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Winter-workout tips

Make sure you’re prepared for exercising in the cold weather. Learn more.

It can be extra challenging to get outdoors and exercise in the winter. But don’t let cold temperatures freeze your exercise routine. Use these tips to help you “weather” the winter weather!

  • Dress in layers. Choose synthetic materials such as polyester or polypropylene that stay close to the skin. Avoid cotton since it soaks up sweat! You always can remove layers as you get warmer.
  • Warm up. Take a few minutes and do a dynamic warm up before you head outdoors. This will help warm up your muscles and body, so it might feel like less of a shock when you step outside.
  • Protect your extremities—especially your fingers, toes, and ears. Circulation to these areas decreases in cold weather. Chemical heat warmers also can help keep your hands and feet warm.
  • Check the forecast. Wind chill, snow, and rain can make your body more vulnerable to the outside temperatures. Plan an indoor workout when the wind chill is extreme (negative numbers) or the temperature drops below 0°F. You’re at risk of hypothermia and frostbite if you’re not properly prepared.
  • Be visible. With fewer hours of sunlight in the winter months, you might be walking or running when it’s dark out—even at dusk and dawn. Wear reflective gear or a headlamp to stay visible to oncoming traffic.
  • Apply sunblock. You can still get sunburned in the winter, so don’t forget the sunscreen!
  • Stay hydrated. When exercising in cold climates, don’t rely on thirst to indicate hydration since you usually don’t feel as thirsty in cold temperatures. You need to stay just as hydrated in cold weather as you do when it’s hot outside.
  • Ask your doctor. Certain symptoms might worsen in cold weather if you have asthma, heart issues, or Raynaud’s disease (when specific body parts feel numb due to cold temperatures or stress). Talk to a healthcare professional about your concerns before heading outside for your cold-weather workout.

5 tips for sticking to your goals

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
New Year’s Day is behind us, but it’s never too late to revisit your resolutions or make new ones. These simple strategies can help you reach your performance goals.

Whatever you want to accomplish in 2017, those New Year’s resolutions are a good thing. Setting goals can help you achieve optimal performance. Use the tips below (based on recommendations from the American Psychological Association) to help you actually achieve those goals.

  1. One at a time. Trying to do everything at once can lead to burnout. Tackle one issue at a time instead: Break your goals into pieces you can build on.
  2. Start small. Pace yourself to go the distance. You might be eager to get started, but begin with the more manageable goals and build up to the really challenging ones.
  3. Share. Talk about your goals and progress with your family and friends. They can be your biggest supporters. It might help them understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and it even might interest them enough to join you.
  4. Ask your buddies. Getting help is a sign of strength. It can help reduce the stress of trying to reach your goals. If you’re struggling with one aspect of a goal, seek out advice and support. You also can get help from HPRC’s Mind-Body Skills, with evidence-based information that can help you progress towards your goals.
  5. Don’t strive for perfection. Perfection is an ever-moving—if not impossible—target, so don’t waste your time chasing it. Performance optimization is about being your best, not perfect. If you make mistakes, recover and get back on track—don’t abandon your goals. Learn from your mistakes instead, and you might find it brings your goals even closer.

For more information on how to become your best, check out HPRC’s Ten Rules of Engagement for performance enhancement.

Track your weight loss

Have you ever wondered if it’s helpful to record what you eat? Learn how self-monitoring techniques can help you reach your weight-loss goals.

The first step to losing weight and gaining better health is using self-monitoring techniques to track your calories. Armed with this information, you can reinforce what’s working well. Some evidence suggests that recording food and beverage intake leads to healthy, sustainable weight loss. Weighing yourself daily might help too.

What’s the secret to weight-loss success? Choose a self-monitoring technique that works for you:  Try to do these actions frequently—at least 3 times per week—and turn them into healthy habits. Read more...

New year, new fitness goals

Do you have trouble keeping your long-term fitness goals? Interim goals will continue to fuel your motivation and make your end goal feel closer.

Do you make a New Year’s resolution every year to “get in shape” and then approach year’s end dissatisfied? The problem might be that fitness is a long-term goal that’s hard to keep in focus. Goals that seem more in reach often feel more desirable (for example, money, food, or a finish line) than ones that seem further away. For example, when you’re at the end of a race and can see the finish line in front of you, you’ll probably see the finish line as closer than it really is. However, runners who are less fit and less motivated estimate the distance to a finish line as farther than do runners who are fit and highly motivated. Whether or not the goal is actually closer, believing that it is triggers excitement and fuels effort towards achieving the goal.

That’s all well and good if you’re already out running that race, but sometimes getting off the couch is the hardest thing to do when you’re out of shape. And even if you want to get in shape, your poor fitness can affect whether you believe you can achieve your fitness goals.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get in shape. Keep your eye on the prize! The “prize” could be anything. It could literally be the finish line; the next milestone on your route, such as the building at the end of the block; or even be a post-race reward, such as a healthy post-workout smoothie.

Remember, some goals are harder to achieve than others, but you can stay the course by imagining what's coming, keeping the self-talk positive, and setting SMART goals along the way. This will help keep your motivation high and the prize within reach. Exercisers who focus on an end goal and ignore the distractions around them perceive their goal as being closer, perform better, and—perhaps most important—don’t consider the exercise as difficult. So, if you see your goals as being closer to you in your mind, you’ll have something motivating to look forward to.

Thanksgiving turkey trot

Don’t forget about your exercise routine this Thanksgiving.

Before you gobble up your Thanksgiving dinner, consider starting your day off with a calorie burn! Pretty much wherever you are, you can find a road race—Turkey Trot, Drumstick Dash, or Gobble Gait—and most are family friendly.

If you’re prone to “holiday stress,” particularly if you’re hosting, it can be a great way to relieve some tension and mentally prepare for the day ahead. If you’re not up for the race crowds, or there isn’t a race nearby, there are lots of other options for getting in some exercise. Find a quiet road for a quick run, go for a bike ride, or enjoy some fall foliage on a hike. Whatever floats your gravy boat.

Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you to all service members and their families too.


Compression garments: Do they work?

Compression socks, sleeves, and other garments are popular among athletes, but do they actually increase performance and decrease recovery times?

Compression garments come in a variety of sleeves, socks, shorts, and full-body suits. The amount of pressure, or compression, they provide depends on the type and size of the garment. Compression garments help push blood toward your heart and prevent it from “pooling” or collecting in the compressed areas. Compression sleeves also are used in clinical settings for those with lymphedema, where blood circulation is poor, or to prevent blood clots.

But can they increase your performance and decrease your recovery times? Compression garments have been shown to help blood flow to working muscles during exercise, but that necessarily doesn’t translate to better performance. Most studies look at compression socks during running, and most evidence suggests no difference in athletes’ performance levels during runs when compared to those not wearing compression socks. In addition, there’s no decrease in recovery time or blood-lactate levels.

Still, those wearing compression socks report “feeling better” and “less tiredness” in their legs during their runs. They also feel less sore following the exercise bout. And while there might not be an actual benefit of wearing compression gear, if you feel better wearing it—either during or after exercise—then keep doing what works!

Total fitness fights depression

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Learn how your total fitness approach to fighting depression can help you optimize your performance and give your best to the force.

Depression can impact your mood and performance, preventing you from doing your best at work, on a mission, and at home. A total fitness approach—including physical activity, proper nutrition, positive relationships with others, and mind-body skills—to overcoming depression can reduce feelings of persistent sadness or hopelessness and lack of motivation or energy, so you can perform well on your mission.

It’s estimated that about 12% of deployed military personnel and 13% of those previously deployed meet the criteria for depression. And many more service members struggle with bouts of misery or restlessness. A total force fitness approach can help. Read more...

Vertical core training

Get off the floor and strengthen that core!

Your core is more than just your abs: It includes lots of other muscles that stabilize your shoulders, hips, and pelvis. Strengthening all of your core muscles can be difficult with traditional “ab routines” done on the ground. Crunches aren’t the only way to strengthen your core. So, get up off the floor and add something new to your core-workout routine.

HPRC offers a video series on vertical core training. These routines are not only good for your six-pack, but improve strength in your back, hips, legs, and shoulders—all critical components of core strength. Whether it’s lifting ammo cans or loading a truck, a strong core will help you move safely and efficiently.

Visit HPRC’s Muscular Fitness and Flexibility page to learn more. Use these videos to guide you through various exercises that will help improve total core strength, flexibility, and stability for everyday activities and optimal performance too.

Fit kids for life

September is National Childhood Obesity Month. Learn how to help your kids get active and stay healthy.

There’s an obesity epidemic in this country, and it’s not just affecting adults. Childhood obesity impacts more than 23 million children and teenagers in the U.S., putting them at risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.

More recently, the U.S. military has taken action because it considers childhood obesity a threat to our national security. Many young adults aren’t fit to fight. Now’s the time to instill healthy exercise habits in your kids to help them become healthy adults.

Regular exercise can build strong muscles and bones and promote overall health. It’s especially important that children exercise and learn healthy habits early on. Exercise also can boost kids’ self-esteem, improve sleep, and stimulate learning in school.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, including:

  • Aerobic exercise for most of the 60 minutes. On most days, this can include either vigorous-intensity activities (such as running, swimming, and jumping rope) or moderate-intensity activities (such as walking or skateboarding). Make sure to include some vigorous-intensity exercise at least 3 days each week. Check out Let’s Move! for ideas on how to get active as a family.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities. These can include playing tug-of-war, exercising with resistance bands, or climbing on playground equipment. Strengthening exercises should be done at least 3 times a week.
  • Bone-strengthening (impact) activities. These can include running, jumping rope, basketball, tennis, and hopscotch. Impact activities, which strengthen bones and promote healthy growth, also should be done at least 3 times a week.

Learn more about DoD's efforts to help keep your kids active and healthy. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page for resources and tips to help raise awareness about National Childhood Obesity Month too. And visit HPRC’s Staying Active section for ideas on how to boost your family’s fitness.

Boost your fitness with yoga!

Try these yoga routines to calm, balance, and challenge your mind and body!

Adding yoga to your fitness routine can build strength and endurance, increase focus, and improve your well-being. What’s more, yoga can help reduce stress and relieve pain from injury or illness. No matter what motivates your health or performance goals, you can benefit from HPRC’s video series on yoga sequences that target different parts of your body.

  • Calming Yoga. This exercise helps activate the relaxation response in your mind and body by combining gentle yoga poses, breathing, and mindful awareness.
  • Balance Yoga. This routine focuses on breathing to help energy flow evenly throughout your body.
  • Challenge Yoga. This activity can help strengthen your core, increase flexibility, and relieve stress through a number of poses.
  • Challenge Yoga with Weights. This sequence combines light weights with challenging poses to reduce stress and increase muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Whether you’re a beginner or expert, here are some tips for effective yoga practice:

  • Go slow. If you’re practicing in the morning, take your time and ease into the positions because your body might need to warm up at first.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain or “overstretching,” stop because you’ve reached your “full expression.” If you’re having a hard time or breathing problems, move into Corpse Pose: Lie flat on your back with your hands facing upwards. Do this until you feel better.
  • Watch and learn. If you’re a beginner practicing alone, it might be helpful to go through the videos first and become familiar with the various moves.

Ask your healthcare provider about the different forms of yoga, so you can choose what’s right for you. This is especially important for those with heart conditions or women who are pregnant.

Visit HPRC’s Mind-Body Apps, Tools, and Videos page to check out the Yoga Series videos and learn other mind-body techniques too.

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