Jul 31, 2020
Gear Review: The FluidStance Level
An intuitive balance board for the office that helps you get fitter while you work.
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Most of us can boil our lives down to three distinct priorities – Family, Work, and Health. But why does it always seem like we can only choose two out of the three? Between my work projects at The Outdoor Journal and looking after my 5-month old baby, I’ve been struggling to find any time for my fitness. It feels like all of the free time of my former life as a non-parent has evaporated. Luckily, the FluidStance balance board helps me to balance my top priorities in life by helping me to stay fit and healthy while getting work done. (Check out our video unboxing and review below).
Taking a moment to count up all the outdoor sports boards I have in my house is a surprisingly difficult exercise – from my paddleboards, skimboards, and bodyboards for the ocean to my snowboard and longboard for the mountain and the street. I even store my Indo-board (a surf trainer) in my home-office to practice for these various sports when I’m stuck indoors. But even with this respectable quiver of fiber-glass friends (some of which I’ve had for over 10 years), I now use my Fluidstance so often that I refer to it as “my board.” FluidStance is like the older brother to the Indo-board who cut off his beach-blonde surfer hair and got a real job. I won’t be doing any pop shove-its or ollies but I will hop on it to stay more alert during a call.
My 2020 resolution was to get rid of my office chair, and I’ve stuck to it. Inspired by the Rewilding Movement, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to improve my mobility, including spending less time in chairs and more time on the floor. When I work at home, I lower my iMac to the coffee table and I sit on cushions. But despite changing my position from squatting to shinboxing, my knees and back do ache after a while, so I alternate with a standing desk. At my typical standing desk setup, my legs are stiff and rigid. Let’s see if the FluidStance balance board provides a healthy, fun, and worthwhile alternative.
What’s the first thing that any Oscar winner says when they are handed the award? “This thing is heavy!” That’s exactly what I say while unboxing the Fluidstance Level that I received via post (priced at $249). It’s not a stretch to say that if I put it up on my office wall, people could confuse it for an award, perhaps to commemorate the building of a skate park. It’s sleek and stylish, with a minimalist aesthetic. You can feel that lifetime guarantee quality.
When I take my first step onto the board, it feels like I’m stepping up to an arcade game at Dave & Buster’s. Am I skipping through over a hundred emails in my inbox, or am I shooting for the new high score at Time Crisis?
The first thing I notice is my core engage. I rotate through different foot placements. I start shoulder-width apart, then shift to a narrower stance. I rock from front rail to back rail and side to side. I stand with one foot as low as it can go and I articulate the Level’s range of motion with satisfaction. As I work through a progression of stances, without giving it much thought, my hands naturally brace on my laptop from time to time. I even rotate the board from it’s east-west orientation to north-south, without even the slightest worry of tipping over. I don’t ever need to look down. It’s all instinctive. If I slide it away from my desk, I can replicate some buttery snowboard moves like 360’s (while adding whoosh sounds with my mouth).
Then I slip my heel down the back rail and feel the stretch in my calf, it’s a revelation.
The muscle engagement I feel is like the difference I feel in my body in the minutes before I start a workout at the gym – which is usually fatigued, lethargic – versus how I feel once I’ve warmed up. Whether at the gym or in the office, once I’ve primed my kinetic awareness, I feel more alert.
Although my stabilizer muscles are engaged, balancing on the FluidStance doesn’t sap my concentration. It’s designed with the right amount of rock and balance to allow me to work on creative tasks while using it.
I ask my wife to step on for her first time, “I like this thing…it’s fun,” she says.
FITTER, HAPPIER, MORE PRODUCTIVE
I’m used to commuting to work with a board under my arm. Back when I lived in San Francisco, I used to hop off the MUNI two stops early so that I could bomb one particular hill before work (regardless of whether I had to wear a suit that day). But once I entered the office, the movement and the fun stopped there. FluidStance has changed my perception of working at the office, especially the home-office, to hopping on my board for a session.
“Fitter, happier, more productive,” the lyrics to Radiohead’s song from OK Computer echo in my head. Thom Yorke may have been listing off the mounting expectations of modern-day corporate life, but that was before the multi-tasking benefits of the FluidStance. I’m currently training for a new personal best on my SUP, an ocean crossing, and it’s exciting to know that I can improve my chances while I’m working.
On windy days when it’s too rough to take out my paddleboard, I’ll even wolf down a bowl of cereal on my Level while staring out at the horizon, pretending to be out on the water, and it’s like I’m there.
Yes, you can drink a coffee while you are on it, as hot as you like. In fact, I find myself rather peckish for snacks while using the FluidStance. It’s clear that my brain has realized that it can do more than one thing at a time.
THE CHALLENGE CAP
You’ll want to leave the Challenge Cap in the drawer on Monday if you’ve gone for a big hike over the weekend. This simple attachment (that comes standard with 2020 orders) ups the difficulty level about 20 percent, most noticeably in my calves. I wouldn’t clip it on for a deadlined project, but I would to surf the web or listen for quality control on one of The Outdoor Journal Podcast episodes.
Whether the FluidStance is right for you depends on how image-conscious you are. If you work anywhere on the West coast, the day you bring in your new Fluidstance will likely be just another Tuesday at the office. Perhaps a co-worker or two will come over to give it an earnest try.
If you work at State Farm in Ohio, your coworkers might share a giggly breakroom chat about your futuristic gadget, thinking “he’s weird, but he’s probably right,” It could make you look like the token Dwight Schrute of your office.
If I was the sales manager at a startup, I would save my employees from being the odd-man out by ordering a 2-pack or even a 5-pack of decks, a full Fleet.
With that in mind, I’ll probably save the board pushups and yoga balances for the home-office and even though I prefer to go barefoot for the extra sensory perception for my balance, I’ll probably reserve that for home use as well.
When I step off the FluidStance, it wobbles loudly unless I make a real effort to dismount gracefully. Since my office has industrial flooring, I could order one of their Base Mats, but at the $109 price tag, I’d rather look around for some spare plywood or repurpose a yoga mat. I wish FluidStance had something in the $30-40 price range instead. The bottom of mine is already showing some wear and tear, which takes away from its professional award-like finish.
BALANCE IS EVERYTHING
Designed and manufactured in California, the FluidStance is well constructed and thoughtfully built for both function and aesthetics. It’s an office-aid balance board that I’m happy to display in my home or office. In addition to its sleek design, it’s functional and safe – you can use it even if you’ve never surfed or skateboarded a day in your life (although I highly recommend flat-bottom shoes). You can daydream about paddling out on the ocean while you are standing in place and seriously getting work done, yet your body is far from static, it’s moving instinctively. It’s a balance board to help you balance your life. Here’s to being fitter, happier, and more productive.
Visit FluidStance.com to learn more.
The Outdoor Journal received this product free of charge for the purposes of this honest, unbiased review.