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The impact of sleep loss on performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Sleep is a basic building block of health. Learn how not getting enough sleep is likely to compromise performance optimization and impede your total fitness.

Sleep lays the foundation for the health and well-being of service members and their families, but for many, it’s hard to get enough sleep to maintain optimal performance. Sleep loss impacts many domains of optimal functioning—whether you’re at home, at work, or on a mission. For example, trying to drive a vehicle on an empty tank of fuel isn’t a good idea, but many people routinely “operate” themselves on little or no sleep. In general, sleep deprivation can compromise your cognitive function, ability to manage emotions and handle stress, relationships with others, and physical and nutritional conditioning. Read more...

6 ways to “spring performance forward”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn 6 ways you can spring your performance forward as you adjust your clocks 1 hour ahead.

“Spring forward” isn’t just for your clocks! It’s the perfect time to ramp up and renew your health and wellness habits and practices, so you can perform your very best. Make sure to turn your clocks one hour ahead on Sunday, March 12, to mark the start of Daylight Saving Time for much of the continental U.S. Although you lose an hour of sleep, here are 6 ways to leverage the longer periods of daylight and spring your “performance” forward.

  • Reset your sleep habits. Adjust your bedtime gradually in 15-minute increments each day leading up to the time change. For example, if your bedtime is 10 p.m., try going to sleep earlier the week before so that you can handle the time change when it arrives. And take naps to help make up for any sleep debt. If you’re not fully adjusted when Sunday arrives, remember that it’s okay to use naps to adapt to your new schedule.
  • Make the most of mornings. The impact of the hour of sleep you lose will be temporary, but you can plan carefully to minimize its effects. The good news is you’ll be waking up to brighter skies, which can help you feel more alert and awake. Try to start your day with a few minutes of mindfulness meditation or yoga. Or simply set intentions for how you’ll approach your day.
  • Change up your exercise routine. You adapted your exercise routine for the winter, and now is a good time to switch things up. Take a look at your current routine. Are there different activities you can try to test the boundaries of your physical fitness and improve your strength, endurance, and skill?
  • Head outside. The warmer temperatures and longer days mean more opportunities to connect with nature. Exercising outdoors can calm your nervous system, help you recover from stressful events, and improve your overall well-being.
  • Reevaluate goals. Your mind loves clear markers in time, such as adjusting the clock forward, to signal new starts. Review the goals and resolutions you set for yourself at the start of the year and use the after action review (AAR) process to conduct a quarterly assessment. Adjust or set new goals accordingly.
  • Spring clean. Mess causes stress. Refresh and renew your home, but don’t stop at the ceiling fans and baseboards. Clean out your pantry and refrigerator and make space for new spring vegetables and fruits to boost your diet. Toss or donate unused items and clothing to unclutter your physical environment too.

Maintain optimal performance and make the transition smoother with these tips. For more information on sleep and performance, visit HPRC’s Sleep Optimization page.

HPO Spotlight: Anthony Radetic

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Army veteran Anthony Radetic discusses optimizing his performance as a competitive athlete after an accident that left him in a wheelchair.

In a Human Performance Optimization (HPO) Spotlight video, Army veteran Anthony Radetic discusses optimizing his performance as an elite athlete after becoming an incomplete paraplegic. He served as a helicopter pilot until he was injured in a motor vehicle accident that left him in a wheelchair.

Anthony talks about how he came to embrace competitive sports despite his injury. He discusses building his confidence and stamina to professionally compete in hand cycling, monoski racing, and jetski racing events. Anthony also describes how his mission changed after his injury, and how he learned to refocus himself to reach his optimized performance at home and during competitions. Check out the video below to learn more about his resilience.

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.

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!

Creatine supplements

Can creatine help you perform better?

Creatine supplements are popular among athletes and Warfighters trying to enhance their strength and muscle size. Unlike many other supplements, there is considerable evidence that taking creatine supplements might result in greater gains in body mass and strength when combined with resistance training. However, not all athletes or Warfighters will experience the same benefits from consuming creatine supplements, especially those focused on endurance training. And although there are few safety concerns associated with creatine, it’s still important to use it under the guidance of a healthcare provider. 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.

Set and attain team goals

Warfighters know it’s important that their units/groups stick together. Find out how cooperating with others and setting team goals help achieve team success.

Team goals matter—whether you’re serving your unit, making decisions as a family, or coaching sports. There are a lot of factors that can lead to your group’s success or failure too. Your group’s cohesiveness—or ability to remain united while pursuing your objectives—can make all the difference as your team works to achieve its goals.

Cohesiveness has other advantages too: Those who get along socially or work well together benefit from improved job satisfaction and overall well-being. Here are some tips to help build and maintain team/unit cohesion.

  • When you’re in charge, be sure to set clear, achievable goals for the whole group. And encourage teammates to set their own goals too.
  • Communicate clearly: Give clear expectations for roles, performance, and deadlines—and offer praise.
  • Minimize conflict and build trust by showing interest and concern for each other.
  • Value connections within the team as well as between units and organizations.
  • Focus on your group’s strengths, not just its problems and challenges.
  • Build resilience at individual and group levels.

Sometimes personal goals interfere with the group’s success, causing its performance to suffer. When individuals set goals that contribute to the group’s overall purpose, bigger successes follow. Make sure your personal goals fit into the “bigger picture” of your team’s success.

Setting team goals is even more important for leaders. Teammates often take cues from their leader, whether he or she is a commanding officer, parent, or coach. Effective leaders—especially those who focus on the group’s mission—help their groups define clear aims and set important personal goals as well.

Set your own goals to help your team succeed. And when you’re in charge, share your “big picture” goals with the group! 

Can Olympians motivate your eating?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Many of us will be glued to our TVs, watching the Olympic Games over the next several days. What can we learn about nourishing our bodies from these elite athletes?

Olympic athletes follow a rigorous training schedule with their eyes on the Gold, and what they eat and drink can make a winning difference! Most of them work with sports dietitians to help reach their nutrition goals. However, others can learn from their examples as well:

  • Food fuels and nourishes your body to help you perform well. Olympic athletes teach the importance of nutritious fueling every day by including the right balance of foods and beverages for each workout and event.
  • Successful Olympians jump-start their days with breakfasts that include protein and carbohydrate-rich foods. This keeps them energized and ready for the next challenge.
  • It’s important to keep a healthy relationship with food. Food is more than fuel. Even after eating to meet a specific goal, sometimes it’s still healthy to eat a favorite food just because you’re in the mood. However, some Olympians are at greater risk of eating disorders, especially those who become too focused on body image and develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to calorie needs. Some endurance athletes take in over 5,000 calories daily. The United States Olympic Committee provides helpful eating guidelines for its athletes.

Remember that the goal for a healthy lifestyle is something greater than Gold: your wellness!

Fun facts: Did you know that the Armed Forces Sports (AFS) program paves the way for service members to compete in national, Olympic, and international athletic competitions?

Let’s cheer on the 16 Armed Forces members participating in Rio’s Olympic Games and those who will compete in the Paralympics next month.

Go team USA!

Fueling your adolescent athlete

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Heat, humidity, and tough workouts can all be a part of your adolescent’s sports training program. Learn how proper nutrition and hydration help them play well.

School still might be out for some, but many teen athletes are already busy with fall sports practices. And knowing what and when to eat and drink can help them be on top of their game. Your teen’s schedule might seem more like a pro athlete’s workout schedule with two-a-days, strength-training programs, and speed training. However, these are often building blocks of teen athletes’ training for sports. Fueling the Adolescent Athlete contains useful information on how they can fuel their bodies before, during, and after practice.

Fueling comes in two forms: what teen athletes eat to provide energy and what they drink to help stay hydrated. Eating nutrient-packed meals and snacks before, after, and even during practices and games is essential for optimal performance. The right balance of carbohydrates and protein work together to fuel and build muscles.

Staying hydrated goes hand in hand with peak performance. It’s often difficult for adolescent athletes to stay hydrated in heat and humidity, but drinking regularly and keeping an eye on their urine color can be helpful.

For more adolescent and family nutrition information, check out HPRC’s Family Nutrition section.

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