I just wanted to take a second to share these awesome new balance toys that I got the other day. I’ve been drooling over them for a while, now (yes, I’m a total movement dork) and finally broke down and ordered them. I was worried they’d be kind of cheesy or sub-par, but they're actually really great. I’ve been kicking them around the living room for the entire week so that they end up in random clusters, then playing a sort of one-person, foot-only Twister as I make up different paths to walk across. For extra fun and to mix it up a bit, I’ve been throwing in a couple of half foam rollers and yoga bolsters as well.
Other than the fact that I'm weird and am endlessly entertained by these things, why am I making such a big deal out of them? First, the little nubbins give your feet an awesome massage. The first time I walked across them after eagerly tearing them out of the box like a kid on Christmas morning, I could feel the increased circulation not only in my feet but half way up the insides of my shins, especially on the left where I’ve suffered from chronic plantar fasciitis for years (until starting Restorative Exercise™, of course!).
Also, they are a serious full-body balance workout. Between horseback riding, rock climbing and BOSU-ing regularly, I feel like I have pretty good balance and proprioception (the ability to tell where your body parts are relative to one another). But these things still kick my butt, especially if they’re more than about a foot and a half apart. The crazy thing is, if we had lived our entire lives walking in nature, we would have been negotiating less-than-stable terrain all the time and it wouldn't be a big deal. As it is, even though I make a point of seeking out different walking surfaces, they rarely come close to negotiating a boulder field, walking on wobbly, fallen logs, or heading down a dry, rocky river bed. After spending a week walking across these cute little pods, I’m definitely feeling muscles in my legs and core that have been underused.
Don’t worry, even if you don’t want to spend money on these pods, you can create your own living room balance course from stuff you already have around the house. As Katy Bowman describes in her most recent book, Whole Body Barefoot, you can make a “pillow train” from pillows, folded blankets, cushions, bolsters, and anything else that provides a little instability. This engages not only your foot and ankle muscles, but so many muscles in the rest of your body as well. Feel free to get creative about what you add to your walking obstacle course, and don’t forget, the floor is hot lava.