Curling into Shape

Weathering the winter cold can take a lot out of you before you even make it to the gym. Others have made up their minds to just hibernate for the next few months until it starts to warm up—if it ever does.

Or you could take it the other direction, embrace Old Man Winter on your own terms, and consider an increasingly popular indoor sport—curling.

What kind of workout are you getting?
Curling can be a full-body workout. There are two main actions throughout gameplay: delivery and sweeping.

This action is used to curl a stone (a 38- to 44-pound granite rock) down the ice. Delivery resembles sliding in the fully extended position of a lunge. The goal is to maintain balance on one foot as you slide forward carrying the stone.

An effective sweeping method requires a lot of effort and stability. The curlers on the other end of the ice keep up with the stone as it travels using brooms to extend or alter its path. Curlers put most of their body weight into their sweeping motion to reduce the amount of friction on the stone.

Improving Your Delivery
Stretching is key before getting into the game. The hips and leg muscles are doing the most work during delivery so it’s best to practice this motion with a variety of lunges.

Warrior II in yoga, split squats and basic lunges most closely resemble the delivery motion. Each requires lowering the body into a lunge and keeping the abs engaged. Make sure to keep your heel raised and your knee off the ground in all cases to avoid injury.

Improving Your Sweep
Sweeping may be the most underappreciated action of the game. It would appear that the curler who delivers is doing most of the work, but the sweepers hustle to cover that person’s behind.

Upper-body strength is key.

Just like when you break a sweat sweeping or mopping the floor at home, you’re using your pectoral muscles, triceps, biceps and back to sweep while also using your core for balance. Pushups are an obvious go-to. They allow you to gain stability and stamina by targeting the triceps and back.

Improving Your Strategy
This one may take some time. You can learn and pick up on the game play as you go, but to be a successful curler, your delivery and sweep must support your strategy.

Lori Stevens and Shane Cartmill are both new to curling. After seeking a new way to stay active during the winter months, they decided to give curling a shot. Cartmill, a 40-year-old former ice hockey player, had a long-standing interest in curling prior to his first class. The sport filled his void for a low-cost, low-impact alternative to hockey.

The Columbus Curling Club’s Learn to Curl clinics take new curlers through the basics of curling and allow them to play a short round called an “end” of curling to get their feet wet.

“If you were to start hockey for instance … the barriers are tough. They expect you to know how to skate, they expect you to know the rules, and you’re just kind of thrown out there,” Cartmill said.

Stevens said curling has been a great option during the winter when walking or running on the treadmill and lifting weights have gotten old.

“I’m not in good enough shape to do those crazy Insanity-type things,” Stevens said. You know, a lot of people at work do that, but I’m 42 years old—I can’t do that.”

She was a natural at delivering the stones and learned the game quickly. Stevens said the game offered a bigger payoff than she initially thought.

“You get the social aspect, you get the strategy aspect, and you get the exercise, so I really enjoy it,” Stevens said. “It’s sort of those muscles that you don’t use when you’re working out on weights. I think it’s a very good overall real-life workout that I like better than just ‘lift 20 pounds’ kind of thing.”

Cartmill emphasized that it takes more than he thought to curl.

“There’s a lot about balance. There’s a lot about proper stretching and mobility and flexibility,” he said.

Stevens is still in the instructional league for the time being, but she and Cartmill are curling once or twice a week.

It’s not much of a respite from the cold, but it keeps them in shape for the time of year when the ice might provide a welcome break from the heat.