Quest for safer trampoline leads Tacoma man to Aussie company

May 20, 2012 

About a year ago, when Tacoma resident John Armstrong was shopping for a trampoline, he wasn’t very happy with what he found online.

What he found was enough footage of trampoline accidents to launch a television network.

“People would step right between the springs or hit the bar and it would cause all kinds of injuries,” Armstrong said.

But he was determined to find a safe trampoline for his son because he knew it would be great workout and, just as important, it would be fun. “I’m pretty much a big kid, too,” Armstrong said.

Eventually, his trampoline hunt led him to Springfree Trampoline, an Australia company whose U.S. headquarters are in Issaquah.

Springfree general manager Mike McCarthy claims 83 percent of trampoline-related injuries are caused by the springs that ring the jumping surface and the hard medal frame.

“Everybody has a story about getting hurt or seeing somebody get hurt on a trampoline,” McCarthy said. “We tried to address that with a trampoline that doesn’t have springs or any hard surfaces for you to land on.”

Armstrong traveled to Issaquah to sample the trampoline last year. “I was hooked immediately.”

The jumping surface appears to float above the frame thanks to a series of composite rods that replace the spring. Unlike the springs on traditional trampolines, the rods are under the jumping surface.

The protective net also isn’t held in place with poles, but rather a more forgiving concave tension net that McCarthy says will actually catch errant jumpers “like a fishing net.”

The trampolines range in price from $1,250-$2,200 depending on the size and McCarthy says most families can assemble them in about three hours. The company will assemble them for you for $300.

The company sells the trampolines online at Springfreetrampoline.com, but McCarthy recommends local residents visit the Issaquah store to sample the trampolines because the store often offers discounts that aren’t available online.

With his worries about safety eased, Armstrong says the trampoline proves to be a great workout both for him and his 11-year-old son, Johnny.

“When we first got it I was probably bouncing five minutes and realized it was a great workout,” Armstrong said. “To this day I go about 10 minutes before I have to stop.”

Armstrong describes himself as “out of shape,” but McCarthy says he’s put marathon runners on the trampoline and seen their “heart rate go through the roof after just five minutes.”

McCarthy says simply jumping up on down on a trampoline for 10 minutes is equivalent to a 30-minute jog. And 20 minutes of jumping will burn about 300 calories.

“It’s great for balance, coordination and building core strength,” he said.

Armstrong has witnessed that first hand. His son is 5-foot-9 and “still growing into his muscles.”

He says Johnny’s coordination has improved over the past year while working out on the trampoline. Johnny, a swimmer, has also seen improvement in the pool. Armstrong attributes the time on the trampoline with his more powerful turns at the wall.

What do Johnny’s workouts look like? “He’s jumping around for hours with the neighbor using their Nerf swords to do acrobatic Ninja moves.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Armstrong said. “I think that’s what he likes most.”

CONTEST WINNER

Terry Parks of Tacoma won last month’s cycling contest. Parks cranked out a mile in 2 minutes, 18 seconds on an Expresso exercise bike at the Tacoma Center YMCA.

Expresso bikes offer a virtual race course on handlebar-mounted monitor. The course ranges from one to 20 miles and users can post challenges for others online. Users can also choose riders from worldwide and gym rankings to race against. When doing this a ghost appears on the race course representing the competition’s best time.

Our little contest, an invite to race against my ghost, drew entries from around the country including some encouraging motivation from riders in Minnesota and Pennsylvania that helped me shave 11 seconds off my best mile.

“That’s one of the great things about this,” Ross Stensrud, Expresso’s marketing director told me last week. “There’s always people out there to push you and keep you motivated.”

Read more about these interactive exercise bikes at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure.

Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via craig.hill @thenewstribune.com and twitter.com/AdventureGuys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure and thenewstribune.com/fitness.

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