Give a punk enough rope and.. they just might jump it?! One of the many stereotypes of punks is that they are a physical mess, choosing partying over just about any other activity, much less working out.
While many punks certainly know how to party there are many examples of punks who break this lazy, mainstream media stereotype.
Obviously Straight Edgers who abstain from alcohol and drugs are the most prominent example with bands like Minor Threat leading that movement back in the day. But Straight Edge is very alive and well in contemporary punk as I found out when I met Tim Mcllrath of Rise Against and was surprised to learn he along with bassist Joe Principe and Zach Blair follow the straight edge lifestyle to a T.
There are scores more of bands I could point out, not to mention the thousands of punk fans all over the world that consider themselves straight edgers.
And while I’m not that familiar with his partying habits, I wouldn’t want to meet punk legend Henry Rollins in a dark alley. Actually the only time I ever saw him in person was in line at the water fountain at the Crunch gym on Lafayette Street in NYC. You can also take a look at the early Misfits photos and these guys were at the time fit as fiddles. I could go on and on with examples but suffice it to say that punks come in a variety of flavors and personalities and like most subcultures, you just can’t paint them with a one size fits all brush.
While granted a good deal of my punk music listening occurs at the gym listening to my ipod, when you mention punks jumping rope in a class, well it doesn’t necessarily fit even my “insiders” view of what punks would normally do.
But that is exactly what is happening at gyms all over the country thanks to NYC punk rocker Tim Haft and his Punk Rope brand of workouts. According to Punk Rope’s website, “Punk Rope is a mash up of recess and boot camp for people of all ages and fitness levels”
Tim reached out to me and graciously invited me over the YMCA in Greenpointe, Brooklyn to try out one of his Punk Rope classes. I’ve been running and weight lifting for most of my life and back in the day I jumped rope quite a bit, so I’m eager to try it out.
After getting off at the wrong subway stop (of course, I always get lost when I leave my sheltered confines of Manhattan), I have to literally run across Brooklyn to get to the class just as it’s starting, so my heartrate was going nice and strong by the time I get there.
Even though the class is called “Punk” Rope I was still surprised to see a diverse mixture of all types of punk rockers, which is to say a heavily tattooed crowd mixed in among the “civilian looking” folks of all ages and stripes.
But alas, that is punk rock and maybe more importantly that is New York City, the thing I like best about both. Diversity baby, it’s the spice of life.
Class begins and I quickly realize I haven’t jumped rope for probably 15 years! I’m lucky to get 3 jumps in a row before I tangle myself. But I’m happy to say that didn’t stop me from getting a good workout.
Punk Rope is only partially about jumping rope, as Tim and his lovely partner/assistant Shana have lots of creative ways to keep the heart pumping and to give you a good sweaty workout, all to the soundtrack of some good punk music. The night I was there the theme was CBGB’s.
But enough boring pontification from me, Tim was nice enough to answer some questions about Punk Rope and I have a little Q&A from him below.
If you are like me and looking to vary your workout some or if your just looking for a fun way to whip yourself back into shape, I highly recommend you check out PUNK ROPE’S WEBSITE for a location near you.
And just so you know, even punks who work out still know how to have a good time, if you live in NYC, they are hosting a happy hour on October 4th @ Otto’s Shrunken Head. That’s the same night we’ll be there taping for our documentary “Punktology” so come on down, just make sure you get some gym time in before hand ok?
PO – WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR PUNKROPE? HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN AROUND?
There were three primary inspirations: punk rock, play, and sports. I started going back to the gym in 2003 to check out some classes, but wasn’t too fired up about what I found. For starters I usually hated the music, which was mostly a lot of soulless techno. Also, since I have two left feet, I didn’t like all the choreography. I prefer moving like a ball player than a Broadway dancer. And third, the classes just weren’t fun. They were so damn serious and clinical. I had great memories from playing games as a kid so I wanted to capture the spirit of that time of my life. I started Punk Rope in October 2004 so we’re almost at our 6-year anniversary.
PO – IS THE WORKOUT AND MUSIC PRETTY MUCH THE SAME EVERY WEEK?
The workout and the music change drastically every week. Each week’s class is themed (e.g., CBGBs, Oktoberfest, World Cup) and so we do our best to create movements and drills that relate to the theme and also compile a playlist of songs that connect to the theme. At present we have roughly 50 themed playlists. While punk rock figures largely in almost every class, we play all types of music from classical to zydeco to jazz to industrial to blues to metal to country and so on.
PO - WHAT IS SO PUNK ABOUT PUNK ROPE?
In comparison to traditional fitness classes Punk Rope breaks a number of barriers and thumbs its nose at the fitness “establishment.” Musically, we play original artists and do our best to let the students know what they’re listening to. For example, I publish each week’s playlist in my weekly e-letter and announce the artists in class. We constantly make the point that fitness classes would be nothing without music and that it’s important to support the artists that make the class possible. On our DVD we licensed tracks from 12 punk and rock bands and have sponsored a number of events, including a punk rock panel discussion, that celebrate the music and spirit that are emblematic of the punk movement.
Punk Rope truly has no judgments. Everybody is welcome regardless of age or ability level. We’ve had students as young as 3 and as old as 80. We’ve had elite athletes working out side by side with recovering couch potatoes. I try to set a welcoming tone and expect the students to follow. This is not a class where you focus purely on yourself. It’s about working out with and playing with others.
Punk Rope believes in giving back to the community and in particular to those of limited economic means. We have participated in scores of charitable events over the years from fundraisers for victims of natural disasters to community health and fitness fairs.
We are totally DIY. While we wouldn’t turn down sponsorship dollars we built the company from the ground up and the classes spread mainly by word of mouth. We want them to be accessible and affordable to all. We’re not in this to make a quick buck or even to make a buck at all, but simply to share the joy of movement, great music, and progressive ideas.
PO – WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE WHO DON’T THINK JUMPING ROPE OR WORKING OUT IN A CLASS IS NOT “COOL” OR “PUNK”?
To each his own. I’m not really interested in twisting somebody’s arm. I subscribe to the “show me don’t tell me” school of thought. If you see somebody bouncing around having fun maybe the first time you’ll think they’re a complete dork. Maybe even the second and third time. But by the fourth time, you might just say to yourself, “hey you know what I want to give that a try also.” But I completely respect those who prefer not to join a class or not to work out at all. I don’t want to be the fitness police.
PO – ARE YOU GUYS DOING ANYTHING TO “GIVE BACK”?
I think I addressed this in question 3 but I should also point out that we’re in the midst of a campaign to raise money for our Hopping for Health program. We’re doing this via a raffle with all 12 prizes being donated by community members. The money will be used to deliver Hopping for Health workshops to Title 1 schools free of charge. Our hope is to raise $3000 so we can deliver 6 workshops, for which we would normally charge $6000.
Anyway, if your readers are interested they can check out the prizes and learn more about this initiative on our website. Here’s a link:
By the way, we’d love everybody to join us for the drawing and celebration, which will take place on Monday, December 6 at 9pm at Otto’s Shrunken Head
(538 E. 14th St.). That’s also my 50th birthday.
PO - THERE IS AN IMPRESSION THAT PUNKS SMOKE, DRINK AND IN SOME CASES DO DRUGS. DO YOU THINK IT’S IRONIC TO HAVE A PUNK ROCK THEMED WORKOUT?
There’s definitely a bit of irony with a punk rock themed workout, but at the same time I love the idea of being an iconoclast and of smashing stereotypes that do nothing but hold us all back. Of course if you look at Henry Rollins you realize that there are in fact punks who are pretty serious about working out. And if you’ve ever been in a vicious pit you know that a lot of punks are strong, agile, and have good balance. Also, we know that Joe Strummer ran a few marathons with hardly any training. The takeaway message for punks is that Punk Rope provides you with an option to do something healthy with your mates while listening to the music you like for an hour. Afterwards you can smoke, drink, and do whatever you like.
PO – HOW DID YOU GET INTO PUNK MUSIC? WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE BANDS?
I was a bit of a late bloomer in terms of punk. I grew up in New York City in the 60s and 70s, but didn’t begin to appreciate punk until the late 70s. Prior to that I was more of a prog/psychedelic rock kind of guy. Pink Floyd was one of my favorite bands in high school. As a freshman in college in
1978 I wrote a punk song called We Fuck Up the Town for a Halloween party at the University of Virginia. My classmates were mortified. Then in 1979 I saw the Ramones and Blondie and after that I was pretty much hooked. I fell in love with the Clash shortly after and became a big fan of the Jam, the Buzzcocks, Johnny Thunders, and the Sex Pistols. Today I’m also interested in hard to categorize bands like Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and psychobilly bands like the Rev Horton Heat. I’m still developing an appreciation for hardcore but I have to admit that I’ve always had a soft spot for power pop.
PO – WHAT DO YOU THINK THE STATE OF PUNK MUSIC IS TODAY?
With the success of bands like Green Day, punk has been catapulted into the mainstream, which is probably a mixed bag. I’m actually less concerned with what’s happening with the music and more concerned about what’s happening with the message and the philosophy. I don’t want it to be co-opted by big, greedy corporations. No matter what you label it, I think there will always be a place for music that’s stripped down, gritty, honest, and full of energy. It may not be the most popular music, but it will find its audience.
PO – WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE MISSION WITH PUNKROPE
First and foremost I want to share the beauty of play with as many people as possible. I feel that if we can learn to play together as kids and adults then we can make the world a much better place to live in. Second, I want to harness the power of community to do good work. It’s amazing how much a group can accomplish when they’re energized and focused. Third, I would like to share the music that has been so important in my life with as many people as possible and help the musicians to profit from their creations.
PO - IF PEOPLE DON’T LIVE IN NYC, CAN THEY TAKE A CLASS? AND HOW CAN THEY FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE PROGRAM?
There are currently Punk Rope classes in 16 states and with luck they’ll continue to spread. I always tell people that if you don’t find a class near you then start one! My partner, Shana, and I travel around the US conducting Punk Rope Workshops to get folks certified to teach Punk Rope. While it helps to have a fitness background, that’s not a prerequisite for taking the workshop. Also, in keeping with our mission, once an instructor is certified they’re certified for life and they can launch their own classes royalty-free. To learn more about Punk Rope people can check out our website at www.punkrope.com or write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.