As leaves change in colour across our great nation and another school year starts, many Canadians seek out recreational sporting activities to get themselves through the dark, cold days of fall and winter.

Throughout, curling centres across the nation will be installing ice and opening their doors for another curling season. “Come Try Curling” options are available for one to experience the sport at the introductory, intermediate or elite levels. It’s the right time to discover what curling is all about and take in the lounge features for post-game entertainment. 

In whatever province or territory you reside in, curling is one of our nation’s prestigious winter sports that inspires communities to get out and be active. Curling centres are a place to gather and compete among neighbours or colleagues and then socialize among friends. Filled with fitness and fun, curling is for all abilities and ages, and a way for Canadians to entertain themselves with the roaring game.

The perception of curling as a physical sport has changed drastically over the years. Many Canadians enjoy watching elite players compete on TV at national events such as the Scotties Tournament of Hearts or the Tim Hortons Brier, but even more love to play it recreationally themselves. Curling is a wonderful physical sport for all ability levels, from the recreational new competitor to national team members.

Now the Edmonton region, through the Edmonton and Area Curling Clubs, is highlighting the fitness aspects of the sport to newcomers through an introduction to curling for beginners.

Finding the curling club near your work or your home is half the battle in getting involved in a new sport and remaining engaged with the activity. To remain connected, it has to be convenient. The Edmonton Area and Curling Club association will play host to an introduction to the sport on Sept. 9, with all your local curling clubs under one roof to assist you to find the right club to match your curling desires.

“As much as it looks easy on TV, people forget you’re playing it on ice. It’s slippery, so there’s a lot of core stability and balance,” Heather Nedohin, business manager of the Sherwood Park Curling Club at the Glen Allan Recreation Complex, said of the fitness aspect of the sport. “As beginners, going out there most of the time we feel tense to start because we’re scared to fall.

“Once we get you comfortable on the ice – typically wearing two grippers – confidence totally increases and the ability to feel safe and secure intensifies. Balance and core stability increases, and then you can slide out to throw a stone and sweep the full length of the sheet. Now a fun interactive workout begins as the team makes shots!,” said Nedohin.

“Absolutely, it’s a workout,” said Nedohin, a former World champion as a junior, who later added two Canadian titles at the women’s level nationally to go with two bronze-medal finishes at the World women’s level, “If one sweeps from hog-line to hog-line, that becomes 15-25 seconds of all out anaerobic activity.

“When one slides to deliver the rock and sweeps over the duration of a game, which is approximately two-hours, you get a great overall workout. People don’t realize how many different muscles you are using in the sweeping motion until the next day and you are so sore you can barely move. That’s why, in the off-season training, we do a lot of planks, push-ups and upper-body strength exercises in the gym to help with the sweeping aspect.”

Curling is also an excellent way to help develop the mental and social aspects of today’s society, which has become truly important in this modern day and age.

“Coming to play a game of curling is a great way to unwind and unplug from the daily distractions of life. The rink shell for me is my spot to let loose of the daily tasks that clutter my mind and focus solely on me. Between the mental stimulation of strategically calling the game as a skip, the physical adrenaline to performing difficult shots to the team bonding times off ice, curling provides me the overall wellness to feel better as a person. It’s an enjoyable escape from the busy schedule of life.”

“Curling is truly Canadian. It’s one of our favourite winter pastimes and many individuals need to embrace the game. Whether you learned it through high school, but you haven’t had the chance to get back at it, it’s a good time to re-educate yourself and get out and try it,” added Nedohin, who began playing the sport, along with family, as a five-year-old in Fort St. John, B.C.

The Sept. 9 introductory event will aim to getting new participants comfortable as soon as possible, said Nedohin.

“As beginners, going out there most of the time we feel tense to start because we’re scared to fall. Once we get comfortable on the ice – typically wearing two grippers – confidence totally increases and their ability to feel safe and secure intensifies. Balance and core stability increases, and once you get into sweeping and you’re able to go from hog-line to hog-line, then you can kick in the anaerobic endurance,” said Nedohin.

Socially, curling clubs are getting “crafty”, bringing in a variety of unique tasty and beverages features to attract the new curler to enjoy the warm side of the glass entertainment and, much like golf, one can curl right from a child to the senior (over 50) or masters (over 60) level.

“Our local curling clubs are offering a new range of post-game activities,” she said. “It’s the camaraderie of having a game debrief over a beverage which is mentally and socially stimulating.”

The Sept. 9 introduction will cover all aspects of the sport and all interested participants can contact their local curling clubs about their open houses or learn-to-curl events, or rookie leagues to get involved. A large part is also convenience, explains Nedohin, so search out where your local curling club is on the drive home from work or within your local community.

“To get started it’s very simple, all you need is clean indoor runners and comfortable clothing to do that lunge from the position of a delivery. That’s all you’ll need because most curling clubs will provide the broom and the slider to start,” she said. “Once you commit and are ready to be more involved, then you can update your equipment to your own fancy.”

The rules and scoring also will be taught.

“It’s a simple game. Strategy is always an element that takes time to understand, but the in-turn or out-turn draw and hit – if you get those four concepts down, you can pretty much play the game,” said Nedohin, who wants dearly to expose curling to more recreational players.

That has become a trend among leading-edge Canadian curling centres, who are finding successful new ways to drive business that veer from the traditional idea of what a curling centre looks like; in other words, don’t expect to find just one brand of beer and a jar of pickled eggs as the only offerings in the lounge any more.

“We changed our programming to better suit the demographics of our area, and we tried to sell more than just curling — sell an overall social experience,” said Chris McTavish, manager of the Shamrock Curling Club in Edmonton, which went from being on the verge of closing seven years ago to having its leagues filled every night with a wait list.

It’s the right time to discover what the sport of curling is all about and take in the lounge features for post-game entertainment. 

“Quality food, quality drink, friendly welcoming atmosphere. And we found a lot of people coming to the club weren’t just there to curl; they were there for the overall experience,” said McTavish