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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

Reframe your thoughts for peak performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Interpreting things for the worse can really hold you back. Learn how to limit this habit so you can achieve optimum performance.

The way you interpret what other people say and do affects your performance as a Warfighter. Sometimes you may interpret things in faulty or unproductive ways called “thinking traps.” They can significantly damage your ability to reach your full potential. However, there are methods you can learn and use to develop alternate thoughts that promote productive and positive thoughts—a process is called “cognitive reframing”—that will lead to optimum performance. Learn about how to do it in HPRC’s Performance Strategy on how to “Reframe your ‘thinking traps’ for peak performance.”

Thankful for you?

A little appreciation can go a long way in keeping the relationship with your significant other at its best, especially when deployment means you are apart for a time.

Do you show your loved one appreciation? Gratitude is an essential element in happy relationships. Couples who feel appreciated by their significant others in turn are more appreciative back to the other person. Also, when shown appreciation, people tend to be more responsive to their significant other’s needs. In short, gratitude is contagious! Try it. When you next talk to your significant other, find something to be appreciative about and see if it has any positive ripple effects. This can also help maintain intimacy when you are apart from your loved one due to deployment or TDY.

For more ideas to enhance your relationship, check out the Performance Booster on Couples Communication and Relationship Enhancement section of the HPRC’s site.

Virtual reality: game or treatment?

Virtual reality isn’t just for entertainment anymore—its applications include use by the military to treat symptoms of PTSD and other combat-related injuries.

Virtual reality was first introduced as a therapy tool for people with anxiety disorders such as phobias, but it is now used for a wide range of conditions, from PTSD to childhood ADHD. In fact, it recently warranted its own symposium at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where experts exchanged ideas on the current state of research.

Virtual environments used in therapy sessions are created for the individual’s needs—for example, a noisy classroom for a child with ADHD, the re-creation of the 9/11 attacks for a firefighter or police officer, or “Virtual Iraq” for a soldier. “Virtual Afghanistan” is the newest creation and is already being used to help service members overcome PTSD. Active-duty men and women are gradually brought back to their traumatic event using the virtual world as the therapist provides verbal cues to facilitate the healing process.

With a view to mitigating future need for therapy, a series of episodes is currently being created to provide pre-deployment “Stress Resilience Training for Warfighters.” The goal is to help reduce the risk of PTSD and better prepare warriors for actual scenarios they will encounter in theater.

For more information about how to prevent and manage stress, visit HPRC’s Stress Control section.

Predicting body weight from childhood to adulthood

Now you can calculate your child’s risk of becoming obese with a simple online calculator.

Preventing obesity should begin at an early age, because children who are overweight often become obese as adults. And while many of us know that we need to eat right and exercise, there are also risk factors that we are born with that we can’t change. Now you can calculate your child’s risk of developing obesity with an online calculator.

The calculator was developed by a team of researchers who looked at a number of well-known biological and social risk factors for developing obesity. They were able to boil down their findings to six simple factors that provide a reasonably accurate probability of whether a child will develop obesity:

1)    The body mass indexes (BMIs) of both parents. (HPRC has a link to a calculator you can use to calculate BMI.)

2)    The number of people who live in the house.

3)    What kind of work the child’s mother does.

4)    Whether the mother smoked during her pregnancy.

5)    The birth weight of the child (in kilograms). (To convert pounds [lb] to kilograms [kg], multiply pounds by 0.45359237.)

Living a healthy lifestyle is beneficial for everyone, but tools like this can help you determine whether your child is particularly at risk for becoming an obese adult, so that you can make important health changes early in life. For ideas to help your family be physically active and healthy, check out this HPRC Healthy Tip as well as the family physical fitness and family nutrition sections of HPRC’s website.

Bark if you support a veteran!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Military working dogs are getting recognition for their part in U.S. military history, with legislation about to pass that will give them status as veterans, assuring them care after retirement.

Dogs have been used in warfare for more than 2,000 years, and they have been a part of the U.S. military arsenal since before the Civil War. The official dog of the USMC is the Doberman Pinscher. A Belgian Malinois was part of Operation Neptune Spear. Until now, most dogs involved overseas have been left behind when troops returned home.

In 2012, the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act was introduced to Congress to change the status of dogs in the U.S. military from that of equipment to that of military veterans. To streamline the process, the proposal was then tagged on as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, which just passed the U.S. Congress and only awaits the signature of President Obama. The legislation will ensure that military dogs will be transported back to the U.S., receive veterinary care, and retire with an adoptive family or, if not suitable as pets, at a military facility.

Even more: A new national monument honoring America’s canine heroes will be unveiled in 2013 at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. But before then, a floral replica of the monument will appear in the Tournament of Roses parade on New Year’s Day 2013 with Lucca aboard – a German Shepherd who lost a leg to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan – accompanied by other military dogs and their handlers.

Dehydration and cold weather

Avoid dehydration in cold weather.

Most people associate dehydration with hot weather. Here’s news: You can experience dehydration in cold weather too. Being active outside in cold weather for less than two hours doesn’t usually present a problem. But for long-term exposure such as a field deployment, which can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, the combination of heavy clothing and high-intensity exercise can lead to increased sweating and the possibility of dehydration. You may not feel as thirsty in cold weather as in other climates, because your body chemistry impairs your brain’s ability to tell you when to hydrate. Cold weather also has the effect of moving body fluids from your extremities to your core, causing increased urine output and adding to dehydration.

The bottom line: When in cold climates, don’t rely on thirst to be an indicator of hydration. Drink often, before you’re thirsty. Water and sports drinks are the best fluids to maintain hydration, even in cold weather conditions. When you’re in a situation where you need to monitor your hydration level keep in mind that carbonated and caffeinated beverages (including energy drinks) have a dehydrating effect since they increase urine flow. Also avoid alcohol consumption in cold weather. It gives a temporary feeling of warmth but interferes with the body’s ability to retain heat since shivering, the normal response to maintain body temperature, is delayed.

Sometimes it’s not easy to hydrate as much as you need, especially when on a mission. One way to measure your hydration status is to monitor the color and volume of your urine. (Snow makes a good test spot.) Dark, scanty urine is an indication of dehydration. Ideally, urine should be light yellow to clear. Enjoy getting some exercise in the cold weather, but be sure to keep your water bottle in tow.

Don’t let anger control you

Mad at your spouse, your kids, a friend? It’s okay, but you also need to know how to manage that anger so it doesn’t damage your relationships.

Anger is a normal feeling. It’s also inevitable that the people you love will at some point make you angry. Instead of letting your anger control you, however, find out how to control your anger. Managing your anger is important for both yourself and your relationships. Afterdeployment.org has handouts with information on anger and anger management, common myths about anger, tips on how to use timeouts to manage anger, and how to create an “anger control plan.” For strategies on how to further enhance your relationships, visit HPRC’s Overall Family Optimization Skills section.

Recovery after exercise—it does a body good

Your workout doesn’t end with the last rep or quarter-mile sprint. Proper recovery after exercise is just as important as the exercise itself to stay fit, healthy, and injury-free.

In the military, physical activity is probably part of your daily routine, but do you also have a post-workout strategy? Good recovery is just as important as the workout itself. “Recovery” can mean what you do—or don’t do—right after exercise. It also can mean taking a day off from working out altogether. Either way, it’s a critical component of your overall fitness program that can help prevent injuries.

First, it’s important to rehydrate and refuel after exercise to replace the fluids and nutrients lost during exercise, heal damaged muscles, and build more muscle. A combination of protein and carbs are the key for recovery. Some suggestions for post-exercise snacks are:

  • Low-fat yogurt with fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Turkey wrap
  • PB&J sandwich
  • Chocolate milk (For more information about chocolate milk as a recovery snack, see HPRC’s Healthy Tip.)

Sometimes, after a particularly hard workout, you need a day of rest with no exercise. Listen to your body. If you have some lingering aches and pains that could worsen with exercise, take a day off. Sleep and rest are also important for proper recovery, staying fit and healthy, and achieving overall readiness and resilience. Make sure you get all the important components of your exercise routine in order to achieve peak fitness and keep injuries at bay.

Navy focuses on better pain management

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
The Navy’s Pain Management team met recently to improve their existing pain management strategies for Warfighters and their beneficiaries.

What’s a top health complaint by service members and their beneficiaries? Pain. Pain has a huge impact on performance and can lead to loss of workdays, function, and quality of life. Pain affects not only the individual experiencing it, but also his or her family. In August 2012 the Navy Comprehensive Pain Management Program (NCPMP) had a brainstorming meeting to discuss the best ways to treat pain and improve access to various pain treatments for Sailors, Marines, and their beneficiaries. The results?

  • Both Warfighters and beneficiaries will have access to pain treatments.
  • The Navy will use alternative methods to treat pain, including non-medication treatments.
  • Individuals will see multiple healthcare providers as needed to treat pain effectively.
  • The focus will be to improve quality of life and reduce pain as much as possible.

For more information, read "Chronic Pain Management to Benefit the Beneficiary" as well as NCPMP's 2011 summary presentation.

And stay tuned for more—HPRC will be adding a new website section on pain management.

The cost of eating well

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Be careful how you spend your food dollars. The best “meal deal” can actually be healthy whole foods!

Do you think nutritious foods are expensive? Think again. A cost-per-calorie comparison of the prices of fat- and sugar-laden convenience foods to the prices of nutritious whole foods showed the convenience foods coming up short.

A study conducted in a low-income area of Baltimore, Maryland, revealed that a diet based primarily on convenience foods from fast-food restaurants cost 24% more than a diet based on whole foods purchased in a grocery store. Of course, prices vary between seasons and geographic locations, but the message was clear: Don’t be fooled by “dollar menus” and “meal deals.”

Here are some more tips to stretch your food dollars:

  • Meats: Buy lean cuts of meat, poultry, and fish on sale and freeze for later use. (Use freezer wrap for long-term storage.)
  • Fruits and vegetables: Not only are fruits and vegetables less expensive when they are in season, the ones in season are freshest and have the best flavor. Take advantage of lower prices on apples in autumn, kale in winter, peas in spring, and strawberries in summer, for example.
  • Processed foods: Cereal, low-fat pasta sauces, and other slightly processed foods can be healthful choices, but name brands can be expensive. Store brands are often excellent quality and typically cost less.
  • Snacks and beverages: Opt for inexpensive (and healthy) snack choices such as popcorn, dried fruit, or peanuts. Milk and juice provide needed nutrients without the “empty” calories found in sodas and beer.
  • Coupons, coupons, coupons: They’re like free money.

With a little time and planning you can provide your family with healthy, nutritious meals and save money.

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