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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.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness

Postpartum exercise

How soon can you start to exercise after giving birth?

The benefits of exercise in the postpartum period (six to eight weeks after delivery) include decreased physical, mental, and general fatigue, in addition to improved fitness and motivation. It may even reduce depression, as long as the exercise relieves stress rather than provokes it.

Some women who exercise during their pregnancy and immediately resume exercise after giving (vaginal) birth aren’t at risk for post-partum complications (such as excessive or prolonged bleeding, uterine inversion, or infection). However, most women don’t meet the recommendations for exercise during pregnancy, so when you do resume exercise, you should do so gradually.

You may be concerned that exercise could decrease your milk supply; however, exercising women who drink enough fluid (stay hydrated) and eat enough to meet their caloric needs continue to produce enough breast milk. Composition of breast milk remains the same with moderate exercise intensity, but vigorous exercise can cause lactic acid to appear in the milk, which could affect how well your baby accepts your milk. Consider nursing before participating in vigorous exercise.

Returning to physical activity after giving birth depends on the individual. Be sure to discuss your exercise habits and plans with your doctor before resuming your regular workout routine. Visit this web page from The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to learn more about exercise in the postpartum period. Stay healthy for you and your baby!

Fueling for performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
HPRC has a new section on frequently asked questions about performance nutrition to help you achieve your performance goals.

Getting the right nutrients at the right time can give you the edge you need when it comes to performance. Are you drinking the right kind of beverage to keep you hydrated? Do you know what to eat after a workout to optimize your recovery? Find answers to these questions and more in HPRC’s FAQS: Fueling for Performance.

And while you’re there, be sure to check out our other Nutrition FAQs for more answers to common questions we’ve received about nutrition.

Caring for your aging parents

The needs and health concerns of aging parents can be stressful, especially when you’re deployed abroad. Learn some tips to help you manage.

Caring for elderly parents, even in the best of situations, can be difficult, especially if you’re a military service member. Trying to make long-term care and emergency decisions for elderly parents while you carry a lot of responsibility at work can cause a lot of worry. And if you’re deployed overseas, it’s even more difficult to monitor your parents’ well-being. As they age, your parents may need help with daily activities such as home maintenance, personal hygiene, and meals. And if a medical emergency occurs without a contingency plan in place, it adds to your burden of guilt and anxiety over what could happen in the your absence.

As your parents age, your worry grows, especially if they have had any prior illnesses. But you are likely to worry less if you have other siblings and you have a solid parent-care plan in place.

Here are some preemptive steps that you can take to make sure your parents are well cared for, even if you’re on different continents:

  • Find out what community and government resources there are for information and support services in your parents’ neighborhood.
  • Ask siblings, extended family members, neighbors, and friends to help with your parent-care responsibilities.
  • Schedule regular phone calls or Skype chats for updates on your parents’ well-being and health.
  • Develop a care plan together with your parents before a medical emergency occurs.

With so many people counting on you, it’s important to be organized, mentally solid, and in control of every situation no matter what happens. Strategic planning and communication can make all the difference in caring for your elderly parents from afar and maintaining your own performance as you cope with these additional stress loads. For more information on caregiver support and eldercare, please visit the National Resource Directory.

What’s in your energy drink?

Energy drinks are really “stimulant” drinks. Learn how to identify potentially harmful ingredients.

Stimulants can be dangerous to your health, especially in large quantities, but they’re what give energy drinks their “punch.” You may already know caffeine is a major stimulant found in energy drinks. But do you know that energy drinks often contain other stimulants? These can include “hidden sources” of caffeine (such as guarana, green coffee bean, green tea, and yerba mate), yohimbe, and synephrine (bitter orange).

Many energy drinks, however, aren’t labeled with the amounts of caffeine or other stimulants in them. Some or all of these ingredients are often part of “proprietary blends,” so it’s impossible to determine from the label the exact amount of each ingredient you would be taking. Furthermore, energy drinks might be mislabeled or marketed as sports drinks, causing even more confusion.

Remember, stimulants come in many different forms, so Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) put together a list of stimulants found in dietary supplements to help you identify these potentially harmful ingredients. And to help you understand what’s in your energy drink, check out the OPSS infosheet on energy drink labels, which includes helpful notes about ingredients. 

Cope with emotions through mindfulness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Mindfulness can help you to face hard emotions instead of running from them. Learn how.

Mindfulness can help you feel better equipped to handle difficult emotions. It’s a process geared to help you tune in to emotional experiences rather than try to escape from them. It’s easy to be overcome by depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, or other mental health problems. And you can make it worse by trying to forget the cause. For example, a service member afflicted with PTSD desperately wants to avoid experiencing certain traumatic events. Ironically, the actual effort to forget can cause him to relive difficult events through dreams, flashbacks, or memories. To illustrate this idea, right now, try NOT to think of weapons. You probably thought about them that much more. Read more here

Stand up and get moving!

Filed under: Exercise, Walking
Add a few extra minutes of movement to your day, and you’ll be healthier for it.

Too much sitting during the day is linked to multiple illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. And sitting has become an all-too-common activity in the modern workplace. One remedy to the problem is the use of standing desks. However, even standing isn’t enough to keep you at your healthiest. Another important weapon against sitting disease is movement. By adding just 2 minutes of walking every hour, you can increase blood flow to your heart and other muscles. These short bursts of movement “wake the body up” and keep important systems working. If it helps, set a timer on your phone or computer to remind you to walk around at least once every hour. This doesn’t replace the recommendations for getting regular exercise, but it will help keep you active and healthy! Get moving!

Tips for G-TIP

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Flying under G-forces? Here are tips you can use to improve your G-tolerance during flight.

Training for flight in dynamic and high-acceleration aircraft requires both good cardiovascular health and anaerobic capabilities; part of well-rounded fitness! Have you heard the myth that all fighter pilots are short, stocky, and need high blood pressure? Not true, you too can develop good G-tolerance! Regular cardiovascular conditioning paired with strength-training programs will properly prepare you for flight under Gs. A strong lower body helps push blood upwards where you need it, in your heart and brain. Being aerobically fit gives you the endurance to keep pushing and not fatigue as quickly while doing the Anti-G Straining Maneuver (AGSM). AGSM is a two-component maneuver pilots perform under g-loads that involves breathing and muscle contractions to increase your blood pressure and maintain blood flow to your brain. Read more here

Are you tough enough…mentally?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Are you mentally tough? See if you’ve got the 4 Cs. Develop these traits and maintain them.

Mental toughness is a psychological edge that some are born with and others develop. It’s a mixture of traits that are important for all who want to overcome adversity and be successful. These traits include a strong belief in yourself and an unshakable faith that you control your own destiny. It allows you to consistently cope with training and lifestyle demands better than those who don’t have it.

If you have these 4 Cs, you’re mentally tough:

  • Control: You feel in control of your emotions and are influential with the people in your life. 
  • Commitment: You embrace difficulty rather than running from it.
  • Challenge: You believe that life is full of opportunities, not threats.
  • Confidence: You know you have what it takes to be successful.

How to get it? You can gain mental toughness through a long-term process of developing mental skills.  Leaders can specifically promote mental toughness by creating a learning environment centered on the mastery of the 4 Cs. They also can help by generally supporting and encouraging service members to maintain positive relationships. Over the long haul, to maintain and improve your mental toughness, you need to constantly hone your mental skills. And finally, you need a self-driven, insatiable desire to succeed.

What’s cooking? Food safety for summer

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Food, Safety, Summer
Have fun in the sun and stay safe at the grill or in the kitchen with these summertime food safety tips.

It’s the peak of summer, which means barbeques, picnics, and other food-filled events. But especially in summer’s heat, don’t forget about food safety, or it might just spoil your fun. Let the good times roll this summer with these food safety tips:

  • Wash your hands. Washing your hands often is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of bacteria. Remember to use warm water and soap, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Marinate meat safely. Marinate your food in the refrigerator, and keep it there until you’re ready to cook it. If you want to use the marinade as a sauce, set aside a portion before adding your raw meat or poultry, and don’t reuse marinade.
  • Cook food thoroughly.Use a thermometer to ensure your food is cooked to the right minimum internal temperature:
    • Steaks and pork—145°F
    • Hamburgers and sausages—160°F
    • Poultry—165°F
  • Keep cold food cold. Don’t let your cold dishes sit out on a counter for more than 2 hours, or one hour outdoors when temperature is above 90°F. Otherwise, keep it chilled at 40°F or less in a cooler or place directly on ice.

Always remember: “When in doubt, throw it out.” A foodborne illness is not worth the risk. For more information on food safety during the summer, visit “Summer and Vacations” at Foodsafety.gov.

Be assertive

Assertive communication is often the best way to communicate. Aim for a mix of “directive” and “cooperative.”

One of the best ways to express yourself is to be assertive. Assertive communication is neither aggressive nor passive. It’s a balance between issuing a directive and being overly cooperative.

Communication between siblings can provide some good examples. Here’s a too directive approach: “You need to call me too. Don’t make me do all the work to keep up our relationship.” That may make sense to you, but the other person may not take it the way you want because it triggers defensiveness. And here’s the overly cooperative approach: When your sibling says, “I hope you don’t mind that I never call,” you reply, “No, it’s okay, whatever you want is fine” (even if it isn’t).

The best approach would sound something like this: “I’d really like to talk with you, but I know you’re busy. What can we do to stay more in touch?” This approach is basically a combination of “This is what I need” and “Can you join my team to figure out a solution?” It’s straightforward and mutually empowering, opening the door for real communication. Try it and see how it works for you. But once you’ve delivered your message, don’t forget to listen: Read HPRC’s Conflict and Communication FAQ#3.

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