by Grace Pastoor
Every Saturday at 8 a.m., a small group of women — and the occasional man — gather at Calvary Lutheran Church and strap themselves into footwear that looks like a cross between moon shoes and roller blades.
Once everyone’s boots — known as Kangoo Jumps — are securely fastened, fitness instructor Leah Hendricks leads the class of about a dozen through an hour of different moves that incorporate jogging, weights and various jumps.
“It’s just a euphoric feeling that you get, just like when you were a kid bouncing on a trampoline,” Hendricks said of the Jumps. “It’s almost kind of relaxing, it’s just a fun thing to do.”
But Hendricks’ classes aren’t just for fun. She’s been teaching group fitness since 1998, and says the Kangoo Jumps provide health benefits along with a good time.
Her website claims that the Jumps protect users’ joints and reduce impact by 80 percent. They also increase strength and endurance, improve posture and accelerate weight loss, the site says.
“My mother and my aunt both have their own pair of boots that they actually use, and they’re in their 70s,” Hendricks said. “There’s no excuses why you couldn’t.”
Kangoo Jumps were introduced in Switzerland in the 1990s and quickly became popular there, according to Hendricks. She said the boots were slower to catch on in the United States because athletes were afraid of looking silly. Hendricks learned about the boots almost three years ago from a fitness instructor in California. She said the Jumps immediately appealed to her and she quickly found a Minnesota woman who sold them.
Six months later, Hendricks began teaching the classes. And while she also has a full-time job and teaches other fitness groups, she knows she’ll stick with it.
“It’s just a passion of mine, I just love it,” Hendricks said. “I knew it would be something that the community really needed and would love to have.”
Lynn Boyer, Hendricks’ cousin, has attended a handful of Kangoo classes and said they have helped her add a cardio component into her workout routine despite having back pain.
“I used to be a runner and I have a bad back, so my chiropractor recommended that I just do something with less impact,” Boyer said. “This is kind of a perfect fit because of the bounce. It doesn’t jar my back at all so I don’t ever get my nerve pain when I’m doing this workout.
Hendricks hopes more people like Boyer join the Kangoo classes. She is one of three instructors in the state and said her mission is to raise awareness of the boots and their benefits.
“My goal is to find people and start them on something,” Hendricks said. “It’s just so rewarding when somebody comes up and says ‘Oh my gosh, thank you so much for turning me onto this, because I absolutely love this.’…They’re just getting healthier because of it, so it’s just so rewarding.”