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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: Physical Fitness

Enjoy your run without "the runs"

Having the urge “to go” during a workout isn’t unusual for endurance athletes. There are steps you can take that could get you to the finish line accident-free

There’s an unpleasant situation that runners sometimes experience called “runners’ trots” or diarrhea. While short lasting and generally harmless, they can be annoying and cost you time during training or a race.

Certain activities such as high-intensity or long-duration exercise and vertical-impact sports (e.g., running vs. biking) increase your risk of gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort. Dehydration, poor conditioning, medication, and eating habits can cause GI irritation too. Despite the lack of hard evidence as to what causes these GI issues, there are things you can do to help settle your stomach:

  • Avoid trying new foods or sports drinks during a race.
  • Increase the time between eating and activity. Wait at least 3 hours after eating a large meal, or eat a smaller meal or snack closer to training time.
  • Plan out your meals, especially for endurance events.
  • Pay attention to what you eat to help identify foods that increase your discomfort during running. It’s best to avoid these until after you finish your race.
  • Limit your intake of gas-forming or fiber-rich foods (e.g., broccoli, onions, and beans).
  • If you’re sensitive, avoid coffee and other forms of caffeine before a run.
  • Hydrate before and during endurance activities; it will help blood flow to the GI area.
  • If you use sports gels or chews for endurance events, drink enough water (three to eight ounces every 15–20 minutes) to stay hydrated.
  • Give yourself time to use the bathroom before an endurance exercise.
  • Increase distance and intensity gradually.

If symptoms persist for more than a few days, even at rest, seek medical attention. Enjoy your run!

5 ways to stay active at work

Even with regular exercise, sitting for most of the day can increase your risk for chronic illnesses and early death. Find out what you can do about it.

Little things you do during your workday can reduce the amount of time you sit, decreasing your chance of developing certain sicknesses. Many jobs involve hours of sitting. Commuting, sitting down for dinner and TV after work, and then sleeping only add to the time most people sit or lie down in their daily lives. The more time you spend sitting, the higher your risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. We offer some ways to move more throughout your workday. Read more here.

Foam roll with it!

Use a foam roller to relieve overworked muscles, reduce soreness, and improve performance.

Foam rolling can help increase your range of motion (that is, how much your muscles and joints can move) and reduce muscle soreness that results from working out too hard or too long. So how does it work? More research is needed to understand its full effects, but Golgi tendon organs—specialized muscle nerve endings—are sensitive to changes in muscle tension. When you roll over them, the muscles relax. Here are some tips for effective foam rolling:

  • Don’t foam roll over newly injured areas.
  • If you’re just starting out, you might want to choose a lower-density foam roller. Higher-density foam rollers will provide more pressure.
  • Roll to find tight spots in your muscles and then hold your weight over those areas, or continuously roll over a muscle to loosen it.
  • Gradually increase the amount of time you roll over each muscle. If you’re just starting, foam roll 1–2 minutes per muscle group.
  • Focus on large muscle groups such as your quads and upper back.

Check out HPRC’s how-to videos on foam rolling calves, hamstrings, glutes, and more. Roll on!

Running safety

Filed under: Fitness, Running, Safety
Safety first! Check out some tips on how to stay safe while you’re out for a run.

Running is one of the simplest forms of exercise—just throw on your shoes and head out the door. But there are a few simple things you can do to ensure your run is safe too:

  • Carry identification. Bring some form of identification with you. There are various types of wristbands and shoe tags to provide emergency contact and medical information too.
  • Stay visible. Wear a headlamp and/or reflective gear so drivers can see you when it’s dark out—even at dusk and dawn. Make yourself visible to oncoming traffic.
  • Turn the music down. Music can be a great way to help you keep pace. But if your tunes are too loud, you may not be able to hear cars or people coming up behind you. Keep music at a volume low enough that you can hear what’s going on around you, or try wearing just one earpiece when you run.
  • Grab a buddy. Running with a friend is a great way to keep both of you motivated and accountable. But when you do run alone, let someone know and share your planned route.  
  • Use the crosswalk and follow crossing signs. Drivers tend to be more aware of pedestrians near crosswalks because in many areas pedestrians (runners included) have the right-of-way there. If you’re running where there is a crosswalk, use it.
  • Don’t assume a car will stop just because you’re in a crosswalk. Make sure the driver sees you, slows down, and allows you to safely cross the street.
  • Run against street traffic. Sometimes it’s easier to run on the shoulder or in a bike lane. Remember to run against traffic (normally the left side of the road) so you can see the cars and the drivers can see you.

Stay safe and happy running! 

Get SMART about your goals

Setting goals that you will actually accomplish can be easier said than done. Check out HPRC’s goal-setting worksheet to learn a formula for success!

Whatever your goals are, keep in mind that they’re easier to accomplish when they’re SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable/Action-oriented
  • Relevant
  • Time-sensitive

It’s a well-established method for fitness-oriented goals—to lift a certain weight, cycle a century, or run a marathon in a certain amount of time—and it works equally well in other areas of life. Maybe you want to reach a specific rank at your job or finish college by a certain date. Goals aren’t just for dreaming big; they’re for achieving.

For more details on using SMART goals to achieve your goals, read HPRC’s “Get SMART about setting goals.” Then you can use our SMART Goals Worksheet to help you:

  • think through exactly what you’re aiming for;
  • determine if this goal is a good fit for you;
  • measure and track your progress;
  • use success-oriented language to think and talk about your goal; and
  • break down the end goal into manageable steps.

How to get over a workout plateau

If you feel like you’ve hit a wall in your workout routine, try periodization to increase your performance.

Feeling stuck in your workout routine? Periodization is a training method that can help you overcome the plateau and boredom from doing the same workout repeatedly. For example, if you follow the same lifting routine for too long, your body will eventually adapt to the stresses of training, and you’ll see little or no improvement in performance. Following a workout routine for “too long” depends on factors such as your age, training program, duration, intensity, and recovery. In order to see improvement, researchers suggest adding a periodization plan to your workout. Periodization works by changing different variables of a fitness routine (such as the amount of weight, number of repetitions or sets, or intensity) every 1–6 weeks. Changing components of your workout forces your body to constantly try to overcome the new stresses and encourages continual growth and increased performance.

Creating a periodization plan also reduces your risk of overtraining. Consult a certified trainer to design a program that can help you overcome any workout plateaus, or check out the Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System (NOFFS) strength and endurance training series.

Big gains with lighter weights

Can less be more when it comes to building muscle?

If you’re trying to increase your muscle mass, whether you’re just starting a program or recovering from an injury, lifting lighter weights (with more repetitions) can be a useful way to minimize the risks associated with heavy weightlifting while still building muscle.

Lifting heavy weights can be risky, especially if you’re using improper form, don’t have a spotter, or try to lift weights during recovery from an injury. However, research suggests that lifting about 30% of your 1RM (one-rep-max) to fatigue has effects on muscle growth similar to lifting 70–80% of your 1RM.  When your muscles are tired, they still use the same amount of energy, despite the weight, causing them to replenish protein loss in similar ways, resulting in muscle growth. It isn’t that lifting heavy weights is necessarily bad, but lifting lighter weights may be good for maintaining muscle mass and growth in certain cases, such as when your risk of injury may be greater than usual. 

Fight the effects of bullying with exercise

Filed under: Children, Exercise, Teens
The mental health benefits of exercising for children and teens are just as important as the physical ones.

Children and teens face a lot of challenges these days, but exercise can help, even in such seemingly unrelated situations as bullying, a form of peer aggression. Bullying recently has come to the forefront as a public health concern. While the best solution is to prevent it, there are ways to cope and manage the effects of being bullied (such as depression, sadness, and decreased self-worth). Exercise can serve as a buffer against effects of being bullied. Bullied teens who regularly exercise at least 60 minutes a day, 4 days a week, are less likely to experience sadness or hopelessness. That’s important when you also consider that these feelings sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts among teens. Encouraging your child to participate in some kind of physical activity can help him or her conquer social obstacles while building good habits for a healthy adulthood. By also making physical activity a family matter, you can lead by example.  Learn more about how to prevent bullying and consult a healthcare professional and a school counselor if you’re concerned that your child might be a victim of bullying. 

Tart cherry juice for muscle soreness?

Filed under: Nutrition, Training
Drinking tart cherry juice might offer one more way to get relief from tough workouts.

Tart cherry juice might help soothe muscle pain after exercise, especially intense or long workouts. A few studies researched how drinking tart cherry juice affects muscle soreness and pain following different types of exercise. Participants drank tart cherry juice 5­­–7 days before exercise (such as running a marathon). Those who drank the tart cherry juice instead of the placebo experienced a decrease in intensity and duration of muscle pain, but these measurements weren’t consistent from study to study, and not all measures of muscle pain improved. However, tart cherry juice does contain anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Keep in mind that research participants drank 8–12 oz of tart cherry juice twice daily. Drinking that amount could add 260–390 calories per day to your diet, mostly from sugar. Too many calories and not enough exercise to balance it out can lead to weight gain. If you enjoy drinking tart cherry juice, then consider adding it to your nutrition plan. In addition to stretching and foam rolling after your workouts, it could help you experience less muscle soreness.

Massage therapy and muscle recovery

Filed under: Massage, Recovery
Sports massages may be beneficial for your recovery after a workout, as well as relaxing!

Getting a sports massage after a hard workout could help relieve muscle soreness and improve recovery. Sports massages typically focus on those areas of the body that are specific to a sport or activity. These kinds of massages decrease inflammation and promote blood circulation, allowing for the delivery of essential nutrients such as oxygen to damaged muscles, resulting in faster recovery. Symptoms such as pain, tenderness, muscle weakness, and discomfort associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) contribute to a decreased recovery process. If you’re able, treat yourself to a 10- to 15-minute sports massage after an intense workout such as resistance training or endurance events. If a sports massage isn’t possible, self-massage such as foam rolling can also reduce the effects of DOMS and increase blood flow to your muscles.

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