I ran across a most unusual product over the Thanksgiving holiday: the fitness enhancer that you strap on your feet called Kangoo Jumps. The specialty shoes look a little like ski boots attached to football-shaped springs.
While not completely prepared for the Seattle Marathon or even a half-marathon, my family and I participated in the 5K Turkey Stuffer in Springfield, Ore., on Thanksgiving morning. Some of the 1,000-plus runners were clearly poised to seriously compete; others took more of a leisurely pace. Three were wearing Kangoo Jumps.
This is where I bumped in to Trevor VanIdrestine and his unusual footwear. He was sporting the product and wearing a T-shirt promoting Bounce Fitness, his small enterprise in Springfield.
"I learned about Kangoo Jumps and participated in a class that convinced me of the tremendous benefit for users," VanIderstine said. "I now lead four fitness classes weekly at Court Sport Athletic. I supply the Kangoos for class use, included in the fee."
The most notable benefit that participants often mention is that a one-hour workout doesn't feel like work. Then there's the added benefit for those with joint problems, knees in particular. Apparently the workout will help participants burn between 800 and 1,200 calories while helping to build some neglected muscle groups.
At the 5K, we encountered a runner with the Kangoos not connected with Bounce Fitness. She indicated that following knee surgery, the Kangoos were recommended to her as a tool to ease back in to running by reducing the knee joint impact that comes from use of running shoes.
The Kangoo Jumps did cause quite a stir among some of the serious runners at the race.
"I had at least 10 people come up and tell me that the Kangoos were not legal for the race," VanIderstine said. He reassured the folks who were concerned that he was not intending to win the race and simply wanted to provide exposure for the product and his fitness classes.
"I don't think the Kangoos will make you faster per se. They will help you to be more efficient and reduce the wear and tear on your joints, something that would be a great relief to avid runners," VanIderstine said.
"And that's exactly why I wanted to be here."
"It's a hobby that has turned into a business for me," VanIderstine said. "I still work three 12s (12-hour shifts) at the hospital as a respiratory therapist and see this as a great way to stay in shape and also supplement my income."
Kangoo Jumps are manufactured in Switzerland and sold worldwide. The closest distributor in our area is Running Elements in Bellevue, where they retail for $230. The store has been selling the Kangoo products for several years and reviews have been very positive.
Ashley Erickson works at Running Elements. She also teaches Bounce and Boogie cardio fitness classes featuring Kangoos at Redmond Parks and Recreation as an independent contractor.
She makes the Kangoo Jumps available to rent by class participants for $5 per session for those who'd rather try them out before making a purchase.
"I've been running classes for about 18 months," Erickson said. "I started out with a business license and a concept that would help clients experience a great workout. There are some who have been in classes several times a week since I started!"
Erickson and VanIderstine are entrepreneurs with great ambition and with a concept that has terrific potential.
And with New Year's resolutions just around the corner, this may be the perfect time to connect new customers with this fitness craze.
Juergen Kneifel is a senior associate faculty member in the Everett Community College business program. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.