The first few are obvious, but #4 is not what you would expect!
In the past, many curlers were not concerned about being fit. Today, however, fitness conditioning has come to the forefront as recreational and competitive curlers alike strive to enhance their play and reduce the risk of common injuries. Curlers everywhere are discovering that curling-specific training can help them improve their power, flexibility and strength, translating to better performance on the ice.
Growing up playing on the Ontario Junior Curling Tour I was always lucky to play with other like-minded, fitness valuing teammates. We knew that playing multiple sports, and staying active through the off-ice season would help us to achieve our goals when we did step back on the ice together. As we began to compete in our later years as a junior, we stared thinking more about the importance of following a curling specific training plan as a team, but it was tough to find a personal trainer who not only understood the demands of curling, but who was affordable for youth who had to save their money for the on-ice season. It wasn’t until 2009 when John Morris and Dean Gemmell’s book Fit to Curl came out highlighting the importance of, and some suggestions on how to train for curling that my thoughts shifted, and I began to create my own team training plans.
Since my days as a junior I have completed a degree in Kinesiology, Education and have become a certified personal trainer. Years of experience have brought me to this moment, where I compile my Top 8 list of why YOU and your team will benefit from following a training plan, especially in the off-ice season.
So here’s my list of the Top 8 reasons Why you need to TRAIN for curling:
1. Advance your throwing technique:
You spend hours of practice working on your balance, flexibility, and timing, but did you know that a few hours in the gym can help to strengthen your bodies ability to hold itself up during the throw? Strength, mobility and muscular endurance are all improved when you commit to a strength and conditioning plan. Not only will you be able to play for longer without getting sore, but you gain greater muscle control; which transfers over into not only improving your throwing and sweeping techniques, but you become a more efficient and consistent athlete. Strength improves power generation, which is essential not only for takeouts and peels, but for lighter weight control. An increase in strength also improves your stability and balance when sliding. On the flip side, it’s tough to generate a lot of weight accurately, if you are also worried about your balance.
2. Improve sweeping force, power and form:
As a sweeper you need to be able to create the optimal balance of mass and speed of your brush head as you side lunge, slide or shuffle down the ice for between 8-24 seconds. Sweeping with the optimal form is a full body task. Your upper body needs to be strong enough to: a) hold yourself up, b) move your brush head forwards and backwards –fast and c) apply enough pressure downwards to allow yourself to sweep quickly. Your core is there to stabilize you, to transfer weight, and to provide torque for increased power. Your lower body needs to be strong, and it’s no secret that a front end player will lunge/walk/slide up to 3km in a single game. Have you ever played a game, or a few games and after 6 or 8 ends your arms are tired, your form is suffering, and your brush speed diminishes? A proper interval and aerobic training plan can expand your competition endurance and improve your muscles’ ability to do many bouts of intense exercise daily. Not only do long competition weekends become easier, but you will recover quicker between practices and games.
3. Prevent/rehabilitate injuries
An appropriate and individualized training plan can help identify and improve any existing muscle imbalances. It’s no secret that curling favours each leg in different ways, and sweeping only on one side can make one side of the body stronger than the other. Strengthening and stretching the muscles around areas susceptible to injury from overuse (i.e. knees and shoulders), and identifying inhibited neural pathways can help to heal, and prevent future injury.
4. Improve mental toughness skills
Sometimes the hardest part about following a training plan is getting off the couch and going to workout. Following a training plan improves your resiliency, and enhances your body and mind’s ability to work under pressure or when you might not feel like working hard at all. At such a high level of sport, your ability to be consistent in your training throughout the summer, makes it easier to keep your training habits through the winter –especially when the habit of getting on to the ice almost daily is a must. A lot can be taken from your workouts in terms of mental preparation. A squat session takes patience; you need proper technique, proper timing, proper breathing and a set cannot be rushed. This carries over on to the ice; where your success is dictated by your commitment to proper technique, timing, breathing, and patience. Following a regular exercise routine also reduces stress and can alleviate, and help you cope with competition anxiety. Your warm up for your training, serves as practice to prepare you for pre-game warm ups so that when September comes, you don’t have waste any games finding your groove.
5. Increase your self confidence and self efficacy
Self confidence “relates to self-assurance in one’s personal judgment, ability, and power”, and self efficacy is “the extent or strength of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals”. Committing and adhering to a training plan increases both forms of confidence and efficacy, especially that first time you step on the ice in September. It also comes in handy when you get into pressure situations; you won’t doubt your abilities because you know you’ve put lots of work in, you’ll just trust training. The first few competitions everyone is coming off of [insert other sport here ie. golf] season and may not have had much ice time. As an individual knowing you were dedicated daily to improving your fitness, stepping on the ice becomes less daunting. This is also when all the other points begin to show on the ice. Not all teams commit to regular training plans, so their game continues where they left off last season. But, you and your team step onto the ice stronger, fitter, with better balance and more confidence than a couple months ago –that, is motivation enough to get off the couch and get training.
6. Boosts energy levels and improves mood.
Regular exercise has been recognized to improve your mood, and your outlook on life. Knowing that you and your team have put hours of hard work in both on and off the ice will give you confidence during all games. Exercise releases endorphins (happy chemicals) into your body. So, when you feel down about not being able to go curling tonight, or you begin to miss your teammates and the amazing social atmosphere of the curling world, get moving and it will make the summer months go by quicker. 😉
7. Develop team cohesion
Many teams are comprised of players who live all across the province. When the ice is out it’s tough for teammates to do some daily bonding. Knowing all the players on your team are working hard off the ice and through the summer will improve your confidence, trust and respect you hold for each other. Having someone to work out with, or who is pushing themselves just as hard as you are can bring people together and provide motivation. A team that begins their off-ice season in May for example gains 4 or 5 months of bonding and training ahead of teams that begin their bonding in September and October.
8. Sharpen memory
Exercise is proven to enhance brain health and function. Committing to regular exercise provides ‘me’ time, and gives the brain a break from more cognitive tasks. All players on the team, not just the skip need to focus, pay attention and remember all aspects of the game. With a sharper memory it becomes easier to recall a rock will react down a certain path, how well your skip threw their draw to the button when they need to throw their next draw going into the 6th, how a team reacted to your strategy in a previous game, and how the rock responds as you sweep it down the ice. Every player has a role, and every one of them needs to be sharp
The best part about this article, is that it focuses on the importance of training for both recreational and competitive curlers, and the health benefits of committing to leading a healthy active lifestyle extend beyond this list of 8 reasons. Following a balanced and sport specific training plan (that includes aerobic, anaerobic, strength training and flexibility training) can provide an amazing foundation for any athlete and team as they head into their recreational or competitive season. An athlete receives physical, social, emotional and spiritual benefits from training throughout the off-ice season, allowing them to play hard all year long, efficiently and to the best of their abilities.
Work Hard, Play Hard, Hurry Hard
Ps. Feeling inspired and motivated? I offer personal training for curlers and non-curlers, as well as junior curling training plans and team weekends. Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org for a free introductory package, and while you’re at it check out Personal Training with Stephanie Thompson
Stephanie Thompson is a former student-athlete at Western University and is a certified Kinesiologist who plays on the WCT Women's tour. This article, Top 8 Reasons Why You & Your Team Need to TRAIN for Curling was originally published on on her blog, Empowered Performance, and is re-published here with permission.