“Fitness advice for both the competitive & league curlers” brought to you by Stephanie Thompson & Empowered Performance

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!

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

By Stephanie Thompson, HBa.Kin, B.Ed, CSEP-CPT, OCT, NCCP

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