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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

Unmasking high-altitude training

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Should you be using your Pro Mask for altitude training?

Using your military Pro Mask or other commercial mask device as a method of respiratory muscle training (RMT) isn’t going to prepare you for higher elevations. Increasing the strength of your respiratory muscles which help you breathe—your diaphragm and the muscles between your ribs—will improve aerobic fitness, especially for long-duration tasks.

RMT can be achieved through whole-body aerobic exercise, upper-body strength conditioning, and some commercial RMT devices. Studies show that RMT slightly improves performance in those who are already aerobically fit (e.g., military personnel). It offers somewhat more benefit for those less fit or with chronic conditions.

Your Pro Mask was made to protect your lungs, eyes, and face from chemical and biological agents, radioactive particles, and battlefield contaminants. It doesn’t create enough airflow resistance to help improve aerobic capacity. In addition, it wasn’t designed as exercise equipment. There is no scientific evidence that suggests using commercial masks at normal altitudes will improve your performance at high altitudes. Read more about the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine’s (USARIEM) review of Pro Masks and commercial products for exercise training. Check out HPRC’s take on using high-altitude masks and improving work performance at higher elevations.

Decrease your holiday food stress

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Need to cross “food worries” off your holiday checklist? There are ways to add nutrients, cut calories, and enjoy the holidays!

Who says that figuring out what to prepare and eat over the coming holiday weeks needs to be stressful? Worrying about choosing appropriate food gifts? How about gaining weight and never taking it off—again? These concerns are often on our minds at this time of year. So here are some tips to enjoy a healthy holiday.

  • Make recipes more nutritious. Use evaporated skim milk in place of heavy cream in soups, quiches, pies, and other recipes. Substitute whole-wheat for white flour in bread, gravy, and cookie recipes.
  • Reduce your calorie intake. Choose more fruits and vegetables at each meal. Don’t skip a meal—because you could overeat at the next meal. Eat smaller portions instead.
  • Pick healthy gifts. Offer a welcome basket of fresh fruit or assorted packages of nuts and dried fruit. Put together a basket of healthy ingredients for a quick meal. Give a personal favorite such as a special bread, olive oil, or jam.

Challenge yourself by putting at least one tip into practice. It guarantees your holidays will be less stressful!

Running safety

Filed under: Fitness, Running, Safety
Safety first! Check out some tips on how to stay safe while you’re out for a run.

Running is one of the simplest forms of exercise—just throw on your shoes and head out the door. But there are a few simple things you can do to ensure your run is safe too:

  • Carry identification. Bring some form of identification with you. There are various types of wristbands and shoe tags to provide emergency contact and medical information too.
  • Stay visible. Wear a headlamp and/or reflective gear so drivers can see you when it’s dark out—even at dusk and dawn. Make yourself visible to oncoming traffic.
  • Turn the music down. Music can be a great way to help you keep pace. But if your tunes are too loud, you may not be able to hear cars or people coming up behind you. Keep music at a volume low enough that you can hear what’s going on around you, or try wearing just one earpiece when you run.
  • Grab a buddy. Running with a friend is a great way to keep both of you motivated and accountable. But when you do run alone, let someone know and share your planned route.  
  • Use the crosswalk and follow crossing signs. Drivers tend to be more aware of pedestrians near crosswalks because in many areas pedestrians (runners included) have the right-of-way there. If you’re running where there is a crosswalk, use it.
  • Don’t assume a car will stop just because you’re in a crosswalk. Make sure the driver sees you, slows down, and allows you to safely cross the street.
  • Run against street traffic. Sometimes it’s easier to run on the shoulder or in a bike lane. Remember to run against traffic (normally the left side of the road) so you can see the cars and the drivers can see you.

Stay safe and happy running! 

Get SMART about your goals

Setting goals that you will actually accomplish can be easier said than done. Check out HPRC’s goal-setting worksheet to learn a formula for success!

Whatever your goals are, keep in mind that they’re easier to accomplish when they’re SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable/Action-oriented
  • Relevant
  • Time-sensitive

It’s a well-established method for fitness-oriented goals—to lift a certain weight, cycle a century, or run a marathon in a certain amount of time—and it works equally well in other areas of life. Maybe you want to reach a specific rank at your job or finish college by a certain date. Goals aren’t just for dreaming big; they’re for achieving.

For more details on using SMART goals to achieve your goals, read HPRC’s “Get SMART about setting goals.” Then you can use our SMART Goals Worksheet to help you:

  • think through exactly what you’re aiming for;
  • determine if this goal is a good fit for you;
  • measure and track your progress;
  • use success-oriented language to think and talk about your goal; and
  • break down the end goal into manageable steps.

There is (almost) free lunch!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition
Whip up these “tried and true” soups for pennies.

We all want to use our food resources and time wisely. Let’s talk about ways to save minutes and money. As the holidays approach, we want quick, easy meals to fortify us. Using the bones from our holiday meats can make an almost “free” extra meal or two. Helpful hint: store the bones in the freezer until you are ready to get cooking!

These tasty soups are healthy and affordable:

  • Bean Soup. Put a ham bone in a crockpot. Cover with 8 cups of water. Add one pound of rinsed, dried pinto beans. Season as desired—jalapeno peppers and cilantro are especially good. Cook on High for 5–6 hours or Low for 11–12 hours. Skim the layer of fat from the top. Chop and add any leftover ham to the soup.
  • Turkey Vegetable Soup. Put turkey bones in a large pot. Cover with 6­–8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bones and strain the broth. Add frozen corn, green beans, grated carrots, and instant brown rice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add chopped pieces of turkey meat if desired. Season with black pepper.

Who knew making soups could be so simple? These meals just might become a mainstay of your recipe toolkit! 

New videos on supplement risks

Check out Performance Triad’s videos about the potential health hazards associated with dietary supplement use.

Do you know what’s in your dietary supplement? In the case of supplements, ignorance isn’t bliss, and what you don’t know can put your health at risk. Performance Triad has created 2 videos highlighting the dangers of dietary supplements. In “The Dangers of Supplements,” Drill Sergeant David Cross talks about the consequences he dealt with from using supplements, including permanent liver damage. Also watch the Operation Supplement Safety App video to learn more about what goes into dietary supplements. You can download the OPSS app to get access right in your hands to information about thousands of dietary supplement products and ingredients. Please visit the Apps tab of HPRC’s Tools for the Warfighters to download the app.

The cure for loneliness: connect with one person

Filed under: Isolation, Loneliness
Loneliness can be very isolating. Learn one “tried and true” strategy for combating feelings of loneliness.

It’s possible to feel lonely even within a big family or when constantly surrounded by others. Sometimes you can feel even lonelier. But you can feel better if you focus on strengthening a connection with at least one other person. Here’s how:

  • Pick someone in your life. Choose someone you want to be close with or feel like you share a lot in common. If you’re married, you’d ideally pick your spouse.
  • Open up. Tell that person how you’re feeling and what’s on your mind. You could also start the conversation by asking how they’re feeling.
  • Keep the conversation going. Ask follow-up questions and share your own thoughts and feelings. 
  • Be curious and focus on the other person. Hopefully, they’ll express interest in your ideas and emotions too.

Next week, we’ll offer more tips on combating loneliness and staying connected!

How to get over a workout plateau

If you feel like you’ve hit a wall in your workout routine, try periodization to increase your performance.

Feeling stuck in your workout routine? Periodization is a training method that can help you overcome the plateau and boredom from doing the same workout repeatedly. For example, if you follow the same lifting routine for too long, your body will eventually adapt to the stresses of training, and you’ll see little or no improvement in performance. Following a workout routine for “too long” depends on factors such as your age, training program, duration, intensity, and recovery. In order to see improvement, researchers suggest adding a periodization plan to your workout. Periodization works by changing different variables of a fitness routine (such as the amount of weight, number of repetitions or sets, or intensity) every 1–6 weeks. Changing components of your workout forces your body to constantly try to overcome the new stresses and encourages continual growth and increased performance.

Creating a periodization plan also reduces your risk of overtraining. Consult a certified trainer to design a program that can help you overcome any workout plateaus, or check out the Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System (NOFFS) strength and endurance training series.

Dietary supplements and false claims

Do you know if a dietary supplement’s advertising promises more than the product can actually deliver? The Federal Trade Commission can help.

HPRC has often posted information about FDA and safety surrounding the topic of dietary supplements, but there’s another Federal agency watchdogging the supplements industry: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). One of FTC’s primary missions is to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive business practices. That includes misleading or false advertising and claims. FTC advertising law states that all claims made by dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors must be substantiated before they are made. Unfortunately, not all supplement manufacturers follow the rules, so check out FTC’s new infographic to learn more about deciphering dietary supplement claims.

Just as FDA has a reporting system for adverse effects associated with dietary supplements, FTC has a consumer complaint process that you can use. For information about how to report a problem, visit this FTC web page

Grandparents becoming parents

Military families’ grandparents sometimes face parenthood again—when raising their grandchildren.

If you’re a grandparent transitioning into the role of parenting your grandchildren, it’s probably stressful. But you can face this stress. Start by acknowledging why this round of parenthood is different. The emotional support you have available now is likely different than when you were parenting earlier in life. Before, your peers were other parents raising children at home, whereas this is less likely now.

Contact with friends might drop off. Family tensions might exist. Other common challenges include changes in routine, more physical fatigue, less privacy, and less time to get things done. Your situation can, at times, feel like an invisible burden. It’s normal to sometimes experience resentment, which can easily be misdirected towards your partner or others around you. These stresses can take their toll on you and your relationships. Be proactive.

Help is available if you need it. Consider local or online support groups or even parenting classes to get refreshers on discipline styles and communication. Single grandparents can learn useful strategies in a parenting class, and partners can learn to develop a unified parenting approach. As your grandchildren get older, you could consider parenting refreshers on drug use and sexuality. You might also learn about modern parenting dilemmas associated with technology and social media.

Some grandparents seek individual, couples, or family counseling to address possible tensions. Despite the challenges, many grandparents in similar situations report feeling a greater sense of purpose. Consider checking out family resources available to you via HPRC, and the University of Wisconsin's resources specifically focused on grandparents. 

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