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The Beginners Guide To Slacklining

The Beginners Guide To Slacklining

A few weeks ago I talked about the power of experiences and how “doing stuff” creates more happiness in your life than any material item you could purchase.

I got a few emails from the peeps out there asking for some recommendations on cool experiences or challenges to try.

While there is an unlimited amount of super cool things you could do:

  • Wine tasting
  • Cliff jumping
  • Hiking
  • Cooking classes
  • Pottery course
  • Dance lessons
  • Trying a new cuisine
  • 30 days of honesty
  • Meditation challenge

I decided to write an article about one of my favorite activities. It’s something that combines an unlimited supply of fun, requires coordination, and asks you to practice extreme focus, which in itself is an integral part of life as you develop physically and mentally.

But most importantly it’s a challenge and that single ingredient is what creates a sense of pride, confidence, and self worth.

It goes back to the “Ikea Theory”  I’ve discussed before. Sure you can buy a bar stool and place it in your kitchen but when you are the one that has to put it together a sense of pride and value comes over you and that silly stool, it holds more value. Putting that stool was a challenge you had to overcome.

Enough of my rambling and if you haven’t left yet to read another blog I’d like to present to you….

Drum roll please…..

The beginners guide to slacklining

What is slacklining?

Essentially slacklining is like tight rope walking but on a tether/line (rope, or chord) that has a little less tension and give to it.

How to choose a slackline

For beginners and those just starting to dabble in slacklining, I suggest picking up one of the many kits that are available. A good kit will run you anywhere from $50-$140 bucks and I highly recommend investing in a cheap one at first to see if you really enjoy the experience.

  • Gibbon
  • Slackstar
  • Singing rock

are a few of the companies you can check out. I personally recommend the Gibbon classic line for adult beginners, the fun line for kids and beginners, and the jibline or surfline for anyone that plans on really getting into the sport down the road they are a little bouncier allowing for more tricks.

* For beginners look for a 2” wide line, this will provide you with more surface area for your feet making it much easier to balance and speed up the learning process.

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How to set up your slackline

When I first purchased my slackline setting it up was actually one of the most difficult parts. Maybe it was the excitement rushing over me, sheer impatience of wanting to just start walking on it, or just being a knucklehead but the majority of my first slacklining session was spent trying to figure out where and how to set the dang thing up.

Step 1: Choosing a location

All you’re really going to need is a fairly open space with structures that will allow you to wrap your line around. Trees, columns, poles, and really any two tall and sturdy structures will work, but I suggest finding two sturdy trees at a local park or in your backyard. The bark provides a little friction to hold your line stable and plus parks just rock.

Step 2: Setting up your line

For beginners, you’ll want about 15-25 feet of space in between your two trees. The shorter the distance, the more stability you’ll have in your line, making it easier to find your balance. This might leave quite a bit of extra line but don’t worry, it won’t be in the way and it’s not necessary to use the entire line.

If you’ve purchased a kit, the directions are fairly easy to follow but they leave out some important pieces of information.

The loops that you create around your anchor (ie: slackline around tree) should be about upper thigh to hip height. As the line is stretched out between trees it will also be roughly upper thigh to hip height.

Having the line set up at this height will allow for about 6-12” of sag in the line as you’re attempting to balance on it.

Tighten your line using the ratcheting system that comes with your kit tight enough so that the loops around your anchors (trees) does not move. As you become a more experienced slackliner, you can play with different tensions in your line to create different levels of difficulty. Generally the looser it is and the more bounce the line has in it, the more difficult it will be to walk; yet this also makes it a great line to perform tricks on.

Step 3: Mounting the line

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to learn how to mount the line with some style, and where does style start?

With your clothes.

Ok, I’m sort of serious and sort of just being sarcastic. While the brand of your pants might not be important, it is important to make sure they’re not too loose fitting or hanging over your feet. Roll those dang things up if you have to, just make sure they are out of the way so you’re not tripping all over them.

Something you don’t mind getting a little dirty and comfortable should do the trick. A personal favorite is board shorts… but southern California allows for that year round.

As for shoes, the only time you’ll need them is for the drive to the park and maybe the walk across the field to find your trees, and maybe not if you’re a rebel.

Walking the line without shoes will allow you to get a better feel for the line. That sense of touch is what gives your body a sense of awareness in space and will benefit your sense of balance greatly.

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If you must wear shoes, try skate shoes, vibrams, or chucks classics as they are extremely flat.

Before mounting the line, make sure to relax and breathe.

If you kick a soccer ball with your right foot, stand parallel to the line with your left thigh touching it. If you kick a soccer ball with your left foot, stand next to the line with your right thigh touching it.

You’ll want to mount the line closer to the anchors of the tree. This is usually the best place for beginners because the tension creates a faster but smaller shake in the line. As you try to mount closer to the middle the lines will have much larger, low sagging, but slow movements. You may want to play with the best place to mount for you but once you’ve found a good spot, make sure to mount from the same spot every time to create a memory for your nervous system.

photo-12

    Pick up the foot that is closest to the line and place it on the slackline with it running through your big toe and second toe and running right to your heel. You’ll probably notice some pretty gnarly shaking (I like to call this the jimmy leg). Don’t worry, this is totally normal.

    To help control this shaking you can do two things:

    1. Lighten the load or pressure that your putting on the line. Don’t put so much weight on the line initially, you may want to just barely touch it.
    2. Put your outer thigh on the line to help stabilize it.

    After your leg and the line have stabilized a little bit, your nervous system calms down, and you feel comfortable focus on a single stationary point in front of you. I like to stare (almost romantically) at the anchor on the opposite side.

    If you’re looking at your feet or at the line, you’ll be staring at a moving object and this can screw up your sense of balance.

    After establishing a stable focal point ahead of you, make sure to center your weight on the foot on the line and swiftly stand up on that leg.

    Don’t hesitate for a second and fully commit. If you hesitate or don’t believe in yourself for even just a second and half ass the mount it’s not going to happen for you.

    Use your arms for balance by holding them out to your sides at shoulder height.

    Once you’ve found your balance on the line, try and hold it there for a few seconds before attempting to walk. Make sure your legs are slightly bent. This will lower your center of gravity and help to absorb movement from the line.

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    If you are really struggling with popping up it’s usually because of lack of strength or balance.There are a few things you can do to help turn these weaknesses into strengths:

    1. Start strength training: One legged movements like lunges, step-ups, and pistols/1-legged sqauts will help strengthen the muscles that are being used to press you up onto the line. Squats and deadlifts will also help.

    2. Work on balance: You can actually have someone sit on the line to help stabilize it as you mount. The closer they are to you, the more stability the line will have. As you get comfortable, your partner can move farther away until they are completely off the line.

    You can also practice balance by walking heel to toe on a line of tape on the ground.  As this becomes easy, try to walk the tape on your toes and not to allow your heels to touch the ground. Once you get comfortable there, you can use a 4-inch wide piece of wood that is a few inches off the ground. Then use a thinner piece of wood as you get more comfortable.

    Step 4: Johnny Cashing aka Walking the line

    Once you’ve found your balance and are comfortable on the line, you’ll want to start walking it.. For myself, I’ve found that moving the foot that is behind the lead foot and searching for the line with the big toe is most effective. I also prefer not to go heel to toe but instead have a little space between them.

    photo-14

      Once you’ve made contact, you’ll want to place the line in between the big toe and second toe and have it run right to the back of the heel just like when you mount the line.

      Continue walking the line in this fashion and remember to maintain focus on something stable in front of you, hold those arms out to your sides at shoulder height, and continue to breathe.

      Progression tips

      As you keep improving you may want to start to challenge yourself a bit more. Here are a few good beginner to intermediate progressions you can try once you’ve mastered mounting and Johnny Cashing the line.

      • Mount with non dominant/other foot
      • Mount with both feet by hopping up
      • Mount facing the line instead of parallel to it
      • Backwards walking
      • Sideways walking
      • Turns on the line (180 and 360 degrees)

      How to fall correctly

      Here is the honest Abe in me coming out, you WILL fall off the line. Now I just want to make sure you do it correctly and avoid any injury.

      Because the line has tension and will sag as you are on it; this means you could get thrown a bit. You’ll want to use that to your advantage by letting it push you away from it, thus, avoiding it hitting you.

      And guys, believe me, you do not want to come straight down on that line… no what I’m saying?

      Because you’ll be barefoot, make sure the area around you is free of any debris, sharp objects, or rocks.

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      It should be fairly easy to land on your feet most of the time but if you do happen to lose balance and feel like you may be hurdling towards the ground, I suggest turning your body to your dominant shoulder and front rolling.

      How should you practice

      Practice…. We’re talking about practice?

      The more often you practice the better, but you don’t have to spend hours on end in order to get better. A good 20-minute session should do the trick but even if you can only get in 5-10 minutes per day, the consistency will really pay off as you’re trying to retrain your nervous system.

      The most important thing is consistency. Shorter but more frequent sessions will allow you to improve much quicker than one single long session each week. So if you’re really dead set on getting better, schedule some time in as often as you can. If possible, leave that slackline mounted in your backyard and hop out there at random points during the day.

      One important thing to remember is that it does take sometime for your nervous system and muscular system to warm up, so don’t be surprised if you struggle a bit during the first few minutes of a session. You can help speed up the process by performing a brief warm up routine consisting of air squats, lunges, one legged squats/pistols, hollow rocks, and tippy toe walks on the ground.

      A little science about how balance works in the body

      Balance in the body stems from multiple systems working as a team to help create stability between your body, brain, and vision.

      What is good balance:

      1. Correct sensory information from your eyes, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and organs of the ear.
      2. Your brain stem translating all this information that is trying to be processed at once and making sense of it as it delivers the message to the ol’noodle upstairs.
      3. The movement of your eyes being able to keep things in your line of vision stable.

      It starts with your vision and the help that it gives you as it tries to establish where your head and body are in relationship to the world and any motion that is occurring in it.

      Receptors that are extremely sensitive to movement like stretching and pressure in your muscles, tendons, and joints help your brain figure out where your feet and legs are positioned relative to the ground and also how your head is positioned relative to your shoulders and chest.

      There are then balancing organs located in the inner ear that let your brain know the movements of your head.

      Finally all this information is sent to the brain stem along with information regarding previous experiences that have affected your balance (this is why practice is so important) stored in your cerebral cortex and cerebellum. Once this information is digested, messages are sent to the eyes and other parts of the body that will help you stay balanced and maintain clear vision while you are in motion. adapted from Shannon Hoffman

      Now what are you waiting for?

      Go and treat yourself to a new experience. One that will promote a healthy lifestyle, improve balance, focus, coordination, and most of all be one heck of a time.

      More by this author

      Justin Miller

      Healthy Lifestyle Architect, a Fitness and Nutrition Coach

      How to Dramatically Change Your Life in Just One Week The Habits of the Highly Healthy How to Discover Who You Are And Then How To Behave Like It The Beginners Guide To Slacklining A New Way to Create a Bucket List

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      Last Updated on August 20, 2019

      How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

      How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

      Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

      Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

      I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

      You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

      Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

      When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

      I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

      Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

      Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

      Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

      1. The Inner Critic

      This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

      • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
      • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
      • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
      • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

      The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

      Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

      2. The Worrier

      This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

      The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

      3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

      This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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      This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

      The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

      4. The Sleep Depriver

      This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

      The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

      • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
      • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
      • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
      • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

      How can you control these squatters?

      How to Master Your Mind

      You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

      Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

      There are two ways to control your thoughts:

      • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
      • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

      This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

      The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

      Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

      For the Inner Critic

      When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

      You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

      For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

      You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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      “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

      If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

      • They rile up the Worrier.
      • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
      • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
      • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
      • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

      Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

      Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

      For the Worrier

      Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

      Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

      You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

      • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
      • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
      • Muscles tense

      Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

      If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

      Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

      “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

      Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

      If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

      Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

      Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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      For example:

      If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

      “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

      Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

      “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

      Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

      For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

      Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

      The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

      • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
      • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
      • Muscles tension

      I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

      Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

      Breathe in through your nose:

      • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
      • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
      • Focus on your belly rising.

      Breathe out through your nose:

      • Feel your lungs emptying.
      • Focus on your belly falling.
      • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

      Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

      Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

      One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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      Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

      For the Sleep Depriver

      (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

      I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

      Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

      1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
      2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

      When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

      From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

      For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

      If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

      You can also use this technique any time you want to:

      • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
      • Shut down your thinking.
      • Calm your feelings.
      • Simply focus on the present moment. 

      The Bottom Line

      Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

      You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

      Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

      More About Mental Strength

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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