Friday, November 24, 2017


I know I probably don't come across as the most stable individual in the world, but lately I've been having a lot of fun - and hopefully improving my injury resistance and fitness - by becoming even more unbalanced than usual.

No, not by having psychotic episodes.. least not yet.

I bought a balance board to see if it would help me strengthen and rehabilitate the chronically damaged left ankle I've been dealing with since, oh...sometime mid-last-summer.

This is the one I purchased for $36.11CAN plus tax in October 2017.
I do not receive any compensation for use of the above link and provide it only for information.

Since then, it has become one of my favourite toys. I keep it at my office and try to play with it for a few minutes every day.

There are wooden versions with a plastic bubble on the bottom, but this one is molded right into the board.

At a bit less than 16" in diameter, the size is compact enough to sit under my desk while still offering plenty of space for my big feet.

Made even bigger by my awesome Keen clogs.

I didn't know it at the time, but the specific board I purchased was probably a good bet for someone clumsy like me. It has a little indent in the centre of the base - I think of it as its navel - that lets it default to sitting flat on the floor while still being highly unstable when any pressure is applied.

Belly button.
Yes, my office could do with some serious vacuuming. 

The octagonal shape also makes it a little more stable when mounting up to balance on it than a fully circular board would be. I use mine on the thin carpet of my office with no underpad, which lends it a tiny bit of cushioning and stability but not very much.

As for using it, I generally start by pulling it out while seated to work each ankle separately.

Stripey socks are optional.
Despite the texture dots, the plastic is slippery enough that I'll only wobble barefoot or in shoes.

I start by doing full revolutions of the board in one direction - trying to touch each part of the edge to the floor - then switch directions and do the same the other way. I'll rock the board back and forth sideways, touching a flat edge on opposite sides to the carpet, then do the same thing forward & backward. 16 of each is enough to make things start to fatigue in my lower leg, so I switch sides and do the other foot as well.

I can also use the board to get a really good calf stretch by standing with my heel against one flat edge - a bent leg will stretch the soleus and achilles tendon, while a straight leg will hit the gastrocs.


I can also stand with both feet on the board, rocking it back and forth from side to side to work the stabilizer muscles in my whole lower body - a great exercise that actually feels a bit like running, and certainly engages many of the same muscle groups as running on the uneven terrain of the trails.

Rock, but try not to roll.

My favourite use, though, is just balancing on the board.

Which is damnably difficult to do while taking a selfie.

Part of the reason I keep the board at my office is that it works as an incredible stress reliever for me. When things are getting hectic and I'm feeling overloaded, it's absolutely blissful to take a minute and focus on nothing else but balancing. I'm not terribly coordinated, so it takes a bit of effort - I choose a focal point to stare at and think about drawing my spine up tall, as though a string were being pulled upward from the top of my head - but I can happily balance for a minute or so before returning to work with a better mindset and better posture.

For an extra challenge, try squatting on the board.

For me, the centering effect of the board would be worth it even if it had no beneficial effect for my damaged ankle or running in general - after all, not all aspects of fitness are physical. I do, however, already feel that through a few weeks' use my lower leg stability and general balance has increased. I'm a huge fan of this little toy, and highly recommend giving one a try - they're not terribly expensive, and you can even make your own if you're so inclined. You could even make a larger one that would be more stable to start, then decrease the size of the deck as you become more adept over time.

There are heaps of exercises from beginner to advanced that you can do with the board, and I can't think of anyone - runner, athlete or just someone interested in living a better life - that wouldn't benefit from better balance and stability. Why not give one a shot?

Just don't expect me to demonstrate any of the more challenging exercises for you..

It won't go well.

1 comment:

Go on, have at me!