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
Getting fit and staying healthy can be especially challenging for service members with chronic illnesses, injuries, or disabilities. The good news is that recreation therapy can make the process less painful. Recreation therapists can help motivate and design activities that are enjoyable while they improve both physical and mental function and fitness. Therapeutic recreation also can help make subsequent life more enjoyable.
The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) suggests that those who are more active lead more satisfying, happier, and healthier lives. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DoD recommend injured veterans get involved in adaptive sport programs and/or recreation therapy as part of their rehabilitation. Most rehabilitation hospitals have a recreation therapist on staff who can help develop individualized programs. There are also local and national programs such as the VA Adaptive Sports Program, Paralympics, and the Military Adaptive Sports Program.
Mother’s Day is set aside to honor mothers, but for service members who can’t celebrate with their moms or who can’t take time to celebrate being a mom, it can be hard. But still do your best to take time and recognize the special moms in your life.
- Show your appreciation with a handwritten note or ecard. If you’re feeling creative, make a card from scratch—just like you did as a kid—and drop it in the mail.
- Enjoy a physical activity together. Go walking, running, biking, hiking, or do yoga. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, together or apart, can help you both enjoy Mother’s Day in the future too.
- Nourish your mom with healthy treats or a homemade meal. And consider inviting a mom who doesn’t have family nearby. Good food and conversation can make her day special too.
If you can’t be with your mom, then schedule a time to talk or video chat. Let her know how much you cherish your relationship. And ask any questions you might have wondered about, such as:
- How are we alike or different?
- What did you really think when I joined the military (or married someone in the military)?
- Is it easier being a mother now that your kids are grown?
- What do you hope the next few years will bring for our family?
If you’re feeling some sadness or anxiety, make a point to manage your stress. “Perfect” moms and/or children could evoke stress, even if you love them dearly. Consider mindfulness or other ways to cope, and make the best of this day.
Happy Mother’s Day to all military moms—service members, spouses, and mothers of service members!
This is the third and final article in HPRC’s series about training for Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT). The last basic component involves keeping your body fit for movement, especially your joints and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. For coordinated and efficient movements, you need give-and-take between the mobility and stability of these parts.
Preventing injuries also requires mobility and stability of your musculoskeletal system. To improve and maintain your mobility, you need to incorporate stretching into your regular training regimen, along with your aerobic and muscular-strength exercises. The addition of muscular-strength exercises to flexibility exercises addresses your joint-stability needs. Read more...
Another basic component of Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) training involves muscular strength and endurance, but as with aerobic conditioning, you need to develop it over time, not just before your fitness tests. Whether you’re training or in the field, and even when you’re not thinking about it—such as moving ammunition boxes into a transport—your muscular strength and endurance are essential components of your overall fitness.
But training to improve muscular strength is not the same as training for muscular endurance. Muscular strength is the amount of force that a muscle can produce with a single maximum effort. Muscular endurance is the ability to sustain a muscle contraction over a period of time, or to repeatedly contract a muscle over a period of time.
Learn how to use the FITT principle to develop a muscular fitness routine that will build both strength and endurance to prepare for PFT/PRT and beyond. Read more...
Preparation for your Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) takes time and discipline. Training for the test isn’t something you should start the month before the test, and the habits you develop leading up to the test should be ones you continue even after the test. Weekend warriors and procrastinators are at greater risk for injury, and it’s likely that your performance will be less than optimal when it comes time for the test.
If you’re just getting back into shape, be sure to do it gradually. Once you’ve resumed a regular exercise routine, you might notice some aches and pains. Listen to your body. Watch out for symptoms of common athletic injuries such as overuse injuries and knee pain. It’s important to address these issues early to minimize any damage and get you back in action as soon as possible. Maintaining your exercise routine after the PFT/PRT and challenging yourself along the way will keep you in warrior-athlete shape year round and prevent deconditioning.
HPRC provides a series of articles with guidelines to help you prepare for the PFT/PRT, beginning with this one on aerobic conditioning. Read more...
On a daily basis, girls’ physical activity levels are lower than boys’ of the same age. They need extra support from their parents to get moving and find opportunities for physical fitness. A lack of physical activity can have negative consequences in the long term, such as poorer hand-eye coordination and worse overall health. But exercise isn’t just good for your child’s body; it’s also linked to better academic achievement.
One reason girls get less exercise is because they may not be offered opportunities to engage in physical fitness. Parents might assume their daughters don’t like sports and then don’t suggest they participate. Encouragement from parents matters. Don’t assume your daughter isn’t interested in physical fitness, even if she sometimes says she isn’t! Break up the times your daughter is just sitting around by getting her to go for a walk or move around the house. Ask her to help with tasks at home that require some physical activity. Encourage your daughter to enroll and stay involved in organized sports from a young age. Brainstorm physical activities she might enjoy. There’s trampoline, fencing, hip-hop dance, lacrosse, martial arts, soccer, ice hockey, skateboarding, rowing, swimming, yoga, or tennis, to name a few.
Remember that kids take their cues from their parents. Set an example by being physically active yourself, and your children will likely follow suit. All kids—boys and girls—need at least 60 minutes if physical activity a day. Not sure what type of exercises your children should be doing? Check out HPRC’s “Put some fun in your children’s fitness” for some great ideas.
How do you know how much weight to lift when you start a resistance-training program? Most programs are designed around lifting a percentage of your maximum strength.
First, you need to find out what your maximum strength is. A popular method is the one-repetition maximum test (1RM): the most weight you can press once but not twice. You can also do multiple-repetition tests for a reliable estimate of maximum strength. A 5-repetition test seems to be accurate, but more than 10 reps is unreliable.
This instructional video demonstrates the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) protocol for a 1RM test. ACSM’s protocol can also be applied to a multiple-repetition test. For example, determine the most weight you can lift 5 times, but not 6 times, for a 5-rep max test. If you have doubts about whether this is the right test for you, be sure to consult a healthcare professional.
The second step is to determine what amount of weight—as a percentage of your 1RM—you should use to improve your muscular strength and endurance. Typically, your muscular strength should improve if you use 60–80% of your 1RM. You should be able to improve your muscular endurance using about 50% of your 1RM. Once you’ve assessed your maximum strength, use this conversion chart from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) to determine your 1RM percentages.
An important thing to know about stress fractures is how to avoid them. A stress fracture is a tiny crack in a bone that happens when your muscles can’t absorb shock and transfer stresses to the bone. Most occur in the lower extremities, especially the lower leg and foot.
A stress fracture is usually an overuse injury that develops over a long period of time—from weeks to months. They’re especially common among military recruits, in about 3% of men and 9% of women. And since it can take several weeks to months for a stress fracture to heal, the best approach is to avoid getting one. Here are some tips for prevention:
- Use the progression principle of training: Gradually increase your training intensity, usually by no more than 10% weekly if you exercise 3 or more days a week. Slowly incorporate higher-stress activities such as jumping and interval training into your workout. Set incremental goals to help you develop your training routine step-by-step.
- Check your footwear and make sure it matches your training routine. Replace old or worn footwear.
- Check your form. Are you moving properly when you exercise or does your form put you at risk of injury?
- Pay attention to early signs of injury. Unusual muscle soreness and other aches and pains can be a sign of injury and/or imbalances that could worsen if they aren’t addressed early.
- Monitor your diet, specifically calcium and vitamin D intake. To learn more, read the National Institute of Health’s Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet on calcium and HPRC’s article on vitamin D.
It’s important to recognize a stress fracture and get medical help early, as described by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The Mayo Clinic provides more information on symptoms. And check out HPRC’s Injury Prevention section for more on how to avoid injury.
Since pull-ups are tough and require a lot of strength, HPRC just created a training program to help you meet the challenge. Achieving a pull-up might be easier for some, but more difficult for others, especially women. Other factors such as body fat, arm length, and height can affect your ability to achieve a pull-up too.
But what that means is—with the right training—you can do it! Check out HPRC’s Pull-up Progression Program for exercises aimed at increasing your strength and helping you achieve your first pull-up.
“Long slow-distance runs,” the coaching phrase goes, “make long slow-distance runners.” A leisurely long run isn’t bad for you—it just means that if you want to run faster, you have to train faster. Mix it up instead and incorporate speed workouts into your runs: interval, tempo, and fartlek.
Always include a warm-up and cooldown with your workout. Limit speed workouts to twice a week and get enough rest and recovery in between. Actively rest by going on a lighter run or bike ride, or even doing some yoga. Learn more about how speed workouts can ramp up your performance. Read more...