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.
HPRC Fitness Arena: Physical Fitness
Adding yoga to your fitness routine can build strength and endurance, increase focus, and improve your well-being. What’s more, yoga can help reduce stress and relieve pain from injury or illness. No matter what motivates your health or performance goals, you can benefit from HPRC’s video series on yoga sequences that target different parts of your body.
- Calming Yoga. This exercise helps activate the relaxation response in your mind and body by combining gentle yoga poses, breathing, and mindful awareness.
- Balance Yoga. This routine focuses on breathing to help energy flow evenly throughout your body.
- Challenge Yoga. This activity can help strengthen your core, increase flexibility, and relieve stress through a number of poses.
- Challenge Yoga with Weights. This sequence combines light weights with challenging poses to reduce stress and increase muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility.
Whether you’re a beginner or expert, here are some tips for effective yoga practice:
- Go slow. If you’re practicing in the morning, take your time and ease into the positions because your body might need to warm up at first.
- Listen to your body. If you feel pain or “overstretching,” stop because you’ve reached your “full expression.” If you’re having a hard time or breathing problems, move into Corpse Pose: Lie flat on your back with your hands facing upwards. Do this until you feel better.
- Watch and learn. If you’re a beginner practicing alone, it might be helpful to go through the videos first and become familiar with the various moves.
Ask your healthcare provider about the different forms of yoga, so you can choose what’s right for you. This is especially important for those with heart conditions or women who are pregnant.
Visit HPRC’s Mind-Body Apps, Tools, and Videos page to check out the Yoga Series videos and learn other mind-body techniques too.
The best time of day to exercise is the time when you can maintain a consistent exercise routine—not necessarily the same time for everyone. You also might experience better training adaptations when you exercise consistently at a regular time. For example, if you work out at noon every day, your body will adapt to perform at its best at noon.
Above all, exercise should be enjoyable. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, you’re less likely to keep up with it. So here are a few things to keep in mind about making exercise fit into your schedule.
Morning. It might be easiest to maintain a consistent exercise regimen by starting your day with a workout. Other things that come up during the day can affect your plans to work out later in the day, and motivation often fades as the day progresses. However, since your body and muscle temperatures are lower in the morning, it’s especially important in the morning to warm up properly before exercise.
Afternoon. Optimal adaptations to weight training seem to occur in late afternoon. Levels of hormones such as testosterone (important for muscle growth in men and women) and cortisol (important for regulating metabolism and controlling blood pressure) seem to be at optimal ratio later in the day. For some people—because hormone levels vary from person to person—lifting later also might be more beneficial because their testosterone can respond better to resistance exercises.
Evening. The biggest caveat about exercising in the evening is how it will affect your sleep. Everyone is a little different. Some people can exercise right before bed and have no trouble sleeping. For others, it can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. There are lots of factors that can affect your sleep. Experiment to see what works for you.
Remember that other factors such as your work schedule, fitness goals, current diet, and sleep habits also affect your workout routine and physical performance. But whether at the end of the day (or in the morning or afternoon), a consistent exercise routine is the best routine.
Adaptive sport programs for wounded, injured, and ill service members are an important part of the rehabilitation process. And the Paralympic Military Program provides Paralympic sport opportunities—including camps, clinics, and competitions—to over 2,000 athletes each year. The program also promotes mentorship, teamwork, and fellowship for its athletes, especially those starting their roads to recovery. The results are impressive too: 5 military athletes won medals at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia!
The Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offer many adaptive sport programs and clinics throughout the country. Whether you’re looking for a new challenge or going for the Gold, the first step is getting out there and being active!
Check out the Paralympic Military Program page to learn more about adaptive sport opportunities in your community. And be sure to cheer on service members, veterans, and other Paralympians at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, beginning September 7.
Go team USA!
As summer vacation comes to an end, the transition back to school is just around the corner. Now’s the time to review the ABCs of a Total Family Fitness transition back to school: Awareness, Bedtime, Calmness, Diet, and Exercise. This is your chance to lay a foundation for your family’s healthy habits throughout the school year. HPRC's Total Family Fitness approach focuses on the health, wellness, and resilience of your family. It can help optimize and strengthen your family’s performance by integrating strategies that impact their mind, body, relationships, and environment—many of the same strategies used in the Total Force Fitness model for Warfighters. Read more...
This third and final article in HPRC’s series about running shoes “ties” everything together. Although there are lots of different ways to tie them, the traditional way sometimes doesn’t cut it. Is your heel slipping? There’s a lace-up for that. Do you have a hot spot? There’s a lace-up for that. Check out the videos below for shoelace-tying fixes to 3 common foot problems:
Heel lock. What are those extra eyelets at the top of your shoes? Use those eyelets and this heel-lock method to secure your foot, without having to tighten the rest of your shoelaces.
Black toenails. Are your toenails turning black and blue? Tie your shoelaces to help pull the shoe away from your toes, giving them more wiggle room. Remember: The lace ends don’t have to be even once you start lacing your shoes. The diagonal lace can be a little shorter to start with, but leave enough so you can finish tying your shoes.
Hot spot or high arches. Is there a sore spot on the top of your foot? Or do you have high arches? Lace around painful areas—not over them—by moving the laces up or down, depending on where the irritation is located.
If you read our running-shoe article from last week, then you know how to use your old shoes’ wear pattern to narrow down the kind of shoes you need. Now focus on making sure your new running shoes fit properly. First, be prepared before heading out to the store.
- Bring or wear a pair of good socks, preferably the kind you’ll be running in.
- Bring any insoles or orthotics you usually wear during runs. Tip: Replace the insoles from your new shoes with your own orthotics or insoles to ensure a comfortable fit.
- Shop later in the day—when your feet are flattened and more swollen—to get an accurate measurement.
Make sure to try before you buy! Check out these helpful hints on heel cup, snug fit, and wiggle room:
Part 3 of this series will show a few different ways to tie your shoelaces for the most comfortable fit. And if you haven’t already, read Part 1 of this series.
There are so many different kinds of running shoes out there, it’s hard to know which ones you should be wearing. Although there are many factors that affect injury risk, choosing the correct shoes might help prevent running injuries.
The military once recommended buying shoes simply based on your arch height: flat, normal, or high. And some exchanges still use the arch-height system to categorize their shoes. Arch height can influence your foot strike, but it doesn’t always accurately indicate running style.
You can ask the pros at any specialty running store to help you choose the correct shoes. But there are other ways to figure out what “kind” of runner you are and which kinds of shoes are best. However, if you’re already wearing shoes that have been fitted for your running style—and you’re not experiencing any serious injuries—then keep running! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Find your wear pattern: Use the chart below to compare your wear pattern (on the sole of your shoe) with what you’re already wearing. Look at the inner side of your shoe (sides facing each other). Motion-control and stability shoes typically have gray (or different color) foam near the midsole to heel: The foam should feel harder than what’s on the outsole. Shoes with harder foam covering a larger area—highlighted in yellow on the chart below—provide more stability and/or motion control.
Tip: Wear your running shoes for running only! Wearing them for other activities can change the wear patterns and cause them to wear out faster.
This is the first in a series of HPRC articles with guidelines to help you choose the best running shoe. Part 2 will provide tips and tricks to help you get the perfect fit.
Exercising outdoors can be uncomfortable and sometimes unhealthy when it’s hot and humid, but there are ways to work out through the weather woes. You’re more likely to breathe faster and deeper and through your mouth—bypassing your nose’s natural filtration system—on hot days. You also risk greater exposure to air pollutants (such as carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and ozone) that can inflame your respiratory system. However, the risks associated with not exercising at all are far greater than the risks of exercising outdoors.
So, plan ahead before exercising outside. And limit your exposure to pollutants, especially on days and in conditions when pollution is bad.
- Avoid exercising in heavy-traffic areas, such as along highways and during rush hour.
- During warmer months, exercise earlier in the morning or later in the evening, when ozone levels and temperatures aren’t as high.
- Check the domestic or international air-quality ratings to determine when it’s safe to exercise outside. Limit your time outside on Code Red and Code Orange days. Environmental conditions on these days aren’t healthy, especially for children, the elderly, and those with existing respiratory conditions.
- Exercise indoors when the air quality indicates high ozone and particulate levels.
- Before any demanding physical activity, limit your carbon monoxide exposure by avoiding smoky areas and long car rides in congested traffic.
Plan some indoor and outdoor adventures with your kids this summer and enjoy free admission to national parks and museums across the country. Hiking, camping, and learning activities are good for their minds and bodies.
The amount of time children spend outdoors is steadily decreasing. Kids now spend more time inside—staring at screens—and less time outside. Your feelings about outdoor recreation likely impact how much time your kids spend outside too. Still, children who camp and hike tend to have more positive attitudes towards nature and the environment. Those who enjoy the outdoors tend to enjoy it as adults too.
Kids get more exercise at parks and playgrounds. So, shake things up by taking them to any national park: Free annual passes are available to current U.S. service members and their families, as well as Reserve and National Guard members.
Military families also can enjoy free admission to over 2,000 nature centers and art, science, history, and children’s museums through Labor Day. Museums encourage active learning and impact kids’ social and mental development. Little ones especially enjoy hands-on activities, interactive exhibits, and new learning experiences with their parents at children’s museums. And it keeps them on the go.
Muscle pain a day or so after exercise—known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—is common among athletes. Do you wonder why this happens—even when your workout went great—or what you can do about it?
DOMS results from damage to muscle fibers that occurred during exercise. You might experience DOMS after a hard workout, or even simple activities such as running and/or walking downhill or jumping. It also can occur when you’re starting a new workout routine or just getting back into shape after an illness or injury. The good news is DOMS can be treated at home—and sometimes prevented—with simple techniques, including stretching, protein/carbohydrate recovery drinks, and cold-water immersion. Sports massage and foam rolling can help reduce muscle soreness too.
Over-the-counter medications also can provide some relief. But use these at the lowest effective dose. Visit your doctor if the pain worsens or swelling occurs. In the meantime, read HPRC’s article, “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness,” to learn about the difference between DOMS and other musculoskeletal pain.