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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

Fighting the “negativity bias”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn how your brain focuses on the negative, how that can impact your well-being, and how to balance out your perception.

The human brain has evolved to be adept at identifying threats and challenges, which enables you to navigate through a dangerous world successfully. This ability helps keep Warfighters, family members, and teammates vigilant and safe from harm. But it also can skew your perception of life toward the negative. Read on to learn how to keep your mind in balance.

This hardwired tendency, called “negativity bias,” causes your brain to prioritize, seek out, and lock on to negative information out in the world like a heat-seeking missile. You’re likely to process negative events more fully than positive ones. Negative emotions seem to hang around a lot longer than positive emotions. And when you get home at the end of the day, you’re more likely to mull over the one negative comment someone made about your work and ignore the many positive comments you received from others. It’s just the way your brain works.

Negativity bias is adaptive and helpful in many ways, but the key to maintaining good mental health is in finding balance. So what can you do? Here are a few strategies to try:

  • Spend a few minutes each day looking for the good around you. Write down the positive things you notice and reflect or share with other people.
  • Check your interpretations. If you notice you tend to interpret the world in negative ways, ask yourself if you’re seeing things accurately and if you can be more flexible in your thinking.
  • Be intentional about appreciating the ordinary. Good things don’t have to be big things. When you can learn to be grateful for and appreciate the little things, you can balance out the impact of your negativity bias.

The bad stuff will find you, but work each day at fighting the negativity bias by searching for the good.

Raise healthy eaters—Part 2: Age-specific tips

Part 2 of HPRC’s “healthy eater” series explores age-specific tips to get your kids to eat healthy.

Children need guidance from their parents about eating a well-balanced diet. As they grow, your interactions with them around food will change. They’ll take on more responsibility for feeding themselves too. Still, you’ll continue to influence their eating preferences through the foods you prepare and offer to them. Read on for age-specific tips to encourage your kids’ healthy eating too. And if you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to read Part 1 about general nutrition tips for helping your children learn how to be “healthy eaters” at all ages. Read more...

EPOC-alypse, now!

Some exercise programs claim their workouts give you “afterburn.” But does your body continue to burn calories after exercise?

Have you ever raced to the top of a long flight of stairs and found yourself gasping for breath just minutes later? Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), also known as “afterburn,” occurs after strenuous exercise as a way to bring your body back to its normal metabolic rate. It takes time for your body to replenish the oxygen used up during exercise, and during this time you continue to burn calories as a result of your elevated metabolism.

You might have experienced EPOC after completing a tough workout, remaining hot and sweaty even 20–30 minutes later. The good news is that it doesn’t take a long workout to achieve that afterburn. Still, it means your workouts need to be more intense. Rounds of short bursts of high-intensity exercise—such as cardio or resistance training—followed by a period of low-intensity exercise or rest is the best way to achieve afterburn. This style of intermittent high-intensity exercise can burn more fat, improve glucose tolerance, and even increase your aerobic fitness. Many commercial programs and gyms claim their workouts will increase EPOC, but this isn’t “new science.” And you don’t have to pay extra money to achieve the same results.

Split your cardio workout into two shorter sessions of higher intensity to accomplish a longer afterburn. For example, if you usually cycle for 50 minutes after work, do two 25-minute rides instead: one before work and one after work. Or replace your normal resistance training with supersets: Pair 2 exercises of opposing muscle groups and complete them back-to-back with minimal rest. For example, combine pull-ups with pushups into one superset, completing 8–12 repetitions of each exercise for 3–5 sets. You also can do a full-body workout by combining 3–4 different supersets. Remember to maintain proper form because it reduces your risk of injury too.

Raise healthy eaters—Part 1: For kids 2–18

It’s important to teach children about acceptable eating behaviors and how to control their eating impulses. In this two-part series, HPRC offers tips to help your kids eat healthy.

How you approach feeding your children influences their food choices, the amount they eat, and their weight. While it’s important for kids to maintain a healthy weight, it’s also helpful for them to determine when they’re hungry and when they’re full.

Insisting kids eat more after they say they’re full can interfere with their ability to learn what “being full” really feels like. Trust that your child’s brain is sending signals back and forth to his or her belly, indicating “full.” And if children are offered a selection of generally healthy foods, they’ll eat the right amount and grow healthy. Read the rest of this article for specific tips you can use to help your own children eat healthfully as they grow.  

Your money grows with compound interest

Filed under: Finances, Money
Learn how compound interest can help your money grow for the long term.

Making smart financial decisions now—such as saving your money so that it earns compound interest—can secure your future. You might find yourself with extra money to spend during different points in your career. Perhaps you worked overtime hours or received hazard duty pay. These extra funds can feel like a windfall and that there are endless possibilities for what you can purchase. While that might seem attractive in the short term, investing your earnings with compound interest can literally “pay off.”

You earn interest—money the bank pays you—from saving or investing a set amount. For example, if you save $100 in a savings account with a 5% annual interest rate, you’d have $105 at the end of the first year: your original $100 plus $5 in interest. Compound interest is what you earn on the money you save and on the interest that money earned. Using the same example, you’d have $110.25 at the end of the second year: $105 plus $5.25 in “compounded” interest.

The more you save, the bigger your interest compounds. And when you come into a large sum of money, perhaps from deployment pay, you have a unique opportunity to make that money grow. Check out how much you could earn by using a compound interest calculator. Visit your bank’s website or meet with a financial counselor to learn about other opportunities to earn compound interest and how to invest in stocks and bonds too.

Keep your eyes on long-term financial goals and stay financially fit by creating and sticking to a budget. Refrain from buying “extra” things in the short term too. And set aside money—up to 6 months of living expenses—in a “rainy day” savings account to help cover emergencies, costly car repairs, and other unexpected expenses. 

Focus on routines

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind-body, Routine
Routines help you focus your attention on what’s important, but rigid routines sometimes can get in the way. Flexibility is key to your successful performance. Learn more.

Warfighters especially need the ability to make quick and accurate judgments without having to think about them deliberately. You can hone this skill using techniques employed by top athletes: They use routines to help shift their attention—away from stressful anticipation of how things are going to turn out—to focus instead on what’s most important in the moment. In other words, routines can help reduce anxiety and improve focus.

While routines can improve your performance, it’s also important to be flexible. Overly rigid routines can morph a helpful tool into a superstitious or obsessive ritual. Flexibility and adaptation are crucial parts of even the most finely honed routines. With service members, for whom crises are part of the job, the best teams are able to go “off-script” when needed in order to work together most effectively.

HPRC has strategies to help you focus your attention, so that it goes to the right place at the right time. By honing these approaches, you’ll find that your habits become so well formed that you’re able to focus, guide your actions, and be more aware of your environment. And you’re able to do even more: You can “get out of your own head” so you can make decisions and avoid “paralysis by analysis.” Read HPRC’s “Develop routines to optimize attention” to learn details.

Is DMAA coming back?

Our most recent list of DMAA products on the Internet market shows a rise in the number available, including some apparently new products.

DMAA has been illegal for use as an ingredient in dietary supplements for more than 3 years. It still is, but just when you think it would be disappearing from the market, it seems to be on a slight rise again. Our online search of available dietary supplements with DMAA turned up 11 products we had never encountered before, in addition to 34 products still on the list since before DMAA became illegal. We also found 50 discontinued products with DMAA still being sold by third-party retail outlets.

Unfortunately, illegal substances of all kinds are readily available on the Internet. For example, ephedra has been illegal since 2004, when FDA acted on growing reports of severe adverse events, including deaths, associated with the popular weight-loss supplement ingredient. However, products containing ephedra are commonly marketed online. Even substances on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of controlled substances can be purchased online. Worse, laboratory testing of dietary supplement products sometimes reveals the presence of illegal ingredients even when they aren’t listed on the products’ labels.

Ingredients such as DMAA are not allowed in dietary supplements because, according to FDA, “they can be a health risk to consumers.” Stay informed, starting with the OPSS FAQ about DMAA and updated list of Dietary Supplements/Products Containing DMAA.


Stop shin splints

Shin splints—sharp, sore, and/or throbbing pain that runs down the front of your shin—are common among those who exercise regularly. But how can you prevent them?

Shin splints can sideline you from your regular workouts, but there are things you can do to help relieve the pain and quickly resume your exercise routine. Shin splints—a common injury among athletes, particularly runners—refers to pain in the leg below the knee, usually on the medial (inside) part of your shin. This pain can be caused by micro-tears at the bone tissue, possibly caused by overuse or repetitive stress. The best way to prevent shin splints is: Don’t do too much, too soon.

Shin splints usually occur after sudden changes in exercise or physical activity, such as rapidly increasing your running mileage, boosting your workout frequency or intensity, or even varying changes in surface, such as running more hills. To help reduce your risk for shin splints, you can follow the 10% rule: Increase your workout no more than 10% per week. That applies to the number of miles you run and how often and how hard you work out.

Other factors that can influence your risk include worn-out shoes, over-pronation, and excessive stress on one leg from running on a cambered road (the curved, downward slope from the middle of a road to the edge for drainage). If you run an out-and-back route, while not always safest in street traffic, you can run on the same side of the road each way. Or use the sidewalk instead. If you often run on a track, switch the direction you run.

Shin splints will usually heal themselves with proper rest. Consider taking a break from your regular workout routine and cross train with lower-impact workouts such as swimming, pool running, or biking instead. Basic self-care treatments such as stretching, ice, and anti-inflammatories can help relieve pain. If the pain doesn’t improve with rest, or if the skin is hot and inflamed, see your doctor to make sure you don’t have a more serious injury such as a stress fracture or tendonitis.

Can exercise relieve chronic pain?

If you struggle with chronic pain, you might ask, “How can I exercise if I’m in pain?” or “Won’t exercise make it worse?” Read about exercising to reduce pain.

If you struggle with chronic pain, you might feel that exercise is futile: It hurts when you don't exercise and it hurts when you do. However, a properly structured exercise routine might help reduce some kinds of pain and keep other kinds from worsening.

It’s important to know the difference between chronic pain and injury-related pain. Acute pain—the body’s normal response to physical injury—usually can’t be relieved through exercise. In fact, exercise can worsen your acute pain, so it’s not recommended. But if injury has been ruled out and your pain lasts for more than 3 months, you might be able to partially manage or even reduce your chronic pain through exercise.

Still, exercise can help reduce pain in several ways. It mostly increases endorphins—the body's natural painkillers — which help block pain, enabling you to relax. Exercise also helps boost serotonin—a brain chemical partly responsible for mood and the perception of pain—reducing stress and improving mood. Pain increases stress, which then reduces serotonin. Since exercise increases serotonin, it also might bring relief from pain-induced depression.

If you’re thinking of adding exercise to your pain management plan, consider the following types: aerobic, strength, and flexibility. But make sure your exercise program is specifically tailored to your needs. Some exercises might be easier or more difficult to complete depending upon the type and location of your pain.

Visit HPRC’s Physical Fitness section for information about training, exercise, and injury prevention. And consult your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise routine and if you experience pain during or after exercise. 

Beat to a better (heart) rhythm

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Your heart rate isn’t steady, and you don’t want it to be. A rhythmic, more variable heart rate is good for physical and mental health, plus performance.

Your heart rate varies with every heartbeat. When it varies more, it’s good for your health and performance. Heart rate variability (HRV)—a way to track how your heart rate rhythmically goes up and down—helps you objectively assess your mind-body optimization. HRV measures the time interval between one heartbeat and the next. It can be affected by many factors, including fitness, age, body position, and even the time of day. HRV also decreases during periods of stress. You’ll feel less stressed—and more resilient—when your HRV level is high. Your heart rate speeds up when you inhale and slows down when you exhale too. Breathing at certain paces impacts HRV and—in turn—the mind-body connection and performance. Since you can learn to control your breathing, you also can improve your HRV. Read HPRC’s Vary Your Heart Rate to Perform Your Best to learn more.

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