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.
Saturday May 8, 2010: This was the first day in my new PFT/OCS workout journal.
Three-mile run: never finished
Sit-ups/2 min – 59
"Tough times don't last. Tough people do." – Gregory Peck.
This is the quote that I think about every day while I’m training for my upcoming ten weeks at OCS this summer. I have never been OUT of shape, but lately I have wondering how IN shape I truly am. So it got me thinking of what is the best way to train for this “hell” that I have heard of. I started with the traditional “practice makes perfect” strategy and started running every day, doing two minutes of sit-ups, and trying to do 20 correct pull-ups without failing. I have to admit it was very hard, and I was not seeing results as fast as I had expected. I am a martial arts instructor and can roll with a student for 20 minutes without gasping for air, but after 1.5 miles of jogging, I was contemplating sleeping on the sidewalk of the street! Now, everyone knows that a basic principle of getting healthy is discipline, but it starts with disciplining your mind before your body. I have a couple Marine buddies who have gone through OCS, and they gave me a whole bunch of advice. I combined most of the things I wrote down from then and have found some helpful tips for training for OCS:
- Switch up your training regimen—so that you do not overwork certain muscles in your body. (See the HPRC website for ideas from various military fitness programs.)
- Breakfast is ESSENTIAL!—It gives you the energy to start out your day with a bang.
- Know your limits—do not train to the point of pain. When you’ve had enough, call it quits and start again tomorrow.
- Consistency is the goal—train most days unless you are sick—or incredibly sore from the 1st day, like I was. Every day does not have to be intense. [HPRC specialist’s note: At least one or two days of rest each week is advisable when ramping up to this activity level. The goal is to get to OCS strong, fit, and ready, not broken before you get there.]
- Don’t give up—I imagine that the real thing will be 10x harder then what I am doing to prepare. It helps give me the sense that things are easy now.
Thanks to tips like these—and consistency—I managed to get a 297/300 on my PFT test in December, which allowed me to qualify for OCS training. My score was based off these results:
Three-mile run: 18:09
Sit-ups/2 min: 100
Nine seconds shorter on my run and I would have had a perfect score of 300! Yes, I was extremely happy about this—but also nervous because now I had one year to graduate, and I had to stay in this kind of shape?!
Saturday March 5, 2011:
Basically, for all those people out there who are trying to get in shape for boot camp, OCS, or even just a PFT test, take these tips into consideration. They have done amazing things for me, and I hope they work for you. Now I have more confidence in myself, more energy, and a better overlook on all this. Start preparing your mind today for what your body will be going through tomorrow.
 Physical Fitness Training (PFT)/Officer Candidate School (OCS)
All successful athletes have routines: bouncing the ball three times and pausing before shooting a free throw, having a warm-up routine before every game, or chanting together in a group to get pumped before a game starts. As elite athletes, Warfighters also engage in routine activities to get into a mindset for success: cleaning their weapon the exact same way every time, having a pre-combat check prior to engagement, or putting their gear on in a certain order every day. Likewise, all successful families have routines. Spending time doing fun family activities, chores, or other quality time (like mealtime) together creates stability within the family and opportunities to connect. In fact, these findings have prompted researchers to assert, “Families who play together stay together.” Research has shown that couples who spend their leisure time together are less likely to divorce or separate. For military families, being apart (for deployment or training) can make it more difficult to maintain family routines, but it makes it even more important. Research has found that it is important for children to maintain a consistent routine while a parent is deployed. Some families mark a calendar, have special bedtime routines, or write in a diary while their family member is deployed. It’s equally important that deployed spouses and/or parents develop routines that keep them connected to their families at home. All of these strategies build family strength and closeness, both on the home front and during the heightened stress of separation.
For more strategies to help build family resilience, see the Family & Relationships section of HPRC's website.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) latest poll, our electronic gadgets may be preventing us from getting adequate sleep. Common behaviors such as computer use, texting, and watching television are associated not only with less sleep but with lower quality sleep. One recommendation from NSF: “Create a cool, comfortable sleeping environment that is free of distractions. If you're finding that entertainment or work-related communications are creating anxiety, remove these distractions from your bedroom.” For the full report of the poll, visit NSF’s Annual 2011 Report Homepage: Technology and Use and Sleep.
Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH) is a medical model being instituted in the military medical community that will impact how military families access and receive medical care. In this new model, every patient will be assigned a Primary Care Manager (a physician or other medical professional) who will ensure continuity of care and services 24/7. Other benefits include having a consistent relationship with one care provider as well as team-based medical care. Patients who use PCMHs have been found to have better outcomes than those who use a traditional medical model.
PCMHs will be used by 100% of all services by 2016, and patients will be encouraged to seek all care through their Primary Care Manager (called PCMs). Additionally, each service is now using PCMHs with different names: Family Health Operations (AF), Medical Home Port (Navy), and Army Medical Home (Army).
We’ve seen all the recent news and reports about energy drinks and the concern about the amount of caffeine in these products. Now a new wave of products is gaining attention, aimed at helping us relax, reducing our anxiety, and helping us sleep. These “relaxation beverages,” or “anti-energy drinks,” contain ingredients such as melatonin, valerian root, kava, St. John’s Wort, L-theanine, rose hips, and chamomile. A great number of relaxation beverages have been introduced into the market over the last three years, with names such as “Dream Water,” “iChill,” “Vacation in a Bottle,” and “Unwind.” Consumers of any age can buy these drinks in convenience stores, college campuses, and online.
Part of the problem with these relaxation drinks is that some of their ingredients, particularly melatonin, have not gone through the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval process required for all food ingredients to be designated as safe or GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”). Melatonin is a hormone made by the body, but it is also available as a supplement and is often used to treat sleep disorders and jet lag. The FDA sent a warning letter last year to the manufacturers of the “Drank” beverage saying, “there is no food additive regulation in effect that provides for the safe use of melatonin…Likewise, we are not aware of any basis to conclude that melatonin is GRAS for use in conventional foods.” The manufacturers of “Drank” want their product to be classified as a dietary supplement, not as a beverage, since the FDA scrutinizes foods and beverages much more closely than dietary supplements.
People who have liver problems, liver disease, or are taking prescription drugs should be cautious about using the herb kava, an ingredient found in some of these relaxation drinks. Kava has been linked to severe liver injury, and the FDA issued a consumer advisory in 2002 with a warning that kava-containing dietary supplement products have been associated with liver-related injuries, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure. Valerian root, a medicinal herb, is used to treat sleep disorders as well as anxiety. Although some research has been conducted on the effects of valerian on insomnia, the data are mixed, and no studies have tested the safety and effectiveness of the combination of ingredients found in relaxation beverages.
The marketing of relaxation drinks is also of concern, as it is geared toward a younger crowd, with bottles resembling the look of popular energy drinks and shots. The concern is that young adults will think nothing of having more than one of these a day. Some of these beverages have warnings on their labels stating that users should not consume them before operating/driving machinery or if pregnant or nursing.
What’s the bottom line? Buyers beware! There’s no magic pill, and there’s no magic beverage. Try to determine the causes of your stress and/or insomnia, address those issues, and then work towards establishing a healthy lifestyle overall.
The U.S. Army has retooled its yearly physical fitness test with more practical exercises geared to finding out if soldiers are in fighting shape. Along with other changes to the current test, troops will be required to run an obstacle course while dressed in full combat armor and dragging 180 pounds‹the equivalent of a human body.
The new Army Physical and Combat Readiness Test is being introduced at eight installations, and if all goes well, will be rolled out Army-wide on October 1st.
Click below to access the article.
A recent article suggests taking small breaks from hours of sitting. Try standing to answer phone calls or visiting a coworker instead of emailing them. Although this doesn’t replace regular physical activity, taking one-minute sitting breaks can help decrease your waistline and improve metabolic health. Click here to read more.
Couple dynamics can be a significant resource for individuals when positive and emotionally supportive. For example, in a study of civilian families under economic distress, a key buffering factor to feeling distress was spouses who were emotionally supportive to each other. In contrast, couples with similar external financial stressors who had relationships low in emotional support reported greater feelings of distress (Conger & Conger, 2002). Therefore, how the couple interacts with each other is an important factor that can either buffer or enhance feelings of distress.
Conger, R., & Conger, K. (2002). Resilience in midwestern families: Selected findings from the first decade of a prospective, longitudinal study. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 361-373.
Communicating well is extremely important for family well-being. Being able to speak clearly, listen well, show a range of emotional expression while being respectful and showing regard for family members’ are all aspects of good communication. You can help foster positive family communication by appreciating your loved ones verbally on a daily basis.
Walsh, F. (2006). Strengthening family resilience. NewYork, NY: Guilford.
Walsh, F. (2003). Family resilience: A framework for clinical practice. Family Process, 42(1),1-18.
Walsh, F. (2007). Traumatic loss and major disasters: Strengthening family and community resilience. Family Process, 46(2).
The amount of the time spent sleeping is decreasing: the average amount of sleep reported for middle-aged people in the late 1050s—around eight to nine hours—has decreased in recent times to about seven or eight hours. And the number of individuals who sleep less than six hours each night has significantly increased. These changes in sleep patterns may be indicative of sleep deprivation in society at large. This is not surprising, as the modern society seems to offer twice as much work (on the job, at home, etc.) and half as much time to complete it. Consequently, we are awake for extended periods of time, thus reducing the amount of time we spend sleeping.
However, we all know that sleep is essential! Sleep is vital to restore and renew many body systems; and sleep deprivation may result in poor performance, increased sleepiness, reduced alertness, delayed response time, difficulty maintaining attention, decreased positive mood, and increased long-term health risks. Some research studies have even shown that sleep deprivation is associated with increased risk of death.
So adequate sleep is vital for everyone to optimally perform the activities of daily living. But you may wonder, “How can I determine how much sleep I need to function at my best?” Dr. Michael Bonnet, director of the Sleep Laboratory at the Dayton. Ohio, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center provides a very simple but practical test you can use to determine how much sleep you need. According to him, if you need an alarm clock to wake up, try going to bed a little earlier the following night (e.g., 15 minutes earlier). If you still need an alarm clock to wake up the next morning, push your bedtime a little earlier again (i.e., another 15 minutes). Continue doing this until you no longer need an alarm to wake up.
I actually tried this test and found out I was not the “night owl” I thought I was. It looks like I function at my best if I retire for the night a couple of hours earlier than I used to. Sleep is important! It significantly affects your performance, health, and quality of life. And it is especially important to Warfighters, who can rarely get enough when deployed. So in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, try to get enough sleep each night whenever your situation makes it possible.
Source: National Sleep Foundation