fitness turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It’s fun, gets the heart pumping, and it’s easy enough for anyone at any fitness level to – if you’ll excuse the pun – jump right in.
Perhaps best of all, for a person like me who’s deep into the wrong side of his 30s, it’s low-impact. Now don’t get confused: I’m not saying it’s a cakewalk. A Jounce session can be customized to your preferred level of intensity – anything from a light workout to hardcore schvitz – but the one thing it’s definitely not is hard on your joints. The absence of the kind of bone-jarring impact so common in many other forms of fitness means less soreness, less chance of injury, and less overall wear and tear on your earthly vessel.
There is also more to it than just, Weeeee… trampolines are fun. A typical Jounce class is not all jumping and bouncing, but rather a fast-paced mix of aerobics, strength training, balance, and core work using things like resistance bands, dumbbells, and medicine balls, in addition to the trampoline. If you think it’s going to be all play and no squats or pushups, think again.
My instructor, Heather Bryant, led the class through a well-rounded, full-body workout set to a thumping soundtrack. Each song was like a mini-set within the class, accompanied by two or three different moves, which would alternate using changes in the music as cues. One song might start with squats on the floor and switch to squat jumps on the trampoline. Another might call for holding a plank through the first verse, with the chorus as the signal to start doing pushups. Along the way, we’d incorporate other equipment, holding light dumbbells in hand while punching – a simple feat made more challenging by remaining balanced on the trampoline while doing it.
In fact, the trampoline is just as often used as a means of resistance or testing core stability and balance as it is a means for catching air. Heather consistently encouraged us to push down towards the floor with our feet when descending from a jump in order to get the most work possible out of the trampoline. The same principle could be used to work the upper body too, as in the case of “CPR planks,” which involves doing a diamond plank (hands touching in the center, forming a sort of diamond-like shape between your thumbs and index fingers) with feet on the floor and hands on the trampoline, and rapidly pushing down into the stretchy fabric for resistance.
What makes Jounce so friendly for any fitness level is that all of these activities are done on your own trampoline, at your own pace, using the weights you chose, and Heather offers variations on each move that can increase or decrease the challenge. Whether you do your squats on the floor or on the trampoline (slightly easier), or how fast and high you jump, is not as important as the fact that you simply keep moving and keep your core engaged.
The 45-minute class flew by with such minimal impact and so fast a pace that you’d hardly realize all the squats you just did until your quads and glutes remind you the next day. (Don’t worry, there’s some gentle stretching at the end to prevent that.) In the end, Heather made a believer out of me. If you’re a hardened gym rat or grizzled CrossFitter, Jounce might seem gimmicky at first, but it’s a nice, easy-on-the-joints way to throw your core a curveball and work on your balance. And if you’re the type of person for whom exercise is a chore, it might be the way to trick yourself into having a little fun while burning some calories.