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11 Cool Things You Didn’t Know About Winter Guard

11 Cool Things You Didn’t Know About Winter Guard

The term “winter guard” may sound like a protective coating that you might put on your car or other objects that must withstand the cold, snowy weather.

In fact, it is a sport and it’s growing fast in popularity. While mostly popular in the U.S., it is gradually spreading to other countries, and competitions at the local, state, regional, national and international levels happen regularly.

For those who are not familiar with the sport, here are some pretty cool facts.

1. Winter Guard is Color Guard on Steroids

We’ve all watched color guards at high school football games. They are a part of the marching band and do cool, synchronous maneuvers with their flags. It’s a nice addition to the bands and provides color and pizazz.

Winter guard is about 10 steps up from that band color guard. It is practiced and performed in a gymnasium and has become a combination of dance, cheerleading, and equipment maneuvers all in one.

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2. There is an International Winter Guard Organization (WGI)

Even though this sport began in the U.S., it has traveled to Europe, the Far East, and even Africa. International competition does occur, and just like with any sport, working up to those involves winning at local, regional and national competitions in a team’s own country. WGI is the organization that teams join in order to participate in the important competitions.

3. There are Usually Multiple Coaches and a Team Captain

Because Winter Guard involves dance and equipment maneuvers, there are at least two coaches – a choreographer for the dance moves and an equipment coach, who trains team members in the handling of the equipment – flags, rifles, and sabers being the most common. A third gymnast coach may also be involved because the highly skilled teams use many of the gymnastic movements that we see in a contemporary cheerleading squad. Team captains are senior members of the teams who lead the exercises and routines.

4. Staging is Common For Winter Guard

Winter Guard teams bring lots of creativity to their performances. They may have backdrops and props other than their personal equipment. Most all of them have colorful tarps which are spread on the floor and designed to meld with the “theme” of the performance. It’s almost like a set design for a scene in a play.

5. Timing is Critical

During competitions, teams have a total of nine minutes to get “on” and “off.” The “set-up” and “take-down” generally take up four minutes, and the routine is limited to five minutes. For this five minutes of show-time, teams practice for months and months.

6. Equipment Varies

When Winter Guard began, it was a take-off of color guards on the field. Most teams began with flags. In fact, in the U.S., the WGI originally required American flags as the only equipment. That has changed a lot. Now flags of all sorts of colors and designs are used, usually to support a “theme” for the performance. Rifles and sabers are also now used, sometimes in combinations with flags.

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Rifles are wooden and pretty lightweight, because they are often thrown in the air or among team members. The same goes for sabers. They have dull blades and tips and are usually decorated to support a theme as well.

7. Is It Grueling? Yes!

People often look at Winter Guard performances and see them as pretty “lightweight.” After all, it’s not as if these performers are in a 10-minute rigorous gymnastic routine or playing ice hockey. They are dancing, swirling and throwing equipment around. What performance observers do not understand is that every movement is a precise one, with the use of muscles that must be flexible and solid. This often requires strenuous workouts before a participant is ever ready to begin learning a performance routine.

There is also a mental aspect to a solid performance. Winter Guard requires deep focus and a commitment to excellence, two skills that will certainly translate to success in other areas of life.

8. Precision is Everything

If you have ever watched a synchronized swimming event, you understand precision. Every movement by every team member has to be absolutely flawless in both timing and the movement itself. Now consider that the precision involves not only body movements but the manipulation of pieces of equipment too.

Flags may be a variety of sizes. Some have poles as long as 6-feet with flags just as long. Smaller flags, called “swings” have shorter poles made of plastic for easy tossing and spinning.

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As already said, rifles are wooden, often hollowed out for ease of throwing, and sabers are of light metals or plastics.

When these pieces of equipment are tossed or spun, they must be precise throughout the entire team. As you can imagine, this requires mental focus and physical agility.

9. Dance Performances Are Amazing

Almost any type of dance can be incorporated into Winter guard routines – ballet, jazz, modern, etc. Music is chosen to “fit” the type of dance and the routine’s theme. Everything from “hip-hop” to classical may be used. This is why a choreographer is usually required.

The cool part of Winter Guard compared to Color Guard is that music is chosen and pre-recorded in advance instead of being played by the marching band. This opens up much more creative possibilities to mix and match the tunes. You can add spoken words, create mash-ups or blend in some cool sounding noises.

10. There are Actually Divisions for Competitions

Most people are familiar with divisions for major sports teams. In high school and college, divisions are based on the size of the school, and competition is with other schools within the same division. In Winter Guard, divisions are based upon whether a team is from a school or is an independent group. School divisions are based on school size, like other sports. Independent groups are divided by skill levels as judged from previous competitions. A new team, for example, will be judged in the “Beginner” division, and so on.

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Judging is based on four categories – precision, creativity, horizontal orchestration, and overall talent. In WGI competitions, there are three places awarded. First place winners move on to the next level of competition and ultimately to the World Championships, where 350 teams will compete.

11. Winter Guard is a Combination of Art and Athletic Skill

There are few athletic competitions that combine skills of ability and the art of musical/dramatic performance. The ones that typically come to mind are skating, synchronized swimming, and gymnastics. All three of these are now Olympic events. When we think about the fact that ping pong is also an Olympic event, it stands to reason that Winter Guard should be a candidate for this prestigious competition. People are working on it.

The bottom line is this: Winter Guard is a little-known sport right now. But its participants and coaches are dedicated individuals. As it spreads globally, there is every reason to believe that it will become far more recognized than it is today. And for the participants? Even if they never move beyond their teen years in this sport, they will have gained many “soft skills” that future employers will find valuable.

Featured photo credit: John Simon via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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