First off, let’s be clear about what we mean by a trampoline. We’re not talking about the six-foot-wide bounce-tastic child magnet in your back garden. We’re talking about a small, low-to-the-ground circular affair more properly known as a ‘rebounder’. These kinds of trampolines are either sprung with bungees or metal springs, and are engineered to take an adult’s weight – most definitely unlike a toddler’s stand-up bouncer! Some rebounders also fold into carry cases, so you can take your workout with you when you hit the road.
Moving up and down on the uneven surface of a trampoline builds core strength, stability, flexibility and aerobic fitness with minimal impact on the joints. In fact, as a fun and simple exercise that builds bone density without impact, ‘rebounding’ is a bit of a sporting holy grail.
Many of the movements made on a rebounder involve a change of direction, which is particularly good for engaging the deep abdominal muscles which support your spine. Strengthening these muscles can help your posture – with benefits for both running and everyday life. As running on a rebounder mimics ‘real’ running, these tiny trampolines can also be used to improve your running form – which can also make you a better runner, and help you avoid injury.
If you’re unlucky enough to be carrying an injury, trampolines can be useful for your rehab too. Running on a rebounder rather than on the unforgiving surface of the road allows you to repeat running-specific movements (or do some actual running) for as long as you like with minimal impact on the joints or other affected areas.
Rebound work and all its benefits can also be built into your regular runs. A few minutes inside on the rebounder before you head out for a run is a great warm-up, especially in colder weather; likewise, a bit of post-run time on the rebounder makes for a good cool-down and start to your recovery.
Rebounders aren’t expensive. The cheapest start at about £30 new, but as with many things, you get what you pay for. Most good quality rebounders come with exercise DVDs to help you get off the ground – quite literally. Some gyms and fitness clubs also offer classes, or integrate rebounder work into the their high-intensity interval sessions, so ask around.
If you’re working out at home on your own, without a DVD, start with an easy mix of bounces, squats, twists, lifts, kicks and high knees and build from there. You’ll soon get used to how the rebounder works and which moves give your body a good challenge. To build fitness when you can’t get out, use the rebounder to ‘run on the spot’ – and bounce your way to a new PB!