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.
In a Human Performance Optimization (HPO) Spotlight video, Army veteran Anthony Radetic discusses optimizing his performance as an elite athlete after becoming an incomplete paraplegic. He served as a helicopter pilot until he was injured in a motor vehicle accident that left him in a wheelchair.
Anthony talks about how he came to embrace competitive sports despite his injury. He discusses building his confidence and stamina to professionally compete in hand cycling, monoski racing, and jetski racing events. Anthony also describes how his mission changed after his injury, and how he learned to refocus himself to reach his optimized performance at home and during competitions. Check out the video below to learn more about his resilience.
Be prepared so you can make smart choices the next time a snack attack hits. Most people have a “snack drawer”—whether it’s in their office desk, gym locker, backpack, or car. Snacking can be an important part of your meal plan, preventing late-afternoon vending machine runs or overeating at mealtime. Snacks also can provide crucial nutrients before workouts or missions.
A healthy snack provides 100–300 calories, depending on your weight and activity level. Try to stock your snack drawer with a variety of nutrient-rich snacks.
- Choose lean proteins. Select water-packed tuna in single-serve pouches or nut butters. Or choose walnuts, almonds, or pistachios. If you have an office fridge, stock it with boiled eggs (up to one week) or single-serving cups of hummus, cottage cheese, or Greek yogurt.
- Pick healthy carbs. Options include instant oatmeal or grits, whole-grain crackers, air-popped popcorn, and dried fruit.
- Enjoy fresh fruits and veggies. Stock up on cut-up celery or cucumbers, baby carrots, and apples.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water (flavored with slices of lemon or cucumber), herbal tea, milk, soy milk, or almond milk. Or eat juicy fruits such as watermelon, oranges, and kiwis.
Follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations on consuming foods and drinks too. And be mindful of portion sizes. Make sure to visit the MedlinePlus page to learn more about healthy snacking.
It can be extra challenging to get outdoors and exercise in the winter. But don’t let cold temperatures freeze your exercise routine. Use these tips to help you “weather” the winter weather!
- Dress in layers. Choose synthetic materials such as polyester or polypropylene that stay close to the skin. Avoid cotton since it soaks up sweat! You always can remove layers as you get warmer.
- Warm up. Take a few minutes and do a dynamic warm up before you head outdoors. This will help warm up your muscles and body, so it might feel like less of a shock when you step outside.
- Protect your extremities—especially your fingers, toes, and ears. Circulation to these areas decreases in cold weather. Chemical heat warmers also can help keep your hands and feet warm.
- Check the forecast. Wind chill, snow, and rain can make your body more vulnerable to the outside temperatures. Plan an indoor workout when the wind chill is extreme (negative numbers) or the temperature drops below 0°F. You’re at risk of hypothermia and frostbite if you’re not properly prepared.
- Be visible. With fewer hours of sunlight in the winter months, you might be walking or running when it’s dark out—even at dusk and dawn. Wear reflective gear or a headlamp to stay visible to oncoming traffic.
- Apply sunblock. You can still get sunburned in the winter, so don’t forget the sunscreen!
- Stay hydrated. When exercising in cold climates, don’t rely on thirst to indicate hydration since you usually don’t feel as thirsty in cold temperatures. You need to stay just as hydrated in cold weather as you do when it’s hot outside.
- Ask your doctor. Certain symptoms might worsen in cold weather if you have asthma, heart issues, or Raynaud’s disease (when specific body parts feel numb due to cold temperatures or stress). Talk to a healthcare professional about your concerns before heading outside for your cold-weather workout.
Whatever you want to accomplish in 2017, those New Year’s resolutions are a good thing. Setting goals can help you achieve optimal performance. Use the tips below (based on recommendations from the American Psychological Association) to help you actually achieve those goals.
- One at a time. Trying to do everything at once can lead to burnout. Tackle one issue at a time instead: Break your goals into pieces you can build on.
- Start small. Pace yourself to go the distance. You might be eager to get started, but begin with the more manageable goals and build up to the really challenging ones.
- Share. Talk about your goals and progress with your family and friends. They can be your biggest supporters. It might help them understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and it even might interest them enough to join you.
- Ask your buddies. Getting help is a sign of strength. It can help reduce the stress of trying to reach your goals. If you’re struggling with one aspect of a goal, seek out advice and support. You also can get help from HPRC’s Mind-Body Skills, with evidence-based information that can help you progress towards your goals.
- Don’t strive for perfection. Perfection is an ever-moving—if not impossible—target, so don’t waste your time chasing it. Performance optimization is about being your best, not perfect. If you make mistakes, recover and get back on track—don’t abandon your goals. Learn from your mistakes instead, and you might find it brings your goals even closer.
For more information on how to become your best, check out HPRC’s Ten Rules of Engagement for performance enhancement.
Emotion coaching is a strategy parents can use to teach their kids about healthy emotion expression. During emotion coaching, parents openly discuss and validate the feelings their child expresses. Parents encourage their kids to find ways to calm themselves when a wave of strong emotion hits. Kids whose parents practice emotion coaching have better self-control and fewer behavioral problems.
Parents engage in emotion coaching when you’re actively and purposefully responsive to your child’s emotions. It requires that you be aware of your child’s emotional state. It also challenges you to see emotions as an important part of your child’s experience. During emotion coaching, parents accept those feelings and teach their children how to manage positive and negative emotions. Read more...
The first step to losing weight and gaining better health is using self-monitoring techniques to track your calories. Armed with this information, you can reinforce what’s working well. Some evidence suggests that recording food and beverage intake leads to healthy, sustainable weight loss. Weighing yourself daily might help too.
What’s the secret to weight-loss success? Choose a self-monitoring technique that works for you: Try to do these actions frequently—at least 3 times per week—and turn them into healthy habits. Read more...
Nearly 50% of adults set resolutions, but it can feel overwhelming to stay motivated to reach those big goals. Still, you can make things happen by focusing less on big life changes and more on forming daily, manageable, automated habits. For example, resolving to lose 50 pounds this year can feel daunting, but focusing on eating less and moving more might seem doable. Keep the following in mind as you create new habits.
- Connect habits to everyday situations. A habit is something you do every day without putting much thought into it. You can build new ones by leveraging or replacing habits you already have. For example, if you’re trying to increase daily steps, pack your sneakers when you pack your lunch—something you do every day—and commit to taking a walk before lunchtime.
- Repetition matters. It takes thought and intention to start something new, but the more you do it, the more automatic and effortless it gets. So take action regularly.
- Think and act like you’ve already succeeded. When you set future goals, train your mind “as if” you’ve already attained that goal. How would someone at a healthy weight think? What would he or she choose to eat? Putting future aspirations into present tense makes it easier to form daily habits that contribute to the goal.
- Practice compassion. It’s a myth that new habits take 21 days to form. The truth is they take much longer. In the process of “sticking with it,” you’ll likely experience some setbacks. Instead of marking setbacks as failures, be kind to yourself. But get back on track as soon as you can.
New Year’s Day is a great opportunity to mentally wipe the slate clean and plan new goals. But remember: What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. Work on small habits so you can reach your big goals.
Some service members and their partners worry about infidelity, especially during deployments. Warfighters also can experience many mental stressors in the months after their return, which can make their relationships vulnerable to infidelity.
- What leads someone to cheat? If you’re unhappy in your marriage or don’t have sex very often, you’re more likely to cheat. Those who feel powerful also are more likely to be unfaithful now or in the future. If your friends, family members, or coworkers support your infidelity, you’re more likely to cheat too.
- Why is infidelity hurtful? Sexual faithfulness in a relationship is related to trust, respect, and intimacy. Infidelity damages the emotional foundation of a relationship, and it can feel like an intense betrayal of your agreement to trust and respect each other.
- What’s the impact? Both men and women experience the pain of infidelity. Discovering your partner has been unfaithful can lead to a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, anxiety, or jealousy. Infidelity can lead to increased conflict and poor communication in a relationship too. Cheating increases unhappiness in a relationship and can lead some to contemplate divorce. Service members whose partners were unfaithful during deployment tend to experience more depression symptoms. And if a service member experienced trauma while deployed, then having an unfaithful partner can make things worse.
- What if I’m worried about infidelity? If you’re concerned about infidelity in your relationship, keep in mind that help is available. HPRC’s Sex, Sexuality, & Intimacy section offers guidance on talking to your partner about sex and building intimacy in your relationship. DoD also offers professional counseling services over the phone, online, and through video chat. Or connect with a Military and Family Life counselor who specializes in couple relationships. You can meet alone, or with your partner, to discuss how to manage your worries about infidelity.
Food waste is a massive problem in the U.S. Billions of dollars’ worth is wasted each year—about 20 pounds of food per person each month. But there are strategies you can use to help save valuable food resources. Food waste happens along the food chain: from the farm, during transport to grocery stores and commissaries, at retail stores and food service operations, and in your home.
Military communities are working to address food waste by ordering only what’s needed, carefully planning meals, and avoiding waste through reduction and composting. In addition, many commissaries have food donation programs for items that can’t be sold but are still safe to eat. Try to do your share at home too. Read more...
Do you make a New Year’s resolution every year to “get in shape” and then approach year’s end dissatisfied? The problem might be that fitness is a long-term goal that’s hard to keep in focus. Goals that seem more in reach often feel more desirable (for example, money, food, or a finish line) than ones that seem further away. For example, when you’re at the end of a race and can see the finish line in front of you, you’ll probably see the finish line as closer than it really is. However, runners who are less fit and less motivated estimate the distance to a finish line as farther than do runners who are fit and highly motivated. Whether or not the goal is actually closer, believing that it is triggers excitement and fuels effort towards achieving the goal.
That’s all well and good if you’re already out running that race, but sometimes getting off the couch is the hardest thing to do when you’re out of shape. And even if you want to get in shape, your poor fitness can affect whether you believe you can achieve your fitness goals.
This doesn’t mean you can’t get in shape. Keep your eye on the prize! The “prize” could be anything. It could literally be the finish line; the next milestone on your route, such as the building at the end of the block; or even be a post-race reward, such as a healthy post-workout smoothie.
Remember, some goals are harder to achieve than others, but you can stay the course by imagining what's coming, keeping the self-talk positive, and setting SMART goals along the way. This will help keep your motivation high and the prize within reach. Exercisers who focus on an end goal and ignore the distractions around them perceive their goal as being closer, perform better, and—perhaps most important—don’t consider the exercise as difficult. So, if you see your goals as being closer to you in your mind, you’ll have something motivating to look forward to.