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.
Being able to communicate effectively with those around us is a great way not only to enhance our relationships but also to ward off unnecessary stress. When having a conversation with a partner, friend, or coworker, most of us forget to communicate that we’re listening and that we understand what the other person is saying, which, can lead to arguments and/or misunderstandings. Show the other person that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say— asking questions and showing supportive reactions will help the other person feel understood. The Kansas National Guard has a video that demonstrates four ways of responding, including one that is both active and constructive (the best way!).
Beginning on November 1st the U.S. Army will bring back the requirement to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test, including weight standards, in order to enroll in professional military education courses. Initially this requirement was waived due to the great demand for soldiers during OIF and OEF. Sgt. Todd McCaffrey states, "Reestablishing the Army physical fitness test and height/weight standards into our professional military education programs reinforces the efforts the Army's senior leaders have been emphasizing on standards based training and education." For information on how to meet these requirements, visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies, service-specific Physical Fitness Guides, and Policies, Standards, Reports, and Guidelines.
HPRC shows you how to perform three basic breathing exercises in the HPRC Breathing Exercises for Optimized Performance video. Three basic techniques are covered:
- Deep Breathing. Use this method whenever you need to release tension and relax. This is a very effective strategy to de-stress quickly.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing can help stimulate both sides of your brain, which encourages optimal cognitive performance. So if you are feeling mentally fatigued, try this technique.
- Breath of Fire. Commonly used in some yoga practices, fast-paced breathing encourages increased brain activity and can confer feelings of energy in mind and body. Also known as “bellows breath, this is a powerful method to be used carefully according to instructions.
Using any of these strategies in the right situation can provide you with the edge you need to reach optimal performance. Instructions for these techniques are also available in an annotated transcript of the video.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and Military Health’s Women’s Health Awareness Month. The international pink ribbon symbol represents a community dedicated to awareness and prevention of breast cancer, a disease that mostly affects women. According the National Cancer Institute, there were over 220,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer in 2012 and more than 39,000 related deaths in the U.S. This puts breast cancer as the nation’s second leading cause of death among women (after heart disease).
What can you do to reduce your risk? A new study of more than 3,000 women found that those who exercised 10-19 hours a week during their reproductive years lowered their risk of getting breast cancer after menopause by one third. Women who started exercising after the onset of menopause also lowered their risk by about 30% with 9-17 hours of exercise per week. Researchers concluded that women can reduce their risk for breast cancer through a physically active lifestyle. The link between exercise and breast cancer is not fully understood, and research continues, but if ever you needed a good reason to start exercising or keep exercising, this is a good one. You can learn more about breast cancer and other women’s issues on the Women’s Health page of health.mil.
In conjunction with the DoD campaign, Operation Live Well, HPRC will be highlighting important issues related to both military and family health.
You’ve heard the expression about being able to dish it out, but not being able to take it. Is there some truth to that? Being on the receiving end of criticism can be difficult, especially in a close relationship, and can provoke anger. If you think that avoiding, denying, making excuses, or fighting back are the best ways to handle criticism, take note of how many times those tactics have made it worse instead. The next time you feel criticized, try this: Listen to what is being said, ask for details, agree with your critic’s right to his or her opinion, and use the criticism as a learning opportunity. If you need time to think about what they are saying or to calm down, saying “Let me think about it” might be a good way to get some space.
Talking to yourself (called “self-talk”) is a commonly used sports practice that can boost performance by training you to pay attention to the details of an activity or encourage yourself to keep going.
There are two types of self-talk that can help boost performance: instructional and motivational. Visit HPRC’s Performance Strategies on optimizing self-talk to learn more about these types and how they can benefit your performance.
Before the end of October of 2012, the Army will issue to all soldiers fire-resistant ACUs that have been factory treated with an EPA-approved insect repellent called permethrin. This method may be a cleaner and safer way of repelling insects compared to DEET, another long-lasting insect repellent. The Army has been using permethrin for nearly 20 years in the form of liquid or spray, and by treating ACUs, soldiers will experience better, longer-lasting protection against ticks, fleas, mosquitos, and other insects that carry diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, and Lyme. Other advantages include not having to worry about remembering to apply insect repellant and whether you’re applying it correctly. Uniforms treated with permethrin have been used by the Marine Corps since 2007 and have been used in some Iraq and Afghanistan operations but until now have not been available to all soldiers. The new ACUs will be good for about 50 launderings, but it is important to note that the uniforms should be washed separately from other clothing. There will be a permethrin-free ACU available for those with medical conditions, including pregnant women, who should not wear the treated uniforms. For more information check out these FAQs or contact the Armed Forces Pest Management Board.
HPRC’s list of DMAA-containing dietary supplement products has been reformatted, revealing that many are no longer being manufactured or distributed. A number of manufacturers now indicate on their websites that products previously containing DMAA have been reformulated. DMAA-containing versions of discontinued or reformulated products are likely to be on the market until retail supplies have been exhausted, so check labels carefully for ingredients. However, the only way to be certain a product no longer contains DMAA is through laboratory testing.
When your body simply refuses to perform a well-learned skill, it’s called “choking.” For Warfighters, the results could be disastrous. Recent research focused on the theory that it involves a disconnection—or loss of focus—between the muscles and the part of the brain responsible for motor skills (for most people, the right side of the brain).
The study tested a small group of athletes to see if better physical performance would result from stimulating the right brain. They found that those who did so—by squeezing a ball with the left hand to stimulate the right brain before a high-pressure situation—performed better than those who squeezed a ball with the right hand or not at all and almost as well as in a low-pressure situation. Although more work is needed to verify the concept, it is something you can try on your own.
Body armor, in addition to necessary equipment and supplies, well exceeds the recommended carrying maximum of 50 pounds. The DoD was asked by Congress to conduct a research project to explore the possibility of lightening body armor without sacrificing protection. Currently, the research shows it does not seem possible to make body armor out of a lighter material while still adequately protecting the individual. However, leaders are taking a more preventative approach to reducing injuries on the battlefield. These include changes in pre-deployment training, as well as an increased number of deployed physical and occupational therapists and improvements in forward-deployed care centers.