Jim Klopman cannot stress enough the importance of balance. Because he is an avid skier and long-time sports enthusiast, Klopman developed an entire balance training system as a way to stay sharp on and off the mountain.
Klopman is the developer of SlackBow, a specialized piece of gym equipment built specifically for balance training, and uses it in his Park City-based gym, SlackBow Balance Center.
"This is a balance-training gym where we train athletes to improve their balance through aggressive challenges," Klopman said. "SlackBow is the main piece of equipment we do that with."
The tightrope-like SlackBow machine stretches a woven belt across several feet. When standing on the belt, the typical cues for balance are gone. From that point, Klopman starts to insert his specially developed exercises, throwing weights or pushing to test and push a person's ability to center him/herself.
"This is all about engaging the body," he said.
"You live in this world where there are flat surfaces and vertical walls, and that makes you overly dependent on your eyes," Klopman added. "You also are constantly narrowing your focus, looking at tiny screens all day. Really, we're meant to live in a world like the hillsides around us, rough surfaces and a broad vision."
At the gym, athletes of all ages use the space to focus on their balancing skills. Klopman already works with both the Park City and Summit ski teams and is hoping to attract more people to the gym. The workout, while challenging, involves entirely different muscles than a standard workout, Klopman said, mainly fast-twitch muscles.
"We are discovering things about balance that have never been in any scientific journal," he said. " This is a gamble, starting the business, but one day I can see this equipment in gyms. Balance is an important component of being an athlete, no matter the sport.
The workout has even benefited students with dyslexia, he said. One client at the gym, a student in the area, uses the SlackBow Balance Center several times a week before going to school. Balance is considered a common issue accompanying dyslexia, and Klopman believes his system will help alleviate certain symptoms.
Sports and outdoor recreation enthusiasts in their 40s or older are potentially the biggest audience for the new business. As Klopman found himself slowing down on the mountain, he started developing his own at-home exercises, which eventually spilled over into SlackBow Balance Center.
"Talk to any skier as they get older, and they will tell you they slow down but they don't know why," Klopman said. "I don't know why, but I feel less comfortable. Less comfortable means their balance is communicating to them to slow down. We train older athletes and suddenly they are skiing faster, improving on the mountain."
Even emergency room trips reflect his idea of balance and the significant role it plays in day-to-day life.
"Of those over the age of 45 who go to the emergency room, there is roughly a 50 percent chance they are there because of a fall," he added.
SlackBow Balance Center
1105 Iron Horse Dr. Unit B