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As Summer Heats Up, So Does Drum Corps Season:

Learn to survive the dog days and keep your body fit for your moment in the sun.

As Summer Heats Up, So Does Drum Corps Season:
Learn to survive the dog days and keep your body fit for your moment in the sun.

Emile Menasch

Drum corps is a complete music, mind and body experience. And while the music and the mind may demand you intense attention, you can’t neglect your body. You might have great chops and know your show inside and out, but that’s of little use if you body breaks down. Corps members face physical challenges that go way beyond those of ordinary musicians—and even most athletes. Bus rides, sleeping on floors, practice out in the hot sun—a summer season involves some intense physical demands. Fortunately, by following a few common sense guidelines, you can stay healthy and strong on the long march to Madison—and beyond.

Get Fit

One of the best ways to get through the summer is to start with a solid fitness foundation. According to Dr. Craig Bales of Houston, Texas—who works closely with the Cavaliers—your “summer” fitness program should start early. “Winter and spring camp physical fitness programs lead to faster acclimatization to heat during long hot summer days and nights,” he explains. Winter fitness programs vary from corps to corps. If you’re on your own, a regular routine of cardio and strength training (in addition to developing the habit of drinking much more water then you may be used to!) should help you prepare for the summer. Good nutrition should be a part of your lifestyle, too. Tempting though it may be, junk food should be avoided, especially overly sugared snacks that make your energy spike and then crash. “Eat well four times per day to replenish salt and nutrients that are lost in sweat,” Bales recommends. “Feed those muscles that are really getting a workout.”

Drink Up

Our bodies are made up of nearly 60 percent water—there’s no getting away from the fact that hydration is one of the most important parts of staying healthy in the hot sun. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to stay hydrated. “Most preventative and even treatment measures for heat injuries are common sense,” Bales says. “Always remember that dehydration and heat injury can and do occur (although minimally) during the usually indoor audition and instructional sessions of winter and spring camps.”
Regular intake of the correct amount of liquid is the key. Bales recommends that corps members and staff drink between ½ and ¾ quarts of water per hour of drill—but no more that 6-7 quarts of water per 24 hours.
Too much water intake can result in a condition called “hyperhydration” or “water intoxication.” This can happen if you drink so much water that it dilutes the sodium in your bloodstream, already decreased by perspiration. So while water should be your primary drink, it isn’t always enough to replace the sodium and other nutrients lost during heavy sweating. “During the really long, hot, sweaty days of July and August, you will need to supplement water with sports drink,” Bales says. Shoot for a ratio of one quart sports drink for every two quarts of water.
And, even if it seems anti-social, use disposable drinking cups if obtaining water out of a five-gallon jug. “Individual drinking jugs are not recommended because many times they are shared and allow for passage of colds from one member to another,” Bales says.

Block the Rays

Summer sun is hard to resist, especially when you’re young and have spent a long winter in classrooms. But the sun itself can damage your skin. Bales recommends a combination of appropriate attire and sunscreen to minimize risk. Wear loose clothing, caps with visors, and “t-shirts-even long sleeves—to allow for skin to slowly acclimate to the sun.”
As for sun block, Bales cautions against relying simply on suntan lotion. “It’s best to use physical sun blocks—those formulated with micronized zinc oxide [ZO]—and not chemical sun blocks. ZO products do not spread chemicals over large body areas, ZO is not absorbed through the skin like other chemical blocks, and micronized ZO does not appear white like other older ZO products.” Bales stresses that you should use the block for the entire summer, “not just when you are developing a tan during pre-tour.” If that sounds like a hassle, he poses the following questions: “Do you want a dark tan or a happier, healthier drum corps summer? Do you want to decrease our chances later in life for skin cancer? Do you want more supple, good looking skin later on? Be smart.”

Get some rest

Competition is intense, and show-time perfection is elusive. So it can be tempting to push until the breaking point—and beyond. But as many a world-class athlete will tell you, proper rest is as important as any workout, and should be part of your pre-season training program. “Slowly work into longer and longer rehearsals with at least a 10-minute rest in shade (if at all possible), along with hydration with every 45 minutes of drill,” Bales recommends. Make sure to have a reminder in place to enforce these rest periods. “It’s very easy for staff to forget the time and not break,” he says. “Staff must really buy into this idea of rest and hydration.”
Like drum corps itself, proper rest, hydration, nutrition, and sun block require discipline and commitment. But the payoff is worth it, not just over the course of a summer, but in terms of your ongoing health and fitness. “With rest and hydration periods properly spaced during long days of drill, the drill itself should improve as should the music,” Bales concludes. “The drum corps experience should become more pleasing to all concerned.”

Heed the Heat

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious conditions, and unfortunately, you might not know you’re headed for disaster until you’re already in danger. Here are some warning signs. If you are feeling these symptoms–or notice a corps member you think may be in trouble–notify staff immediately. Heat stroke is a medical emergency.

Heat Exhaustion:

  • Pale, cool, moist skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Feeling of faintness (or collapse)
  • Headache, weakness, thirst, and nausea
  • Temperature of more that 100ºF and increased pulse rate

Heat stroke:

  • Lose of consciousness or a markedly abnormal mental status
  • Flused, hot, and dry skin (although it may be moist initially from previous sweating or from attempts to cool the person with water)
  • Dizziness, confusion, or delirium
  • Slightly elevated blood pressure at first that falls later
  • Hyperventilation
  • Temperature of 105ºF or more