The next time you are at the curling club about to play a game, look around, and you will see that each competitor has their own routine (whether they know it or not) that they follow to prepare themselves before action. You are going to witness a range of people from those who show up just in time, to those found swinging their legs and arms, lunging, or even throwing a ball between players (you know, for hand eye coordination).
The common denominator between these people is that before a game everyone knows you need to do something, but what exactly can you do that is within your control to help improve your performance and prevent injuries? The answer may lie within a properly executed warm-up.
The warm-up sets the tone for every game, practice or training session, and does not discriminate based on age, skill or fitness level. This article will explore the Who, What, When, Where How and Why of a proper, individualized and efficient dynamic warm-up for individuals and teams.
Common Questions & Answers
Who can benefit from them? – Everyone; from the elite to the recreational.
What is a dynamic warm-up? – Movements performed actively (not held).
When should I perform one? – Before every game, practice or training session.
Where should I warm up? – Wherever suits you and is available.
How long should it last? – Typically from 5-15 minutes.
Why is it so important? – Continue reading to find out…
Let me start by providing you with the “Elastic Band Analogy”.
- Take two elastic bands and put them in the freezer for about a half an hour.
- Take out one of the elastic bands, and immediately try to stretch it and move it. You will find that it is hard to move the elastic band without breaking it.
- Then take the second elastic band and slowly move it between your fingers, stretching it slowly and gradually removing the ice from it. Eventually the second elastic band will be warm enough to move in any way you would like.
- Both bands represent your muscles, tendons, joints and central nervous system before a game.
- Every time you take the band out of the freezer and immediately start stretching it (read: hop on the ice and start playing without warming up) you put yourself at risk of injury, and you are beginning the game with a mind that has not yet been prepared for action.
When you prepare yourself slowly before a game you can help prevent injury, and allow yourself to get the most out of your body within the first few ends. But, what is the “proper” way to warm-up before a bout of physical activity? Some athletes may feel tightness before a game, and combat this by stretching the affected area. Unfortunately, there is a difference between stretching, and warming up.
- Stretching involves static, held movements, that create no elevation in heart rate, and is (muscle) tissue focused.
- Warming up involves dynamic, active movements, which gradually increase your heart rate, and are primarily joint focused.
- Dynamic exercises belong primarily before action, and static exercises are most effective post-action.
So How do we properly execute a dynamic warm up? Your warm up should be:
- Athlete specific, since every body is different.
- Movement specific, since each athlete may perform different movements and use different techniques throughout a game.
- Progressive, beginning with general movement preparation, and gradually moving towards more specific movements and activities.
- Step 1: Begin with exercises that will prepare you for general movement, and get your heart and lungs working to move blood throughout your whole body and to your muscles and brain.
- Step 2: Add in some bigger movements that utilize the big joints at your hips and prepare your hip flexors (quads etc.) and hip extensors (hamstrings and glutes etc.) for movement.
- Step 3: Move your focus to your hamstrings and calves.
- Step 4: Warm up your spine and rotator cuffs (shoulder joints).
- Step 5: On-ice:
- Cool down your slider and survey the rink.
- Are you ready for action? Take the necessary steps to prepare yourself fully before the game starts
- Perform a few sport specific actions:
- Progressive slides: slide slowly with control to the back line, then the T-line, top of the house, hog line and then as far as you can
- Sweep on the spot, or up and down the ice.
Your warm up can also include (within the above steps, or separately):
- Foam rolling:
- Commonly known as self myofascial release, or other forms of pain management and prevention
- Time alone:
- To assess how you are feeling both physically, emotionally and mentally.
- Now is the time to address those feelings of doubt, fear, or excitement.
- What are your goals for this game?
- What will you keep your focus on?
- Is there anything distracting you that you must become aware of, so you can take control of letting it go?
- Time with your team:
- How is the team feeling as individuals and as a group?
- What are our goals for the game?
- Does anyone need help with eliminating and ignoring distractions?
- Time that focuses your attention on the game, or task at hand:
- What do we need to know or focus on about the ice?
- What do we need to know or focus on about the team we will play?
- What processes will the team focus on?
- Music specific to you that stimulates the proper mindset for the game:
- Music has the power to affect your mental state. Find a song or type of music that gets you prepared and pumped for the game.
- Mental preparation:
- Activities such as visualization and imagery, repeating mantras, and focusing on positive self-talk all have a profound effect on curbing nerves and narrowing your focus towards the task at hand.
Your warm up should NOT:
- Be longer than half an hour. Preparation for a game or practice can start the moment you wake up, but the physical dynamic portion of your warm up should last from 5 minutes – 15 minutes. Any longer and you begin to tap in to your energy stores for the game. You should feel energized, not tired after a warm-up.
- Be inconsistent. Routines are an integral part of curling and high performance activity. Routines can help pick you up when you are feeling fatigued, bring your mind to the present moment, and help to settle your nerves when you encounter uncontrollable, or new situations.
A proper dynamic warm-up can:
- Increase your core body temperature, which means blood is flowing throughout your body and delivering oxygen and fuel to your working muscles and brain
- Mobilize certain joints
- Stabilize certain joints
- Prepare your central nervous system to work optimally
- Mimic the movement patterns that will be used throughout your training bout or game.
- Address any imbalances in your body
- Reduce your chances of injury by preparing the mind and body for activity
- Fire you up to kick ass
The bottom line: Get your heart rate up, prepare you joints, muscles and brain for action in a way that suits you, your body, and your position; create a routine and stick to it.
“Practice like you play”
Consistency in curling is essential for mastering techniques, skills and providing a comfortable routine that helps you overcome the unexpected, new or uncontrollable situations. It may be beneficial to do a similar warm-up before your practices and training sessions, to best prepare you for your competitions. Just like before each throw you complete the same pre-shot routine, you should also prepare for your practices in a similar way as before a game. This means mimicking the conditions present pre-game before your practices. The habits you ingrain before a practice, and the energy you learn to create transcends to your competition. What you can gain from a consistent and proper warm-up extends further than just physical –you are also prepared mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The 15 minutes prior to a practice or a league game should be spent in the same manner as before the Olympic Gold Medal match. Don’t forget this important key to unlocking your potential, before your workouts, practices, and games!
- Various courses, conversations and experiences while attending Western University.
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Stephanie Thompson –CPT
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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, Am I Doing my Pre-Game Warmup Right? A Guide for Curlers was originally published on on her blog, Empowered Performance, and is re-published here with permission.