Mistake #1: I trained for the sake of training, without a plan and without a focus.
Solution #1: Reverse engineer your goals & plan out your off-season training
Why? Specific goals require focused training. Make sure that the effort you are putting in is doing what you want. Reverse engineer your goals, and set a plan that will help get you from point A to point B as efficiently as possible.
Beware of general online programs, and be smart with the trainers you are working with. Curlers do not need to become body builders, powerlifters, cross fitters, marathon runners or twisty yogi’s. Curling has specific demands that require specific training to get the most out of your time.
I’ve been caught up in each of the below, and I describe how they helped, but didn’t fully fix the problem I was looking to solve…
- I started in the gym training like a body builder. Body building training is typically muscle specific, and more about what the body looks like, instead of how it performs. It is valid to train areas like the legs, back, biceps, chest, shoulders, and triceps in isolation. But, when we only work on the muscles, we miss out on training the movements. Curlers need to be able to hinge, squat, lunge, push, pull, and resist movement. Body building is fine, but shouldn’t be the only thing you focus on if you have specific curling goals.
- I was cardio bunny for years, and unless cardiovascular endurance is your only goal, you miss out on so many key pieces of training. Hours of “cardio” gets you good at … hours of cardio. What are your goals? Create a balanced plan that includes cardio but isn’t your main focus (unless, that is your only goal). Regardless, curling is a unilateral sport that causes imbalances in mobility and stability at certain joints. Unless we take the time to work on those imbalances, our summer running program (if that’s all you do) could cause knee or back problems and that isn’t going to help your performance, is it?
- I felt tight all the time, so I took up yoga. I was looking for flexibility, but lack of flexibility wasn’t really my problem. My body was tight and injured because I lacked strength in certain areas. I was on the right track, I love yoga and stretch as a form of recovery, but if you wish to touch your toes or contort your body in a certain yoga position thinking it will help your curling, your efforts may be misguided. I was also drawn to the spiritual aspect of yoga, and included it for the relaxation, mindfulness and meditation. This was the first avenue I really learned how to relax and recover… so again, yoga can have a role in your training, just make sure it’s included for the right reasons.
- What are your performance gaps? What metrics of fitness and health should you focus on? Set some goals & create a plan that helps your body achieve those goals
- If you struggle with balance, check in on your mobility and stability
- If you struggle to sweep in an optimal position, what ares of strength & control are you missing?
- If you struggle to maintain the same intensity from game 1 to the finals, reassess your muscular endurance and cardiovascular stamina
- If you have an injury that is holding you back from being able to train, practice or play as often or as well as you’d like, take the time to get checked out by a regulated health and exercise professional.
Special note: At the very least, training and physical activity in any form is better than nothing. Do that Zumba class or play soccer in the summer if it’s the only way you’ll consistently workout. But, take advantage of warm-ups and any spare time to work on the little stabilizer muscles.
Mistake #2: I was always managing some form of an injury.
Solution #2: Prioritize rest, recovery & proper rehab
Why? We don’t get stronger and fitter during the training, it happens as the body adapts to the stress we put it under. If we’re always gunning at 100, we never get a chance to fully recover, adapt and be ready to give an upgraded 100%.
A couple things I wish I learned earlier:
** actually, these are things I wish I embraced earlier instead of learning from experience ... haha
- Don’t let whispers become screams. If you have a niggling pain, your body might be telling you something. That something could be anything from:
- I need more rest,
- I need you to strengthen or mobilize a certain area
- I need you to adjust your training so that I am progressively overloading properly
- & avoid only treating the pain instead of working on fixing the problem
- After my hamstring tears I could be found foam rolling for an hour every day before bed. I thought what I needed was to release the muscles so that they could heal. In a sense, yes there is some truth and validity for how foam rolling can make the body feel –it feels good to stretch and foam roll, but it isn’t fixing the problem. The problem for most is an imbalance in stability and/or mobility up and down the chain. With all my foam rolling I was telling the nervous system to relax, but unless I gave it the stability and strength the joints were looking for, I was going to be tight again the next day. Oftentimes, tightness arises because we lack strength in an area. If we don’t work to improve the strength, the body responds by causing tightness. Can you see now that foam rolling again was actually prolonging the problem in my case? When I switched to a focused rehab and resistance training program (coupled with some muscle release from the guidance of my Registered Massage Therapist) I was able to finally be free of performance affecting tightness. The same goes for stretching and too much yoga. Unless that flexibility and mobility training comes from a place of strength, you’re spinning your wheels.
- I used to tape my hamstrings, knee, ankle and wrist. I have worn a wrist, knee and ankle brace for stability as well. Now, oftentimes if a brace makes things feel better … adding strength in the area can eventually replace the brace as the brace creates stability, similar to how muscles can and do. This is where a proper rehab program comes in. What a good practitioner will do is not only help you heal the injured or overused area, but help figure out how you need to prepare for your sport so that it feels strong and stable not tight and stiff.
- Take scheduled breaks before & during the off-season
- Dial in your nutrition so that it fuels your performance
- Create a nighttime routine so that your sleep is both quality and enough.
- If you have an injury, take the time to recover so you can put your all in to your training and on-ice performance. Fix the problems, not just the pain.
Have you made any of these mistakes?
It has been my dream to provide the info and understanding I wish I had growing up to you today. Proper planning, focus and rest are imperative to improving your health as a human, and your performance as an athlete.
When curlers train to gain strength & fitness, and eliminate pain & injury they can practice & pay more … which ultimately improves performance, longevity and enjoyment of the game.
If you’re ready to focus on your performance instead of worrying about if you’re going to crank your in-turn on that crucial double peel, and gain confidence in your throwing ability, click here so we can set up a FREE 10 minute call to see IF and HOW I might be able to help you crush it on the ice.
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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, Don’t Make These 2 Off-Season Mistakes Ever Again was originally published on on her blog, Empowered Performance, and is re-published here with permission.