In the last 12 months of teaching people to slackline, I have come across 3 common mistakes that prevent that tranquil, balanced, zen state from being reached.
I'll illusrate these newbie errors below, in the hope that you can spot them if they're in your own slackline practice as soon as possible!
Common Mistake Number 1 Posture
Fig 1 – Head out of alignment
One of the most common errors people make is to look down when they first start to step on to the slackline. Understandably, you want to see what your feet are doing. But unfortunately, this sets you at a strong disadvantage, for two reasons;
1. For every inch that your head is out of alignment with your spine, 10lbs of weight is added to that of your cranium due to the increase in leverage. I.e. you're having to do more work to hold your head in its unnatural position, which shifts your weight distribution out of alignment. That's all very well if you have a solid foundation under you like the floor, but using the slackline we're already at an immediate, wobbly disadvantage, so you really want to be as aligned as possible.
2. Not only does looking down screw your spinal alignment, but it also sets your eyes on too much visual information. When the line is wobbling, and you're looking at it, your brain becomes very confused regarding where you're body is in space, i.e. your proprioceptive circuit melts down! It's like riding a bike for the first time – looking down at your shakey steering will almost result in a fall. Same when slacklining – look down, you fall down!
Common Mistake Number 2 Arm PositioningFig 2 – Poor arm position leads to a break in posture
The next mistake I see has to do with the positioning of the arms. All too often, as shown above in Fig 2, the arms aren't used as the primary balance-keepers, and so the torso has to do more work than is needed, often misaligning the body and throwing it out of equilibrium. The role of the arms is very similar to that of the tightrope walker's balance pole; they act as a lever to counter-balance the body. But when they are too low, their leverage is diminished and the torso has to take over. This isn't a problem for the experienced slackliner, and can be recovered relatively easily. But for the beginner, it usually manifests a wobbly disaster.
Common Mistake Number 3 Foot Positioning
Fig 3 – The footwork failure
Finally, poor footwork is the culprit for creating most of the bails I've seen, even before the beginner has had a chance to stay steady. Fig 3 above shows the right foot placed inaccurately, big toe hanging off the line and heel slipping. The slackline can be used to train an elite level of tactile sensitivity in the feet, a skill directly transferable to climbers. Walking barefoot on the line allows you to feel exactly what is going on beneath you, withouth interference. Many beginners make the mistake of walking heel-to-toe on the line, externally rotating the feet and rushing their foot placement to create excess momentum that they can't control. Fix your feet, and you forge a solid foundation to start really enjoying your slackline practice.
There's my top three newbie errors – if you've noticed any of them in your practice and are looking to find solutions, book yourself in for a slackline lesson with myself, Harry Cloudfoot.
Lessons are £35 per hour, and Harry will help assess your current level and issue advice and techniques to help refine your equilibrium immediately.
To book a slackline lesson, give us a call today on 0208 397 0390 or email us at Climb@whitespiderclimbing.com