She's marching her way to fitness

  • Article by: SHEILA MULROONEY ELDRED , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 1, 2011 - 2:23 PM

How I Got This Body: You'd be surprised at the physical demands it takes to be a part of a drum and bugle corps. Musical athlete Jackie Bechtold explains how she keeps fit by performing with the Minnesota Brass.

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Jackie Bechtold, a mellophone player with the Minnesota Brass Drum & Bugle Crops, has marched her way to being fit.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Jackie Bechtold, 32, office manager, Minneapolis

After playing trumpet in marching bands in high school and college, Jackie Bechtold knew she didn't want to give it up. When she graduated in 2001, one of her college professors, who wrote music for Minnesota Brass, encouraged her to join and switch instruments. She's been marching with her mellophone ever since. The drum and bugle corps performs at two Minnesota shows in August before heading to the world championships on Labor Day weekend in Rochester, N.Y.

WHAT IT TAKES: "When we march and play, we feel the physical demands on our muscles from marching and holding up our instruments. As a horn player, I have to be able to control my breathing to the point where I can expel a large, consistent amount of air to produce a good sound on my instrument. When we have rests in our music, we are still moving (and winded), but we have the opportunity to 'catch up' on our breathing. We strive to regulate our breathing so that we can slow down our heart rates, usually by breathing in and out in time with the music (in for four counts, out for four counts)."

IN TRAINING: "Any conditioning exercise like running or swimming will help. I've been running for several years, and this summer I've started doing the Insanity workout -- do you know the infomercial? It demands several minutes of very intense cardio followed by a short, 30-second water break to slow down your heart."

SMOOTH MOVES: "Even the way that we march -- it's not just walking, you have to learn how to move your legs in such a way that you're moving smoothly, with very little bend in the knee. You move your legs from the hips -- and you find all these new muscles. You build a lot of muscle in your neck and back from trying to maintain a certain look while wearing constricting uniforms. As we rehearse, we add clothes so we're not shocked when we get on the performance field."

NINE TO FIVE: "It's almost like a full-time job on the weekends. Between January and April we rehearse one to two weekends a month, 8- to 9-hour days. Then in May we start learning the choreography, and we rehearse two full weekends a month. And every Wednesday from 6 to 10 p.m."

TOUCHDOWN: "We practice in a church parking lot on Wednesdays. We line the lot to look like a football field. As we progress through June and July, they add layers of difficulty. They add moves with horns and dance movement in our feet -- almost ballet kind of moves -- so the audience stays interested."

GAME FACE: "We have competitions scattered through the summer, and we do some parades as well. You have to stay focused and be in character and marching for a long time for a parade. It's more about maintaining your mental focus."

MARCHING BAND FOR LIFE: "A lot of nerds like me really love marching band, but after high school [usually] you're done. Anybody between 16 and however long you can physically do it can do Minnesota Brass."

PAYOFF: "The actual show is just about 10 minutes long. It's just like a track runner. All that preparation for 30 seconds of running."

  • Minnesota Brass

    What: The all-ages drum and bugle corps, based in St. Paul, performs at the Sounds of Minnesota field competition.

    When: 6 p.m. Aug. 20.

    Where: South St. Paul High School, 700 N. 2nd St., South St. Paul.

    Tickets: $10-$12; 651-717-4382 or www.soundsofminnesota.com .

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