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
Is what you’re eating helping or hindering your performance? If you’re feeling low in energy, underperforming in the gym, or struggling through your workday, then choose better “fuel.” Go for Green® (G4G) makes it easy to find high-performance foods and beverages to boost your fitness, strength, and health. Look for DoD’s revised G4G initiative in your dining facility or galley to help make nutritious choices that fuel your body and mind, optimizing your energy and performance.
G4G labels foods and beverages with a stoplight system—Green, Yellow, and Red—to identify your best choices for peak performance. Foods are labeled with Low, Moderate, or High sodium symbols to point out sodium content too. Use these tips to build your energy-boosting plate:
- Aim to fill half your plate with Green-coded foods. You can find healthy, Green-coded choices in every food group: grains, fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables, and dairy.
- Eat consistently to keep your energy up. For best results, include Green-coded foods and drinks with every meal and snack—and stick to a schedule when possible.
- Make nutrient-rich foods the easy choice at home and work. You’re more likely to eat what’s easily available, so choose foods that make you want to get up and go. Stock your fridge with Green-coded items, fill your kitchen cabinets with minimally processed foods, and keep a stash of healthy snacks in your desk drawer.
In this HPRC video, Tim Herzog, EdD, LTC Craig Jenkins, PhD, and Bob Tewksbury, EdM, discuss how military families can stay connected during deployments and temporary duty assignments (TDY). Dr. Herzog is a licensed counselor who specializes in mental performance training. Dr. Jenkins is a former Special Forces operational psychologist who went on to work with the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence (USAICoE). Bob Tewksbury, a former major league baseball (MLB) pitcher, became a mental skills coach for several MLB teams, including the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants.
Dr. Jenkins offers insights into how military families can exchange meaningful, handwritten letters to help stay connected with loved ones during deployments. Mr. Tewksbury shares examples of MLB players and their families, who also experience extended periods of separation.
Check out the video below to learn more about their suggestions on how to stay connected during deployments and separations.
Engaging in regular exercise is critical to maintaining optimal physical health and performance. Did you know that it also boosts your mental health and well-being? Some research suggests a strong connection between exercise and the prevention and treatment of psychological illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. Exercise also might help increase positive mental states and support cognitive function throughout your life. In addition, Warfighters and their families can use daily physical activity to remain strong and mission-ready, increase resilience, and boost overall well-being. Read more...
Enjoy a flavorful diet, feel healthier, boost your performance, and lower health risks with the “African Heritage Diet.” The ancestors of African Americans brought wonderful food traditions to America, but many of these traditions have been lost over time. And health has suffered as ways of eating have changed.
African Americans struggle with high rates of obesity, putting them at a disproportionally higher risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers. The good news is you can improve your health and performance by including the African Heritage Diet principles in your healthy eating plan—whether or not you’re African American. Keep reading to learn more about this diet. Read more...
It’s tax season, and finances are on your mind. Financial planning is important and it might help you stay on track with your fitness goals. What motivates you to exercise? Maybe it’s your New Year’s resolution, or you’re training for an upcoming event. The key is finding what works for you, so that you maintain a regular exercise routine.
For many, money can be a strong motivator for maintaining their exercise behaviors. You pay for gym memberships, fitness classes, and fancy exercise equipment—but is spending money a good way to stay motivated?
In general, people often are motivated by immediate gratification (versus being rewarded later) and by losses, rather than gains. Some research suggests that the idea of losing money is a strong motivator for maintaining an exercise program. So, if you pay for a gym membership and never use it, that sense of monetary loss can motivate you to actually go to the gym. Still, the value you place on that membership is important too. You might not feel a significant sense of loss over a $10 monthly gym membership, whereas the threat of losing $200 a month for a different membership might matter more. In one study, money was deducted from some participants’ prepaid accounts each time a fitness goal (walking 7000 steps/day) wasn’t met. Those who “lost” money experienced a greater increase in activity compared to those who were paid each day they met the same goal. For some people, losses feel worse than gains feel good.
You also might consider pre-paid or unlimited-visit gym memberships, where you pay a certain amount up front. And the more often you go, you get more bang for your buck as each class becomes cheaper.
Sometimes you need to “trick yourself” into good behaviors. Are you motivated by losses or gains? Find a trick that works for your wallet and you might find yourself in better shape for it!
It’s important for kids to establish good dental health habits early on, but their fears of visiting the dentist sometimes can get in the way. Still, you can help manage kids’ dental anxieties by talking through worries and explaining upcoming dental procedures.
Kids who don’t go to the dentist are more likely to experience pain, tooth loss, and cavities. The good news is regular dental visits can prevent these and other oral health issues.
Many parents struggle to figure out how to help their anxious little ones feel more comfortable. When kids think their oral health is bad, they also tend to get more anxious about visiting the dentist. Still, there are things you can do to lessen your child’s worry when a dental appointment approaches.
“Coach” your kids’ emotions to help them manage fears before the visit. Validate your child’s worries by saying something such as, “It seems you’re very concerned about what it will be like to go to the dentist tomorrow.” Let your child talk about his or her feelings. And ask her or him why it might be important to visit the dentist. Reassure your child if she or he has good oral health and suggest that the appointment is to make sure nothing goes wrong in the future.
Kids can benefit from age-appropriate, realistic explanations about what to expect on their next visit. Discuss what might help him or her feel calmer and more comfortable. Let your child offer ideas first. If needed, encourage him or her to bring a favorite stuffed toy or suggest doing a fun activity afterwards, so you both have something to look forward to. Distractions, such as watching cartoons during his or her appointment, also can help relieve your child’s anxieties. And gently remind your child how the dentist can help teeth and smiles stay strong and healthy.
At home, make your kids’ oral health a priority by getting into a routine of brushing and flossing from a young age too. Doing so can help prevent tooth decay and illnesses caused by bacteria buildup in the mouth.
Healthy environments create high-performing teams, which makes a big difference in how productive and fulfilled Warfighters feel on a daily basis. Winning teams don’t happen by chance. As leaders, parents, and partners, there are a few ways you can work toward building strong, cohesive, and effective teams at home or in uniform.
One of the most basic building blocks of good teams is a sense of trust and dependability among its members. High-quality connections with others at work and home can be cultivated by creating forums for open, honest, and assertive communication (about both the positive and negative). Encourage transparency and frequent communication about issues that impact daily operations. And remember that communication styles vary from person to person.
Although teams and families operate in units, find ways to identify and support individual strengths and attributes. Individual traits can help build or break down a team. Be proactive about getting to know what each person brings to the table and provide opportunities for them to utilize their strengths.
Create uniform standards of respect among teammates and family members to help boost healthy team environments too. When you identify negative dynamics within your group, openly address them and hold everyone accountable to the same expectations. Be on the lookout for group aggression and hazing. Although some people believe that these behaviors can lead to increased group identification, they actually can tear down morale and cohesion.
The teams that work within our Armed Forces are constantly in a state of flux. Crafting healthy team environments can create stability and security amid an ever-changing military landscape.
If you’re struggling with back pain, therapeutic massage can bring some relief. Some evidence suggests that it can help reduce pain in your lower back and neck too.
There are many different massage techniques, such as Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, and sports massage. During a massage, a trained therapist applies pressure and other forms of manipulation (such as kneading, circular movements, or tapping) onto muscle and soft tissue. The application of pressure on different layers of skin helps stimulate blood circulation, which could alleviate pain. Massages can increase calmness and decrease anxiety, which also can relieve your pain.
Massages can be particularly effective at alleviating lower back pain, especially when combined with a strengthening and stretching program. Deep-tissue massages can relieve some post-workout muscle pain too. A soft-tissue massage around your shoulders and upper back can increase range of motion and decrease pain as well.
Massages are generally safe, but make sure you seek treatment from a trained professional. Still, a massage isn’t without risk. In rare instances, too much pressure can fracture bones or incorrectly manipulate your spine. A massage on broken, open, or irritated skin can be painful. If you’re pregnant or have a blood-thinning disorder, consult your medical professional before getting a massage.
If you have back pain, ask your doctor or medical professional about adding massages to your pain management plan. TRICARE doesn’t cover massages, but ask if your massage therapist offers discounts for service members and veterans. And, when possible, take steps to avoid injury and back pain.
Oatmeal is a comfort food that can be prepared in a variety of ways. It contains soluble fiber, which can help lower your blood cholesterol, keep you fuller longer, and boost your performance.
Choose steel-cut oats (regular or quick-cooking), which provide a nutty texture, or rolled oats, which are available in a variety of thicknesses: regular or old-fashioned (thickest), quick-cooking (thinner), and instant (thinnest). There really isn’t much of a difference in cooking times, so choose whichever texture you prefer. And limit instant varieties, which can pack large amounts of sodium and sugar. Read more...
Poor oral health adversely affects readiness and could cost you your career, but it’s something you can prevent. Despite advances in dental care and hygiene, deployed service members are still at risk of trench mouth—technically referred to as necrotizing periodontal disease (NPD). This condition can lead to painful ulcers, spontaneous gum bleeding, and a foul taste in your mouth.
The good news is there are things you can do to reduce your risk of trench mouth. Learn how to be proactive and prevent NPD. And schedule regular visits to your dentist when possible.
- Poor hygiene.
- You might have little to no time for oral hygiene when you’re deployed, which can cause you to fall out of your normal routine of brushing and flossing.
- Solution: Pack a few travel-size tubes of toothpaste, dental floss, and a travel toothbrush in your kit, and establish a routine as quickly as possible.
- Tobacco use.
- Using tobacco products can lead to gum disease by reducing blood flow to your gums, which can lead to tooth loss and mouth infections.
- Solution: It’s never too late to quit. Check out these great tips to become tobacco-free.
- Poor nutrition.
- Eating right can be challenging in the field. But not eating enough food or the right foods can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies that reduce your ability to fight oral infections.
- Solution: Although MREs can’t replicate the tastes of a home-cooked meal, they’re nutritionally balanced to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Eat a variety of MREs and as many of the components as you can to make sure you get all the nutrients they provide.
- Too much stress can adversely affect your performance and overall health, including dental health. Stress can cause dry mouth and sore, inflamed gums.
- Solution: Check out HPRC’s Stress Management section for ways to manage your stress. While activities like yoga, meditation, or journaling are very calming, try exercise, reading, or playing card games to help reduce stress too.