Fitness Advice for Competitive & League Curlers 960 960 Stephanie Thompson
This is a 4 part series where I will discuss topics including warm up, cool downs, practice efficiency and maintaining strength during a busy competitive season. You can find the series on TSL Curling as well.

Part 1: Warm-Up Essentials for Every Curler

The following are some tips to help get everyone of all ages and abilities ready for a practice or a game A proper DYNAMIC WARM-UP can:
  • Increase the blood flow throughout your body to deliver oxygen and fuel to your working muscles and brain,
  • Mobilize, stabilize and activate joints,
  • Prepare your central nervous system to work optimally,
  • Mimic the movement patterns that will be used throughout your training bout or game,
  • Reduce your chances of injury by preparing the mind and body for activity,
  • Fire you up to kick butt.
Your warm up should NOT:
  • Be longer than half an hour. Just 5 – 15 minutes is all you need to feel energized.
  • Be inconsistent. Routines are an integral part of curling. They can help pick you up when you are fatigued, bring your mind to the present moment, and help to settle your nerves.
The bottom line: Get your heart rate up, prepare your joints, muscles and brain for action in a way that suits you, your body, and your position; create a routine and stick to it. Complete each exercise 6-10 times on each side
Step & Benefit Exercise Progression Regression
1 – Prepare for general movement, move blood throughout your body Jogging, jumping jacks, skipping on the spot Jog around the club, up and down stairs   March on the spot, walking jacks
2 – Add in bigger movements that utilize the major joints and muscles in your lower body Lunges, squats, hip circles   Lunge and press, squat to stand with overhead or twist, Cossack squat, hip openers Chair squats, standing hip circles, supported lunges, and cossacks,
3 – Focus on your hamstrings and calves Calf and hamstring stretch Berry picking, walking downward dog, inchworms Supported calf raises and stretch, berry picking stationary
4 – Mobilize your spine and shoulders Spinal twist, shoulder rotations Slow spine twists, quadruped rotation, I’sY’sT’s One arm I’sY’sT’s, standing rotations, chest hugs
5 – On ice – Cool down your slider and survey the rink Delivery position on backboard, sweep Progressive slides, Sweep up and down the ice. Sweep on the spot, slide with a broom in front of you for support.
Video found here Stephanie Thompson, HBa.Kin, B.Ed, CSEP-CPT, OCT, NCCP Check out my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more curling fitness tips #empoweredperformance  

Part 2: How to Keep your Strength Cup Full During a Busy Season

The off-ice season was an opportunity for you to improve aspects of your fitness including strength, power, and conditioning and to set yourself up for the demands of competition. Consider a glass filled with water; we will call this the strength cup. The goal is to fill your strength cup to the top with off-season training. As the season progresses your glass may begin to leak. These leaks in the glass are expected, and represent some of the strength you lose as your focus shifts from the gym to the ice. Goal number one during the in-season is to win games. Your secondary goals are to transfer fitness on to the ice, maintain mobility and stability, equalize any imbalances created from sweeping and throwing, and feel fresh and fit on game day. Time spent in the gym is focused on maintaining strength, filling your cup, and plugging the holes. One to three dedicated strength sessions per week in addition to time spent on the ice can be enough to maintain your strength cup. The in-season is unique in that you continue to improve your strength and conditioning through a combination of practices, competition and training. Some rules to guide you in the gym:
  • Perform high intensity workouts at a lower volume than in the off-season while maintaining high expectations for improvement.
  • Don’t progress exercises too quickly (~every 4-8 weeks). This decreases chance of pain from working muscles in a new way.
  • Alternate high and low intensity days to avoid the middle ground of always training moderately, and provide time for recovery.
Sample At-Home Maintenance Workout: (Rest 30-60 seconds between sets) Video found here Stephanie Thompson, HBA.Kin, B.Ed, CSEP-CPT, OCT, NCCP Check out my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter #empoweredperformance  

Part 3: Practice Tips that Build Fitness, Efficiency and Mental toughness

During the season your focus has shifted from the gym on to the ice, but this doesn’t mean that training falls to the wayside. Your focus on the ice during practice can include work on strategy, team dynamics, technique, and also performance specific fitness. During a busy competitive season, I like to maximize my time by getting my work out done on the ice during my practices. The in-season is all about efficiency! Here are my top 4 suggestions:
  1. Adding simple exercises such as squats, pushups and planks between shots can improve strength, and prepare you for maintaining technique, focus and decision making while fatigued.
  2. Make practices performance specific using sweeping and throwing drills that act as your cardiovascular endurance and/or interval workout, allowing you to put more time and energy into being on the ice.
  3. Incorporate strength circuits before, during or after a practice session.
  4. In one session you can complete a strength and conditioning workout, a curling practice and work on focus and distraction control. Fatigue can be a major distraction during a game; training while on the ice allows individuals and the team to determine how to maximize each of the players’ energies and strengths.
The following are 3 example training/practice drills: A –Sweeping and Throwing Endurance Drill:
  • Throw all 16 rocks
  • One athlete throws, two athletes sweep, and the fourth athlete is resting (can also be done with a 5th player completing squats, pushups and/or holding the plank while rock being thrown is in motion)
  • See how many draws you can get using sweeping into the house in 10 minutes. Rotate through your lineup.
  • After all 16 rocks have been thrown, count up points and compare to previous session:
  • 1/2 point for each rock in the house
  • 1 point –12 foot
  • 2 points –8 foot
  • 3 points –4 foot
  • 4 points –Button
B –Leg Strength and Weight Control Drill:
  • Pick a drill to complete as a team
  • Before each shot:
    • Skip calls shot while holding a plank
    • Once shot is called sweepers complete 5-10 pushups on backboards
    • Thrower completes 4 jump squats or 4 jump lunges (2 per side)
  • Rock is thrown and swept.
D –Solo or Team Sweeping Interval Drill
  • Complete 5-10 pushups (AMRAP clapping)
  • Sweep for 15 seconds hard on the spot, or up and down the ice
  • Repeat 5-10 times
Stephanie Thompson, HBA.Kin, B.Ed, CSEP-CPT, OCT, NCCP Check out my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter #empoweredperformance

Part 4:  The Ever Elusive, Mega Important, Yet Often Overlooked after Curling Cool-Down

Most athletes understand and implement a warm up prior to their game or practice, but many forget that what you do after you curl is just as important as what you accomplish before and during. Many curlers avoid stretching after time on the ice because it hasn’t been something they’ve ever done before, and they don’t understand the immediate and long-term benefits.  So, why should you bother to take 5-15 minutes following curling to focus on stretching and recovery? After sweeping, throwing, and utilizing your mind and body for up to 2.5 hours, your joints and muscles can become tired, inflamed and begin to break down as they adapt to the movement you have demanded from them. As your body attempts to start the healing process, it tightens in response and can cause soreness for up to 48 hours after the exercise. This doesn’t sound like something both elite and recreational curlers would find ideal; competition and exercise should improve your quality of life, not make the time you spend away from curling uncomfortable. Not to mention, if you have another training session, practice or game the next day you won’t be ready to work at 100%. The post exercise phase is the optimal time to maximizing muscle and tissue repair, strength building, and overall recovery. It is also the perfect time to improve flexibility because muscles are warm and pliable. Stretching within a half hour of vigorous exercise does not necessarily reduce the chance of injuries, but can markedly decrease the chance of soreness the following day. Stretching (along with other recovery routines; proper food, rest, and hydration) helps maintain circulation in key areas, and expedite the healing process. Additionally, including a stretching program following each time on the ice stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for resting and digesting), which is engineered to counteract the adrenaline-run sympathetic system that you use to maintain focus and high energy on the ice. Stretching brings your heart rate down, and calms your nervous system, which can improve sleep thus promoting faster recovery (you build strength etc. during the time between physical activity, not during). This is also a time for you as an individual to reflect on how well you performed, how your mind and body is feeling, and a time for you to begin to relax. The following stretching routine can be done in 5-10 minutes after a curling game. Hold each for 3-6 deep breaths, breathing into your belly with long inhales and even longer exhales. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds on each side. Stretch only so far as you feel the stretch in the belly of the muscles, not at their insertion at the joint/bone. This routine can take from 5-10 minutes and can all be performed at the table while socializing with the other team! Video found here. Lat half moon stretch –Grab left wrist with right hand, sitting tall reach arms up and to the right feeling a stretchalong the left side of the body. Keep ribs down and sternum lifted. Breath into the spaces between your ribs, your intercostals. Reach to the right, don’t crunch into the right obliques. Thoracic twist –Sit tall with feet flat on floor. Grab on to left arm rest with both hands, sit tall as you inhale, exhale as you pull belly button into spine, pull with your right hand on the armrest and gently turn your neck to the left feeling stretch in low back and along spine. Deltoid stretch –Clasp your hands behind your back, bringing your palms together and pinching your fingers. Keep hands at low back or higher as you sit tall and breath into chest feeling stretch in chest and front of shoulders. When you come out of this stretch if you were pinching your fingers together, letting them go allows fresh blood to rush into your joints. Chest stretch –Pinch your fingers behind your back this time keeping your palms apart. Sit tall, straighten your arms, and breath into your chest. This should be more of a stretch in your chest than the last. Glute stretch –Start with feet flat on floor hip width apart. Cross your right foot at the ankle over the left thigh above the knee, keeping the right foot flexed like you’re standing. Sit tall, keep your back flat as you press into your right inner thigh and lean forward to feel a stretch up the back of the right leg and into your glute. Hamstring stretch –Straighten your left leg toe points to the ceiling, keeping a flat back and hips square fold forward at the waist to feel a stretch down the back of the left leg. Option is to reach for your left toes as long as you can keep your back flat. Wrist and ankle rolls –Rotate your ankles and wrists to bring fresh blood into the joints Forearm stretch –Turn your left hand palm facing the ceiling, grab on to your left fingers with your right hand, straighten your left arm as you gently guide your left fingertips towards the floor using your left hand. Hip flexor stretch –Start in a lunge position using your chair if needed to keep the chest high. Stack your left ankle over your left knee, keeping hips square start tall and allow hips to travel forwards feeling a stretch in the front of the right leg Calf stretch –Stand up from the hip flexor stretch keeping chest high and hips square allow your right heel to come to the floor behind you feeling a stretch down the back of the right leg, through the calf and into the foot Stephanie Thompson, HBA.Kin, B.Ed, CSEP-CPT, OCT, NCCP

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Fitness Advice for Competitive & League Curlers