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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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August 21, 2013

Slacklining – My New Obsession

By Mark Sisson
113 Comments

Because I know how even a moderately busy day can make actually watching a video an impossible dream, I’m going to summarize the main points for you guys.

I’m always trying to have more fun, as you well know. In fact, my whole reason for being in the gym is to train so that I can play – so that my body is fit enough, strong enough, and mobile enough to continue having fun for years to come. The best is when I can combine play and training in the same activity, because having fun while getting more fit is the absolute pinnacle of training. It makes both more effective than either alone.

About a year and a half ago, I discovered and fell in love with slacklining. The slackline is a strap of flat nylon webbing slung between two anchor points that you walk on. Because the line isn’t totally taut, it bounces and wobbles and shifts in every direction as you stand on it. Slacklining is almost like navigating a narrow trampoline. It requires – and develops – an insane amount of balance. As a guy who just turned 60 and hopes to stay active for decades to come, I’m going to need all the balance I can get. That’s why I dig it so much. It’s frustrating, and fun, and makes you more secure and stable on your feet. Slacklining also hits muscles in ways you’re not going to be able to target on conventional gym equipment. Not that it takes a lot of strength (anyone can slackline). All those subtle balance corrections will make your core incredibly strong, though.

Why develop any more balance than you already have, you say? Well, it’s not just about staying upright on a stand-up paddle board in choppy seas or navigating a powder-filled, tree-lined chute on skis or a snowboard. Consider how many people in their twilight years simply lose balance for an instant at night or trip and fall in their living room, resulting in a broken hip, resulting in extended bed confinement, resulting in pneumonia, resulting in death. OK, maybe that’s a bit morbid, but you get my point. I would argue that as we age, balance becomes as important as strength in real-world situations.

Another benefit? You can’t be worrying about bills or work when you’re on the slackline, or else you’ll fall off. You have to be completely and utterly present and in the moment, focused on how your weight is distributed and how the line is moving. For me, it offers a brief respite from the pressures of writing day in a day out. If I’m stuck, I can just take a few minutes off and hop on the slackline in my backyard. There’s definitely a meditative and clearing aspect to it.

Beginner Tips

Learn to trust that as soon as you smoothly transfer your weight to the foot on the line, it won’t swing out from under you. You just have to commit. In that regard, slacklining is a metaphor for life…

Use ski poles or a standing partner to acclimate yourself. Slowly drop the support as you become acclimated to the sensation.

Try to stand still in one spot using one leg. Don’t do too much too quickly. Get used to the feeling of standing on one leg without support until it becomes second nature.

Make subtle balance corrections – don’t wave your arms wildly. Another life metaphor.

Correct from the lower body first, torso and arms are last resort. As you get stronger, you will see that using the muscles in your hips and thighs to bring the line back underneath you can be more effective than correcting with your arms alone.

Intermediate/Advanced Tips

Count maximum number of steps before falling to track progress. This will give you objective feedback.

After walking full-length, try to turn around and head back.

Try some aerials when you master walking and turning!

Slacklining is really tough for most beginners, but it gets better each time you try it. Even if you can’t tell, your brain is constantly rewiring its neural pathways based on new experiences, and slacklining is a powerful new experience that forces a massive amount of neural adaptation. I find that just 10 minutes a session when you start can be maximally effective at this neural rewiring.

Check the World of Tomorrow YouTube channel to see the experts (and get a little discouraged and then, eventually, inspired!). Last, you can get your own slackline at gibbonslackline.com or at major sports retailers like REI, and start working on your balance today.

This was the first in a series of new videos I’ll be producing. What do you think? Also, share your own slackline experiences in the comment board below!

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113 Comments on "Slacklining – My New Obsession"

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Alicia
3 years 1 month ago

Slacklining sounds like the perfect fun activity to improve stability and center yourself. I have to try this!

Another one of my favorite bloggers recently wrote about slacklining for the first time; you might enjoy her post. http://www.yesandyes.org/2013/08/34-new-things-try-slacklining.html

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[…] Because I know how even a moderately busy day can make actually watching a video an impossible dream, I’m going …read more […]

Big Mike
Big Mike
3 years 1 month ago

Do you think you would have the same confidence if the slackline were higher from the ground? It would be interesting to see if the height would “psych” someone out of being able to perform the same (with some netting or water below of course to avoid injury)

PBNewby
PBNewby
11 months 12 days ago
You are describing “high lining” and it is a very popular version of Slackline. People who highline use a tether between themselves and the (redundant) slackline stretched at least 25′ above the ground. This is usually done in a narrow canyon. As a person who has attempted to stand up on a highline, I can confirm that getting over the “being psyched out” part is a real challenge. I am able to walk on lines up to 150 feet long (but only 6 – 8 feet high), but put me on a 60 ft line that is 30 feet up… Read more »
Charlotte
3 years 1 month ago

Great video!! i’ve never tried slacklining, perhaps its time to give it a go!

Nocona
Nocona
3 years 1 month ago

Yes, and now can we start calling ourselves Slackers?

Chris
Chris
3 years 1 month ago

LOL!

Goddess
3 years 1 month ago

Some of us already have….for a long time now.

🙂

Scott UK
Scott UK
3 years 1 month ago

Cool!

Ponee
Ponee
3 years 1 month ago

I’m inspired! Will try- thanks!

Mark P
3 years 1 month ago

Another benefit of bodyweight training.. highly-developed proprioception and balance.

Jess
3 years 1 month ago

Slacklining is also one of the deepest meditation practices I’ve found. You’re SO present to every millisecond of the breath, the way it’s linked to your mental state and incremental movements of the body. Plus, you make a good point, Mark, it’s a playful way to tone the body.

Rand
Rand
3 years 1 month ago

Fun post. A couple of other beginner tips: don.t look at your feet; rather, fix your eyes on something stable like the tree the slack line is tied to. Second, don’t hold your arms horizontally but keep them elevated, like goal posts or something. That gives you more balance adjusting capabilities. Third, start with a shorter distance between anchors (easier to get a more taut line) and then extend the length between anchors as you improve.

I am still a rookie but having fun with it. These are tips that I currently find useful.

Mark Sisson
3 years 1 month ago

Rand, good points. Interestingly, I found that looking more at my feet (and not so much straight ahead) helped me “place” them more accurately on the line and allowed for better sense of balance. Bottom line:try both ways and see what works best.

JAck
JAck
3 years 1 month ago
Mark and Rand, I understand you both, I started slacklining a year ago for the same reasons as Mark mentions and we regularly meet with work colleagues at lunch in a park. I started slacklining looking at my feet wanting to make sure I was still on and it helped. After you start getting use to it (a few months), looking ahead really helped me be consistently stable and go further, reminded me of when I started driving, you look really close to the hood of the car to make sure you’re following the road, then with practice, the theory… Read more »
Groktimus Primal
3 years 1 month ago

Never thought I’d need lessons to be a slacker!

S.S.
S.S.
3 years 1 month ago

This was a very fun post. Please do many more of these.

Now I have to go buy one.

John Snyder
John Snyder
3 years 1 month ago

great video, I will definitely be giving this some time. Looks like fun!

TJ
TJ
3 years 1 month ago

This was an awesome post! I’ll bet Gibbon’s sales just quadrupled

Tom
Tom
3 years 1 month ago

Great video – you’ve definitely sparked my interest!

Love the actual style of the video as well – cool intro, informative, the music snippets were a nice touch as well. Good stuff!

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[…] Daily Apple / Posted on: August 21, 2013Mark’s Daily Apple – Because I know how even a moderately busy day can make actually watching a video an […]

SayMoi
SayMoi
3 years 1 month ago

Hooray! I’ve been waiting to hear about slacklining!! 🙂 I love going out in my neighborhood park with kids stopping by to try it every so often.

I HIGHLY recommend a $50 1-inch line from Woss Enterprises for starting out. I compared ordering the parts myself with their kit, and both came out the same (less because of free shipping!). Their customer service was great and they even let me request a different color combination for the lines. Good stuff. http://www.woss.com/1in-slackline/

John
John
3 years 1 month ago

Nice one! Ive had a slackline for a year and its fantastic for middle aged guys like me…Certainly impresses my daughters friends! 🙂 Another tip is to extend the exercise to balancing on more static objects like fallen trees, logs, fences etc as the static balancing I find is harder! (obviously take real care on what you balance on!).

mims
mims
3 years 1 month ago

No need to pay full retail on slacklines, I got mine from http://www.theclymb.com.
rei-outlet.com, backcountry.com, http://www.sierratradingpost.com/ all have discounted lines and gear. Surf teh interwebs for the best deal.

Buy/invest in a longer line then you think you will need.

Care tips: don’t leave you line set up all the time……put it away when not in use (UV-damage, overtensioning, animal chew toy, etc)

Focus on the horizon/straight ahead, not at your feet.
Try out sitting postures.

Don’t forget to smile and breathe!

Ham-bone
Ham-bone
3 years 1 month ago

I’ve kind of been on the (slack line) fence for awhile. Leave it to Mark to push me over.

ted
ted
3 years 1 month ago

Good video, keep ’em coming!!

Tom T.
3 years 1 month ago

I was running in a park near work yesterday and there was a group walking on slack lines. It looks like a great exercise. I am still kicking myself that I didn’t ask to try while they had it all set up.

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
3 years 1 month ago

Kicking yourself–more exercise on top of the running? 🙂

Taylor Rearick
3 years 1 month ago

Awesome video! The lifestyle type posts really do it for me. I would love to see a primal camping adventure edit.

Grok on!

Mick Dann
Mick Dann
3 years 1 month ago
I set one up between two trees when on holiday in Finland this summer. I found that rather than trying to balance standing still, it was actually easier to improve by stepping forward almost as soon as you stood up on the line, but hey, everyone’s different. I did eventually manage quite a few single crossings and a couple of returns, which put a big grin on my face! The added challenge I had were big forest ants jumping on my bare feet as I stepped up from the forest floor, which then proceeded to nip my toes and a… Read more »
Tom B-D
Tom B-D
3 years 1 month ago

Thanks for sharing! Definitely going to set one of these up in my back yard. Hey Mark, maybe for your 70th birthday you could do a Phillipe Pettit-style canyon crossing! Check out what he did at WTC back in ’74…

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
3 years 1 month ago

No, no, no–I want him to do a Jack LaLanne-esque swim across the channel (or somewhere) with a flotilla of boats chained together in his mouth. 🙂

PrimeTime
PrimeTime
3 years 1 month ago

Great, love the videos!
Which reminds me, when are we going to get photos of mark sisson age 60? I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it fascinating to see how well we can age if we take care of our bodies.
Keep up the good work.

Jane Barnes
Jane Barnes
3 years 1 month ago

Did I miss where you said how wide the strap is that you use?

Christopher
Christopher
3 years 1 month ago

I slacklined for years and it was a wonderful activity, very zen. But also a great workout. I never had abs like I did when I slacklined. I need to start taking it up again.

One thing to be careful about though, is not to strain your psoas by tensing your abs and glutes too much. I only figured that out after seriously irritating my psoas muscles to the point where I had intense pelvic pain. Kept you core firm but not too tight and you should be okay.

Gay Gooen
Gay Gooen
3 years 1 month ago

That makes perfect sense! Thanks for this advice.

Cheryl
Cheryl
3 years 1 month ago

Definitely no where near that level but it looks like fun!

Gay Gooen
Gay Gooen
3 years 1 month ago

Hi, Mark! Never heard of this before today, but rest assurred, I’m on my way to installing a slackline in my Yoga studio — the students will love it. I notice that many of my students have challenges with balance — and isn’t it all about that, after all? Balance in what we eat, how much we sleep, how we think and how we work — it’s all about balance, after all! Thanks for yet another great idea!

Steve
Steve
3 years 1 month ago

The good thing about having teenagers is that you can give them ‘gifts’ that you really want. I gave my son one last year. Lots of fun, and I’m still learning.

This is about the cheapest place to purchase the Gibbons Classic 49′

http://www.theclymb.com/all/brand-event/321039/show-product/468454?f=mi

I have no affiliation with them. They are a site that does discounted outdoor products and slacklines come up now and then.

Rodney
Rodney
3 years 1 month ago

This looks like fun! In the video Mark appears to be on a 2″ line. Does anyone have experience with the 1″, or even better both widths to comment on differences? The Gibbons site touches on this, but personal experiences are always helpful.

Too bad I don’t have the headroom to set it up for indoor use during winter!!

SJ
SJ
3 years 1 month ago
Jenn (GH)
3 years 1 month ago

I’ve been thinking about getting one of these for months. We travel full time in our rv so this would be a perfect campground afternoon activity for my boys and I. Thanks for the video!

wildgrok
wildgrok
3 years 1 month ago

I am in!. Bought one in amazon ,Macaco Slackline 16m x 50mm (by the way it was the last one at the time)

wildgrok
wildgrok
3 years 1 month ago

correction: found a cheaper one, same specs, search amazon for Gibbon Slacklines Ladies Line

JT
JT
3 years 1 month ago

I already wear flat-soled shoes or go barefoot when I can, but I still am overly prone to twisted ankles, and I have to conclude that it’s a balance issue. I wonder if slacklining would help? I’ve been wanting a wobble board for a few years now, but this looks like it might be even better.

glorth2
glorth2
3 years 1 month ago

I’m in.

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[…] I want to try slacklining! […]

Phyllis Anne
Phyllis Anne
3 years 1 month ago

Mark, FIrst of all, I love your MDA site!!
I have Slacker Radio Premium (no ads, ONLY music) which is just streaming music station. I listen a LOT, so I have been invited into Slacker Radio’s Slactivist group. We are called

Slactivists
I love the idea of slacklining. Wish I had two trees or ?? maybe 4×4’s in the ground??

Jay
3 years 1 month ago

Just order the “Classic” set up. Looks fun and challenging. This should help with the Yoga “tree” pose. Thanks Mark!

Bob
Bob
3 years 1 month ago

Slacklining is great!! My son introduced us to it a few years ago and he is REALLY good on one. He did some Highlining in a canyon in Sou. Cal. a couple years ago (with a safety belt – Rule #9) It was 50 feet up. I don’t do it often enough to get rid of the “Sewing Machine Leg” yet. It will definitely whoop your butt when you get started, but it is a lot of fun. Go for it!!!

2Rae
2Rae
3 years 1 month ago

Looks like fun, I’m not too good with balance so maybe this will change that. Plus, I think my little boy would love to try it.

Tobi
3 years 1 month ago

Thanks Mark,
I had been contemplating about buying one. Now, it will get installed in the backgarden. The kids will absolutely love it too!

barb
barb
3 years 1 month ago

I hop on my Goof Board to practice balance – easier probably as its wider but nice if you don’t have a place to set up a slackline. Also, instructables has a great tutorial on making your own slack line rack (sans trees if you don’t happen to have two available).

Suzanne
Suzanne
3 years 1 month ago

For fun on our family vacation I bought a slackline. The college-aged kids found it a blast. But even they could only go a few steps. My husband and I (both 50+) were able to take one or two steps. I was worried about twisting/breaking an ankle while falling. I also sat on the line, and when I fell back I kept putting my hand out – a no no since it’s quite easy to break a wrist that way.

I’m hoping you’ll have one set up at PrimalCon Lake Tahoe. We’ll be there!

Darcie
Darcie
3 years 1 month ago

Was about to ask the same thing (re: primalcon :-))

Mark Sisson
3 years 1 month ago

Oh, there will be slacklines at PrimalCon for sure.

Jim Haas
Jim Haas
3 years 1 month ago

I’m reminded of Avner the Eccentric, who used a slack line in his act. (Like everything else, you can find him on YouTube.) We used to attend a family camp up in northern Minnesota where we tried slacklining with a heavy rope strung over a small stream. It was exhaustingly fun!

Michael
Michael
3 years 1 month ago

Balance training is specific to the activity trained. For example, improving your balance on a slackline will not improve your balance on a surfboard. This has been fairly well studied in the literature.

Mike Troy
3 years 1 month ago

I’ve been looking at these for awhile, the video is a big help. I think I can do that with some practice.

Devin
Devin
3 years 1 month ago

Nice video! This is what I had in mind when you did the survey

Andrej
3 years 1 month ago

The content of this video is great, just to much editing effects in the whole thing! To much on and off focus!

Sarah
Sarah
3 years 1 month ago

I agree. It’s a fun video but the unfocus/zoom in stuff actually made me sick to my stomach.

Matt
Matt
3 years 1 month ago

Would a simple tow rope of a car suffice instead of buying proper slack line?

Lyn
Lyn
3 years 1 month ago

That is what I am wondering. Could I use what I have?

I have 4wd snatch straps (designed to stretch and recoil with the weight of a several ton vehicle on it) and winch extension straps (very little stretch). Both are about the right width webbing. What would work better? The stretch won’t be much on either, as a person weighs much less than a 4WD.

Marti
Marti
3 years 1 month ago
Yes it will. My boys have a line between two trees in our yard which is simply a car tow line from menards. We put triple folded cardboard between the line and the tree as well to keep from ripping and damaging the bark and tree. Last summer they had three lines between a triangle of trees and would make full laps. It’s a great way to get a 7 minute workout when you only have 8 spare minutes. Plus, it doesn’t require a change of clothes or a shower if you’re short on time – just ditch the shoes… Read more »
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