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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.

PFT/PRT training series—Part 2: Muscular strength and endurance

Part 2 of HPRC’s PFT/PRT training series focuses on muscular strength and endurance—critical components to performing your best on your fitness test.

Another basic component of PFT/PRT training involves muscular strength and endurance, but as with aerobic conditioning, you need to develop it over time, not just before your fitness tests. Whether you’re training or in the field, your muscular strength and endurance are essential components of your overall fitness and injury prevention.

But training to improve muscular strength is not the same as training for muscular endurance. Muscular strength is the amount of force that a muscle can produce with a single maximum effort. Muscular endurance is the ability to sustain a muscle contraction over a period of time, or to repeatedly contract a muscle over a period of time (for example, push-ups and sit-ups).

Learn how to use the FITT principle to develop a muscular fitness routine that will build both strength and endurance to prepare for the PFT/PRT and beyond. Read more...

How PTSD affects brain “circuitry”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Brain, PTSD
Learn how PTSD affects your brain “circuitry,” confusing symptoms of threat and safety.

If you’re experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it’s important to understand how the different parts of your brain function. Post-traumatic stress is a normal response to traumatic events. However, PTSD is a more serious condition that impacts brain function, and it often results from traumas experienced during combat, disasters, or violence.

Your brain is equipped with an alarm system that normally helps ensure your survival. With PTSD, this system becomes overly sensitive and triggers easily. In turn, the parts of your brain responsible for thinking and memory stop functioning properly. When this occurs, it’s hard to separate safe events happening now from dangerous events that happened in the past. Read more...

How to build intimacy in your relationship

Intimacy is essential to your healthy romantic relationship. Learn how to connect with your partner.

Intimacy is your sense of closeness with your partner, and it’s a key component of successful romantic relationships. You can build it by sharing thoughts, ideas, experiences, and emotions, and through physical touch. The level of shared intimacy in your romantic relationship makes it different from other relationships too. Many couples report greater relationship satisfaction when they share intimacy, while others tend to seek therapy when they lack intimacy.

So, how do you build intimacy in your relationship?

  • Communicate with your partner. Positive communication leads to higher levels of intimacy. It builds when you discuss your own vulnerabilities, and your partner listens and strives to understand your experiences. This can be challenging for Warfighters who train to not share information. To work through this, practice being assertive and a good listener. Intimacy builds when you share things that are deeply personal and your partner listens, honors, and respects what you’re saying.
  • Choose the “right” time to talk. An important piece of good communication is timing—and knowing when your partner is able to fully listen. Asking your partner, “Do you have some time to talk?” can help you determine that “right” time to talk things over. If distance makes it hard to find time to talk, written communication can be very effective if it’s assertive and received with respect.
  • Enjoy time together. You also can build intimacy by spending time doing mutually enjoyable activities. Experiencing new things with your partner can create a shared sense of intimacy as you encounter obstacles and solve problems together.
  • Explore physical touch. Sex and physical touch make your romantic relationship unique. To build intimacy, talk about your sex needs and listen to your partner as well. Sharing physical intimacy helps couples feel close and connected.

Intimacy builds over time and through multiple experiences, so it requires an ongoing investment from you. And remember it’s common for couples to experience peaks and valleys of intimacy levels in their long-term relationships. Visit HPRC’s Sex, Sexuality, & Intimacy section for more information on how to build intimacy in your relationship.

Posted 29 May 2017

PFT/PRT training series—Part 1: Cardiovascular fitness

Learn how to boost your cardiovascular fitness before your next PFT/PRT.

The PFT/PRT is designed to test your cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength. In this three-part series, HPRC takes a closer look at each component, offers tips on training optimization, and suggests how to prevent common training-related injuries.

Preparation for your Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) takes time and discipline. Training for the test isn’t something you should start the month before the test, and the fitness habits you develop leading up to the test should continue year-round. Weekend warriors and procrastinators are at greater risk of injury, and it’s likely that your performance will be less than optimal when it comes time for your test.

HPRC provides a series of articles with guidelines to help you prepare for the PFT/PRT, beginning with this one on cardiovascular fitness. Read more...

Mindfully remembering fallen service members

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
This Memorial Day, take a mindful moment to remember those who have served honorably and made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

Memorial Day marks a national day of remembrance to honor those who lost their lives while protecting our country and values. Our fallen service members deserve our utmost respect, so take some time to mindfully acknowledge and respect their sacrifices.

Mindfulness is the practice of cultivating your attention and focus in a way that allows you to deeply appreciate the present moment. The practice of mindful remembrance also can help you more fully acknowledge the sacrifices of others. Whatever your plans this Memorial Day, try to engage in the 3 R’s:

Reflect: Stop, take a deep breath, and reflect on what you value most in your life. Appreciate what’s around you: your home, treasured friends and family, health, and career. Then internally shift attention: Tune into your heart beating and chest rising and falling with each breath.

Recognize: There are many people who enable the life you lead. They contribute in both small and big ways too. So pause and thank those who make things possible. Mindful appreciation can amplify your ability to feel gratitude toward people and events that you often might take for granted.

Remember: Think of someone you know who has lost his or her life in service to our country. Say the service member’s name out loud. Repeat it to yourself. Take a few quiet moments to recall a special memory, photograph, or simply what this person meant to you. Or commit to reading or sharing a story about a Warfighter whose actions you revere.

Remembering the fallen is a sacred and enduring responsibility that should be front and center at all Memorial Day festivities, and this practice can start with you. To learn about an organization that has created the goal of mindfully recognizing every fallen service member since September 11, 2001, visit the Mindful Memorial Day page. 

Watch HPRC’s video below for more on how to cultivate a mindful remembrance practice.

Posted 22 May 2017

Summertime food safety

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Food, Safety, Summer
Don’t let germs spoil your summer get-togethers. Try these tips to help keep your outdoor meals safe.

Picnics and barbecues are just around the corner, so be mindful of food safety as you soak up the summer sun and fun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates one in 6 Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses, including those associated with poorly cooked or stored foods in hot environments. Still, there are ways to keep your favorite foods safe—and your friends and loved ones healthy—this summer.

  • Keep it clean. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling uncooked eggs or raw meat, poultry, and seafood (and their juices). To prevent cross-contamination, wash utensils and cutting boards with hot, soapy water after food prep too. Tip: Fill a spray bottle with 1 Tbsp chlorine bleach and water, and use it to sanitize your countertops and other food-prep surfaces.
  • Cool it. Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, not on the countertop. Safely marinate your meats, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator until it’s time to cook. Don’t reuse marinade, and don’t serve it with cooked foods.
  • Cook foods thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to check for doneness. Make sure cooked foods have reached a safe internal temperature:
    • Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb (steaks, roasts, and chops)—145°F
    • Fresh fish—145°F
    • Ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb (burgers and sausages)—160°F
    • All poultry and pre-cooked meats (such as hot dogs)—165°F
  • Refrigerate your leftovers. Chill your foods to stop the growth of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. Refrigerate items within 2 hours of cooking or 1 hour if the outside temperature is at or above 90°F. Tip: If you’re outside, keep things chilled at 40°F or less in a cooler, or place them directly on ice.

To boost your “BBQ IQ,” visit the CDC webpage.

Posted 22 May 2017

Lullabies help soothe baby and “new parent” stress

There’s great joy in becoming a new parent. To ease the stress during this transition and forge a bond with your little one, try singing to your baby.

While having a baby can bring immense joy, it also can spark anxieties for new parents and cause tension between them. So try singing lullabies to help relieve stress and soothe your cranky infant.

An infant’s neediness sometimes can make new parents question their competence. It’s normal to worry about your baby’s health and your new parenting role. Singing lullabies and other playful songs can help you feel connected to your baby as you share a soothing and enjoyable interaction. Moms, in particular, report that singing to their infants helps them experience and convey positive emotions such as happiness, pleasure, and satisfaction.

Singing is a way to focus attention on your baby and see your little one’s reactions to your voice, gestures, and facial expressions. This type of exchange can help you feel more confident as a parent and closer to your baby. His or her reactions can then inspire feelings such as pride and amazement, which dampens your stress and anxieties.

Singing lullabies can help new parents feel satisfied and calm too. There’s often a physical component to singing as well, where you sway together, or your infant snuggles in your lap. Some parents also report that singing changes their babies’ behavior. Babies can feel calmer, and both parent and baby can experience relaxation and harmony together. Mothers who sing to their babies say it soothes them, which leads to less crying.

If you’re currently pregnant, start singing to your baby now and continue after her or his birth. It’s possible singing taps into a natural tendency you have, but even if it doesn’t, singing lullabies and other playful songs is something you can get acquainted with doing. Use this strategy to lessen “new parent” stress and help you bond with your baby.

 

Posted 22 May 2017

Can a sympathetic nerve block relieve pain?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Pain, Pain management
Learn how sympathetic nerve blocks can help provide relief from chronic pain.

A sympathetic nerve block is a medical therapy, where an anesthetic solution (and sometimes a steroid) is injected into nerve bundles to help relieve your chronic pain. These nerve blocks target your sympathetic nervous system—a network of nerves that branch out from your spine to your body—affecting your digestion, breathing, and more.

Sympathetic nerve blocks offer temporary relief from pain, making it easier for patients to engage in physical therapy, which can stimulate mobility and decrease pain. The block numbs the pain generated by your nerves, leading to improved quality of life.

The procedure typically includes receiving intravenous (IV) medication to make you feel relaxed and sleepy before the nerve block is inserted. X-rays or other technology such as fluoroscopy are sometimes used to make sure the nerve block accurately targets the bundle of nerves. Your doctor will numb the area in your neck or back with a local anesthetic and inject the anesthetic solution (and sometimes other medicines) into the bundle.

Treatments are relatively quick (about 30 minutes), and patients usually can go home afterwards. Common side effects include soreness at the injection site and some weakness. Keep in mind some patients might need several treatments because everyone responds differently.

Research on the effectiveness of sympathetic nerve blocks is somewhat mixed. They don’t work for everyone, and pain relief might lessen over time. Depending on the type and location of your pain, other nerve blocks such as epidural steroid injections might be more appropriate. Sympathetic nerve blocks also might be most effective as part of a comprehensive pain management plan. Make sure to ask your healthcare provider if a sympathetic nerve block is right for you.

Posted 18 May 2017

Take responsible action for your mental health

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
During Mental Health Awareness Month, HPRC takes a look at common barriers to seeking support for mental health concerns. Learn what you can do to get the help you need.

Warfighters lead stressful lives, so it’s important to seek support and resources to help you cope and stay ready for duty. While many wouldn’t hesitate to see their doctor about a physical ailment, asking for help to address psychological struggles can feel overwhelming.

Nearly 44 million adults in the U.S.—about 1 in 5—experience a mental illness every year. In the military population, those statistics are even higher. More than 1.6 million service members have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, and almost 19% have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. And only half of those who need mental health support actually seek treatment.

There are many barriers that people encounter when seeking mental health support from outside sources. Here are examples of what the most common barriers sound like and some recommended courses of action (COA) you can take to start moving past whatever’s standing in your way. Read more...

Watch out for “hidden” sugars

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn about “added” sugars that can be hiding in some of your favorite foods.

Nearly everyone enjoys sweet treats, but keep a lookout for hidden sources of sugar in some packaged or even “healthy” foods, especially if you’re watching your sugar intake.

Some sugars occur naturally in fruits (fructose) and milk products (lactose). However, other sugars are added to foods and drinks during preparation, processing, or at your table. These include natural sugars (such as honey) and processed sugars (such as high-fructose corn syrup). Foods with added sugars include ice cream, some yogurts, baked goods, breakfast cereals, punches, and some sodas and energy drinks. Consuming foods and drinks with added sugars can increase your risk of tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. So it’s important to limit your intake of foods and drinks with added sugars when possible.

Check food labels for hidden sources of sugar too. The Nutrition Facts panel was recently updated to include “added” sugars, and the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting them to no more than 10% of your calories per day. So try to limit your intake of foods and drinks with anhydrous dextrose, brown rice syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, malt syrup, maltose, maple or pancake syrup, molasses, honey, glucose, lactose, fruit nectars, brown sugar, sucrose, and sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, and mannitol. Still, there are ways to help reduce your “added” sugar intake and boost nutrition as well.

  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruits that contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Try fresh or dried bananas, apples, or berries. Or choose fruits canned in 100% juice.
  • Limit sugar at your table. Add small amounts of sugar to your oatmeal, coffee, or tea. Or skip the syrup and top your whole-grain pancakes and waffles with fresh fruit.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Instead, try fresh or sparkling water flavored with sliced oranges or strawberries.

Visit the MedlinePlus page to learn more about sugar.

Posted 15 May 2017

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