02/20/2015 01:05 EST | Updated 04/22/2015 05:59 EDT

Fitness in Fashion: Curlers train hard for long tournament like Scotties

MOOSE JAW, Sask. - Alberta's Lori Olson-Johns has a pre-game routine that includes push-ups, standing squats and hamstring lunges.

Manitoba's Kaitlyn Lawes goes with what she calls a "dynamic warmup" that gets her fully stretched out and ready to play.

The quick sessions are the final touches in a season-long physical fitness and conditioning effort designed to help them achieve maximum performance on the ice.

"It's getting the body moving, getting the blood flowing and making sure all the joints are nice and limber to be put in those extreme positions that we put them through," Lawes said. "Especially when we're sliding and sweeping, I find you've got to make sure you warm up your arms just as much as your legs."

Fitness is in fashion at the women's national curling championship at Mosaic Place.

Lawes is featured in curling advertisements doing biceps curls and rotational twists. The Canadian Curling Association even uses the line 'The Training Never Stops!' in its promotional material.

"Definitely you need to come here prepared, you can't come here and expect to start being fit starting at the beginning of this week," Olson-Johns said. "It's all the hours that we spend in the gym in the off-season in preparation for these long events.

"That actually helps us to prolong these long days."

Not everyone at the 12-team event is as concerned with being in top shape. It helps some curlers but simply isn't a top priority for others.

Those who do work out regularly feel it can give them an edge at a long tournament like the Scotties, which covers 11 days from start to finish.

Curlers start practising a half-hour before each game, which can last over three hours on occasion. Teams usually play two times a day.

Teammates will sweep the ice ahead of the stone — vigorously at times — for about 20 seconds before it reaches the house. Each team throws eight stones per end.

It may not look like the most taxing sport. But over a 10-end game, it can be rather draining.

"We're putting our bodies in extreme positions and loading up the smallest joints of our body," Lawes said. "I mean all our weight is over top of our broom head, which is our wrists and everything is loaded up on our shoulders.

"It's not necessarily the most natural position to be in but it is a long week and if you can stay mentally tough, that helps you feel energized."

Many curlers work with personal trainers to get into top condition. Lawes trains hardest in the off-season and then tries to maintain a strong base through the season.

"It's a grind out there," she said. "If you're sweeping the rocks post to post, it's hard on the body over a long competition.

"But that's why we put the training in beforehand so we feel good throughout the week."

The schedule can add another hurdle. Some teams played three straight draws in round-robin play — in the afternoon and evening one day, followed by a morning session the next.

"When you're out there, you just give 'er, no matter what," Lawes said. "Usually you feel it after the competition is over, once you've kind of let yourself come down from it. But it is strenuous on the body, the wear and tear on the shoulders, knees, groins, you never know.

"It's hard on the body. That's why we've got to make sure we're in great shape."

It's also difficult to keep a sharp mental focus for such a long event. Nova Scotia lead Jennifer Baxter said her team worked in some dancing to stay loose and keep things fun.

They would often find an empty room in the arena, put some tunes on and find their groove.

"I think as long as we're laughing, then we're probably having a good day," she said.


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