The Curling Edge –Nutrition & Exercise
by Laughie Rutt
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in my first Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship at Winnipeg in 2008. Being green as the prairie grass and from a province that had never appeared at the Championship before was certainly an honor. I had never played two a day games before over a stretch of a week and looking at my teammates at the end of the week I saw an exhausted group. I began thinking about how best to prepare if I ever got the opportunity at nationals again. What I saw in my team was clearly evident in the other teams as I looked around. I realized as a new player I could never likely catch up on their experience but maybe I could get an advantage in some other way. It was not very long before I realized that my best bet was exercise and nutrition.
Those persons who know me or observed me know that I am quite small in stature. They perceive me as being light thrower and comments have been made to me that I may not be exactly right for the competitive side of the game.
So it is, five years later. I play or practice five times a week; work full time: assist in the development of new wheelchair curlers; volunteer in the community; married and a participative grandparent; and still have balance in my life. Besides curling I roll approximately five kilometers a day (five times a week) to stay in shape and do this year round. Last year I played in both the Nova Scotia Stick Championship and Canadian Stick Curling Championship. This year I stick curl, skip a team of non-wheelchair curlers and play on a wheelchair team. So much for the undersized, light hitter!
I weigh 11 pounds lighter than I was in Winnipeg. That tells you I am smaller in body weight. I bench press my own weight and my shirt size is up a full size since Winnipeg. At one point in the Nova Scotia Stick curling Championships last year I played for games in one day with an eight rock per person practice session before each game. I still had lots in the tank.
So here is the scoop on so all wheelchair curlers can better perform on the ice and be best prepared for the other things in life that come their way.
The first thing is to realize that our sport is seasonal. Most seasonal athletes in other sports understand the need to prepare in the off season and that trying to start it all up again as the season begins put them behind right from the start. If you want to be better at curling it is a year round commitment – no matter what your competitive level.
The second thing is one I credit to Chris Daw, an Olympic Curling Champion. He explained at a clinic how he practiced at home with his stick running it along the baseboard to improve his muscle memory of his delivery. I modified that and for years I practice year round at home with a one kilogram weight. I have a golf ball on top of the television and when I watch television I use the weight and practice my delivery using the golf ball as the broom position to determine the line. My adaptation uses the weight for strength as well as it simulates the stroke motion and the push force needed to deliver the stone.
The final scoop is about nutrition. This is often confusing. I give credit where credit is due. This includes my coach for life – Glen McClare and my wife who, my son would argue if there was a salt free and fat free version of salt pork and bacon scraps, it would likely be found in our refrigerator.
Here is nutrition cut to the bone for all us curlers who have often gotten conflicting information. To be a better curler you need hydration, protein and carbohydrates. Protein and Carbohydrates are the important ones but do not eliminate hydration. Hydration is important in sports where a person sweats a great deal. That is not what happens in wheelchair curling as we do not sweep and it is often quite cool on the ice. However liquids are often the best delivery system for especially carbohydrates and to some extent protein.
Protein is required to rebuild muscle tissue. This is crucial need for protein in our bodies all through the day and in an immediate time after exercise, within the first half hour to hour. The muscles have to rebuild before the next exercise or you will become weaker and not stronger. A person who weighs 150 pounds needs about 55 grams of protein a day. Ideally a person should get some within the hour of a game or practice.
Carbohydrates are energy. As protein is the material to repair your tools of curling (your muscles), carbohydrates provide the energy to fuel your tools. If not enough carbohydrates are present in the body as fuel, the body burns fat which are the excess stored carbohydrates from when the body took in too many carbohydrates. Fat is difficult to break down and not an instant source of energy. An inactive person such as having a desk job; sitting in a wheelchair without much vigorous activity; or spending a great deal of time in bed may need as little as 20 to 25 grams of carbohydrates a day, or even less.
During a game you may need an energy boost. Carbohydrates put that fuel directly to your cells. Regular carbohydrates spread throughout the day are the right way. A boost during a game can be very helpful. The best sources of protein and carbohydrates can be found by searching the internet. There are lots of guides with the number of grams each has by portion.
On a last note I want to speak to energy drinks and the current trend of chocolate milk. I spoke earlier as fluids as a delivery system. Energy drinks such as Gatorade replace things such as electrolytes and salt that your body loses doing sports where athletes sweat a great deal. Curling is not necessarily one of those sports if there is no sweeping. Chocolate milk has no more beneficial properties that white milk. Chocolate milk is suggested as the taste might encourage more use. Milk as a fluid delivery system is delivering both protein and carbohydrates to the body. A cup of milk holds about 6 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of protein. Milk is therefore universally good for both before and after a game.
So my secret is out. Hopefully, it will assist all wheelchair curlers and contribute to Canadian Wheelchair Curlers remaining the best in the world. Keep your stick on the ice!