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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

Mind-body help for breast cancer

Filed under: Cancer, Mind-body, Yoga
It’s National Women’s Health Week! Breast cancer affects MANY women. Medical doctors can guide your recovery, but learn how complementary-health techniques can help you feel empowered.

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and meditation could help you cope with different aspects and symptoms of breast cancer. Stress-management programs such as music therapy and mind-body techniques (for example, yoga and mindfulness meditation) could bring some relief too.

You could experience anxiety, depression, and/or stress during your recovery. Many patients and survivors also suffer from fatigue or sleep problems. Qigong (moving meditation), gentle yoga, and stress management techniques can help ease fatigue and improve sleep habits. And make sure you monitor your energy. Don’t try to take on too much.

If you’re receiving chemotherapy and experiencing nausea, other complementary-health approaches such as electroacupuncture and acupressure can help. A mind-body technique known as progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing your muscles, could ease discomfort too.

HPRC offers additional resources on mind-body techniques and yoga. Adding these “weapons” to your arsenal might help you or someone you love in the battle against breast cancer. 

Fueling up for the PFT/PRT

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Physical Fitness
Getting ready for your PRT/PFT? Check out these tips that can help you pass with flying colors!

One of the best but most-overlooked ways to prepare for your Physical Fitness (PFT) or Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) is to make sure your body is well fueled. Proper fuel and a good workout strategy can get you ready to take on the challenge!

  • Keep hydrated. Drinking enough fluids will help your body function at its highest level. These amounts can vary depending on weather and location. Don’t restrict drinking water because you’re worried about weigh-in. This can backfire at test time.
  • Eat something light. You’ll need enough fuel to perform well, but too much can slow you down. Proper fuel should come from a high-carbohydrate source about 200–300 calories such as cereal, fruit, and milk. Or a slice of whole-wheat bread with egg or nut butter. Yogurt and fruit are nourishing pre-test snacks too. And try to eat 30–60 minutes before your PFT/PRT, if possible.
  • Avoid trying new foods. Try new bars, chews, gels, or other foods during training, but not before your test because you could experience gastrointestinal upset. Give yourself time to use the bathroom before too.

HPRC also offers good advice to help set your workout plan in place. Keep your body strong, fueled, and hydrated—and perform your best!

Putting some fun into recovery

Learn how therapeutic recreation can be part of the healing process or fitness program for injured and/or ill service members.

Getting fit and staying healthy can be especially challenging for service members with chronic illnesses, injuries, or disabilities. The good news is that recreation therapy can make the process less painful. Recreation therapists can help motivate and design activities that are enjoyable while they improve both physical and mental function and fitness. Therapeutic recreation also can help make subsequent life more enjoyable.

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) suggests that those who are more active lead more satisfying, happier, and healthier lives. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DoD recommend injured veterans get involved in adaptive sport programs and/or recreation therapy as part of their rehabilitation. Most rehabilitation hospitals have a recreation therapist on staff who can help develop individualized programs. There are also local and national programs such as the VA Adaptive Sports Program, Paralympics, and the Military Adaptive Sports Program.

Celebrate Mother’s Day

Filed under: Family, Relationships
Celebrate Mother’s Day wherever you’re serving—at home or abroad.

Mother’s Day is set aside to honor mothers, but for service members who can’t celebrate with their moms or who can’t take time to celebrate being a mom, it can be hard. But still do your best to take time and recognize the special moms in your life.

  • Show your appreciation with a handwritten note or ecard. If you’re feeling creative, make a card from scratch—just like you did as a kid—and drop it in the mail.
  • Enjoy a physical activity together. Go walking, running, biking, hiking, or do yoga. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, together or apart, can help you both enjoy Mother’s Day in the future too.
  • Nourish your mom with healthy treats or a homemade meal. And consider inviting a mom who doesn’t have family nearby. Good food and conversation can make her day special too.

If you can’t be with your mom, then schedule a time to talk or video chat. Let her know how much you cherish your relationship. And ask any questions you might have wondered about, such as:

  • How are we alike or different?
  • What did you really think when I joined the military (or married someone in the military)?
  • Is it easier being a mother now that your kids are grown?
  • What do you hope the next few years will bring for our family?

If you’re feeling some sadness or anxiety, make a point to manage your stress. “Perfect” moms and/or children could evoke stress, even if you love them dearly. Consider mindfulness or other ways to cope, and make the best of this day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all military moms—service members, spouses, and mothers of service members!

Get your daughters moving!

Filed under: Families, Girls, Sports
Girls are less physically active then boys. With encouragement from parents and opportunities to get moving, girls can get the exercise they need.

On a daily basis, girls’ physical activity levels are lower than boys’ of the same age. They need extra support from their parents to get moving and find opportunities for physical fitness. A lack of physical activity can have negative consequences in the long term, such as poorer hand-eye coordination and worse overall health. But exercise isn’t just good for your child’s body; it’s also linked to better academic achievement.

One reason girls get less exercise is because they may not be offered opportunities to engage in physical fitness. Parents might assume their daughters don’t like sports and then don’t suggest they participate. Encouragement from parents matters. Don’t assume your daughter isn’t interested in physical fitness, even if she sometimes says she isn’t! Break up the times your daughter is just sitting around by getting her to go for a walk or move around the house. Ask her to help with tasks at home that require some physical activity. Encourage your daughter to enroll and stay involved in organized sports from a young age. Brainstorm physical activities she might enjoy. There’s trampoline, fencing, hip-hop dance, lacrosse, martial arts, soccer, ice hockey, skateboarding, rowing, swimming, yoga, or tennis, to name a few.

Remember that kids take their cues from their parents. Set an example by being physically active yourself, and your children will likely follow suit. All kids—boys and girls—need at least 60 minutes if physical activity a day. Not sure what type of exercises your children should be doing? Check out HPRC’s “Put some fun in your children’s fitness” for some great ideas.

One-Rep-Max for strength

Lifting weights helps you stay strong and perform well. Learn how to boost your muscular strength and endurance.

How do you know how much weight to lift when you start a resistance-training program? Most programs are designed around lifting a percentage of your maximum strength.

First, you need to find out what your maximum strength is. A popular method is the one-repetition maximum test (1RM): the most weight you can press once but not twice. You can also do multiple-repetition tests for a reliable estimate of maximum strength. A 5-repetition test seems to be accurate, but more than 10 reps is unreliable.

This instructional video demonstrates the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) protocol for a 1RM test. ACSM’s protocol can also be applied to a multiple-repetition test. For example, determine the most weight you can lift 5 times, but not 6 times, for a 5-rep max test. If you have doubts about whether this is the right test for you, be sure to consult a healthcare professional.

The second step is to determine what amount of weight—as a percentage of your 1RM—you should use to improve your muscular strength and endurance. Typically, your muscular strength should improve if you use 60–80% of your 1RM. You should be able to improve your muscular endurance using about 50% of your 1RM. Once you’ve assessed your maximum strength, use this conversion chart from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) to determine your 1RM percentages.

Happy lifting!

How to avoid stress fractures

Painful stress fractures can hurt your workout routine too. Learn more about training safely.

An important thing to know about stress fractures is how to avoid them. A stress fracture is a tiny crack in a bone that happens when your muscles can’t absorb shock and transfer stresses to the bone. Most occur in the lower extremities, especially the lower leg and foot.

A stress fracture is usually an overuse injury that develops over a long period of time—from weeks to months. They’re especially common among military recruits, in about 3% of men and 9% of women. And since it can take several weeks to months for a stress fracture to heal, the best approach is to avoid getting one. Here are some tips for prevention:

  • Use the progression principle of training: Gradually increase your training intensity, usually by no more than 10% weekly if you exercise 3 or more days a week. Slowly incorporate higher-stress activities such as jumping and interval training into your workout. Set incremental goals to help you develop your training routine step-by-step.
  • Check your footwear and make sure it matches your training routine. Replace old or worn footwear.
  • Check your form. Are you moving properly when you exercise or does your form put you at risk of injury?
  • Pay attention to early signs of injury. Unusual muscle soreness and other aches and pains can be a sign of injury and/or imbalances that could worsen if they aren’t addressed early.
  • Monitor your diet, specifically calcium and vitamin D intake. To learn more, read the National Institute of Health’s Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet on calcium and HPRC’s article on vitamin D.

It’s important to recognize a stress fracture and get medical help early, as described by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The Mayo Clinic provides more information on symptoms. And check out HPRC’s Injury Prevention section for more on how to avoid injury.

Pull-up: Train above the bar

HPRC recently designed a training program to help you achieve your first pull-up. Check it out!

Since pull-ups are tough and require a lot of strength, HPRC just created a training program to help you meet the challenge. Achieving a pull-up might be easier for some, but more difficult for others, especially women. Other factors such as body fat, arm length, and height can affect your ability to achieve a pull-up too.

But what that means is—with the right training—you can do it! Check out HPRC’s Pull-up Progression Program for exercises aimed at increasing your strength and helping you achieve your first pull-up.

The need for speed workouts

Looking to improve your 2-mile time or set a new 5K personal record (PR)? Learn how to train smarter and faster.

“Long slow-distance runs,” the coaching phrase goes, “make long slow-distance runners.” A leisurely long run isn’t bad for you—it just means that if you want to run faster, you have to train faster. Mix it up instead and incorporate speed workouts into your runs: interval, tempo, and fartlek.

Always include a warm-up and cooldown with your workout. Limit speed workouts to twice a week and get enough rest and recovery in between. Actively rest by going on a lighter run or bike ride, or even doing some yoga. Learn more about how speed workouts can ramp up your performance. Read more...

Exergaming: Is it really exercise?

There are lots of exercise video games on the market, but should they really be considered exercise?

Between the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and the continuing popularity of video games among children, does exergaming actually count as physical activity? Exergaming, or exercise video gaming, is popular among children and adults because it offers entertainment and physical activity. Exergames include:

  • Virtual cycling
  • Interactive climbing machines
  • Aerobics, dancing, and floor games for multiple video game platforms
  • Mobile exercise games for smartphones and tablets

While it’s certainly fun, studies suggest that exergaming is not the best form of exercise for kids. It does increase energy expenditure (compared to rest), but it’s not necessarily enough to meet your children’s exercise needs. For example, when compared to a phys ed class, exergaming fell short. For the most part, kids who play exergames don’t burn enough calories or increase their heart rates enough to make up for exercising.

The good news about exergaming is that it can increase motivation and keep children engaged. It could be a great starting point for inactive children needing to begin a physical activity routine. It can be part of the daily-recommended doses of exercise and physical activity for kids and teens too. Families could find it as a fun alternative to sitting on the couch and watching a movie or TV show. Exergaming might be better than sitting and playing video games, but it shouldn’t replace more vigorous activities such as outside play. Save the exergaming for the next rainy or snowy day!

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