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HPRC Blog

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.

Homemade fitness

Your gym workout can be expensive and time-consuming. Use household items to exercise in the comfort of your own home—at little or no cost.

Dumbbells, kettle bells, barbells, and benches can be expensive additions to your home gym. So, get creative, look around your home, and find common household items that can help pump up your fitness routine. Or reuse balls or bottles to boost strength and reduce waste to help protect the environment. Try these DIY home-exercise hacks for a full-body workout that’s convenient and easy on your wallet!

  • Perform calf raises, single-leg raises, or squats on your stairs.
  • Use a sturdy chair for tricep dips, step-ups, push-ups, or squat jumps.
  • Practice ab rollers using a hand or kitchen towel on your tile or hardwood floors, or switch to paper plates for use on a carpet.
  • Use a gallon (or half-gallon) jug—filled with sand to desired weight—for bicep curls, overhead presses, or tricep extensions.
  • Use a 72-oz detergent bottle—weighing about 5 lbs—for 2-handed lifts such as shoulder raises or sumo squats.
  • Use water bottles—filled with water or sand—for a variety of dumbbell-weight exercises, including bicep curls, weight lunges, and shoulder presses.
  • Make a medicine ball: Cut a slit in a basketball or soccer ball, fill with sand, and seal.

Remember there are clever ways to workout—whether you’re on or off duty. And check out HPRC’s videos to learn more home-exercise hacks.




Criticism: It’s not all bad

Filed under: Criticism, Mind
Criticism sometimes can be hard to hear, but there are ways to listen and learn from it.

Is it true that it’s easy to dish it out, but not take it? Being on the receiving end of criticism can be tough on anyone—whether you’re at work, on missions, in the classroom, or at home. And for some, it can even provoke anger.

If you think that avoiding or denying criticism, making excuses, or fighting back is the best way to handle things, try to remember when those tactics made the situation worse. When criticism stings, try this instead: Listen to what’s being said, thoughtfully ask for details, and remember that your critic has a right to his or her opinion.

Find a way to use the criticism as a learning opportunity too. Any feedback is useful, even if the lesson simply is that others might see you differently than how you want to be perceived. If you need time to think about what’s being said or time to calm down, try saying “Let me think about what you’re saying” to get some breathing space. And work out a plan to develop your talents and improve your performance.

What makes an effective apology?

You messed up and now you’re trying to “make it right.” Learn how to apologize.

Owning up to your mistakes is important to all relationships, especially close ones. Mistakes often violate trust. But you can apologize and restore that trust, helping others feel secure.

Admitting fault helps you too. Those who actively seek forgiveness tend to be more agreeable and open to forgiving others. And make sure to maintain eye contact when you start the conversation. This lets the other person know you’re fully engaged. The tone of your voice is important too. Be sincere.

Successful apologies contain 6 elements. Be ready to right the wrong and rebuild trust in your relationship. Read more...

Overcome “imposter syndrome”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Ever feel like a phony on or off duty? Learn how to defeat self-doubt and keep “confidence gaps” from holding you back.

Even the most successful people wonder, at times, if they’re good workers, leaders, or parents. However, some can be overwhelmed by self-doubt. And they worry they’ll be exposed as fakes or frauds to others—otherwise known as “imposter syndrome.” Try these strategies to fight your fears and perform well.

  • Normalize it. Take some comfort in knowing that others experience self-doubt—and get through it. You’re not alone.
  • Try on different thoughts. When you treat your thoughts as facts, they can take on a life of their own. Don’t assume the worst and think, “I’m going to fail.” Instead, experiment with different thoughtssuch as, “This is going to be hard, but I can do this.”
  • Look to others for inspiration. You can feel even more inspired when you find similarities between other successful people and yourself. For instance, maybe he or she is hard-working, imaginative, or organized—just like you.
  • Chill out and breathe. If you’re too amped up, it’s hard to focus on the task at hand. Allow yourself some longer, slower exhales, and enjoy clearer thinking.
  • Remember your successes. Mental imagery is a powerful tool. Thinking about past times when you were successful—regardless of when they occurred—might help you feel more confident.
  • Know you don’t “need” confidence. Certainly you’d like to feel self-assured before you perform, but you don’t have to feel confident at first. People often perform well and then experience confidence.
  • Fake it ‘til you make it. "Acting" successful can help you actually become successful. And if you have some screw-ups along the way, own those mistakes and learn from them.

There’s no magic trick to overcoming imposter syndrome, but you can use these approaches to help defeat doubt, believe in yourself, and celebrate success!

The problem with picamilon

Why is picamilon illegal in dietary supplement products?

Picamilon goes by many names, such as pikatropin and nicotinyl-gamma-aminobutric acid, but one thing it can’t be called is a dietary ingredient. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration declared that picamilon is not a legal ingredient in dietary supplements and sent warning letters to 5 companies whose dietary supplement products contained picamilon. So why is it illegal? Find out in the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about picamilon.

If you want to learn more about other questionable ingredients, explore the OPSS FAQs about dietary supplement ingredients

What’s in your smoothie?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Before you whip up or grab your next smoothie, make sure it’s got “the right stuff” to meet your nutritional needs.

What role does a smoothie play in your meal plan: meal, snack, or post-workout fuel? If it’s a meal-replacement, then choose one that includes dairy, some fruit, and maybe vegetables. Is it a snack? Then go lighter and pick one with fruits, vegetables, and ice. And if you’re replenishing fuel after your workout, then make sure your smoothie includes protein—and choose the protein source wisely.

Make them quickly: Just dump your ingredients into a blender, hit start, and blend to desired consistency. That’s it! They can include any combination of fruits—such as berries, cherries, apples, melons, bananas, and grapes—and vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and cucumbers). Try freezing some ingredients for an icier drink. You also can use frozen bags of smoothie ingredients, saving time and decision-making. But avoid adding juice because it contains little (or no) fiber and extra calories.

There are many protein options too. Milk (dairy or nondairy) and plain (or Greek) yogurt also provide calcium. Nut butters can be flavorful as well. But remember 2 tablespoons add an extra 200 calories.

Choosing ready-to-drink dairy or juice smoothies? Some contain added sugar, and others with mostly apple juice aren’t as nutrient-dense as ones made with other fruits and vegetables. And check the Nutrition Facts panel because some bottles contain two (or more) servings. This is especially important because you’ll want to get the proper nutrients without going over your daily calorie needs.

Tip: Try a refreshing blend that includes 1 cup watermelon, ½ cup strawberries, 4 ice cubes, and ½ tsp lemon juice. Make sure to experiment with multiple combinations and flavors, and include more fruits and vegetables! And read HPRC’s FAQ about juicing to learn more. 

Train in the heat, perform at altitude?

Learn how training in the heat might help you prepare for performance at altitude.

Can you train in the heat to improve your performance at altitude? The answer is “sort of.” “Cross acclimation” or “cross tolerance” is the idea that exposing yourself to one environmental condition can help you adapt to another one as long as they have certain things in common.

As it turns out, this is the case for heat and hypoxia (low oxygen). This is important because athletes and service members can be exposed to altitude without prior or sufficient acclimatization. Altitude sickness can cause several problems, especially decreased performance. But some evidence shows that this method of training in hot conditions to prepare for altitude can actually work.

If you climb to the top of a mountain, there’s less air and less pressure. And you’re getting less oxygen with each breath. This can be simulated at sea level (in special labs) where pressures are normal, but the amount of oxygen in the air is reduced (fake altitude).

However, there’s a bit of a catch. Training in the heat under artificial low-oxygen conditions—normobaric hypoxia or “fake altitude”—involves normal pressure, which is different from “real altitude” or hypobaric hypoxia, which involves reduced oxygen at low pressure. The difference is in the pressure.

So, do these two environments cause the same types of physiological changes? There are several other factors involved in real-altitude acclimatization that might not be accounted for at fake altitude, so the jury’s still out.  

Training in the heat might prepare you for performance at altitude—to a point. Ideally, if you’re going to be at altitude, try to acclimatize yourself as much as you can.

Considering divorce?

Contemplating divorce can be stressful and confusing. We offer answers to some questions that might be on your mind.

Deciding to end your marriage isn’t easy. Yet divorce is a reality for many couples. There are many issues to consider because it can have a lasting effect on your family, home, health, and job—but especially your well-being.

  • Which couples divorce? There’s no “typical couple” destined to divorce. However, those who frequently argue and rarely spend positive time together are more likely to divorce. The same couples also risk violence and instability in their relationships. Frequent disagreements over money also are linked to higher divorce rates. Still, couples with fewer challenges divorce too.
  • Can therapy help? Counseling offers a neutral place to talk through your thoughts and feelings. Therapists offer an unbiased view with the intent of finding what’s best for the couple. Counselors also encourage them to consider the impact of their actions and help them explore different ways to think and behave. But counseling is only useful when you’re motivated and committed to work towards change. Don’t wait until things become too desperate before seeking help from a therapist or religious leader.
  • What else is there to consider? If you have children, you’re likely to be concerned about what might change for them and how you’ll help them cope. Give some thought to how you’ll maintain your financial security too. And start now to strengthen your social support—your relationships with friends and family—to help you through the process.
  • Why stay? You might choose to remain in the relationship if your spouse is making efforts to change. Still, it’s important to work together to create your optimal relationship. Some aren’t sure if their marriage will last. But they also want to see signs that reaffirm their love, which sometimes helps them decide to stay.

If your relationship is on rocky ground, consider reframing your thoughts about your spouse. And visit HPRC’s Conflict and Communication FAQs section.

Saluting fathers on Father’s Day

Learn how dads help their children become stronger, healthier, and more resilient.

This Father’s Day, HPRC salutes the many fathers who serve their country, families, and children. Dads play an essential role in families because they teach their kids about being healthy, smart, and kind. And it makes a difference.

So how do fathers teach their kids to become good people? Some dads help their children tune in to their own emotions as well as what others are thinking and feeling. Empathic kids are able to tolerate some degree of anger and guilt. And they use these emotions to look out for themselves and others.

School-age children with involved fathers are more likely to earn better grades and enjoy school. Dads can get more involved by helping their kids with homework and attending school events. Ask your kids about what they’re learning and help foster that curiosity.

Try to volunteer when your schedule allows it too. Coach your child’s sports team or serve as a scout leader. Pick whatever activity he or she enjoys—and your athlete or “mathlete” will shine.

Dads also can help put the fun in family fitness. Organize a bike ride, challenging hike, or fun day at the pool. Fathers with healthy-exercise habits help motivate their kids to be physically fit and active.

Remember to teach your children how to fuel their bodies. Set a good example for your kids to follow. Choose healthy snacks and drinks often because your kids are likely to eat and drink “what Dad’s having.” And ask them to help create your favorite salsa, pancakes, and chili in the kitchen. Make sure to involve the entire family during cleanup too.

Fathers near and far: Thanks for all you do! 

Waking up after sleep cycles is overrated

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind-body, Sleep
Do you need to wake up at the end of a sleep cycle to get the full benefits of sleep? Learn more about sleep cycles.

When you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, you initially feel rested and fresh. If you wake up before a sleep cycle finishes, you’ll probably feel groggy. However, you still get the benefits of that sleep. Here’s how it works: There are 5 stages of brain activity in one sleep cycle. And each cycle lasts about 90–120 minutes. You fall asleep during the earlier stages.

Next, you experience deep, restful sleep. Your heart rate and breathing slow down during these stages, while your body remains still. Your brain is most active during the final sleep stage. As you dream, your eyes move under your eyelids in rapid eye movement (REM). If you wake up during these later stages, you’ll likely feel groggy. You’ll feel more rested waking up at the end of a sleep cycle (ideally in the morning, after several sleep cycles). Or you can feel refreshed waking up after a 20–30 minute nap (before you enter deep sleep).

Sleeping 8–9 hours every day is important—however it happens. And you can shake off any grogginess or “sleep inertia” if you take 15–30 minutes to fully awaken. Standing upright and spending time in light—ideally daylight—can help! As long as you have enough time to fully overcome sleep inertia, you might find that the benefits of a little extra sleep are worth it.

Don’t worry about getting enough deep sleep or REM sleep. Trust your body! It has an amazing ability to recuperate when you catch up on sleep. And it will quickly fall into whatever stage of sleep you need most.

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