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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

Managing financial stress

Filed under: Finances, Money, Taxes
Tax time doesn’t have to mean “stress” time. Manage your financial stress by changing the way you think.

Financial stresses are real and affect many service members. Sometimes stress can explode into bigger problems if you use drugs or alcohol as a means to cope or if you take out your frustrations on your spouse. How you perceive your stressor has a big impact on how stressful your situation feels. You can always choose how to react.

For instance, as you get your tax information together, you might realize you won’t be able to afford that new car or move into that new apartment, after all. You might think, “I’m a failure,” or “My spouse screwed up.” Such thoughts place blame on yourself or your spouse and stir up feelings of shame and/or anger. If you let these feelings drive your behaviors, you could make matters worse. Not dealing with your shame well enough could lead to negative coping behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol. Not effectively managing your anger might lead to ugly arguments with your spouse.

Rather than playing the blame game, it might be more constructive to think, “We didn’t save enough this year, but we’ll make some adjustments and still meet our long-term goals.” Yes, you’ll feel disappointed, but you’ll also feel optimistic and ready to make those much-needed changes.

To learn more on how to take charge of your thoughts, or accept them and let them pass, check out HPRC’s tips on positive thinking. And use the Mind-Body ABCs Worksheet to help increase your awareness, plan better outcomes, and improve your performance—financial and otherwise! Also, Military OneSource offers financial management services to help you plan a budget, do your taxes, and more.

Supplement safety for teen athletes

Filed under: Supplements, Teens
The science doesn’t support the use of supplements by teens. What can you do to keep them safe?

Most dietary supplement products are marketed for adults 18 and older and typically carry a warning on the label against use by those under 18. That’s because there has been little to no reliable research done on the use of dietary supplements—especially those marketed for bodybuilding and performance enhancement—by people under the age of 18. As such, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) strongly opposes the use of dietary supplements by high school athletes to gain a competitive advantage.

Whether you’re a teen athlete, parent, coach, or healthcare provider, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Teens: Achieving your athletic goals means hard work. Taking shortcuts with dietary supplements can be harmful to your health and have a negative effect on your future athletic ambitions. Watch HPRC’s video below  to learn about one college athlete’s experience.

Parents and coaches: Talk often with your athletes about dietary supplements, and encourage them to eat whole foods to fuel their bodies. Download HPRC’s “Fueling the adolescent athlete,” which has helpful suggestions for hydrating and for eating between workouts.

Healthcare providers: Use the OPSS Guidelines to ask about supplement use as part of taking a comprehensive dietary supplement history. Counsel athletes and their parents about the risks involved with using dietary supplements and other performance-enhancing substances. Promote proper nutrition, training, and rest to improve performance.

Remember, teens (and adults) can get all the nutrients their bodies need by eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Teens and adults don’t need supplements unless a doctor determines it’s needed to treat deficiency of a particular nutrient.

Get your daughters moving!

Filed under: Families, Girls, Sports
Girls are less physically active then boys. With encouragement from parents and opportunities to get moving, girls can get the exercise they need.

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.

One-Rep-Max for strength

Lifting weights helps you stay strong and perform well. Learn how to boost your muscular strength and endurance.

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.

Happy lifting!

It’s mealtime: Ready to order?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Food, Healthy Tips
Restaurant menus and menu boards are designed to guide your food choices. Learn how you can save calories and dollars too.

Knowing what to order in a restaurant or dining hall can be challenging when you’re trying to eat healthy on a budget. But there are ways to eat right and save money too.

  • Check out the prices! Higher-priced entrées usually appear in the top right of a restaurant menu or menu board because that’s where your eyes tend to look first. You might want to think twice before placing your order.
  • Look for deals. Higher-priced entrées are sometimes mixed with other offerings where you might overlook their prices. So make sure to check out what else is on the menu and compare prices. You might feel good about selecting something lower in price, even if it’s more than you’d usually spend. Choose wisely.
  • Avoid the urge to splurge. Menus with red typeface and mouthwatering descriptions increase your appetite. Heading out for a fun night with friends? You could be tempted to spend more or order more food, which can leave you seeing red too. Sticking to your budget saves calories and dollars. Examine the menu carefully for tasty, healthy options.
  • Ordering in the dining hall or galley? Learn more about fueling up with the right foods to optimize your performance using the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Go for Green® nutrition program.

Armed with this new intel, you can look forward to your next meal out without buyer’s remorse!

SARMs don’t cut it

SARMs are unapproved drugs that keep popping up in dietary supplement products.

SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators) are unapproved, experimental drugs sometimes illegally marketed and sold as dietary supplement products. They’re also available on the Internet in other forms, but their use in sport is prohibited. Use of SARMs can affect military performance and readiness.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has an FAQ about SARMS, including a link to a list of more than 200 dietary supplements and other commercial products containing SARMs. The list also includes an extensive list of SARM names to help you identify them on product labels.

HPRC’s Ask the Expert feature is available if you have particular questions about these ingredients or any other questions about dietary supplements.

What’s your drinking pattern?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Take a minute to determine if you’re at risk with alcohol.

Thursday, April 7th, is National Alcohol Screening Day. If you drink any amount of alcohol, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself and assess your drinking habits. You can complete a free online screening assessment from Screening for Mental Health or from AfterDeployment, a Defense Center of Excellence. It takes only a few minutes and can help you determine if you’re on a slippery slope towards an alcohol problem.

If you find yourself engaging in heavy drinking or feeling dependent on alcohol, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. DoD is there for you, and each service has its own program dedicated to helping you get better. You can find links under HPRC’s Service-Specific Substance-Abuse Programs.

Prevention and your family medical history

Looking for a project this spring? Collecting your family medical history might help prevent future illness and disease.

This spring, create a “family tree of health” by collecting your family medical history. The information you gather might help you to take steps to manage health conditions that run in your family.

Record the health information of at least 3 generations in your family, including children, siblings, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles and their children. Collecting your family medical history is a way to find clues about any medical conditions that might run in your family. Share the information with your doctor to help her/him see patterns that could affect you. If your family members have medical issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, and diabetes, you might be at increased risk for these conditions. Then your doctor can recommend lifestyle changes and/or treatments to reduce the chances a medical condition will become a problem.

So, get asking! And write down the answers. Ask your family members about their chronic conditions. Ask if they’ve had any serious illnesses such as cancer or stroke and when they developed. Also ask about problems with pregnancy or childbirth. If you’re missing some important information, consider searching for obituaries or death certificates of relatives who are no longer with you.

My Family Health Portrait is an online tool where you can enter your family’s health history, print it to share with family members and healthcare providers, and save the information so you can update it over time. Collecting your family medical history will not only benefit your own health, but also the health of generations of your family to come! 

How to avoid stress fractures

Painful stress fractures can hurt your workout routine too. Learn more about training safely.

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.

How post-traumatic stress affects your brain

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Understanding how your brain works might help you better understand post-traumatic stress. Learn more about effective treatments.

Sometimes just understanding what’s going on can help the process of recovery. If you’re experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it might help to have a better idea of how your brain functions and how the various parts are supposed to work. This also can help you understand the treatments used to help “rewire” your brain, so it can work properly again.

PTSD is a mental health condition stemming from traumas—experienced during combat, disasters, or violence—that impact brain functioning. The alarm system in your brain, that normally helps ensure your survival, malfunctions; it becomes triggered too easily. In turn, parts of your brain responsible for thinking and memory stop functioning properly. When this happens, you have difficulty comparing what’s happening now with safe events from the past. Read more...

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