Sweeping “Off-Ice”; How to make and use your own dryland sweeping pad

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So you’re doing all the right things and have invested some time, energy and resources into training for this upcoming season. You’ve been running, doing some yoga or stretching, lifting weights and focusing on interval training.

Congrats!

But, have you considered making your physical training even more curling specific?

Apart from washing your own floors or painting your driveway, have you done much in the way of sweeping?

…“But Steph, I don’t have access to ice in the winter”

…”I don’t know what to use to practice dryland sweeping”

…”I haven’t been able to find anything to use”

….”blah blah blah”.

Excuses aside I know it’s hot, and that the summer months are spent catching up with friends and family you don’t get to see as often during the curling season. I understand I experience it also. But, in order to really maximize the 4-6 months off the ice you need to put in a little effort and creativity.

My go-to sweeping station uses a hockey slideboard and the little vinyl booties. Now, those can be quite expensive. I’ve also found Sportchek sells plastic ice, and you can order these dryland flooring tiles & booties online.

But, if you’re like me and like to keep costs low, go hunting at places like Dollarama, Walmart or Ikea and get creative.

Enter the Dryland Sweeping Pad –DIY style (example)

The key is to get off your butt, and put in some effort. Do the work to get better instead of just telling me you want to be the best sweeper in Ontario.

You need 5 things to make and use a successful sweeping pad:

  • A slippery surface:
    • Examples I’ve found include: placemats, plastic picture frames, whiteboards, tin cooking sheets, a square of linoleum flooring, etc.
      • Separate recommendation: glue to a piece of plywood to make it a little more sturdy
    • Something to go on your broomhead:
      • Examples include: fluffy socks, a vinyl bag, microfiber towel
        • tie it to your broom with a string, use youtube to learn how to sew, or wrap it with duct tape.
    • And (optional) something to make the surface more slippery:
      • Furniture polish, turtle wax (car wax) or soap and water.
    • Sprinkle in a little work ethic
    • And a lot of grit

and VOILA!

You can now focus on:

  • Technique and optional positioning with your feet on stable ground;
    • build trust in those muscles you’ve been strengthening in the gym
    • work on the exercise of sweeping as a skill in a safe environment, and build body awareness.
      • From my own experience and the experience of those I’ve been lucky train we each have noticed a direct translation between regular dryland training in the off-season and improved sweeping on ice.
        • You get the opportunity to increase your confidence in the optimal sweeping position, and you add extra opportunities to train specifically for the act of sweeping.
  • Strengthening your push and pull.
    • Do you know what part of your sweeping technique you need to work on? If it’s your push or your pull you can do some of the below drills to train appropriately.
  • Optimising the brushhead speed and amount of surface area you sweep.
    • If you’ve ever seen a video of yourself sweep, or had the pleasure to use one of those sweeping technique brooms you might have learned about your efficiency as a sweeper. Finding the equal balance between pressure and speed to create the most force into the ice, in an optimal space is ideal. You can run your own drills at home (again, see below)

Prescription:

  • Minimum twice a week; one session to focus on technique, and one session to focus on interval training and priming the muscles for end-end sweeping. This can take 5-15 minutes! That’s it!

Variations:

  • Tabata: 4 minutes total…8 rounds of: 20 sec work with 10 sec rest
  • End-end practice: 24 seconds sweeping hard (pace yourself!)  with 45 seconds rest 5-10 rounds.
  • Combine sweeping and box steps or lunging intervals
  • Combine sweeping and footwork trainer/skateboard intervals (example)
  • Attach your broom head to a band and a sturdy pole to accentuate the push or the pull motion separately (example)
  • Try sweeping from your knees for an added challenge
  • Using a separate slide board you can have one foot on stable ground, and one 1 leg practicing footwork on a slider board.
  • Trying videoing your sweeping sessions to focus on technique:
    • Things to look for are mentioned in the below article
      • Broom angle
      • Sweeping space
      • Broomhead speed
      • Centre of gravity in relation to hips and feet

For additional information and ideas check out the Ontario Curling Council website. I also post Curling related videos and photos on my Facebook and Instagram pages (Twitter is good too).

Link to research on optimal brushing technique found here

Link to Dryland Training for Brushing Footwork article found here (A skateboard on the side of a curb works for those without the handy-gene)

Link to Curling Fitness Tip –My 4 Favourite Exercises for Powerful Sweeping article found here

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“Fitness Advice for both Competitive & League Curlers”

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

Check out my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter #empoweredperformance

 

WORK HARD HURRY HARD PLAY HARD

 

 

 

 

Closet Meditator

 

In
Out
Up
Down
Rise
Fall
I have officially completed 365 days of mindful meditation. Previously I was an emergency meditator; only practicing when I felt I really needed it. A loss at the end of last year, a few complicated situations, and being sidelined with a back injury forced me to take a step back and make “not doing” a priority.  I set an intention January 1st 2015 to #meditateeverydamnday and today I’m coming out of the meditation closet. I am a dedicated meditator. It’s given me so much, and I want to express my gratitude by listing what I’ve gained from this experience, and why taking time for me has become a priority.
Side note: This post was written in one day, after a particularly powerful meditation session (Happy New Year!). My mind cultivated the following “word vomit”, so enjoy my babble!
I am grateful for words, and I intend to inspire others to take a moment for themselves, if anything I say might spark curiosity for them.
————————————————-
I like to do things my own way. Instead of the typical idea of meditation; Sitting on a pillow in lotus (cross legged), incense burning, lights out, no noise allowed; I created my own way to practice. Out of the 365+ daily meditations, about a dozen were done in the hot tub; some lying down; some moving (running…); some during savasana after yoga; some while driving (breath…breath…relax shoulders…); some while pretending to nap or taking a walk, but actually going to a quiet place in the forest; some Hamsa; some Nadi Shodhana; some Tara Brach; some just sitting, being, noticing, and breathing.
All a moment for me.
All creating space.
All welcoming silence.
All dedicated to a moment, a person, or an event.
All given an intention.
All beginning with gratitude; for breath and for love.
I averaged at least 10 minutes of mindfulness each day. 365 days x 10 minutes a day = 3650 minutes. This means I gave myself over 60 hours of “me” time, that I might not have otherwise provided myself!
Over the approximate 60 hours, I gained so much.
I learned the importance of, and how (this has always been a tough one for me) to be silent. I learned how healing letting others talk can be, and how powerful it is to to let go and accept each moment, along with each thought and feeling.
We feel for a reason.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking and feeling more than I “should” while I meditate.
But these thoughts and feelings arise, and you can’t stop them.
With acceptance I could feel what was important to me or bugging me. Sometimes these were thoughts and feelings I didn’t realize I was harbouring in the back of my mind. There is a lot of relief available when you attend to your thoughts and feelings. And you know what? It felt better to accept each moment for the way it was, than to be angry at how much I was thinking and feeling.
I also use meditation to forgive. To forgive myself for certain things, and to forgive others.
In this forgiveness I have learned to act, not react.
Most importantly, and surprisingly I’ve noticed this mindful responding has helped others in my life. They don’t meditate, but my 10 minutes a day of mindfulness, has trickled over into improving the lives of those I cherish the most. I have noticed that the energy you create affects those around you, and when you are in the habit of being attuned to, accepting, and altering your own energy, you help others out as well.
I learned that it’s never about me. That whole “put yourself in the other persons shoes” never made full sense until I learned how to be silent, to listen and then to respond. I have learned how to reflect, and how to analyze moments, and how to give unbiased advice to others when they seek it.
I am by no means perfect, but I am so amazed at how much I love to sit, stand, lie, and move while being mindful; to breath, and to vibrate with the earth.
There are thousands of health benefits associated with meditating daily (or sporadicly ), but I am most thankful, grateful, and inspired by the meditations I experienced in the past 365 days. My meditation had its own influence on each part of my life; from the gym, my business, my family and friends, and my competitive life.
This year I intend to continue this practice of taking 10 minutes a day for me. Cheers to 2016! As I finish this post, it feels good to get some of these thoughts on to “paper” and out of my mind. I dedicated this mornings meditation to those that let me me sit in the corner, on a pillow, with my headphones in, breathing….
In
Out
Up
Down
Rise
Fall
~Namaste
————————————————–
Stephanie Thompson -Strength & Wellness Coach
-Work Hard, Hurry Hard, Play Hard-

“Am I Doing my Pre-Game Warm-up Right?” -A Guide for Curlers

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.

The basic steps to perform a warm-up: *Note: click the words to find a link to a youtube description. More Dynamic Exercises found here and here.

  • 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:
  • 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!

Resources/Citations:

Work Hard Hurry Hard Play Hard

Stephanie Thompson –CPT

Email: stephthompson.cpt@gmail.com

Facebook: Personal Training with Stephanie Thompson

Pinterest: Personal Training with Stephanie Thompson

Youtube: Stephanie Thompson

See also: Top 8 Reasons Why You and Your Team Need to Train for Curling and Curling Fitness Tip: My Top 4 Favourite Exercises for Powerful Sweeping

Curling Fitness Tip: My 4 Favourite Exercises for Powerful Sweeping

Ever wonder how hardcore competitive curlers train for their sport? Have you thought, “If I tried to sweep like that, I’d face plant!?” Or, “I could never be as strong as them”? You are not alone with these thoughts, but sweeping with strength shouldn’t belong to the elite or youth. A balanced training plan that includes some strength training, cardiovascular training and flexibility training can help improve your overall fitness, and have a positive affect on your curling game (see Top 8 reasons why you and your team need to train for curling). Below I’ve listed my 4 favourite exercises to train for “hardcore sweeping”–and yes! They are simple, accessible, and the variations are for everyone.

Before I get into my favourites, let’s talk about the facts and theories behind why I chose each exercise because of what sweeping does to the ice, and how that affects the rock. Many curlers and researchers have studied how to be the most effective sweeper. There are many ideas out there, but my favourite theory is one that applies Newtons second law; the relationship between an objects mass, acceleration and applied force is:

Force = Mass x Acceleration

In terms of sweeping, this translates into:

Mass (what percentage of your weight you can exert over the brush head)

X  Acceleration (How fast you can sweep back and forth)

 = Force (how much pressure you can exert into the ice over a period of time)

Try this experiment: First, rub your hands together as fast as you possibly can for 10 seconds. Next, try to press your hands together as hard as you can and rub them back and forth for 10 seconds. Which exercise created more “heat” and made your hands warmer? The answer should be that the faster you rubbed your hands together, the warmer they got. The goal of efficient sweeping is to find the sweet spot between maximum speed and pressure onto the ice.

In theory, if you can exert more force onto the ice as you sweep, you will “heat the ice” enough for the rock to “slide further and straighter”. (Yes, I realize there are many theories and scientific discoveries, but I think this one is the simplest explanation/idea, and works for the article).

Now remember, there are two parts to the sweeping action:

The push, and the pull.

Your push is usually quicker, and applies more force downwards onto the ice, whereas your pull is a little slower (if you are trying to lean into your broom), because sometimes you may have to ease off the pressure in order to help pull the broom back fast enough.

The following exercises are designed to train the muscles and the energy systems to maximize your push (and especially) your pull, while helping support your upper body in getting into the proper sweeping position.

*Note: Click on the word of each exercise to find a description video.

1.  Mountain Climbers 

Why: The secret to powerful sweeping lies in your core, and its ability to maintain stability during movement. If your core isn’t strong enough to hold you up as you slide or shuffle down the ice, you won’t be able to get into and hold the proper sweeping position. Mountain climbers combine the plank exercise (honourable mention), while forcing your body to remain stable as your limbs move. Add in a pushup (another honourable mention) or two once and awhile and you’ve got an exercise that mimics sweeping!

Muscles worked: Deltoids, triceps, pectorals, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, transverse abdominals, rectus abdominus, adductors, gluteals, quadriceps and hip flexors.

How:

  • Begin in a pushup plank position, keeping your core tight, glutes tight, legs tight, and your chin tucked.
  • You should be able to rest a glass of water on your back without spilling throughout the exercise.
  • Slowly and one at a time bring your knees to your chest and return that foot to its starting plank position.
  • Keep your body tight, go slow, and resist any rocking movements at the hips.

2. Bent Over Rows 

Why: Think back to the last time you had to sweep, you’ll remember that it’s easier to put pressure downwards because your body helps slide the broom away. Once you try to pull the broom back towards you, you might have to take pressure off of the broomhead, and transfer it to your feet (thus decreasing the amount of force you can exert –and ultimately how effective of a sweeper you are). Now, imagine if you could strengthen the muscles that help pull your arms backwards, and as a result you can maintain almost the same amount of pressure on the broomhead throughout both the push and the pull. With the bent over rowing exercise, you are strengthening and making your “pull” action more powerful. Not only is the push and the pull stronger, but your broomhead speed will increase –in exchange increasing the your force you create! Bonus: it also strengthens your core muscles and mimics the position you sweep in.

Muscles worked: Rear deltoid, latissumus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, erector spinae, bicep brachi.

How:

  • Set up on a bench in a tabletop position with the left knee, foot and hand stabilizing on the bench. Your right leg is straight with the foot stabilizing on the floor. Your back should be horizontal with the bench, and the angle at your left shoulder, hips and knee should be 90 degrees. Keep your chin tucked and your back and core strong and stable.
  • Hold the dumbbell in the right hand with your palm facing inwards. Lift the dumbbell up to the right side of your chest, keeping your elbow “tight”, and return to your starting point.
  • Do not allow your torso to rock during the exercise, and avoid dropping the dumbbell lower than your starting position. Repeat for reps on each side.
  • Other variations and progression can include bent over 2-dumbbell row, cable row, compound row, and bent over barbell row.

3. Lunges 

Why: Sweeping is typically thought of as primarily an upper body and core exercise, but your lower body also needs to gain strength if you want to “get low”, and maintain strong throughout long games and competitions. A lunge in its many variations is a perfect single leg exercise. Not only does it strengthen the bent leg, but also it actively stretches and lengthens the rear leg. For many, getting their weight off of their feet and over the brush head might be impossible, so keeping these muscles strong will also help prevent overuse injuries in the lower body. Bonus: This exercise strengthens and helps fine-tune the lower body weight control muscles thus improving your throwing technique.

Muscles worked: Hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings), hip flexors (quadriceps), transverse abdominus.

How:

Progression:

  • Stationary lunge –Begin with your core tight, chest open (avoid rounding your shoulders) and stand with your feet hip distance apart. Step forward with one leg keeping feet hip distance apart. Avoid the front foot from pointing inwards, and keep your knee tracking towards but not over the middle or baby toe. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and step forward with your back foot to return to your starting position. Repeat on each side for reps.
  • Walking lunge –Using the same starting position and form as the stationary lunge, only pause at the bottom for 1 or 2 seconds before walking forwards and switching the lead foot. Repeat for reps.
  • Side lunges – Begin with the same setup. This time step sideways to the right into a wide squat position, lunge to the right sinking your butt backwards, keeping chest high and core tight, weight in your right heel, and keep your right knee over your right foot and ankle. Return to starting position driving through the right foot, and repeat on left side. Repeat on each side for reps.

4. Interval Training 

Why: Front end players can expect to sweep 6 rocks an end, and nearly 48-60 rocks a game. On quick ice if you have to sweep from start to finish, you will be putting in work for almost 24 seconds, with only about a minute rest before your team throws their next rock. What you don’t want as a sweeper, is to still be recovering from your last sweeping bout during your teams next throw. Anaerobic interval training involves bouts of hard exercise, followed by active rest periods, and repeated a certain number of times. This type of workout trains your heart and lungs to become more efficient at pumping blood and oxygen throughout your body, removing waste products from tired muscles, and promotes quicker recovery times between shots, games, and competitions. Long distance aerobic training helps to train your cardiovascular system, but you need to work anaerobically once a week to prepare your body for rigorous games.

Muscles worked: Various, full body.

Example:

Step 1: Choose one of: running, skipping, biking, rowing machine, pushups, swimming, etc.

Step 2: (Work : Rest ratio is 1:2) After a good warm up, exercise hard for 20-60 seconds (your choice), active rest for 40-90 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.

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It may not be one of your goals to sweep like Kennedy or Courtney, but if nothing else these exercises alongside a balanced training plan will help you get stronger, and help prevent injuries come the beginning of the season. If you can add a foot or two to how far you can drag a rock, that’s a foot or two closer to becoming club champion!

“Work Hard, Hurry Hard, Play Hard”

Stephanie Thompson, CPT, HBA Kin, B.Ed

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In case you missed the youtube links:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist…

Additional Reading:

Interested in learning more about a proper dynamic warm-up? Check out my article: “Am I doing my Pre-Game Warm-up Right?” -A Guide for Curlers

Check out this wonderful article from the Golden Hawks High Performance Centre. The article touches on some key points for proper sweeping form, the theories supporting them and some of the research that is being done through Western University on the mechanics of brushing.

Enjoy this article from Scott Arnold and curling.ca about their results from a study one in 2010.

Check out my original article Top 8 reasons why you and your team need to train for curling.

Top 8 Reasons Why You & Your Team Need to TRAIN for Curling. 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

Final Thoughts

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

Stephanie

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: stephthompson.cpt@gmail.com for a free introductory package, and while you’re at it check out Personal Training with Stephanie Thompson