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Filed under: Fitness

Jump for fitness

Plyometric training involves the kind of muscle contraction you experience in jumping. Using it as part of your exercise routine can improve your athletic performance.

One review of studies on the effects of plyometric (explosive jump) training, or PT, suggested that plyometric training can enhance vertical jump ability and leg power for healthy individuals. This training can be as simple as drop jumps, counter-movement jumps, alternate leg bounding, and hopping. And there are PT exercises for the upper body, too! The purpose of PT is to improve your athletic performance by increasing the speed or force of muscle contraction that enables you to jump higher, run faster, throw farther, or hit harder during a game. The full article is available online from the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

No place to exercise?

Not having a place to exercise is no excuse. The whole world can be your gym if you just put a little thought into it.

The last excuse a trainer wants to hear from a client is that they don’t have enough space—or the right space—to exercise. The truth is that with a little effort and imagination, you can find a whole world of places and practices to improve your strength and endurance. Just think about all the free equipment outside at the park, on your way to work, or at your child’s school playground. You can make use of just about anything. Want to gain upper body strength? Start climbing the monkey bars and don’t stop ‘til you drop. Or try push-ups—a great way to get moving without standing in line at the gym. All you need for walking or running is a good pair of shoes and any path, road, or bike trail—the same places work for a bicycle, too, and they don’t cost a dime. By now you should be getting the picture. Just get rid of that mental block about needing a special place or equipment that is keeping you from getting a healthy, fit body. Just think of all the new forms of exercise waiting for you the minute you walk out the door! Here are five simple exercises to get you started.

Ditch the elevator

Bored with going nowhere on that stair climber at the gym? Try using real stairs, and get where you are going while exercising.

A good way to keep up with your daily workout goals is by giving up the elevator and making good use of the stairs. Stairs will not only get your legs and arms moving, but they will also raise your heart rate. What’s more, you need to take breaks from your daily tasks, and exercising during that break can help you think through what you’ve been working on. Working a little stair-climbing action into your day can be as convenient as—and healthier than—walking to the soda or snack machine. The first couple days will be the hardest as you focus on breaking the elevator habit and getting all your muscles reactivated. Stick to it, and you’ll soon find that the climb is easier and you feel better about yourself. It’s good for you and your heart, so why not start using the stairs more, wherever you are: at home, at work, or at the park? Even better, it’s free!

Swimming for fitness

Try swimming to improve your overall fitness while minimizing your risk of injury.

Swimming is a wonderful way to improve overall fitness while minimizing your risk of injury. It’s easy on your joints and improves your cardiovascular fitness. Although training in a pool may not simulate your specific duties, cross-training reduces the risk of injury from other repetitive exercise such as running. Effective pool training sessions should vary in intensity and emphasis. To avoid shoulder joint and upper back issues, warm up by swimming for five to ten minutes at a pace slower than your usual training pace, and include kicking and pulling drills. To improve both strength and endurance in the water, try interval training. Shorter rest intervals will improve endurance, while longer ones will stress your anaerobic system and improve your strength and power. Alternating between aerobic (longer and slower) and anaerobic (shorter and more intense) workouts will optimize your overall performance for both combat swimming operations and cardiovascular fitness in general.

For more detailed information about pool interval training and examples of training regimens check out Chapter 4: Swimming for Fitness in The US Navy SEAL Guide to Fitness and Nutrition.

Changes in diet and lifestyle can prevent long-term weight gain

Obesity has become a national crisis, and as developing countries adopt our western culture they too seem to face the growing problem of obesity. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) looked at how changes in diet and lifestyle affect long-term weight gain in the U.S.

In a recent Healthy Tip, we briefly described a notable article in the June 2011 New England Journal of Medicine about long-term weight gain. The 20-year study involved more than 120,000 healthy men and woman of normal weight. All were examined at four-year intervals and were found to have gained an average of almost a pound a year. That doesn’t seem like much—unless you consider that if you’re a fit 160 pounds at age 30, you’ll have put on 20 pounds by age 50. At that point your extra weight may be compounded by diabetes, bad joints, heart disease, and perhaps even cancer—all of which are associated with obesity. So now you’re forced to find ways to lose weight.

Wouldn’t it have been better to maintain a healthy weight all along? Some of the study’s observations regarding food choices and exercise might prove helpful in maintaining your weight as you age.

The study found that some foods were significantly associated with weight gain: potato products such as potato chips and French fries, sugary beverages (sodas, for example), red meat, processed meat products, and refined grains. On the other hand, foods associated with no weight gain were vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt.

Other factors found to be associated with weight were physical activity (increase = no gain in weight); alcohol consumption (increase = weight gain); sleep habits (less than six or more than eight hours per night = weight gain); and TV habits (more TV = weight gain), a correlation that seemed partly due to more snacking (Superbowl, anyone?) and less activity.

A single change in diet or lifestyle had less effect than several together. It makes sense that if you exercise less and eat more foods associated with weight gain, you’ll gain weight more easily than if you exercise less but still eat well.

Why some foods seem to contribute to weight gain more than others is still not fully understood, but it probably has a lot to do with what makes us feel satisfied when we eat. High-calorie food and drink that go down fast and easy and quickly enter our bloodstream may not make us feel full when we consume them, so we tend to eat more of them. High-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables fill us up and are low in calories. Even high-fiber nuts, which tend to have a lot of calories, are associated with no weight gain, perhaps because they satisfy us and keep us from eating candy and cake that do cause weight gain. Yogurt is an interesting case, since there has been a lot of interest lately in probiotics (bacteria felt to contribute positively to our health). Perhaps yogurt changes the bacterial flora in a way that contributes to weight stability and loss.

The reason we discuss this study in more depth is twofold. First, it highlights the fact that Americans have a tendency to gain weight as they get older. Knowing that, we can be vigilant of what we eat and how active we are in order to help prevent this weight gain. Second, it warns us of the most common food offenders to avoid—and those to embrace—and underscores the concept that weight is a balance between the calories we consume (foods and beverages we eat) and the calories we expend (physical activity). Make sure you find the proper balance when you’re young, so you won’t be overweight—and perhaps sick—when you’re older.

Get FITT to optimize muscle strength

Optimize your muscle strength and endurance by following the FITT principle.

Muscle strength is an essential component for successful Warfighter performance. Developing optimal muscle strength and endurance maximizes job performance and reduces risk of injury. The FITT principle can help you achieve this goal. FITT refers to “frequency, intensity, time (or duration), and type” of activity.

  • Frequency is the number of sessions in a week that an individual trains. At least two days per week of strength training is recommended.
  • Intensity, considered the most important aspect of strength and endurance conditioning, is defined by the amount of weight used per repetition. For muscle endurance, training should involve 20-60 repetitions of 30% to 50% of one repetition max (1RM; the maximum amount of weight one can lift for one repetition) per set. For muscle strength, training should involve 1-12 repetitions of 65% to 90% of 1RM per set.
  • Time of sessions should range from 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Type of exercise should vary in strength and conditioning routines to prevent boredom and improve gains. A combination of free weights and machines is recommended.

For more detailed information on strength training, read Chapter 6, Strength Training, of The Navy SEAL Physical Fitness Guide.

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Mix up your training routine

HPRC Fitness Arena:
If you are bored with your training or find yourself stuck in a rut, consider adding some variety to your program.

Maintaining a physically fit body requires consistent training and motivation. It’s common for individuals to get stale or fall into a training rut. Consider cross-training, adding new activities and exercises, or just doing something physical for fun!

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Exercise 101

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Don’t forget to exercise your heart. As with all other fitness requirements, Warfighters need extra cardio fitness for optimal performance.

The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend doing moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week (for details of these guidelines, click here). However, elite athletes and tactical Warfighters need to train more to achieve higher levels of fitness—see the Navy Seal Fitness Guide and the Building the Soldier Athlete Manual for more information.

Navy fitness through NOFFS

HPRC Fitness Arena:
This Navy fitness program focuses on basic and performance nutrition alongside physical training exercises designed to target operational tasks and reduce injuries.

The Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling Series (NOFFS) provides the Navy with "best in class" physical fitness and nutrition performance information for both Sailors and Navy health and fitness professionals. NOFFS instructs individuals on how to train effectively and safely and how to make healthy nutrition choices in both shore-based and operational environments.

Based on worldwide mission requirements, which require the Navy to intensity its operational tempo, it’s imperative for Sailors to be physically fit. Physical fitness is an essential component of operational readiness and the ability to meet deployment schedules. Sailor resiliency and durability are the primary goals of the development and distribution of NOFFS.

The purpose of NOFFS is to provide a complete physical training program that will eliminate the guesswork for:

  • The individual Sailor who is participating in his/her personal physical training program
  • The Navy health and fitness professional who is interested in obtaining a ready-made comprehensive and biomechanically balanced individual or group physical training program.

    The goals of NOFFS are to:

    • Improve operational performance
    • Provide basic and performance nutrition guidance.
    • Decrease the incidence and severity of musculoskeletal injuries associated with physical training.

      NOFFS provides Sailors with an evidence-based performance tool that will address injury prevention by physically training the movement patterns of operational tasks. Rather than focusing specifically on the physical readiness test (PRT), NOFFS emphasizes how to specifically improve the functional performance of a Sailor during daily operations. This includes lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, aerobic/anaerobic demands, and body movement skills requiring balance, agility, and coordination. The focus of the project is to optimize operational physical performance and fueling for Sailors while preserving Navy combat power.

      For more information about NOFFS and other Navy Fitness initiatives, visit www.navyfitness.org.

      Finan's Blog: Tips for training

      HPRC Fitness Arena:
      Tips on preparing for Physical Fitness Training – from an OCS candidate

      Saturday May 8, 2010: This was the first day in my new PFT/OCS[1] workout journal.

      Pull-ups: 8

      Three-mile run: never finished

      Sit-ups/2 min – 59

      "Tough times don't last. Tough people do." – Gregory Peck.

      This is the quote that I think about every day while I’m training for my upcoming ten weeks at OCS this summer. I have never been OUT of shape, but lately I have wondering how IN shape I truly am. So it got me thinking of what is the best way to train for this “hell” that I have heard of. I started with the traditional “practice makes perfect” strategy and started running every day, doing two minutes of sit-ups, and trying to do 20 correct pull-ups without failing. I have to admit it was very hard, and I was not seeing results as fast as I had expected. I am a martial arts instructor and can roll with a student for 20 minutes without gasping for air, but after 1.5 miles of jogging, I was contemplating sleeping on the sidewalk of the street! Now, everyone knows that a basic principle of getting healthy is discipline, but it starts with disciplining your mind before your body. I have a couple Marine buddies who have gone through OCS, and they gave me a whole bunch of advice. I combined most of the things I wrote down from then and have found some helpful tips for training for OCS:

      1. Switch up your training regimen—so that you do not overwork certain muscles in your body. (See the HPRC website for ideas from various military fitness programs.)
      2. Breakfast is ESSENTIAL!—It gives you the energy to start out your day with a bang.
      3. Know your limits—do not train to the point of pain. When you’ve had enough, call it quits and start again tomorrow.
      4. Consistency is the goal—train most days unless you are sick—or incredibly sore from the 1st day, like I was. Every day does not have to be intense. [HPRC specialist’s note: At least one or two days of rest each week is advisable when ramping up to this activity level. The goal is to get to OCS strong, fit, and ready, not broken before you get there.]
      5. Don’t give up—I imagine that the real thing will be 10x harder then what I am doing to prepare. It helps give me the sense that things are easy now.

      Thanks to tips like these—and consistency—I managed to get a 297/300 on my PFT test in December, which allowed me to qualify for OCS training. My score was based off these results:

      Pull-ups: 20

      Three-mile run: 18:09

      Sit-ups/2 min: 100

      Nine seconds shorter on my run and I would have had a perfect score of 300! Yes, I was extremely happy about this—but also nervous because now I had one year to graduate, and I had to stay in this kind of shape?!

      Saturday March 5, 2011:

      Pull-ups: 24

      Three-mile-run: 17:56

      Sit-ups: 100

      Basically, for all those people out there who are trying to get in shape for boot camp, OCS, or even just a PFT test, take these tips into consideration. They have done amazing things for me, and I hope they work for you. Now I have more confidence in myself, more energy, and a better overlook on all this. Start preparing your mind today for what your body will be going through tomorrow.



      [1] Physical Fitness Training (PFT)/Officer Candidate School (OCS)

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