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Fit to Curl: On the water and on the ice in the same week

I’m writing this entry from beautiful Victoria as my team looks toward the end of the season and our final big event, the Grey Power Players Championship.

At this time of the year, I’m starting to really feel the wear and tear of a long curling season. I’m still hitting the gym, of course, but I’m not unhappy that things are starting to wind down and my body is looking forward to a break from the game.

John Morris and Jules Owchar

I thought I’d have a little respite from the grind when I booked a couple of days of B.C. halibut fishing before we took to the ice in Victoria. Coach Owch, Rick Sawatsky of Team Cotter and I headed out on the water and, as you can see from the photo, had some success. The only thing is that bringing in that 35- pound halibut took me about 20 minutes and every bit of upper body strength training I do was needed. Talk about a battle. I sure felt it in my biceps the next morning — I figure it was as good as a hardcore series of concentrated curls. Many thanks to Jody Epp and his buddy Don for hosting us on the water.

The great thing about playing in Victoria is that it gives all the players who compete hard on the World Curling Tour a chance to catch up since there is time for activities like fishing and golf. As always, the chance to spend some time with my competitors reminds me of a big reason why I love this sport so much. We all play hard on the ice and want to beat whatever team we face but we find that we share a lot of common interests off the ice as well. I think athletes in other sports would be envious of the camaraderie that high performance curlers enjoy.

On the ice in Victoria, we saw some new lineups taking shape. I’m sad to see my friend Mark Nichols step away from the game. He is one of the best players in the sport and always had a great attitude. I’m guessing that Ryan Fry will be on a mission next season to prove that he can handle the duties at third. Of course, I also know Alberta boy Geoff Walker — he’s a great shooter and will be a force at second.

Looking forward to next season, one of the things that I find a bit discouraging is hearing about the number of teams that declined their entry in the final event of this season, the Grey Power Players Championship in Grande Prairie. I remember being a junior curler and how elated our team was when we qualified at the Players. While I realize that Grande Prairie isn’t an easy destination to reach and the event is late in the year, not playing means that many rinks are losing the chance to gain valuable experience. Yes, the field is tough. But moving to the next level, as I noted in Fit to Curl, means testing yourself against that next level. You can’t expect to beat Howard or Stoughton or McEwen or Martin the first time you play them. But every time you play a top team, you learn a little. I realize it’s not easy — travel, tough games, a time of year when vacation time is running short and families get busy — but I hope that teams really consider it carefully when they have an opportunity to play in such a challenging event. I can remember the first time my team qualified for a Players Championship — Craig Savill and I had to empty our piggy banks to travel to it but we knew that it might be our chance to break through.

Finally, you heard about how I felt after fighting that halibut. (By the way, that halibut turned into a nice fish fry for my teammates when they got out to B.C.) A bit stiff and sore, for sure. With curling season winding down and the body maybe not that happy about what you’ve done to it all winter, this is an important time to make sure you commit to flexibility training. I hit the hot yoga classes a bit more than usual and I make sure that I really commit to stretching after strength training in the gym. When the off-season finally hits, I want my body to feel good enough for the higher intensity workouts and strength training I start to do.