Drum Corps International
Jersey Surf adds aquatic fitness to physical training routine
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Jersey Surf adds aquatic fitness to physical training routine

by Chris Weber

What might have looked like a rowdy 150-person pool party at Jersey Surf’s January rehearsal camp, was actually a carefully choreographed workout led by a team of professional physical trainers.

For the first time during the New Jersey organization’s January rehearsal camp, corps members took over the natatorium at Camden County Technical School for an 80-minute high-intensity training session in the pool.

“As drum corps start to build momentum toward the start of the 2017 DCI Tour, attention starts to shift from the audition process and toward the physical preparation necessary to start the season firing on all cylinders,” said Jersey Surf head athletic trainer Chris Benedict. “We know from performer research that many of the injuries which affect corps members in a given season occur early in the spring training process, which is logical considering the shift from inactivity to long rehearsal days.”


Over the past several seasons, the Jersey Surf athletic training team, led by Benedict, has designed an at-home, pre-season conditioning program intended to get corps members up and moving long before they start their intensive everyday spring training program in June. The program features regular video assignments submitted by corps members between rehearsal camps, utilizing social media and fitness apps to drive personal accountability.

“Our goal this year is to start our spring training process—which begins considerably later than many of our World Class counterparts due to later graduation and school dismissal dates in our region—at the highest possible levels of physical fitness preparedness,” Benedict said.

Looking beyond typical running and pushup exercises that are often synonymous with drum corps physical training regimens, Jersey Surf turned to the pool on Saturday, January 14 for the first in a monthly series of aqua fitness workouts intended to provide a highly engaging way to get corps members active.

"The idea originated earlier this year when I began a personal fitness journey and experienced the unique benefits of in-water workouts,” said Jersey Surf executive director Bob Jacobs.

He added that there are a number of well-documented benefits to working out in the water, chief among them a tremendous reduction in stress on joints by using the body’s natural buoyancy. This enables the corps’ trainers to focus on increasing range of motion, coordination, strength and flexibility without excessive strain on joints, muscles and limbs.

With overall fitness objectives established by Benedict and his staff, the organization tapped a team of aquatic fitness experts from ProSwim Fitness, an innovative training facility located near the corps’ home base of operations in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey to create a super-sized custom aqua circuit-training program. What the corps has dubbed its “Get Wet–Get Fit” program, combines high intensity interval training, yoga, wet barre, strength training, and aerobics in a highly focused workout session.


“Safety is our primary concern when working with a large class,” said ProSwim Fitness owner Bernie Finch. “During our pre-workout talk with the group, we emphasize that we want to push them, but not past a safe level—especially in water above their heads. We offer progression exercises to those who need to back it down a little, and we have lifeguards on duty who are closely monitoring the kids in the water at all times.”

The setup enabled Jersey Surf to maximize the short time corps members were together for the weekend by engaging all 150 of them in the pool simultaneously. The workout was set up in a rotation of four activity zones with 15 to 20 minutes scheduled for each station in the school’s natatorium. Those stations, which utilized foam pool noodles, kickboards and even beach balls as training equipment, included:

• Water aerobics and cardio exercises – lungs full, heart rate up and calories out
• Plyometric exercises – overall explosive strength and speed
• Flexibility exercises – increase range of motion against water resistance
• Swim boards – kicking, leg strength and core work.

According to Finch, different exercises will be added in the coming months to keep the workouts fresh and fun. “We know that once-a-month exercising will not have a huge impact on endurance and conditioning, but with familiarity of the exercises and enjoyment of the aquatic environment, we hope to open new doors and access to health and fitness for a lifetime.”


“It was a really hard workout and was a little more intense than I expected,” said Jersey Surf trumpet player Christina Telep. The third-year corps member is a student at James Madison University in Virginia where she is an athlete on the school’s rugby club. “Now I want to go home and take these new workouts that I have to my own pool."

That’s exactly the attitude that Jacobs says his team anticipated that this type of training would inspire.

“There are hundreds of days and thousands of hours between rehearsal camps in the off-season in which corps members need to rely on their own motivation to take the necessary steps toward getting in shape and staying fit for the summer season,” Jacobs said. “The passion demonstrated by the corps members this weekend, and the manner in which they’re approaching their preparation for the season, has been nothing less than inspiring.”

Jersey Surf plans to be back in the pool for its upcoming February and March rehearsal camps. The group also aims to do the same in April when its color guard members rejoin the corps before workouts transition to more conventional "dry training” aerobic- and endurance-building activities in the spring.