Marching band rehearsals and competitions at night or in freezing cold temperatures are not pretty if you’re not prepared. Besides affecting the quality of your performance, the chilly weather can have serious effects on your body. You can end up with numb fingers, icy toes, a running nose, stubborn cough, or worse, get a lung infection.
That’s why it’s important to armor your body against the frigid weather and blustery winds to maintain peak performance.
To stay warm in marching band, dress in loose-fitting layers of clothing to allow better airflow. Try and cover exposed body parts like hands, head, and neck. Implementing a healthy meal into your diet as well as drinking or eating something hot also helps to ward off the cold.
Let’s explore these tips and tricks in more detail.
Wear Layers of Loose Fitting Clothing
When performing in cold weather, it’s important to find a balance between warmth and function. You don’t want to end up too cold or too warm. This usually depends on the instrumentation and marching style.
Will you be playing any instrument or be in the color guard? If it’s the former, which instrument? Also, how long will you be performing? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself to determine what to wear and how many layers you should wear to keep yourself warm and comfortable.
Think layers. Dressing in layers is the way to go when the temperature dips below freezing. This way, it will be easier for you to adjust to the different levels of activity as opposed to one heavy garment. You can shed or add a layer or two to cool you down or keep you warm and comfortable.
Moreover, the layers create pockets of trapped air in your insulation. It’s the air that keeps you warm, not the insulation. So the more trapped air, the warmer you’ll be.
The layers should be lightweight and able to wick sweat efficiently. Start with a light synthetic, silk, or wool base layer. Avoid cotton as it allows moisture to sit on your skin. This will leave you feeling even colder.
Nylon is also not the best choice to wear, either. While it’s lightweight and warm, it does not stretch. This might restrict movement.
Next, add a layer of fleece, wool, or down clothing to trap warmth, followed by a lightweight outer layer to keep wind and rain out.
Don’t bundle yourself up too much as it may affect your mobility. It’s also not a good idea if you’re participating in a competitive marching festival. A band relies heavily on its appearance, and you don’t want to look too baggy and bulky.
Also, remember that loose is always better than tight. But you don’t want it overly loose because you may look overstuffed under your uniform.
Wearing loose-fitting clothing is not just suitable for summer weather but on a cold day as well. Contrary to what many people believe, tight clothing is not the best idea to keep you warm.
It can actually restrict blood circulation hence affecting your body’s ability to warm itself. This will consequently induce sweat, and you’ll feel colder because the moisture will draw heat out of your body.
Protect Your Hands and Feet
Exposed parts of the body are always vulnerable to frostbite. You probably didn’t know this, but the vessels that supply blood to fingers, toes, and other extremities are very sensitive to cold.
Also, the body prioritizes keeping the essential organs such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys warm. It’s for these reasons that you get chilly hands and feet when the winter winds come biting.
While cold hands are things most percussionists, woodwinds, and even color guards have to deal with, it can be quite an irritating problem. There’s not an awful lot someone can do with immobile fingers. So it’s important to keep those fingers toasty and nimble.
While uniforms can vary from a marching band to another, hats and gloves are the most common design elements.
But during cold weather, it’s important to find a good pair of gloves to keep your hands warm while allowing your fingers to play or handle instruments and accessories. Clarinets and flute players, for instance, should opt for fingerless or convertible mittens/gloves.
If possible, opt for mittens instead of gloves. Mitts are warmer as they trap heat by grouping your fingers together. Just ensure they have enough dexterity to be functional.
Percussionists can opt for fingerless or drumming gloves. Playing for shorter periods and using pocket heat packs on every reset also goes along away.
Alternatively, you can tuck a hand warmer into your pocket, glove, or just strap it around your waist.
When it comes to protecting your feet, wear thick wool socks. Or, a pair of wicking liner socks and an outer layer of wool socks. But make sure the shoe or shoe straps are not too tight. The tight-fitting will make it difficult for air to circulate, and your feet can get hot and sweaty.
Avoid Anything Cotton
Apply a lip balm or moisturizer to keep your lips hydrated.
Since most of our body heat is lost through our heads, a beanie is essential. A wool or synthetic beanie that covers your ears is the best bet for cold weather.
Staying hydrated is just as important in cold climates as it is in the summertime. It’s especially vital in cold weather because we don’t realize we’re thirsty. But, our bodies lose large amounts of fluid by just breathing the cold, dry air.
More so, people feel less thirsty and sweat less in cold weather.
Always make a point of drinking warm or room temperature drinks before and after rehearsals or performance.
Avoid alcohol, caffeinated and carbonated drinks. These liquids can dehydrate your body and leave you feeling colder.
Eating a healthy, nutritious meal before the event can help your body handle the cold better. Look for foods rich in proteins, carbohydrates as well as healthy fats.
Since these foods take longer to digest, always eat two to three hours before the show.
Snacking as you get closer to the performance is also a good idea, just remember to keep it light.
Additional Tips for Staying Warm in a Marching Band
- Keep your hands and fingers moving when you’re not playing.
- Avoid breathing on your cold hands to keep them warm. Instead, rub them together or stick your hands in your armpit or crotch.
- Carry extra clothing and supplies.
- Scarf up if you feel the need to protect your neck
- Implementing alternating sets goes a long way in combating the cold. The break will allow band members to warm up.
- Run, jog in place, jump up and down in between sets to keep yourself warm.
- If you suffer from performance anxiety, practice relaxation methods such as breathing exercise and stretching. You’ll be warmer if you relax.
As much as appearance is important in marching band competitions, staying warm should be your number priority. Freezing in the cold will not only affect the quality of your play but also put your health at risk. Hence, you’ll not be doing yourself or your band any favors if you’re too cold.
With that said, it’s important for marching bands to always have a plan in place to prepare for severe weather.