5 Best Cardio Workouts for New Marchers

Confused Baby

Wait…working out already? I know, right away we’re already talking about exercising and you may be less than thrilled with the idea, but the reality is, the marching arts are a very physical activity. Just think about it for a second:

  • Wind Instruments – You get to march around a football field from anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes straight, doing choreography and precision movements, all the while trying to breathe normally AND put air through your instrument properly to play music. Yikes!
  • Field Percussion – You get to carry around a heavy piece of drum strapped onto your lower back and shoulders while trying to move your hands a mile a minute using a different marching style; at the same time, not being allowed to stop for any reason whatsoever because the bulk of the rhythm on the field is wholly dependent on you.
  • Color Guard – Oh boy, don’t get me started on how much you all move. Dancing, acting, flag or weapon work and manipulation, etc. You probably move the most out of the entire ensemble!
  • Front Ensemble……we’ll get to you later.

This does not even begin to mention the amount of hours you have to stand outside for parades, or being at rehearsal doing the same movements over and over again.

Pro Tip: Make it a game with someone and workout with a friend, it makes things easier!

1 – Interval Walking / Running (Workout Length: 15 to 20 Minutes)         

The bread and butter of the marching arts. No matter what you think about your running ability, ANYONE get can started with this simple routine. While you won’t be running a marathon in a week, you will definitely be increasing your endurance when it comes time to work at rehearsal and ultimately, your performance. Make sure you have a decent pair of sneakers for this, and remember to pace yourself in the beginning if you’ve never done running before (but do the workout).

Materials: For this, you will probably need a watch or timer (most smartphones have a timer, or your workout buddy, or you can even use a Fitbit.

  • 2 Minute jog or 5 minute walk to get the legs warmed up
  • 30 Second Run followed by a 45 second walk (don’t trudge and hate your life during this time, actually walk)
  • Repeat up to 8 times
  • 2 minute cool down after the last jog/run
  • 1 minute stretch (Quad Stretch, Calf Stretch, and IT Band – This one you should google)

I promise, this isn’t a punishment to begin your routine, but fundamentally, you’re moving quite a bit on the field and getting your heart rate up. While jogging or running may not initially be the most enjoyable experience for everyone, it is one of the most beneficial thing you can do for yourself when it comes to marching performance conditioning. There are several other benefits associated with this:

  • Improves your cardiovascular (heart) health and fitness
  • Efficient calorie burner
  • Helps build strong bones (it’s a weight bearing exercise)
  • Strengthens leg muscles

2 – Side Shuffles (Workout Length: 5 to 7 Minutes)

Also known as ‘laterals’ or ‘lateral shuffle,’ this is a great workout to enhance agility, balance, strengthen hip flexors, and improve flexibility. The exercise is a pretty simple movement, but to maximize the effectiveness of this exercise, you have to repeat the movement quickly in a direction, then switch directions.

  1. Stand with your fit a little wider than hip-width apart and point your toes forward.
  2. Go into a squat or ‘athletic bend’ by bending your knees and hip as if you’re going to sit in a chair, but keep your knees over your toes.
  3. Take a sideways step to the left with your left foot, then take a sideways step again, but with your right foot so that you end in the same position you started in.
  4. You would then repeat this sideways step 10 times to the left.
  5. After you do this 10 times, go in the opposite direction, but beginning the move with your right foot.
  6. Repeat the sideways step 10 times to the right.
  7. That would be 1 set. You would then repeat this process 4 times.

Keep in mind, this is not a ‘small step by step’ movement. Once you get the motion down, do this quickly to one side, then quickly to the other. It should almost feel like you’re hopping sideways. The trick is the speed in which you can do the movement as that will get your heart rate up and help you reap the health benefits of this move.

3 – Karaoke (Workout Length: 5 to 7 Minutes)

No I don’t mean pick up your favorite Rock Band game and start missing those high notes. This is a classic exercise that will help you open up your hips which is essential for longer strides. This will also help with your footwork, balance, and leg & foot coordination. This may take some time to get used to, but once you start doing this on the regular, you’ll see tremendous gains in your marching ability.

  • 10 sets to the left or right direction, then repeat in the opposite direction (Click Here for a demo).
  • Repeat up to 4 times.

4 – Shadow Boxing (Workout Length: 5 to 7 Minutes)

Weird name for a useful exercise that is low impact and you’re able to do at home. No, you’re not taking swipes at that dark reflection on your wall, but rather a low impact method of getting your heart rate up very quickly. You’ll be exhausted faster than you think and is very similar to how martial artists practice in a gym. A very good demo of this can be seen here.

  • 1 minute of work
  • 30 seconds of rest
  • Repeat up to 5 times

5 – Jumping Jacks (Workout Length: 5 to 7 minutes)

What can I say other than this simple workout can give you quite a bit of benefits. There are lower impact options to this if you’re worried about your knees and/or ankles that you can see here. I won’t spend too much time with this description since I’m assuming you’ve done jumping jacks sometime in your life. If not, reference the image below for positioning.

  • 20 Jumping Jacks
  • Rest 15-30 seconds
  • Repeat up to 5 times

There are many other exercises you can do to help get your endurance going and if you really want to dig deep and get a jump start on making sure you’re performing at your best rather than suffering through it, I’d begin by doing two or three of these exercises in a row. Once you begin easing into the workouts as something routine, trying building up to four in a row, all the way to all five!

You can also add variety and help confuse your muscles (more on why that’s good later) and alternate the order you do these in or throw in another exercise you will pick up along the way!

Eventually I’ll have all the videos of the exercises and routines on the site as fast as possible.

That’s all from me today, I’ll be back with some more and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me through the contact page!

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