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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.

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.

How post-traumatic stress affects your brain

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Understanding how your brain works might help you better understand post-traumatic stress. Learn more about effective treatments.

Sometimes just understanding what’s going on can help the process of recovery. If you’re experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it might help to have a better idea of how your brain functions and how the various parts are supposed to work. This also can help you understand the treatments used to help “rewire” your brain, so it can work properly again.

PTSD is a mental health condition stemming from traumas—experienced during combat, disasters, or violence—that impact brain functioning. The alarm system in your brain, that normally helps ensure your survival, malfunctions; it becomes triggered too easily. In turn, parts of your brain responsible for thinking and memory stop functioning properly. When this happens, you have difficulty comparing what’s happening now with safe events from the past. Read more...

Jump-start your day with breakfast

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Nutrition, Recipes
Eating a healthy breakfast breaks your overnight fast and provides too many benefits to skip—again. Beat the morning rush with these quick meal tips!

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Eating cereal with milk, for example, nourishes your body with potassium, calcium, and vitamin D. Since 50% of all milk is consumed during breakfast, you might fall behind nutritionally if you skip your morning serving.

Studies show that breakfast eaters often weigh less and feel less hungry later in the day than those who skip breakfast. They often have improved concentration, problem-solving abilities, and hand-eye coordination too. If you’re an endurance athlete, fuel up at breakfast for peak performance.

Aim for a well-balanced meal by including any 3 of the following: grains, dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Read more...

What’s in your supplement safety tool belt?

Filed under: OPSS, Supplements
Not all supplements are dangerous, but are you equipped with the tools to help you determine which ones are?

In the sea of dietary supplements, can you tell which ones are safe to take and which to avoid? Do you often find yourself confused, wondering what you should be looking for in a product? Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has you covered. Here are just some of the tools that OPSS provides to help you choose supplements wisely:

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). HPRC receives hundreds of questions every year, and we’ve put answers to the most frequently asked questions in this section of OPSS. You’ll find information about banned substances in the military, hot-topic dietary supplement ingredients, and more.
  • OPSS Scorecard. The scorecard consists of just 7 questions to show you what to look for on a product label and help you determine if a product is okay or a “no-go.”
  • OPSS High-Risk Supplement List. With HRSL, you can see if a certain dietary supplement product might pose a health or sport anti-doping risk.
  • Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. NMCD, a partner of HPRC, provides information about the safety and effectiveness of thousands of dietary supplement products and ingredients. And best of all, it’s free to all DoD personnel with a “.mil” email address.

The goal of OPSS is to provide you with the most reliable and relevant information about dietary supplements, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, send us a question using our Ask the Expert feature.

Military children with special needs

Learning that your child has exceptional needs can be overwhelming at first. Find resources and support to help you along the way.

If you have a child with special needs, the good news is that military families have access to special support and services. When you first learn that your child has exceptional needs, it’s a challenge to sort through: You have to adjust your expectations and lifestyle.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, shocked, and perhaps denial initially. Parents of children with special needs often grieve the loss of their initial hopes and dreams for their child too. Physical reactions to the news—such as crying or lack of appetite—are also common.

What can you learn from parents who have “been there”?

  • Support between spouses is essential, especially early in the process. Support from other family members and friends also can help you adapt.
  • Learning about your child’s disability or medical condition and what it means for his or her future health and abilities is important. Stay positive about your child’s future while also being realistic and accepting of his or her possible limitations.
  • Anticipate some changes to your social life. It’s important to maintain old routines, especially if you have other children. But time with your own friends may initially decrease as you focus on your child’s needs. However, be careful not to isolate yourself.

Be aware of your own coping strategies during this stressful time. Coping effectively with this news will enable you be attentive to your child.

Look for support groups and tap into resources with local and national organizations. Explore your Family-to-Family Health Information Center and get connected to other families and support groups. Enroll in the military’s own Exceptional Family Member Program, which will connect you to a coordinator who can help you figure out what programs and services are available to you.

Many parents of children with special needs feel highly satisfied in their parenting role. With the right support and resources in place, you can feel the same way.

Spring allergies? Or just a cold?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
If you have a cold, you need to avoid infecting others. If you have allergies brought on by spring pollen, there are other things you can do to help.

Sneezing, runny nose, watery and/or itchy eyes, and fatigue? Both colds and seasonal allergies make you feel miserable, but you can take steps to avoid or at least take the edge off them. To do so, though, you need to understand which is which. The causes are distinctly different: Colds are caused by viruses, which means they’re contagious. Allergies come from sensitivity to “allergens” such as seasonal pollen, and they’re not contagious.

You can avoid colds through hygiene such as washing your hands thoroughly, especially after touching public surfaces such as handrails. You can avoid “sharing” a cold by covering your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze or simply by staying home when you’re sick.

To avert seasonal allergies, on the other hand, you must avoid the allergens (mostly airborne) that cause your symptoms. Common allergens in spring include grass and tree pollen. It can be a challenge to exercise and enjoy the outdoors if you have allergies, but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to help you manage your allergies:

  • Know and avoid your allergy triggers. If you aren’t sure what you’re allergic to, have tests done by a healthcare specialist to help you narrow it down. Your doctor also might suggest an antihistamine, inhaler, or medication to help prevent flare-ups.
  • Check the air quality in your area every day. If the pollen count (app available!) is high, avoid spending too much time outside, mowing the grass, or exercising outdoors.
  • If you must be outside during high-pollen/pollutant times, wear a filter mask to keep particles out of your nose and mouth. If you have to go somewhere, keep your car windows shut.
  • Shower when you come back indoors to wash pollen off your skin, hair, and eyelashes.
  • Rinse out your nose with a saline spray or solution to help wash away allergens after you’ve been outside.

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.

Imported supplement scams

Filed under: OPSS, Supplements
Products labeled as “natural” aren’t always what they seem.

If you buy dietary supplements at international stores, gas stations, or online, watch out. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers about imported dietary supplements and nonprescription drug products, specifically those marketed as “natural.” Just because a product is labeled as “natural” does not necessarily make it safe or effective. In fact, many “natural” products have been found to contain undisclosed chemicals or drugs that can be harmful, and it’s possible that some products contain hidden ingredients that could make you pop hot on a drug test. To learn more, please read FDA’s “Some Imported Dietary Supplements…” Only have a minute? Watch their 60-second video below.

The only way to know if a product actually contains the ingredients listed on the label (and nothing else) is by testing it in a laboratory. Before you buy a dietary supplement, check the label to see if it’s been tested by a third-party organization.

Eat to succeed in your training envIRONment

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Iron
Want to perform at your best? When you’re not pumping iron in the gym, make sure you’re eating iron-rich foods at mealtime.

Are you including plenty of iron-rich foods in your eating plan? If you tire easily, have trouble concentrating, or experience shortness of breath, you might not be getting enough iron. It’s an essential nutrient that helps carry oxygen throughout your body, and it’s especially important if you engage in daily exercise.

Anyone’s at risk for iron deficiency, so be sure to eat a variety of iron-rich foods. Otherwise, your physical and mental performance could suffer. Check out HPRC’s new postcard on how to eat to succeed in your training envIRONment for more information. If you’re eating well, but still lacking energy, be sure to talk with your doctor.

Can virtual reality relieve post-traumatic stress?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn how video-game technology could help veterans overcome post-traumatic stress.

There’s a promising therapy that uses virtual-reality simulation to help treat service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the National Center for PTSD, 10–18% of returning Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans experience PTSD. The good news is that treatments such as virtual-reality exposure therapy (VRET) might help them work through their challenges.

Trained therapists use VRET to re-create stressful events or situations such as combat scenarios in a virtual-reality environment. The patient wears a headset and interactively reacts to possible sights, smells, sounds, and vibrations that have been visually re-created. This makes the experience realistic for the patient as it provides a strong sense of “being there.” Veterans learn to work through emotions such as fear, tension, and anxiety in a safe environment.

Healthcare providers have successfully used virtual-reality simulation as a resilience-training tool too. It helps builds service members’ confidence and coping skills so they feel stronger and ready for what comes next.

Visit the National Center for PTSD to learn more about post-traumatic stress. Here’s what VRET looks like in action.

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