Slacklining one way to feel balance in your body


I never heard of slacklining until I read Adam Bryant’s recent story in The New York Times. Slacklining - a loose version of walking a tightrope - is all about balance and overcoming fear.

You string a 1-inch-wide length of flat nylon webbing between two trees, a few inches above ground, pull it tight enough to hold your weight, with some slack, and then you walk across it. It helps to keep your eyes focused on one fixed point and to use your hands as a balancing pole. I can’t wait to try it.

Once you can walk across your slackline, you can advance to tricks: jumping, spinning, kneeling. You can even hang your slackline high in the air and do something completely crazy like slackline across a river or a canyon, wearing a harness, of course.

Overcoming fear and improving your balance are helpful in many sports, from yoga to windsurfing, so let us all learn from this excellent advice from expert slackliner Scott Balcom, author of “Walk the Line: The Art of Balance and the Craft of Slackline.”

“It’s not about your brain at all,” says Balcom. “It’s about feeling balance in your body. To get good at slacklining, you have to gain that perspective. More than telling the slackline what to do and how to behave, you have to listen. Allowing the slackline to be the slackline is the most important step for people.”

So how can you take that step in your own sport? It’s a Zen thing. Thinking is the enemy when it comes to playing your best.

To get into the zone, to find your balance, to shut off your brain and liberate your body, you have to let go of worry and tension, and relax. Sure it’s easier said than done, but what have you done recently to improve your balance and overcome your fears?

A basic slackline setup costs about $80 at I’ll never take mine more than 6 inches off the ground but, based on prior experience with sports that require total focus, I have no doubt it will get me high.

When summer ends, my friend Jeff goes into a giant mope. It’s back to school, he whines, even though he hasn’t been back to school in 20 years. But I understand what he means and so do millions of other people.

Summer means fun and sun and freedom, and when summer ends, it feels like playtime is over. That kind of thinking will lead you straight into the black hole of sloth, inactivity and taco chips.

Nip it in the bud, and then go find a buddy, a pal who is similarly depressed. Be there for each other. Join a gym. Share a trainer. Sign up for a running club, a fitness challenge. Pursue an entirely new sport: slacklining, anyone?

If you feel the winter of your discontent coming on, do something now to stem the flow of negativity and embrace all that is possible in the coming months. Make summer-fun your year-round state of mind.

The polls I tend to believe are the ones that reaffirm what I already know. So hear this: According to a recent poll by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, 76 percent of people believe that outdoor activities - hiking, mountain biking, backpacking - allow them to find themselves.

So if you’re looking for a way to ponder the big questions in life. Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I put the keys to the car? Search no further.

Make a plan to spend time in nature. Fall is the perfect time to do that. The leaves are turning, the weather is changing, and the line between what is and what could be is at its thinnest and most transparent.

So take a hike. Or jump on your bike. After 30 vigorous minutes, pause and listen to your breath, to your heart. Living a healthy lifestyle means allowing yourself quiet time to find answers to important questions you may not even be asking yet.

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir said that.

Marilynn Preston is a fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues. Readers may send any questions to