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.
Shin splints can sideline you from your regular workouts, but there are things you can do to help relieve the pain and quickly resume your exercise routine. Shin splints—a common injury among athletes, particularly runners—refers to pain in the leg below the knee, usually on the medial (inside) part of your shin. This pain can be caused by micro-tears at the bone tissue, possibly caused by overuse or repetitive stress. The best way to prevent shin splints is: Don’t do too much, too soon.
Shin splints usually occur after sudden changes in exercise or physical activity, such as rapidly increasing your running mileage, boosting your workout frequency or intensity, or even varying changes in surface, such as running more hills. To help reduce your risk for shin splints, you can follow the 10% rule: Increase your workout no more than 10% per week. That applies to the number of miles you run and how often and how hard you work out.
Other factors that can influence your risk include worn-out shoes, over-pronation, and excessive stress on one leg from running on a cambered road (the curved, downward slope from the middle of a road to the edge for drainage). If you run an out-and-back route, while not always safest in street traffic, you can run on the same side of the road each way. Or use the sidewalk instead. If you often run on a track, switch the direction you run.
Shin splints will usually heal themselves with proper rest. Consider taking a break from your regular workout routine and cross train with lower-impact workouts such as swimming, pool running, or biking instead. Basic self-care treatments such as stretching, ice, and anti-inflammatories can help relieve pain. If the pain doesn’t improve with rest, or if the skin is hot and inflamed, see your doctor to make sure you don’t have a more serious injury such as a stress fracture or tendonitis.
If you struggle with chronic pain, you might feel that exercise is futile: It hurts when you don't exercise and it hurts when you do. However, a properly structured exercise routine might help reduce some kinds of pain and keep other kinds from worsening.
It’s important to know the difference between chronic pain and injury-related pain. Acute pain—the body’s normal response to physical injury—usually can’t be relieved through exercise. In fact, exercise can worsen your acute pain, so it’s not recommended. But if injury has been ruled out and your pain lasts for more than 3 months, you might be able to partially manage or even reduce your chronic pain through exercise.
Still, exercise can help reduce pain in several ways. It mostly increases endorphins—the body's natural painkillers — which help block pain, enabling you to relax. Exercise also helps boost serotonin—a brain chemical partly responsible for mood and the perception of pain—reducing stress and improving mood. Pain increases stress, which then reduces serotonin. Since exercise increases serotonin, it also might bring relief from pain-induced depression.
If you’re thinking of adding exercise to your pain management plan, consider the following types: aerobic, strength, and flexibility. But make sure your exercise program is specifically tailored to your needs. Some exercises might be easier or more difficult to complete depending upon the type and location of your pain.
Visit HPRC’s Physical Fitness section for information about training, exercise, and injury prevention. And consult your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise routine and if you experience pain during or after exercise.
Your heart rate varies with every heartbeat. When it varies more, it’s good for your health and performance. Heart rate variability (HRV)—a way to track how your heart rate rhythmically goes up and down—helps you objectively assess your mind-body optimization. HRV measures the time interval between one heartbeat and the next. It can be affected by many factors, including fitness, age, body position, and even the time of day. HRV also decreases during periods of stress. You’ll feel less stressed—and more resilient—when your HRV level is high. Your heart rate speeds up when you inhale and slows down when you exhale too. Breathing at certain paces impacts HRV and—in turn—the mind-body connection and performance. Since you can learn to control your breathing, you also can improve your HRV. Read HPRC’s Vary Your Heart Rate to Perform Your Best to learn more.
Dietary supplements don’t require approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being put on the market. That means unless a product has been tested in a laboratory, there’s no way to know its true contents, including potentially problematic ingredients and possibly even ones not listed on the label. So how can you tell if a product really contains what it says on the Supplement Facts panel? Check the product label to see if it carries a seal from an independent, third-party organization. For more information and examples of third-party organizations, visit the OPSS FAQ about third-party certification.
Recent DoD policy changes now allow transgender persons to openly serve in the military. News about this and a greater presence of transgender people—at school and on TV—might prompt questions from your kids about what it means to be transgender and gender-nonconforming.
People typically are assigned a sex—based on their genital anatomy—at birth. Assigning individuals into 2 sex categories—male or female—also means there are expectations that one will behave in a way that aligns culturally with his or her assigned sex. For example, in the U.S. and most other western cultures, a girl is expected to play with dolls, while a boy is expected to play with toy cars. The behaviors and expressions of one’s sex make up his or her gender.
For some kids and adults, the sex identities they were assigned at birth don’t align with their internal genders, or “gender identities,” that they believe more accurately reflects their true selves. When your internal view of yourself is different from your external, assigned sex, then you come to consider yourself transgender or “trans.” Read more...
Healthcare providers commonly treat kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with medication and behavioral therapy, but proper nutrition can improve your child’s success in school and at home too.
Nutrient-dense foods boost kids’ overall health, especially for those with ADHD. They often consume poor diets consisting of mainly white flours and sugars because kids with ADHD crave these foods. However, these foods are missing valuable nutrients needed for muscle growth and brain development. Inadequate fuel can impact your child’s behavior, mood, sleep, and even lead to constipation. However, your child can grow and perform well when he or she eats a variety of foods: whole grains, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and water. Read more...
While it’s good to “think positive” when setting lofty goals, think about what might prevent you from actually getting there too. Imagining success should (and can) inspire you to put in the hard work needed to do well. However, dreaming of how things could be down the road might make them feel so tangible that you don’t do what’s needed to get there.
That’s why it’s more realistic to picture where you want to go along with what might be in your way. Then you can either decide that the goal is out of reach or plan to deal with the obstacles in order to succeed.
Here are four steps to help you overcome obstacles and reach your goals:
- Identify an important goal that’s challenging and achievable. For instance, maybe you’re aiming to improve your PFT score by 20%.
- What will it mean to accomplish your fitness goal? Maybe you picture yourself being more active with your family at home and then performing well on a mission.
- Consider what stands between you and your goal. You can still keep your eyes on the prize. But you need to recognize the obstacles. Maybe exercising in the dark makes you nervous, or you’re less organized, or even tired, so it feels like an uphill battle.
- Strengthen your awareness and face obstacles with an “if…then” plan. Here’s an example: “IF my fear of nighttime running creeps up, THEN I’ll put on my high-visibility clothing and stick to well-lit streets.” Here’s another: “IF I find myself disorganized and grasping for time, THEN I’ll walk around the block while planning my day.” Or how about: “IF I feel tired when I come home this evening, THEN I’ll take a short walk or jog and go to sleep right after.” If…then plans help you face your fears instead of hiding from them.
Try this four-step method to shift from just dreaming about important goals to tackling the obstacles along the path to accomplishing them. And you might find this works even better if you combine it with setting SMART goals.
Drug testing can happen at any time in the military. If you’re taking or considering dietary supplements—especially ones considered “high risk”—you’ll want to make sure your product won’t affect your test results. High-risk supplements are among those marketed for bodybuilding, performance enhancement, sexual enhancement, and weight loss. They sometimes contain ingredients (listed on the label or not) that could cause a positive test result. If you have a product that you think might cause a problem with a drug test, contact one of the DoD Drug Testing Centers on the OPSS infosheet “Dietary supplements and drug testing.”
School’s back in session, and kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) struggle with focus, hyperactivity, and schedules. It’s especially important for them to keep a consistent routine, limit screen time, and get a good night’s sleep.
Regular routines are important for all kids, especially those with ADHD because they’re more likely to get distracted. And some might have a harder time completing their tasks. A consistent routine helps them stay on track. Tip: Hang a “daily routine” chart on your refrigerator. Make sure it includes tasks your child must complete in the morning—such as brushing teeth and hair, washing his or her face, and changing clothes—before heading out the door. Add bedtime tasks such as packing his or her lunch and backpack to the chart too. Using the chart as a guide to repeat the same behaviors every day can help your child stick to successful morning and evening routines.
Children and teens with ADHD tend to spend more time in front of screens than other kids. Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation and limit your child’s screen time to 1–2 hours daily. And set up a “screen-free zone” in your house—where everyone agrees to avoid TVs, cell phones, tablets, game consoles, and laptops. Encourage your kids to move more instead: They can head outdoors or play team sports. Aerobic exercise also can help reduce inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
A bedtime routine can help kids with ADHD improve their sleeping patterns too. Make sure to establish and maintain a set bedtime. And consider removing all media and screens from your child’s bedroom. Kids also should avoid consuming caffeine before heading off to dreamland.
Your core is more than just your abs: It includes lots of other muscles that stabilize your shoulders, hips, and pelvis. Strengthening all of your core muscles can be difficult with traditional “ab routines” done on the ground. Crunches aren’t the only way to strengthen your core. So, get up off the floor and add something new to your core-workout routine.
HPRC offers a video series on vertical core training. These routines are not only good for your six-pack, but improve strength in your back, hips, legs, and shoulders—all critical components of core strength. Whether it’s lifting ammo cans or loading a truck, a strong core will help you move safely and efficiently.
Visit HPRC’s Muscular Fitness and Flexibility page to learn more. Use these videos to guide you through various exercises that will help improve total core strength, flexibility, and stability for everyday activities and optimal performance too.