Sometimes a little slacking off can be a good thing. Letting one thing go a bit to the wayside in order to allow time and energy for an activity you love can be a smart choice. I like to think of it as Strategic Slacking. For example, that Mount Everest-sized pile of laundry that seems to have become a geological feature in our house is feeling a little neglected these days, with the siren call of warm weather and sunshine.
Since we finally get to enjoy long days and no need for winter boots, it’s a goal of mine to increase how much outdoor movement I’m fitting into my day. Two of my favorite summer natural movement activities are going barefoot as much as possible and attempting to walk on our family’s slackline. Spending time barefoot and slacklining are both excellent ways to strengthen your feet, ankles, and whole body, as well as challenge and increase your proprioception. As someone who suffered from tendonitis and constant foot pain, wore orthotics for years, and previously couldn't walk barefoot across an uneven surface without twisting an ankle, it's a huge accomplishment for me to spend time outside barefoot, let alone walking on a wobbly-as-hell slackline, pretending to be a circus performer. After switching to minimal footwear, strengthening my feet, and working on my alignment, these are things I am now able to do comfortably every day and my whole body benefits.
A slackline is simply a piece of rock climbing webbing securely tied or ratchet-strapped between two trees to make a bouncy sort of tight rope that is addictively fun. I find slacklining energizing and meditative at the same time, since it requires me to quiet my mind and focus my attention.
Here I am walking on and almost falling off of the slackline. Watch and see all the comic ways my body tries to stabilize.
I SWEAR I really can make it across the full length without that degree of balance antics, but this makes for a much more entertaining video. You can see how all the different parts of my body are attempting to communicate with each other, in order to figure out how to respond to both the motion of the slackline and the motion I create as I try to maintain my stability. This is a great way to build your proprioception, or your body's internal reference system that tells you where all your parts are in relation to each other, without you needing to look. Maybe a year from now I'll be posting a video of me showcasing my superstar proprioception, as I walk the slackline with my eyes closed - you never know. :)
The slackline, just like spending time barefoot outdoors, is also fantastic for exposing your intrinsic foot muscles (the many tiny muscles with both attachment points in the foot) to new, constantly varying loads, allowing you to build stronger, healthier feet. Healthy feet = healthy ankles, knees, hips... the list goes on! The more that you're using the intrinsic muscles of your feet, the less you'll overwork these larger joints, which end up experiencing unnecessary wear and tear due to the immobility and lack of strength in our feet.
We purchased a Gibbon Slackline that’s held up really well and is easy to set up if you’re familiar with ratchet straps. It also comes with detailed instructions to follow if you, like me, are not a ratchet strap person. You can choose how high off the ground you would like to be, and also experiment with how the tension in the line changes what it feels like to walk on it. I like it on the bouncy side; in fact, bouncing on it is really fun! To make it easier when you’re starting out, you can grab on to your friend’s shoulder for support, or you can install a "grab line" within arm’s reach above your head to grab onto as you learn to keep your balance. When we have friends or family over at our house during the summer, the slackline is always a big hit - you might be surprised who will want to give it a try!
What outdoor movement do you like to do in the summer? What Strategic Slacking do you do to give you more time to pursue what you love?
** I don't have any affiliation with Gibbon, I just enjoy their slacklines!