It’s easy for me to say I “love running” because I don’t run anymore. I pinched a nerve in my lower back in my early 20s and even one long run can cause it to act up. I’ve tried so much to fix it: physical therapy, a heating pad, acupuncture, complaining — everything I can think of, really. But despite all my efforts, my chronic back pain hasn’t gotten better, and these days I avoid high-impact exercises altogether.
That means I’m looking to fill a running-shaped hole in my heart; something that gets my heart pumping so much that my Fitbit clocks it as a “cardio workout.” I tried kickboxing, but it aggravated my back to the point that one of my favorite hobbies — sitting — became prohibitively painful. I experimented with power walking, but the only time it got my heart rate up was when I did it with my ex-boyfriend’s mom, and that’s just because she stresses me out. I couldn’t get back on a Peloton after what they did to Mr. Big, and I don’t want to hear anything anyone has to say about swimming. I don’t need water stuck in my ears for 72 hours. I thought I had exhausted my options until I found one I was ready to commit to: at-home trampolining.
Like so many good things, trampolining came to me courtesy of some toddlers. Last spring, my sister got a trampoline for her 2-year-old twins, and because I am an attention-loving diva, I needed to try it myself. My first jump lasted 40 minutes. Her trampoline is 40 inches across — about the length of a baseball bat — which is definitely not big enough for multiple full-size people, even if some of them are very small. In service of my fitness goals, I had to oust my nieces for the duration of the bounce. They didn’t like this, but they also don’t have short-term memories yet, so they’ve forgiven me.
Any risk of a tantrum quickly proved worth it. Because I feared the machine might collapse, I didn’t jump as vigorously as I could have, but my heart rate still climbed into my Fitbit’s cardio range in the first three minutes. By the 20-minute mark, I’d broken out into a full-body sweat despite the chilly temp, and my quads and calves were sore for two days after. Most importantly, it was just so fun. Watching my surroundings rise and fall, I unlocked a whole new perspective on the world. It was the ultimate treat: a full embrace of my inner child.
I did have one big worry, though. Its many winning attributes aside, trampolining is all impact. As such, I went to bed that night anticipating I’d feel the familiar lumbar twinge the next morning. Nothing came, and according to the Arthritis Foundation, that makes sense: Even though you’re jumping up and down, the springs on the trampoline can absorb a lot of shock. For the same reason that exercise experts say sand is one of the lowest-impact surfaces to run on, the malleability of the trampoline’s surface can protect your joints. There are plenty of ways to hurt yourself on a trampoline, but my back felt fine. I suddenly found myself with a new workout option in my crosshairs.
After a few more weekends of me jumping on my sister’s trampoline, each time for about 30 minutes, she suggested I look into getting my own. I’m sure this was because she saw how much I liked it, and probably not because I exceeded the weight limit of the one she bought for her kids; anyway, I thought the idea was absurd. I live in a New York apartment, tiny and surrounded by neighbors. At-home trampolining was not in the cards for me. After a cursory Google search, however, I was surprised to find that there were plenty of trampolines designed for small spaces, many of which fold up. They were also significantly cheaper than ellipticals — $600 to $3,000, based on my research — the only other exercise machine I’d ever considered buying myself.
I chose the BCAN 40” Foldable Mini Trampoline, not only because it was relatively inexpensive ($160) and small, but also (crucially) because none of the Amazon reviews I read mentioned anyone breaking a bone. On top of all that, my trampoline has a standout amenity that really sold me: an overhead bar I can hang onto, which injects variety into my workouts. I can jump freestyle, or I can hold onto the bar and get an arm workout at the same time. As a bonus, the bar adds stability if my legs feel wobbly, giving me a surprising sense of security for internet furniture I built myself.
I jump on my trampoline about four times per week for 30 minutes each time, vaulting up and down in the middle of my living room floor. Miraculously, I’ve received no complaints from my downstairs neighbors, which is great because there’s no way I’m giving up this workout. It usually takes me only three or four minutes to get my heart rate into the “cardio zone” on my Fitbit — fewer if I’m holding five-pound hand weights; more if I have to pause in the middle to shoo my cat out from under the trampoline — but the work is paying off: My resting heart rate has gone down two beats per minute since I began jumping. I get breathless enough that I can’t hold a conversation while doing it, which is fine. Conversation is overrated, but the childlike joy of a trampoline is unmatched.