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Slacklining – My New Obsession

Posted By Mark Sisson On August 21, 2013 @ 8:00 am In Play,Videos | 100 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 [7] – so that my body is fit enough, strong enough, and mobile enough [8] to continue having fun for years to come. The best is when I can combine play [9] 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 [10] 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 [11] or at major sports retailers like REI [12], 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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