Curling has long been the butt of jokes, with people saying it's the only Olympic sport where the players can look more like your average Joe than an elite athlete. The jokers look on and scoff, "Anyone could do that!"
Yet as you watch curling on TV, you might see the powerful sweeping and graceful low crouches they shoot from and think, "There's no way I can do that!"
So in today's curling Q & A, we are going to talk about the physical demands of curling. Hint: It's harder than many people think to excel at curling, but there is a way for almost anyone to participate in the sport.
This post is part of a series called "Curling — What the Heck?" The goal is to answer all the questions people have about Curling, especially if they have never played the game before. If you'd like your question answered, feel free to comment here or on our Facebook page. Or, you could just come out to our FREE upcoming Learn to Curl sessions.
Q: How heavy is a curling rock? It looks huge and I’m not a bodybuilder you know.
A: At 44 lbs of solid granite, the curling stones are aptly named. But don’t worry, you can play the sport of curling without ever lifting a stone.
While you may hear us talk about "throwing a rock," it's just the colloquial term for delivery, which is really just pushing the rock across the ice using power generated from the body, not the arm. It actually takes less force than you might expect (Or so I am reminded each time I send another shot sailing through the rings).
While you may see the odd person lift the rock behind them before they deliver (ie. use a “backswing”) it is not common these days. As a new curler, you will be taught an easy to control “no-lift” delivery.
As for those elite curlers who do look a bit like bodybuilders, they really do work out. However, time they spend in the gym is primarily aimed at more powerful sweeping, not delivery.
Q: Wait, so I need to head to the gym to be able to sweep? I thought I'd be all right since I sweep my house all the time.
A: As a general rule, the harder you can sweep the better. So if your aim is the Olympics, the gym is in your future. But at the Shelburne Curling Club our aim is just to have a good time, so as hard as you can is hard enough (whether that is 'sweep the kitchen' hard or 'what in the world is this sticky stain?' hard).
If one of your goals in curling is to get exercise, you will want to sweep. It is the most physically intense part of the game, not only requiring strength, but also raising the heart rate for an aerobic workout. (We invite anyone who is laughing and doubting this fact to come out and sweep a few rocks with us.)
If that's all a little more workout than you are looking for, just stay in your comfort zone when it's your turn to sweep. If you'd really like to avoid it, you might try playing in one of our 2 on 2 leagues, which require less sweeping. Or if you're a real strategist, you may find yourself eventually becoming a skip and telling your teammates when to do the sweeping!
Q: Sweeping is the least of my worries. I'll never be able to curl because there’s no way I can get down there like that to shoot. Right?
A: Wrong! Physical issues such as back or knee pain, or even just general lack of flexibility, don’t need to stop you from enjoying curling. If you choose, you can deliver the stone from a standing position (or even a wheelchair!) using a throwing device, more commonly called a “stick”.
While in some places you may find special stick tournaments or even leagues, at the Shelburne Curling Club, we make no distinction in how you deliver the rock. We have many stick curlers of various ages who enjoy all of our programs, ranging from social to competitive.
And if you can actually get down into the hack to deliver, but you’re afraid it won't be as pretty as on TV, don’t worry! Most of us don’t look quite that graceful either, especially while we are learning. Everyone is welcome at our club, and no one will judge you if you wobble a bit.
Q: OK so maybe I will try curling, even though I don't have the body of an Olympian in their prime. Is there anything I can do to prepare?
There is no need to hit the gym before you join the curling club, but some gentle stretching before the season begins can't hurt. In particular, before you head out on the ice each time (and especially your first time!) you'll want to spend a few minutes loosening up.
Other than that, just come out and play. Curling is a fun way to add some fitness to your routine. You'll be developing and maintaining your hand-eye-body coordination, which is helpful at any age. You might find gains in flexibility and balance, and there is potential for aerobic activity. At the very least, it gets you on your feet and moving for a couple of hours, and that is good for any body!
Think it might be good for your body to get out on the ice? Ready to give curling a try? Come out to our Learn to Curl sessions taking place October 22-26 at 7 pm. Our instructors will show you all the basics of the game. There will even be "stick" teachers on hand to help everyone who wants to deliver standing up. To sign up go to www.shelburnecurling.ca/try-curling or call the club at (519) 925-2011.